Appreciation (modhanā) is the happiness and joy felt on recognising the good in something or someone. It is a positive mental state closely related to gratitude and sympathetic joy. Appreciation dispels negativity, the feeling of inadequacy and self-pity, it imparts happiness and it also motivates us to act. The Buddha discussed at least four things we can feel admiration and appreciation towards, (1) the good within ourselves, (2) the good within others, (3) the blessings of being born human and (4) the many advantages and opportunities we enjoy.
The Dhamma can sometimes be practised in such a way that all our attention is on our negativities and how to deal with them. To avoid this lopsidedness, the Buddha also taught us to spend time contemplating and then celebrating our strengths and our virtues (sīlanussati), the things about ourselves we sometimes overlook. ‘Rejoicing here, rejoicing there, rejoicing both here and there, one rejoices and is appreciative reflecting on one's own good deeds’ (Dhp.16). Seeing or hearing about the serenity, the virtue or the kindness of others or of the good done by them, can fill us with admiration and the desire to emulate them. The Buddha said: ‘If one with faith were to aspire perfectly he or she should make this aspiration, “May I be like Sāriputta and Moggallāna…like the nun Khema…like the lay man Hatthaka or the lay woman Khujjuttara” ’ (A.I,88).
The Buddha pointed out how few humans there are when compared with all the other beings and thus that it is actually a very rare occurrence to be reborn as a human (A.I,36). This being so, we should appreciate ‘the rare chance of having human birth…of a Tathāgata appearing in the world…of the Dhamma and discipline being proclaimed…and so make an effort to understand the Four Noble Truths’ (S.V,455). We should, the Buddha also said, occasionally contemplate that now we are young, in good health, that we have abundant resources and that we live in a land that is at peace, but that this may not always be so (A.III,103). While countless humans have impaired faculties, live in lands where just surviving is a daily struggle or where there is no freedom of religion, most of us do not suffer from such disadvantages. Becoming more aware of our present situation can give us a heightened appreciation and gratitude of the many advantages we enjoy and the wonderful opportunities we have. This can be a positive stimulus to make full use of these advantages and opportunities to practise the Dhamma.