Question: Among Christians there seems to be a strong emphasis on gratitude. Christians give thanks for daily bread, thanks for good fortune, thanks for being able to have the nice experience of walking along a beach, etc. This doesn't seem like such a bad sentiment on the surface, but if you explore further, it seems like it might spring from a self-centered view. For Vaisnavas [Hindus who focus on Vishnu], there doesn't seem to be a real focus on gratitude, since the goal is not to enjoy for our own pleasure, but to learn to serve without personal gain.

So how does someone transitioning from a Judeo-Christian viewpoint into the broader scope of Vaisnavism approach the subject of gratitude? How does the sentiment of gratitude fit into the Vaisnava paradigm?

A: Gratitude is part of the foundation of love. It is certainly progressive to express gratitude to God for one's material situation, as opposed to not acknowledging that we are dependent on God for all that we have.

However, as we progress further in terms of understanding ourselves in relation to God, gratitude manifests itself primarily in relation to those who have helped us to develop a deeper understanding. The gift of knowledge is greater than that of material facility. We should be thankful for all that we have and more so for the knowledge that all we have is on loan.

Hindus may submit questions for the swami to editor@swami.org. Non-Hindus with questions on Hindu basics or etiquette (such as "What do I wear to a Hindu wedding?") are invited to submit them to columnists@staff.beliefnet.com.

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