Gratitude Creates a Generous Heart

"Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues but the parent of all others." Cicero

 For Buddhists, the fulfillment of the Paramitas is considered to be the accomplishment of an Awakened Being (i.e., a Buddha), and in the Mahayana tradition, there are six Paramitas: generosity, morality, patience, diligence, meditation, and wisdom. "Paramita" is Sanskrit for "perfection" or "completeness", and it refers to wise actions and mindstates which are generated with an understanding of interdependence.   Each Paramita is said to be dependent others;  that is, Wisdom couldn't function without Effort, and Ethics couldn't exist without Contemplation, and so on.

However, the most important quality, the mindstate which is said to propel us onto the Path of the Paramitas, is not a Paramita at all.  It is gratitude.  

Gratitude is the recognition that we're connected to others, that we're dependent upon causes and conditions way beyond our control for our life and our well-being.  The recent hurricane and the election were powerful reminders of our interdependence, of how none of us live as self-existing, independent people, but rather as inter-beings reliant and influencing each other through infinite causes and conditions each and every moment. To feel grateful is to express genuine appreciation for such circumstances, and recent research studies in the field of Positive Psychology suggest that grateful people are more likely to feel a sense of well-being and happiness, and when gratitude is expressed through acts of patience and kindness and the other paramitas, it's associated with increased levels of energy, optimism, and empathy.

I don't believe an equitable, compassionate society will come about via political means.  Rather, change in our world happens when each of us feels grateful for all that we have or even don't have, and all that we truly mean to each other.  Then we can realize our abundance and our inherent capacity to give and love freely, knowing that giving to another is actually giving to our self.