Gratitude is heart felt, obligation is heart burdened.
Gratitude is inspiring to do more for the person who we are grateful to. In obligation we want discount, and some times release without being paying the due.
In gratitude we look for the opportunity to be grateful. In obligation we look for the opportunity to over come it by avoiding it, or making it less.Obligation is legal, gratitude is moral. Legality is an external force, morality is internal awakening.
Therefore when gratitude is forced upon a person rather than an internal awakening then it becomes an obligation. The same obligation when transformed and made into a personal decision it becomes gratitude. Eg:- loan paying off is an obligation, but a good son, understanding the value of money which his father had received from the giver, the son takes the responsibility and pays it off, and thanks the person for lending the money at the right time.In the Mahabharata we see how most people who were fighting on the side of Kauravas were obliged. But those who were fighting on behalf of the Pandavas like, Abhimanyu, Ghatodgaja, Virata, and other such warriors, were fighting had taken the responsibility of fighting on their own shoulders and they were willing to sacrifice. People who are obliged want release and those who are grateful they are free, by their inner awakening. Obligation is binding therefore it restricts our movement it stifles creativity, Gratitude is an expression of freedom it empowers,it opens up creativity, it builds every aspect of life.Gratitude in Sanskrit is called “krtajna” means, to carry the memories of the favors received by us.In gratitude there is nothing to give back except one’s consciousness and gifts. In obligation, we have to pay everything we have taken with interest, without our mind and consciousness being involved in it. Obligation is heartless, gratitude is hard-less, or in other words, it softens heart.In this world if we really want to grow, it is better to be grateful than to have the burden of obligation. Choice is ours, do we want an obligation or gratitude. Depending upon whether we chose obligation or gratitude it changes everything around us including our mental structure. In turn it gives us a healthy and integrated growth .