Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:
The people for whom you feel trust: That’s a relatedness that’s very strong — the kind of relatedness that keeps the world going and gives us a sense that human society is a worthwhile thing
Which relates to another topic: gratitude
. There’s a saying that there are two people who are hard to find in the world. First is the person who’s an upakari: someone who helps you before receiving any help from you. Second is the person who’s received that kind of help and feels gratitude in response. Both of these people should be cherished.
: People have the power to make choices. When the Buddha talks about gratitude, the language he uses focuses on words that derive from the root for action: kar in Pali. There’s upakari, the person who helped you to begin with and to whom you owe a debt of gratitude. It literally means someone who acted first. And your response to that person should be that you are going to act in return, patikarosi. And even the word gratitude itself, kataññu, means that you know what was done, you appreciate what was done.
So gratitude is not just a general appreciation. It’s specifically an appreciation for actions, realizing that you have a debt coming from other people’s kind actions, a debt that requires you to do something in return. You have to return the goodness.
But then there are cases where the people who helped you are no longer around, as in the case of Luang Pu Suwat, who was the first to think up the idea that we should have this monastery here. So how do you repay your debt to him? You think about his original intention and you try to maintain that intention: the goodness of his choice, the goodness of his ideas
. You appreciate that goodness and then you try to act in a way that extends that goodness further through time
The Thai way of expressing this is that other people have started weaving something and so you continue the weaving. You don’t let the edges get all frayed. This is what gratitude is all about
: It’s a sense not only that you appreciate the choices that people made but also that you need to respond
. The word patikaroti means to repay or to make amends, but it can also mean to imitate
. In other words, you imitate the goodness that they did, the intention that they had. You try to carry that out. That’s the response that keeps their goodness alive.
There’s that question that people would often ask Ajaan Fuang: “How can I repay you for having taught me?” and his response was, “Be really intent on the practice.” That’s the best repayment right there.
So this is why the Buddha’s teachings on gratitude are all surrounded by words that deal with action. You appreciate someone’s good actions and then you realize there’s an action that’s called for from you, an appropriate response. That’s what makes it different from appreciation or contentment. As the Buddha said, it’s a characteristic of a good person to feel gratitude and to want to repay that debt in one way or another.
This is why Ajaan Fuang would often say, if he saw someone who was ungrateful to his or her parents, that you don’t want to have anything to do with that person, for that person doesn’t value goodness. If that person doesn’t value the goodness of his or her parents, you can’t trust that person to be good to you. Gratitude means that you value goodness
; you appreciate the difficulties that are involved in making the skillful choice and carrying it out. When you appreciate that and have gratitude for it, you’re more likely to make the same kind of effort yourself
So keep in mind the distinction between gratitude on the one hand and attitudes like appreciation or contentment on the other. Someone said recently that gratitude is wanting what you have. That’s actually a description of contentment or appreciation. Gratitude is more focused
. It’s focused on actions: the actions you’ve benefited from and the actions you feel called on to make in response to repay your debt of gratitude and to try to continue this stream of goodness into the world, on into the future
, so all of the benefits that have been entrusted to us will bear fruit. That’s how we show that we’re worthy of that trust.http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings/meditations6_v140119.pdf
From: Gratitude & Trust by Thanissaro Bhikkhu