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Applying the Philosophy

The Power of a Grateful Heart

Distilled from Ikeda Sensei’s encouragement, here are five reasons to practice gratitude.

Gratitude: it’s a word we hear often. Studies have shown that feeling and expressing gratitude can benefit our mental health and can even change our brain.[1]

Buddhism also teaches that gratitude is key to living with joy and accumulating good fortune and benefit. Ikeda Sensei says:

There is nothing as strong or as sublime as a person whose heart is always filled with gratitude. In the realm of Buddhism, gratitude is the foundation of everything. (April 6, 2012, World Tribune, p. 5)

What’s more, Sensei explains that when we have a sense of gratitude and appreciation, “our prayers will be answered more quickly” (Discussions on Youth, p. 306).

For SGI members, every May 3, Soka Gakkai Day, is a time to reflect on our Buddhist practice and also express our gratitude by taking part in the May Commemorative Contribution activity, which enables us to nurture and extend our kosen-rufu movement far into the future. With that in mind, the World Tribune distilled from Sensei’s guidance five reasons to practice gratitude.

—Prepared by the World Tribune staff

1. It multiplies our good fortune.

“It is the heart that is important” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1000), writes the Daishonin. 

When we do something, do we approach it with a negative attitude—grumbling, “Oh, not again! I hate this!”—or a positive attitude—telling ourselves brightly, “All right, here’s a fresh opportunity to gain good fortune!”?

This seemingly small, subtle difference in attitude can make a huge difference in our lives. It can change things 180 degrees. This is what the Lotus Sutra and the doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life teach us.

The heart is invisible, and Buddhism provides a comprehensive understanding of the principles governing that invisible heart. It represents the highest form of psychology, neuroscience and psychotherapy. 

Appreciation and joy multiply our good fortune. Complaint and negativity erase it. (The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, revised edition, part 1, p. 138)

2. It produces limitless self-esteem.

Appreciation is what makes people truly human. The Japanese word for thankful originally indicated a rare or unusual condition and later came to denote a sense of joyful appreciation for an uncommon occurrence. Having a spirit of appreciation for someone from whose actions we benefit, a sense that “this is the rarest and noblest thing,” produces in our heart a feeling of pride and self-esteem: “I am worthy of receiving such goodness.” It provides us with spiritual support to go on living. (Faith into Action, pp. 7–8)

3. It transforms our life state.

If we cherish the spirit to repay this debt of gratitude in the depths of our hearts, then our good fortune will increase by leaps and bounds. No matter how much action people might seem to be taking outwardly, if they lack the spirit to repay their debt of gratitude, their arrogance will destroy their good fortune. Consequently, they will be unable to transform genuinely their state of life. A subtle difference in our spirit produces diametrically different results. (The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 6, p. 13)

4. It connects us to others.

“Human beings owe all kinds of debts of gratitude. We need to be grateful to our parents, to all living beings, to our sovereign—or, in contemporary terms, society—and to the three treasures—the Buddha, the Law (the Buddha’s teachings) and the Buddhist Order (the community of believers). We also owe gratitude to our mentor.

“But people today tend to look at others as adversaries or competitors in a struggle for survival, having lost the ability to perceive the kindness of others. As a result, people become alienated from one another and feel isolated and alone. But if we can open the eye of our heart, the eye of wisdom and the eye of the Law, we will see just how much others support our lives. Once we realize that, we no longer feel alone, and a tremendous sense of joy and appreciation wells forth from our being. Buddhism teaches the importance of repaying such debts of gratitude, and that doing so constitutes the correct way of life for a human being and is the mission of a Buddhist.” 

To lack gratitude is a sign of poverty of the human spirit. (The New Human Revolution, vol. 17, p. 72)

5. It builds unshakable happiness.

Some words of wisdom that I like the best were sent to me by my husband. He wrote, “Complaints erase good fortune. Grateful prayer builds happiness for all eternity.” This means that we must have a positive outlook in everything we do. I have made this a personal habit. (Kaneko Ikeda, Kaneko’s Story, p. 120)


  1. 1. “How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain,” <accessed on April 21, 2023>. ↩︎

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