... there is a powerful strategy that can help us break through such temporal emotional stress, and that is to practice gratitude.

Life is full of ups and downs.

During the ups, we relish the moments, thoroughly and fully.

During the downs, we see that different people have different ways of coping. Some might take challenges head on, whilst others might procrastinate. Others might develop a reliance on food to tide through the difficult period, or even turn to retail therapy.

However, there is a powerful strategy that can help us break through such temporal emotional stress, and that is to practice gratitude.

Generally, gratitude is an emotion similar to appreciation. Psychologists defines this emotion as a sense of happiness and thankfulness in response to a fortunate happenstance or tangible gift.

Further research shows that the feeling of gratitude involves two stages. The first stage is recognising that sources of goodness lie outside our self. One can be grateful to the people around us, or our environment in general. The second stage is the acknowledgement of such goodness in one’s life. The acknowledgment that we have received something gratifies us.

In Nichiren Shoshu, we are always reminded by the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin to express our gratitude to the people and the environment around us.  Since we were born, we have been receiving knowledge and guidance from our parents and teachers, family and friends. Our daily diet is supported by the lives of countless animals and plants. The knowledge that we absorb, and the food energy that we receive, enables us to contribute towards kosen rufu.

Nichiren Daishonin wrote in the Gosho “ Conversation between a Sage and an Unenlightened Man”:

“Ever since I began to study the Law handed down from Shakyamuni Buddha and undertook the practice of the Buddhist teaching, I have believed it is most important to understand one’s obligations to others and made it my first duty to repay such debts of kindness.

In our daily prayers (gongyo), we express gratitude not only to our founder Nichiren Daishonin, but also to our environment, for all the good things big and small that happen in our lives.

Research has also shown that being grateful can lead to increased levels of well being. Gratitude helps people focus on the positive aspects of their life. It can help build and maintain relationships with others, resulting in hope, life satisfaction, and more proactive behaviors toward others. This is especially important during periods of stress and trauma. Processing a stressful life experience through a gratitude lens does not mean denying negativity. Instead, it means realizing the power you have to transform an obstacle into an opportunity. It means reframing a loss into a potential gain, recasting negativity into positive channels for gratitude. We can achieve this by chanting to the Gohonzon for Buddha wisdom to overcome our problems.

So the science says it, Nichiren Daishonin says it, practicising gratitude is good for you. So why not try it when you next do your gongyo?

Learn more about our daily gongyo, and how you can apply it in your daily lives!