By Karnamrita Das
The Origin of Secrets and their Reflection in the World
I am finding the subject of secrets very rich, deep and important. The existence of secrets is all-pervading, and it all begins in the spiritual world, where it has it true purpose to facilitate the loving pastimes of Krishna and his devotees. For example, Krishna’s relationship with Radha and the gopis, while suspected by a few, is a secret kept from Krishna’s parents, which intensifies their love and the passion of their meeting. The fear of separation and being found out intensifies the emotions and value of being with one another. Everything in that world is according to Krishna’s desire, even those who appear to create so-called impediments to Krishna’s secret love rendezvous with his greatest lovers.
The distorted reflection of these secrets is found in the tabloids or in rumors and secrets of movie stars and other famous people. Every person has some secret they don’t want others to know, as do families, communities, nations, religious groups or institutions, and ruling powers in any organization or government. Keeping secrets is the business of the false ego which thinks of friends and enemies and endeavors to protect our false sense of material identity from harm or criticism. We also criticize others to protect our secrets and divert attention from ourselves.
In this world there are ordinary, special, and the greatest secrets of all, as hinted about in the Bhagavad Gita, and then expanded upon in the Shrimad Bhagavatam and Chaitanya Charitamrita. While the most secret and confidential knowledge of Krishna’s Godhood and the means to obtain him need to be the basis of our lives, there are other secrets, the ignorance of, or lack of application of, create many problems in our ordinary lives and in spiritual practices. We might know these secrets in theory and yet not apply them in our own lives. One of the most important secrets is widely known, though often difficult to apply, and revolves around our relationship with ourselves.
Prahlad Maharaja and Jada Bharata teach us in Shrimad Bhagavatam that the only enemy is our own uncontrolled and misguided mind. The truth of this has vast and important implications. Said simply, we are often our own worst enemy. The most dangerous secrets don’t concern others but are the ones we keep from ourselves, either those that are repressed, or those we are in denial about. Relationships with others reveal much about whether we have major life issues or not. If we are frequently angry or in conflict with others we should understand that this is a self-portrait about who we are, and not about externals—we have secrets we have to uncover about why we act as we do.
We have to aspire to take 100 % responsibility for our lives, and give up thinking we are a helpless victim of our past or present situation. As is often said, success in life isn’t about what happens to us, but is obtained according to how we respond in difficulties or reverses, or worse. One the positive side, the things, positions, awards, titles, or fame we are given are not what is important, but who we have become as persons in the process, and for devotees, how much we have remembered and loved Krishna. Or, our past doesn’t have to equal the future, if we are willing to change. That we can and must change is another secret to success.
The Secret to Change
What has been dubbed, “The Secret,” is the basis of much of the self-help and success literature to inspire positive change. Even though what this book outlines, “the law of attraction,” is mainly used for purposes of material acquisition, it is still important to understand in all its applications, especially for changing our lives for the better. The Secret is just another marketing of what Earl Nightingale referred to many years before, as “The Strangest Secret,” which is that “we become what we think about “ or are focused on. Ralph Waldo Emerson said the same thing in his day, which is likely where Earl first heard it.
The Bible teaches that, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so he is.” The Buddha makes a similar statement. Said in different ways this is all the same idea, and by understanding and applying it, we can understand the principle of making positive changes in our lives. Understanding the relationship between our thoughts and attitudes on our lives is important because we can often become overwhelmed by circumstances and feel stuck in the same old, same old. Thus self-examination and taking personal responsibility are some secrets for living the best lives we can.
The Secret Purpose of our Thoughts and Attitudes
At least two verses in the Gita outline the spiritual purpose of our thoughts (the inner secret of “The Secret,”), “Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kunti, that state he will attain without fail.” [Bg 8.6] This is true moment by moment, as each moment dies to birth the next, with the ultimate application at the time of death.
Then we have Krishna’s assertion that he reciprocates with us according to our intention and level of surrender: “As all surrender unto Me, I reward them accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Prtha.” [Bg 4.11] The “most confidential knowledge" verse, “Engage your mind always in thinking of Me [Krishna], become My devotee, offer obeisances to Me and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me,” [BG 9.34] also teaches us the importance of remembering, thinking about, and worshiping Krishna, which brings about the most auspicious results now, and into eternity. This verse teaches us how to surrender to Krishna as requested in the Gita’s 18th chapter. Centering our thoughts and lives on Krishna brings many side benefits such as dealing effectively and peacefully with the ups and downs of life. In doing this we practice being stewards of our mind, attitudes, and lives. Our heart is like a clear crystal that reflects or is influenced by the company we keep and the thoughts we let predominate us.
What we focus on is what we have faith in and what we give power to. We learn in the 17th chapter that we are our faith. The following verse describes how different worshipers obtain different results because of their focus--and thus faith--and worship: "Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship the ancestors go to the ancestors; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings; and those who worship Me will live with Me." [BG 9.25]
The Secret of Spiritual Practice and Positive Change
We live in a plane where unfortunate and miserable conditions may appear seemingly out of nowhere, and we can’t just neurotically blame ourselves for everything—our views depend on our spiritual development and the vision we hold. In a general sense it is our karma to be alive at this time and in whatever country we live in (the background of our lives), though if we are devotees or believers in some higher power, we can come to see everything as mercy to help us spiritually. We can know whether change or tolerance is in order, as in the serenity prayer. In either case we have to remember Krishna, keep a faithful attitude, and depend on Krishna for guidance and the results of all our endeavors. Guidance comes from within, from scriptures, saintly persons, and if we are attuned and open, signs from the environment or other people, etc. Keeping high ideals, we want to come to a place where we experience Krishna, and teachers, everywhere and in all circumstances.
While the exact reasons things happen in our lives is complex, and we may not understand why they do, let us be encouraged to make the best of every situation through our positive and empowering thoughts, attitudes, and actions, fortified by prayer and our spiritual practices. By taking shelter of the holy name, good association, and devotional thought and actions, and retiring out unwanted habits through introspection and personal growth work, we can endeavor and pray to be the best person we can, regardless of our circumstances, on the path of loving and serving Krishna. This is an open secret for positive change. There is change for improving our lives, character and relationships and in our devotional attitude and feeling for Krishna and those dear to him. Progressive spiritual life isn't meant for staying the same, but deepening our spirituality and become better in every sphere we can--all for the service and glory of Krishna, his devotees, and the holy name.