I am so thankful for Thanksgiving. The United States is the only country to observe the holiday and while I often wonder if gratitude should be a holiday, well, perhaps it should be. 

In years past, the holidays (for me) have meant observing well-respected “Teachers” collecting monies from students who were living paycheck to paycheck (including myself)….friends willingly allowing others to pay holiday lunch tabs when they were the “host” or inviter, I’ve also witnessed Teachers accepting gifts that went well beyond students measure simply because of greed.  While it was surprising to me at the time, I simply digested the behavior, was victim to it and was even willing to offer a large sum on the notion that I was “helping” someone in need.  

But doesn’t our practice of Buddhism and Yoga teach us that the Universe will provide when the time is right?

Perhaps, if you truly practice and believe. 

I could go on and on but I would rather focus on the words of my dear Yogacharya reminded me of yesterday, “It is better to die struggling than to abandon your efforts while there is still a possibility of accomplishing something more.… Analyze what you are, what you wish to become, and what shortcomings are impeding you. Decide the nature of your true task…..your mission in life. Endeavor to make yourself what you should be and what you want to be. That is the gift of a New Year or any holiday.”

What did this mean?   It means that you change your future by changing yourself. The more you insist on improving who and what you are, the more you become master of your destiny. Yet even when you’ve done everything you can, there will be times when you’ll have little or nothing to show for your efforts….just like when I gave that sum of money….I should have known I would never see it again. No matter, says the Bhagavad Gita, “as long as you remember that fulfilling your dharma—the drive to become who and what you are meant to be—is the defining desire, the one that informs and gives shape to all others. On this path [committed to dharma],” the Gita tells us, “effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure.… Perform work in this world … as a person established within himself—without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat.”

My Yogacharya’s words also serve as a reminder that there is no end to the process of fulfilling your destiny. You need only remain rightly committed to and focused on your true task…..your mission in life and what you want to be.

Your soul or essence quietly watches. It never changes. It is the same now as it was when you were born, when you sat at your desk in grade school, when you first felt moved to help another person, when you first fell in love, when you first began to wonder about your place in the universe and how you would fulfill it. All the while your soul has retained its intrinsic connection to Creation, fully aware that life is the grandest and most sacred of all journeys and worthy of every effort to celebrate it. 

The soul’s timeless and luminous wisdom and compassion are always ready to lead you by means of the silent pull of desire. The more you are attuned to your soul, the more easily it can lead you to a fulfillment far beyond what most of us imagine is possible. That place is the fulfillment of dharma, the convergence of fate and destiny…..a destination that awaits us and which can only be reached through the sum of all of our efforts. Dharma is Nature’s grand plan, a tapestry with no beginning and no end. It is also the Intelligence that inspires and guides us to fulfill that plan. Responding to dharma is how you rise to become your most mighty self.

The Pratyabhijnahrdayam, a sacred tantric text, reminds us of this when it states, “On attaining strength, one makes the universe one’s own.” This teaching tells you everything you need to know: accept that the inherent nature of the world is sacred, know that you are a part of it, then live with the conviction always to challenge, to quest to become something more and better.  

Be prepared to let each successive step in your life ennoble you with more capacity. Resolve to become stronger and to fulfill your highest calling. With this commitment to yourself—and with love and respect for the world and the rest of creation—you will inevitably fulfill the lasting promise of the Buddhadharma, of yoga and all other spiritual traditions.

Grow. Determine to let nothing stand in your way. Reap the greatest riches life has to offer. Resolve to share the gifts you receive, enriching more and more lives with all that you discover and achieve.

“A man must never be satisfied with what he possesses,” my dear Sudharma once instructed me. “Fortune abandons the man who is content with what he has.”

This is how I must abandon the fortunes I have offered “Teachers” in the past. This is how I accept my Thanksgiving…..allowing myself to see that my fortunes have not been in what I possess, but in what I offer. 

My wish is that you will endeavor to brighten this world with the gifts of all that you have come to know as truly worthwhile and enduring. In the process, you will successfully embody the final teaching from the Rig Veda, the most ancient of all the Vedic texts, whose final lines tell us of this promise: “May we walk together, talk together, and understand each other.  Like bright beings joined in right thinking, may we share our bounty with each other. Never asking more or taking more than we need.”