World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts

Editor, Andrew Wilson



A sense of gratitude and indebtedness to others is an important wellspring of a generous and virtuous life. All people can recognize that they are indebted to their parents, who gave them birth and raised them at considerable sacrifice. But our indebtedness extends much further than that. Fundamentally, we are indebted to God our Creator and the powers of nature that nourish and sustain our life. Then, since the food we eat travels from the soil to our dining table by passing through many hands--that cultivate, harvest, clean, package, transport, sell, and prepare it--we should recognize that we rely on the labors of many people in order to survive. A sense of gratitude to others is thus acknowledging our interdependent existence; it is an antidote to the illusion of egoism. Such gratitude is recalled and expressed in the prayer of grace or thanks offered before meals.

Another dimension of gratitude is directed towards those who are responsible for our education and enlightenment in the way of truth and salvation. Gratitude towards one's teachers, and especially towards the sages and founders of religions who offered their lives to find the truth, is a proper attitude of faith. Most of all, we should be grateful to God, who quietly has been guiding and nurturing each person toward salvation, and without whose grace the world would be plunged in darkness.

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Christianity. Colossians 3.17

O you who believe! Eat of the good things that We have provided for you, and be grateful to God, if it is Him that you worship.

Islam. Qur'an 2.172

Colossians 3.17: Cf. Psalm 100, p. 202.

God created foods to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving; for then it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Christianity. 1 Timothy 4.3-5

Abraham caused God's name to be mentioned by all the travelers whom he entertained. For after they had eaten and drunk, and when they arose to bless Abraham, he said to them, "Is it of mine that you have eaten? Surely it is of what belongs to God that you have eaten. So praise and bless Him by whose word the world was created."

Judaism. Talmud, Sota 10b

The unworthy man is ungrateful, forgetful of benefits [done to him]. This ingratitude, this forgetfulness is congenial to mean people... But the worthy person is grateful and mindful of benefits done to him. This gratitude, this mindfulness, is congenial to the best people.

Buddhism. Anguttara Nikaya i.61

One upon whom We bestow kindness But will not express gratitude, Is worse than a robber Who carries away our belongings.

African Traditional Religions. Yoruba Proverb (Nigeria)

Be not like those who honor their gods in prosperity and curse them in adversity. In pleasure or pain, give thanks!

Judaism. Midrash, Mekilta to Exodus 20.20

Even if you cry your heart out, hurt your eyes by constant weeping and even if you lead the life of an ascetic till the end of the world, all these untiring efforts of yours will not be able to make compensation for a tithe of His good will and kindness, for His bounties and munificence and for His mercy and charity in directing you towards the path of truth and religion.

Islam (Shiite). Nahjul Balagha, Khutba 57

It is God who has made the night for you, that you may rest therein, and the day, as that which helps you to see. Verily God is full of grace and bounty to men, yet most men give no thanks.

It is God who has made for you the earth as a resting place, and the sky as a canopy, and has given you shape--and made your shapes beautiful--and has provided for you sustenance of things pure and good; such is God, your Lord. So glory to God, the Lord of the Worlds!

Islam. Qur'an 40.61, 64

O my Father, Great Elder, I have no words to thank you, But with your deep wisdom I am sure that you can see How I value your glorious gifts. O my Father, when I look upon your greatness, I am confounded with awe. O Great Elder, Ruler of all things earthly and heavenly, I am your warrior, Ready to act in accordance with your will.

African Traditional Religions. Kikuya Prayer (Kenya)

You, the World Honored One, are a great benefactor. By doing this rare thing, You taught and benefited us Out of your compassion towards us.

No one will be able to repay your favors Even if he tries to do it For many hundreds of millions of kalpas. No one will be able to repay your favors Even if he bows to you respectfully, And offers you his hands or feet or anything else. No one will be able to repay your favors Even if he carries you on his head or shoulders And respects you from the bottom of his heart For as many kalpas As there are sands in the River Ganges.

Buddhism. Lotus Sutra 4

Qur'an 40.61, 64: Cf. Qur'an 14.32-34, p. 310; 16.10-18, p. 141; 32.4-9, p. 126; Wadhans, M.5, p. 913. On gratitude to parents, see Qur'an 46.15-16, p. 249. Lotus Sutra 4: The value of the Buddha's teaching is immeasurable. It touches eternity, which all temporal phenomena rolled up together cannot hope to attain. Hence no temporal acts of gratitude can possibly be worthy of it. Cf. Myokonin, p. 774.

All human bodies are things lent by God. With what thought are you using them?

Terrikyo. Ofudesaki 3.41

When a man is born, whoever he may be, there is born simultaneously a debt to the gods, to the sages, to the ancestors, and to men.

When he performs sacrifice it is the debt to the gods which is concerned. It is on their behalf, therefore, that he is taking action when he sacrifices or makes an oblation.

And when he recites the Vedas it is the debt to the sages which is concerned. It is on their behalf, therefore, that he is taking action, for it is said of one who has recited the Vedas that he is the guardian of the treasure store of the sages.

And when he desires offspring, it is the debt to the ancestors which is concerned. It is on their behalf, therefore, that he is taking action, so that their offspring may continue, without interruption.

And when he entertains guests, it is the debt to man which is concerned. It is on their behalf, therefore, that he is taking action if he entertains guests and gives them food and drink. The man who does all these things has performed a true work; he has obtained all, conquered all.

Hinduism. Satapatha Brahmana

Ah, children-- Be not arrogant, but Assist the deities of Marvelous spirit power In their work.

Even the grains, and the Teeming grass and trees-- Even these are favored with Blessings from Amaterasu, Great Goddess of the Sun.

Morning and evening, At each meal you take, Consider the blessings of Toyouke-no-kami, You people of the world.

The blessings of the Gods of heaven and earth-- Without these, How could we exist, Even for a day, even for a night?

Satapatha Brahmana On gratitude to one's parents, cf. Anguttara Nikaya i.61, p. 250; Classic on Filial Piety 1, p. 249. Ofudesaki 3.41: Cf. Sun Myung Moon, 9-30-79, p. 307.

Forget not the grace Of generations of ancestors; >From age to age, the ancestors Are our own ujigami, Gods of our families.

Father and mother Are gods of the family; Even so, honor them as gods with heartfelt service, All you of human birth.

Shinto. Norinaga Motoori, One Hundred Poems on the Jewelled Spear

One Hundred Poems on the Jewelled Spear: The ujigami are eponymous ancestors of the clan; one's ancestors should be reverenced. Toyouke-no-kami is the Food Goddess worshipped at the Outer Shrine of the Temple at Ise, and Amaterasu is the Sun Goddess; they represent all the productive forces of nature and humanity which provide our food.


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