Even though this world is based on truth, it still requires balance. Therefore, sages admonish us that some things are best kept secret. The mystery is present within the Absolute Truth. Hence, in our material world there is also a place for mystery which becomes part of culture. To reveal some secrets untimely is as harmful as not to speak about the Absolute Truth in due time. There’s a proper time for everything. There’s time for full disclosure and a certain time for mystery and secrecy. A cultured person knows what kind of behavior to demonstrate in any given situation. In one word, mystery is not a lie. Rather, this is one of the aspects of cultural behavior.
The first thing meant to be kept secret, as sages say, is a good recipe for a strong medicine that you compound. Seems like, such a recipe should be told on every street corner. But in reality, if people use it incorrectly, the result may be completely opposite. A strong medicine can easily turn into a deadly poison. Moreover, this world is filled with those who want to enrich themselves quickly. This is why any working technology is copied and applied haphazardly and indiscriminately.
Simply to compound a strong medicine is not enough – one should use it properly. Usage details depend on circumstances, and only a professional knows that. Therefore, those who possess the secrets of powerful medicines are not eager to share them. And this is the way it should be. Otherwise, the whole world will be filled with fake drugs and thus, real poison. I personally know a producer of rather strong medications. And don’t even try to ask him how he does that. Just tell him about your problem, and he will say whether he can help you. And indeed, there were several cases when people were envious of his art and started to invent their own recipes. They intended to compound medicines that would have the same appearance and smell as the original ones. But all these cases ended in severe poisoning.
The second point, as recommended by the sages, is not to share the secret concerning your charity work. Good deeds are rare in this world. This is why they should be cherished like the most precious jewels. Only secrecy may help to keep a jewel. There’s no need to tell anyone where you keep your wallet. A man sometimes inadvertently pats on the pocket where he has money, and thieves notice that. They are aware of this reflex. Similarly, one shouldn’t blow one’s own horn for one’s own good deeds. Otherwise, pride will immediately notice that and take away all the benefits that came as a result of this charity.
How come? It seems that all is done and dusted. Why is it still possible to lose such good results? This is because a deed is considered accomplished only after the last emotions in our consciousness were revealed. If the last emotion was that of pride or self-admiration, a good deed is still unfinished, and there will be no result. A cake may look nice – so what of it? It must also be tasty. A customer can buy a cake from the store, but this is not the whole story. A customer may come back and complain about the bad taste of that cake.
Similarly, as a result of a good deed there should appear a sweet taste of humility, modesty and gratitude for the chance to commit it. If emotions of pride, arrogance and bragging arise instead, a dish is spoiled: it tastes bitter and nasty. No one will eat such a cake. At best, it would be thrown into the dustbin, or at worst it would be returned to the store. Therefore, we shouldn’t tell anyone about our good deeds. It’s a good exercise for generating proper reactions and emotions. Of course, we may have trouble cooking a complex dish for the first time. But if we know exactly how it should taste in the end, sooner or later we’ll do everything right, and everyone will be satisfied.
The third point that sages don’t recommend to dwell on is the austerity we perform. No need to go on about how you limit yourself in eating, sleeping, sexual relations and everything else. Austerity brings positive results only if it is combined with emotional asceticism. If I’m ascetic only at the external level, and bloat with self-pride inside, it’s not an austerity but a mere over-indulgence.
A real austerity involves both the inner and outer world of a person. For this reason we shouldn’t be overjoyed at the mere fact that something worked out well. Suppose you stayed awake all night and didn’t eat anything for three days. So what? This is your penance, isn’t it? What’s the point of telling others about it? We must share knowledge and not our pride. If we are capable of doing something, it doesn’t make a difference in itself. Only time can tell whether our austerity actually brought benefit to us.
Ascetic people can degrade just in the same way as non-ascetic ones. On the other hand, non-ascetic people can also make good and easy progress and keep their spiritual achievements. The level of asceticism is a question of taste. Tastes differ, you know. In exactly the same way, different people have different ideas concerning the standards they set for themselves. To facilitate progress, the standard must be set individually – it should suit me, not others. Therefore, there is no logic in taking any special pride in austerity. It’s ridiculous to think that everybody eats bread with butter and cheese, and I’m a great ascetic who eats only bread and butter. And once a month I don’t even spread butter on bread…
The forth point to be silent about refers to courage, heroism and other acts of bravery. These are grand deeds, but they are given to us as a test from God. Some people need to pass external tests and some people internal ones. External tests can be seen: one receives honors, rewards or wins fame for undergoing them. But no one sees how we cope with internal challenges. No one awards medals for that. Therefore, sages advise heroes of external victories not to boast of their achievements and to show respect to heroes of internal battles.
All the more so, we shouldn’t demand honor and respect for our heroic deeds from society. It was not the society that set such a task before us. It was our personal choice to become a hero. It was our own test, our own sense of duty. Since it was a matter of personal decision, it’s very strange if we stipulate for reward. It is the same as to sweep a street in front of the bank and claim salary for that later. You scraped away the litter in front of the bank. Well-done! But the bank didn’t become indebted to you. A hero must remember that he or she obtains a reward inside one’s own heart in the form of purification. But it can be extinguished by the desire to obtain external honors. Therefore, remember: a true feat is accomplished within our own heart afterwards, and the result is truly valuable.
The fifth point to remain unrevealed concerns spiritual knowledge. How come it seems like that? This is our main purpose, after all, to tell others about the Absolute Truth. But spiritual knowledge is manifold. It has different levels which are to be disclosed only according to one’s level of purification. Therefore, the main mistake of a novice distributor of truth is the willingness to share spiritual knowledge that is too advanced. Instead of bringing a power of good, it turns out to be confusing, disturbing and even frightening.
A novice preacher has a tendency to think that the more lofty the knowledge he/she tries to impart, the more it is purifying. However, this is just another snare of illusion. Any spiritual knowledge has equal purifying capacity. But knowledge that is too advanced can barely be perceived and put into practice. Therefore, sages admonish us: spiritual knowledge must first and foremost be practical. And thus, it must correspond to the level of perception of each and every individual.
On hearing about the spiritual reality, one should clearly and distinctly understand what he or she can do right now, what actual result it will bring, how it will purify the heart and how it will make him or her at least one step closer to eternal happiness. It’s no good telling things one won’t be able to put into action. Otherwise, one will become disenchanted with spirituality and think it’s sheer lunacy to waste time on something that brings no real result. This can be compared to talking about cakes and breaking up the party without even tasting anything or sharing a recipe.
The sixth thing better left unsaid is our morality. Indeed, we may be great vegetarians. We can practice non-violence and be proud of our pure life. But as long as we live in this world, our morality is still imperfect. Each day an ordinary person cannot but commit this or that form of violence. We can avoid the main types of sin but there remains an invisible sin. It has to do with violence because it involves annihilation of living entities or inflicting suffering on them. Specifically, this is commonly known as pancha-suna, or five great sins of a householder. Pancha-suna is described in the Smritis and shows that our behavior is far from perfect.
The first type of sin pertains to killing living entities during spice- and grain-grinding. The second sin is that of killing living beings when walking. The third one relates to killing in the process of harvesting. The forth one pertains to killing during the kindling of fire. The fifth one is the sin of killing living beings when boiling or drinking water. Therefore, in traditional Hinduism “pancha-maha-yajna” system is used. It is represented by five major sacrifices consisting of forty Vedic rituals. These are meant for householders.
One of the sacrifices is called brahma-yajna, or recitation of the Vedas. It is performed in order to discharge the debt to the sages who have given us this knowledge. Deva-yajna means offering worship to demigods who help us meet our daily needs. Pitri-yajna represents gratitude to ancestors. Through manushya-yajna one can repay the debt to society, by means of offering hospitality to guests, for example. Finally, bhuta-yagna is about showing compassion to living beings in a subtle form. Although we can’t see them, they exist and somehow or other interact with us.
Hence, being too proud of morality makes no sense. Otherwise, anyone more or less versant in spiritual science will immediately accuse us of a dozen of instances of our immorality. And not just immorality, but immoral hypocrisy. Once you declare yourself to be universally non-violent, they will point out at your leather shoes, silk clothing (poor silkmoth), and electric appliances (poor fish at HPPs, animals in flooded fields). And indeed, any manufacturing process is a small chemical warfare against environment. But we enjoy these products calling ourselves great moralists at the same time…
The seventh thing, better kept under wraps, concerns your family quarrels and family life in general. It’s not enough to install steel doors and PVC windows – one should also keep one’s mouth shut about what’s going on in that house. Remember: the less you talk about your family problems, the more close-knit and stable your family will be. We must wash our dirty linen at home, not in public. If you drop litter at the neighbors’ door, no one will like it. You must scrape it together and throw it into the dustbin.
Quarrel implies getting rid of negative energy which has accumulated in the process of communication. It’s not too pleasant, of course, but it brings about some purification, although aggressive one. But if we impart this energy to others, instead of getting rid of it, it will return to the family and only add to the existing problems. Therefore, if a family man tells his/her problems to surrounding persons, it brings to mind the following picture. It looks like going to the scrapeyard to throw away a garbage can, and returning back with the same full can, without having disposed of anything. Sewage system must perform its functions properly and carry all the wastes to the natural purifier. There’s no need to flood the neighbors with sewage water. No one will like it.
The eighth thing best kept secret is that the meals you provide are cheap cooked ones. Let those who help themselves to dishes appreciate their taste. Even the simplest food can be perfectly delicious. But if a cook starts to tell that he/she didn’t have enough money to buy olive oil, saffron, brown sugar or fresh ginger, it will spoil the pleasant impression of the meal. Bad mood turns off digestion, and food becomes poison. So, keep a good table, but don’t tell anyone how much you spend on it. Porridge and cabbage soup is but our native food!
The ninth thing better left unspoken concerns expletives and slang words that have been heard from someone else. As we mentioned before, contamination can be both gross and subtle. One’s shoes can get dirty in the street, and the same pertains to consciousness: it can also become polluted. If one comes home and says all the foolish things he/she heard on the way home, this can be compared to wearing shoes in the house. Previously it was considered uncultured if someone entered the house without taking off one’s shoes. In some places of the world this tradition is still preserved.
And the tenth thing best kept secret is our far-reaching plans. Sages advise not to talk about them until they are fulfilled. The bare fact that plans are sometimes fulfilled in this world is a miracle in itself. Any plan can easily be frustrated: one only has to find the weak spots in it and let everyone know. As soon as other people know our plans, the likelihood is great that someone may throw a wrench into them. Therefore, we must be aware of the fact that our plans are not just imperfect – they have many blank sides actually. An ill-wisher can easily heat a blot and ruin everything. Don’t give them a chance, which means that you shouldn’t disclose your plans unless necessary.
Finally, I’d like to remind you that a wise man doesn’t plume oneself on one’s humility, as well. This is because from time to time we are forced to take harsh, willed and even aggressive actions in our life. Therefore, let’s be humble inside because outwardly we sometimes have to turn into warriors to meet the challenges posed by life. Arjuna wanted to exhibit humility, go to the forest and escape from the war. But it could have turned into great shame…
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