Sunday, January 21, 2007

katannuta and ego

Gratitude is an emotion which involves a feeling of emotional indebtedness towards another person; often accompanied by a desire to thank them, or to reciprocate in kind. (abbreviated from the wiki-people)

From a Buddhist point of view, the Pali word which we translate in English as gratitude is katannuta. The word katannuta consists of two parts: kata which means that which has been done, especially that which has been done to one, to oneself, and annuta which means knowing or recognising.

So katannuta means knowing or recognizing what has been done, that is to say knowing and recognising what has been done to one for one's benefit. Hence the connotation of the Pali word is rather different from its English equivalent. The connotation of the English gratitude is more emotional but the connotation of katannuta is rather more intellectual.

This suggests that gratitude involves an element of knowledge - knowledge of what has been done to us or for us. If we do not know that something has benefited us, we'll not feel gratitude. (More wiki-people)

So, then, is it the recognizing that allows us to be/feel gratitude? Or does the taking for granted the things we forget to notice allow us to miss the intellectual boat and therefore, forget to be grateful?

Because truly, it would seem, if we were cognizant of our good fortune, and anyone who has the luxury of blog reading falls into that category in varying degrees, then we'd exist in a perpetual state of gratitude - perhaps not to each other, but to divinity or mother earth.

I am rolling around the notions of intellectual versus emotional gratitude, and more importantly, how mindfulness of the above can not only affect my daily existence, but allow me to embrace a fuller potential. Because if you break it down, none of us are givers. Rather, we are all part of a giant cosmos that gives and takes, and sometimes our energies intersect with others, and good things happen. To consider oneself a giver supposes a connotation that we are indeed separate.

And honestly, sometimes there is a hell of a lot of ego in that. J mentioned the other day that my blog friends must have a one sided image of me - that I carry on about homeless this, and giving that, and it's all inherently bullshit because giving is not about me. I got rather pissed for a few minutes, and then realized he was right. It's true, I might hold my ideals in front of me as a way to fulfill ego. I also might want to share the things I care about. But I got too defensive not to admit there was truth in his words. And it made me wonder if I wasn't somehow needing to make it known, rather than done for the sake of doing. (Perhaps I am more of a Buddhist than I thought). Probably not. But I digress.

I am paraphrasing a piece from Kahlil Gibran as further food for thought:

You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow?
And what is fear of need but need itself?
There are those who give little of the much which they have - and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome. And there are those who have little and give it all.
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.
There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.
And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.
And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;
Though the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth.
For in truth it is life that gives unto life - while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness. And you receivers - and you are all receivers - assume no weight of gratitude, lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives. Rather rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings; For to be overmindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity who has the free-hearted earth for mother, and God for father.

I like this - a combination disavowing guilt trips AND pushing for interconnectedness and lack of ego. There's a reason he's called The Prophet, yo.

So I'll continue to mull. I think this goes back to the simple act of being mindful. And how we get to continually decide how we want to show up in this world. And how we might not want to show up after all.


flutter said...

To give and feed the ego instead of taking to feed the ego is still a gift.

Z said...

Before Christmas, I helped my son quite a bit, in practical ways, and he thanked me profusely, which quite embarrassed me. I said in my blog that it's nice to be appreciated, but one's children need not be grateful and one does not wish them to be (something like that, I paraphrase, I haven't looked it up to check).

As for a one-sided image, we understand that. We do it ourselves. We show the part of us that we choose to, not to be admired but to talk about things that, maybe, we don't talk about elsewhere. Blogging can be a way of talking to unknown friends with a depth of feeling that one rarely displays in everyday life. It can share feelings, of worry, anger, excitement, whatever else, and therefore provide a release of these emotions and also give feedback, which can really help in thinking things through. This element of sharing makes a blog, to me, more helpful than a diary. And even if one sometimes receives an admiring comment that one feels is not deserved, again, one can appreciate the warmth of the expression but be mindful that it should not feed ones ego.

mamatulip said...

Mulling is good. I think a good mull is underrated.

De Aufiero said...

Thanks for giving me this to think about. ;)
I wish I had all day to respond...and even then I'd never do it justice.

Everyone is going to look at this a little bit differently, in part depending on his religious background and thoughts on the origin of man.

I have thought many of us eschew "blogger personas," but upon further examination, it's hard not to screen what you give out. It's not "live feed;" we all choose what we post, editing ourselves for our "audience."

I think it is virtuous to be humble, but there is some saying about the value of "showing up" that escapes me. Anyway, someone has to show up, if only to set an example.

Oh, The Joys said...

When I read this, knowing what we share in common in terms of being called to serve, etc. is that it's funny how you share THIS side of yourself on your blog and perhaps shield other parts and I do the opposite. Mine being just the goofy idiotic side....

I think in person we would be freinds... -- and it sounds like you may be connecting with one of my closest real live friends in the word through "Trotting Along."

kristen said...

I need that give and take in the world although largely, I think that our society here in the states, is more about taking of late. I think if we were all a lot more honest with ourselves and realized that our egos need to be stroked now and again, there would be a lot more selflessness in action.

Thailand Gal said...

This is probably one of the most difficult topics to talk about. You know, books have been written. :)

I believe it is important for knowing our motives in doing something. If we discover that it is being done for the purposes of pride and praise then the answer is to keep doing what we're doing, all the time being mindful. Eventually, our motives evolve into something less ego-driven.

Just a few thoughts...



deb said...

" For to be overmindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity who has the free-hearted earth for mother, and God for father."

I think that's why I have such a hard time asking for help because I feel a sense of debt to the other person, even my husband, as weird as that sounds. I also wonder if I expect something in return when I do something for someone else? Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. It's funny, with a stranger I would expect nothing in return and I just feel good knowing I've done something to help another person but with a family member, I expect gratitude and want something done to me in return.

Why is that? Is it habit, biology, what? I guess just thinking about it is a step in the right direction. Why can't I just be kind to my family and myself for that matter, without a debt owed? Have to think about that one. Thank you Jen for something to think about, I've been feeling sorry for myself for a week now, my husband and I are having a tough time. This will help me get my head out of my ass.

NotSoSage said...

This is such a tough subject to tackle in a single post and you've done very well. I find that, in the West/North, there's a sense of entitlement in many segments of the population (which, as you've said, most bloggers belong to) which doesn't really have a foundation in anything except that they've always been entitled to things. I think few of us (myself included) stop to throw our gratitude out into the universe for the things that we have that most people on this earth would envy.

I feel this way when it comes to activism, too. You must be in a position of relative privilege to make a decision to eschew vaccinations or non-organic food or to buy sweatshop-free clothing, but there's a sense of self-righteousness in many who make these decisions.

You've got a way of making those little brain cells of mine get out for some exercise.

Mad Hatter said...

Girl, you are on a roll these days. This is another deeply thought-provoking post. I would like to echo the comment of Sage above. I am always struck by the historical randomness of privlege and the not-so-random power mechanisms that keep it in place. If I gave all I had, I would still not be giving enough to right the imbalances. I clearly give only to the point where my own comfort is not compromised. You remind me, rightly, that that is an issue I need to deal with.

As for your words on self-construction, the only answer I have is "yes."

meno said...

I have a freind who used to quote Freud at me "when you encounter resistance, you know you've hit pay dirt." I hate it when someone makes an observation which i want to fight against fiercely, because then i know that somewhere in that observation must be a truth.

Lucia said...

Stay mindful. Stay with it. Keep mulling.

luckyzmom said...

To give of yourself you first need to know who you are.

flutter said...

Oh and btw...I am so using the phrase

"The Prophet, yo."

QT said...

I think you are on an interesting track. I agree with you that we are part of a dynamic system of give and take, that not one of us exists separately from the other.

In the ancient religions, the release of ego is something that comes after a lifetime of searching, because once a person stops searching and struggling, they achieve enlightenment.
The struggle with ego is one that I fear will be lifelong for me.

"These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty."

That is my favorite line of what you quoted. So often I try to stop and be thankful that I am surrounded by the bounty of life -truly.

urban-urchin said...

It is hard to edit or not what you show to the world. It's self preservation, and we ALL do it to some extent.
At times I think it's neccessary to 'disregard' the emotions. We have to get beyond what we feel to what we know (does that make sense?) . Gratitude is neccessary, beyond neccessary in fact. To realize the grace that has been extended to you and in turn to extend grace to another is one of the main reasons we are on this earth I believe.

(Let me know if anything I wrote just made sense because it does to me but reading it looks a bit wonky....)

Laurie said...

Your post, as usual, is thought provoking. My cousin (who is in a line of work very similar to yours) and I were discussing the same thing last night. We came to no great conclusions, but the discussion was quite interesting. I'm sending her the link to your blog. I think she will find it interesting and enlightening.

KC said...

We are all tied to our ego. And I think this helps us become closer to our ideal with time, even if it colors more of us than we would like to admit.

I think one of things I gained from adopting a religion as an adult is mindfulness. Or at least more mindfulness. Everyday, JP and I make it a point to be thankful for everything we've been blessed with, and to help us share these gifts with others.

I've never known such gratitude before.

crazymumma said...

Oh Jen. There are times I am so grateful for your writing. It provokes me to dig a little deeper.

Joker The Lurcher said...

this is very thought-provoking, especially after your other post about giving. you are one hell of a thinker, jen. thank you for making us remember important things, and mull things over, and try hard in our lives.

mOses said...

Yesterday i was searching for the Fight Club (movie) quote: "We've been raised on television..." as it was a true summery of how i felt. Due to poor finances in a more nihilistic part of my life, my prospects of graduate school funding are falling away. This feeling is redoubled by having to re-enter food service as a career after completing my BFA at 33, despite my dedication and passions for art and academics.

At work i do my work without pleasure, i simply perform the actions i am asked to do. i have been trying to see how it all fits together in the 'big picture.'

This morning i was sitting and thinking about apathy, duality, and learning to turn barriers into advantages. My googling re-introduced me to the term 'katannuta' as i've studied Buddhism quite a bit. Next thing i know i'm on a web page headed with the 'Fight Club' quote i was seeking yesterday.

This to me was a true moment of 'katannuta', in which both sides (positive and negative) of my 'self' received meaning at the same time. And i understood the implications for the 'self' instantly. To me, constantly noticing these happenings while not lingering on them is what one might refer to as 'enlightenment.'

Thank you for this moment's enlightenment.

Anonymous said...

I am new to this site, I was in search of references to Katannuta, I have not given thought to an ID as I have never been part of a blog before. So I will give it thought before I post again. I am not sure if there are guidelines that are meant to respond only to the opening post, which was wonderful, but I am feeling compelled to respond to "mOses" and since I am not one to participate in blogs I must be pretty compelled. So forgive me if I have strayed from a desired format.

Moses, In a village there is no ranking of a job. Each job has equal value. To me food service is as monumental as the doctor as the farmer as the janitor. I have been taught that the energy and thought that goes into food preparation is transferred into the body as we partake of the prepared food. If you are part of the preparation and you are mindful of the importance of the nourishment both physical and emotional then when I come for my meal then my body mind and spirit will be fed in a truly nourished way. I suppose, it again goes back to "showing up in the moment" if I am preparing my children's food with exhaustion and resentment this energy carries forth and they will not be so much nourished as maintained. While I recognize you desire to move forward to something which inspires, to something for which you are passionate, can you not have both? Can you not see the art in food preparation? Look closely, look beyond "slinging hash", a gallery can have a bistro attached, a bistro can have fine art on it's walls. Cracker Barrell, a chain restaurant in the south, has memorobilia on the walls, antiques, some of it just "junk" but that junk touches me, as it brings back other times, times of plenty and times of hardship. If something hung as decoration touches a place in a person is this not art? If you have an original Chagall of the finest quality hanging on a wall in a mom and pop restaurant where things are kept simple, family style and there is a waiting line at every meal to eat, and hundreds pass the picture and never give it a glance, never even notice it then which is the art? I guess what I am saying is while you are exploring the funding opportunities for your fine arts education, understand you are working in a field of great art and you have an opportunity to bring it all together. Even if you were the dishwasher, the plate on which my meal is served is the canvas of my meal, so that job is as important as the chef, the owner, the manager, the waitstaff, the cashier. I wish you well. May you enjoy the journey.
Kindest Regards,