A Timeless Thanksgiving Message from Thich Nhat Hanh
“We like the idea of being thankful to the cosmos, to everything that offers itself to us as food. That is why in Plum Village we organize a Thanksgiving Day, and we address our thanks to four objects: first of all to our father and our mother, who gave us life; to our teacher who gave us spiritual life and helped us know how to live in the here and now; we thank our friends who support us, especially in difficult moments, and we thank every being in the animal, vegetable and mineral world for our support and maintenance.
So the Buddhists also celebrate Thanksgiving, with that kind of insight. And while we celebrate Thanksgiving, we relate to everyone who is there, and this is a very good practice so that we don’t cut ourselves off from reality. The feeling of gratitude can help us to remember and to cultivate the element of compassion and loving kindness in us.”
Thich Nhat Hanh, Plum Village, 27th July, 1998
How Buddhists Give Thanks at Meals
Every day Buddhists all over the world recite “The Five Contemplations” at mealtime. These five simple sentences have endured for over twenty-five centuries because of the depth of compassion and wisdom inherent in them.
These verses gently remind us to be fully present in the moment. They remind us to walk lightly on this earth and to consider our purpose for being here. They remind us to be virtuous in body, speech and mind. They remind us to be mindful of unwholesome acts, such as greed, anger, and delusion, and to transform them with insight, wisdom, and loving-kindness.
In a way, you could say that “The Five Contemplations” convey the very heart of the Buddha’s teaching.
Here is the version that many students of Thich Nhat Hanh use. I first learned of it on my first retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh, where each table at our dining place had these words on a card for us to ponder. As I did last year, I offer these contemplations as a Thanksgiving “grace” for this holiday season:
This food is the gift of the whole universe—the earth, the sky, and much hard work.
May we live in a way that makes us worthy to receive it.
May we transform our unskillful states of mind, especially our greed.
May we take only foods that nourish us and prevent illness.
We accept this food so that we may realize the path of practice.
May you, your family, your friends, your neighbors and my neighbors, our country, all the nations of the world, all the creatures and plants of this beautiful world—may all beings everywhere—be happy, satisfied, and safe!