In my morning studies, I came upon the Four Debts of Gratitude that Nichiren Daishonin maintains that all Buddhists should uphold. I’m sharing them here now for your benefit!
The Four Debts of Gratitude:
1. Debt owed to all living beings – it explains why many Buddhists choose to be vegan or vegetarian. In order to honor the life of all living animals, they opt to avoid eating flesh because they feel that it is a violation against those living beings.
2. Debt owed to one’s father and mother – This shouldn’t be a surprise and hopefully it is a debt that everyone feels because these are the folks who have given you life. It’s not that simple always, but at a minimum one’s parents have given all living beings this gift — the gift of life.
3. Debt owed to one’s sovereign – In today’s world, one’s sovereign could be The President (if you live in the US). Or, it could be one’s local elected officials. This debt might be hard to accept during times of crisis or war (as we find ourselves today in the US), but they our leaders do serve an important role in maintaining and supporting order. The quality of their leadership might be up for debate, but nonetheless, they do serve an important role and one that should engender a certain amount of gratitude from the people that they lead (at least this is what I feel).
4. Debt owed to the three treasures – The three treasures could be considered to be the Daishonin, his teaching and his immediate disciple and successor Nikko Shonin. However, I think the meaning of the three treasures is open to interpretation.
Further, the Daishonin teaches that us that we can repay our debts and show our gratitude by taking faith in the law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and share it with others. He states: “to repay these great debts of gratitude, one can hope to do so only if one learns and masters Buddhism, becoming a person of wisdom” (WND-1, 690). I can only assume that being a person of wisdom includes the understanding that these debts exist and that they are real. Plus, these debts are not burdens to be upheld, but are debts that one wishes to repay.
By Michelle Flowers (c) 2011, All rights reserved