In Sanskrit, the word for “grateful” is kritajna, which literally means “one who remembers the past deeds of another.”

My spiritual teacher once shared with me a wisdom lesson he had received, decades earlier, from a wandering monk in India. The Holy Man had told him: “If you wish to live in this world with a peaceful mind and a heart full of love, there are two things you must try to forget and two things you must strive to always remember.” 

The first thing to try to forget: “The bad that has been done to you, try to forget that.” Let me clarify here. I don’t read the Holy Man’s advice to suggest that we allow ourselves to be mistreated or excuse inexcusable behavior. I don’t think he is asking us to forego processing our grief or hurt. We must do that in order to heal. But what happens once we are done processing?  Are we willing to move into a space of letting go, and perhaps even forgiveness? Or are we still holding on to the hurt, nursing the wound, and even plotting revenge? I read “forgetting the bad done to us” as an act of compassion and self-compassion that allows us to let go and re-vision the challenging experience as something that came into our lives to teach us something. If we can do that, perhaps we can even feel grateful for it. 

The Holy Man continued, “The good you have done for others, try to forget that.” Again, some commentary may be in order. Of course we should acknowledge and celebrate the good we do. But let us not fall into the trap of becoming so fixated on patting ourselves on the back that we eclipse the good deed or the recipients of that deed. When we commit a good deed and let it go to create ripples in the universe, we feel grateful to be instruments. When we make it all about receiving acknowledgment, accolades, or applause…when it is all about being seen or getting credit…we turn the act into an exercise in ego-bolstering and ‘keeping score’ instead.

What about the two things to always remember? The Holy Man instructed, “We must always try to remember the bad deeds we have committed to others.” Why hold on to the memories of our misdeeds or remind ourselves of how we’ve hurt others? Of course, beating ourselves up doesn’t do anyone any good. Still, we might take this as a call to own up to our past mistakes rather than to try to avoid them or gloss over them. Let us be cognizant of the ways we have fallen short, take responsibility for addressing what needs to be addressed, and keep those memories vivid as a way of guarding against repeating our mistakes.

And finally—“always remember the good that others have done for us.” No matter how small or seemingly insignificant, let us not take it for granted. If we are honest, everything we benefit from—from the food we eat and feed our families, to our jobs and finances, to our ability to live with safety and security, to the clothes on our back and the phones in our pockets—all of it is the result of the hard work and sacrifices of others. We are tiny parts of a larger circle of life. When we are grateful, we honor that circle, acknowledge the sacrifices of others, and step up to make sacrifice when we are called to do so. That is always true, but perhaps even more starkly clear in these days of the pandemic, when we cannot deny that we are recipients of gifts and beneficiaries of those on the frontlines. 

Hindu scripture reminds us that Ishvara, the Supreme Lord, is infinitely grateful. He remembers our efforts, honoring even the smallest attempts and forgiving us our shortcomings or failings. When we choose to be grateful—to remember the deeds of others—we reflect his love for us, and act as his instruments to share that love with others. 

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Divya Jyoti

Since the Hindu Life Program started in 2008, we have had the privilege and honor of hosting a grand Dipavali celebration on campus– our beloved Diwali at the Chapel event. This year, of course, because of the Covid pandemic and the necessary safety precautions that the university has taken, we were not able to meet in person.

Diwali at the Chapel is a special gathering. If you’ve had the chance to attend, you know… there is magic in gathering together in that massive chapel on a chilly November night each year. Recordings and photos don’t quite capture it; a Zoom webinar wouldn’t come close. So we decided not to attempt a virtual version of the event.

Still, we wanted to honor the spirit of Diwali… of offering our devotion through sacred song, divine dance, and heartfelt reflections. With this in mind, we put together a modest video offering. It is called Divya Jyoti (“divine light”) and is our way of sharing light and love at this blessed time of year. We hope you like it and will share it with your friends, family, and loved ones.

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Hindu-Americans and the U.S. Presidential Elections

What does it mean to be both an engaged U.S. citizen and a practicing Hindu?

Where do Hindu-Americans see themselves in the 2020 U.S. presidential elections?

Do our voices matter?

How do the candidates and their positions align or resonate with Hindu values, interests, and needs?

This Sunday (9/20), the Hindu Life Program hosts a special moderated conversation between two Hindu-Americans who are both active on the front lines of the Biden and Trump campaigns. We will discuss what each candidate might have to offer to the Hindu-American community, and also explore what thoughtful political discourse might look like in our our current divisive climate. 

The event is at 12pm on Sunday, 9/20. Join here.

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A Labor Day Reflection

Since the late 19th Century, the first Monday of September each year has been set aside as a way of honoring American workers. While its history is tied to labor unions and workers’ rights, in more recent years the holiday has taken on a less of a political charge. For many of us, it has simply become synonymous with an unofficial “end of summer” or a day off to spend time with family.

Hindu sacred texts like the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads remind us that one who sees with eyes of wisdom, recognizes an inherent oneness (ekatva) running through all beings. The same life that flows through me, flows through you. The same dignity that is my birthright is yours. The spark of Divinity by which I exist resides in you as well. We are inextricably connected to one another.

With this paradigm of radical interconnectedness, we might return to Labor Day. We can choose to see this holiday as an invitation to appreciate that which binds us all to one another. We are all recipients of gifts; we subsist and thrive on the work of others. This unusual year, we might especially take the opportunity to reflect on those who are working hard in these trying times — particularly essential workers and healthcare professionals. We remember their efforts and self-sacrifice and send them our prayers and blessings.  By reflecting in this way, we cultivate a mood of gratitude (kritijnata) and loving kindness (maitra). Our capacity for wisdom grows, our vision expands, and our hearts soften.

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Auspicious Invocation

oṁ saha nāv-avatu, saha nau bhunaktu

saha vīryam karavāvahai

tejasvi nāv-adhītam-ashtu, ma vidvishāvahai

oṁ shanti, oṁ shanti, om shantih  

May the Divine protect us together. May the Divine nourish us together. May we work together with energy and vigor. May our study be enlightening. May the poison of enmity never enter our midst. May there be peace, peace, peace.

(Taittiriya Upanishad)

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