In 2007, I returned to my country of birth, Thailand, for the first time since I left at age 4.
My family and I were visiting a friend of my parents who is a renowned university professor coming from a wealthy family in Thailand. I asked a bit more to my dad about what the family did, and how they succeeded in business. They were owners of a company managing large shopping centers in Thailand. I don’t remember exactly all the details, but at some point in the conversation, my dad mentioned to me that they were also generous donors to various charities.
That’s when I had the insight that gaining more money doesn’t have to be “evil” or “greedy”, but can actually lead to more good done in the world.
At one point, my dad even pulled a Thai newspaper article, showing that a certain charity had received a large donation by an anonymous donor. My dad explained to me that often, people give away money anonymously in Thailand, to avoid receiving the recognition and praise in return for their action. That is a way to increase their merits.
In Thailand, as a predominantly Buddhist country, individuals and society tend to cultivate virtues such as benevolence to “gain” merits to increase one’s karma. The trick though is to do these actions for the sake of doing good, and not with the direct intention of collecting merits.
I would say there are several levels of karmic actions, by order of karmic power:
- Completely disinterested benevolent actions (which have the highest karmic power)
- Benevolent actions performed with the intention to acquire something (directly or indirectly, which have a little less power to create positive karma)
- Neutral actions (actions performed without any particular intention)
- Malevolent actions (actions performed to harm another being, which unfortunately create negative karma)
To perform category 1) actions, one can do what I call “Secret Good.”
Doing secret good means to do a benevolent action, by making sure it is not done for recognition or egoistic motives. The intentions are purely benevolent, altruistic, with a positive intention for the person or the being you are doing it to/for. What adds to the “Secret” part is to do it while trying to conceal your identity as much as you can. Think of it as like being a guardian angel for someone.
- A benevolent neighbor bakes a cake with love, wraps it carefully and drops it in front of a house without a note.
- A person at work goes to buy coffee for another person at work that they don’t know, and hands it with a smile.
- A herbal tea manufacturer add a secret ingredient to his teas (that they are not legally obliged to disclose on the label), that bring tremendous good health, and adds good intentions and prayers during the mixing process of the herbs. They don’t advertise it nor market it.
- A man who passes on the street sees two lovely and sweet children doing a mini yard sale. He inquires about the few DVDs on the stand:
“How much are they?”
“These are 50 cents, these are 1 euro.”
The man smiles.
He is not interested in the DVDs, but loves these children and wants to have fun and make them happy, and also give them a positive experience with money.
“Thank you, but I am not interested in the DVDs, but here is for you.”
He hands them each a 10€ bill.
The children look at each other, with surprise and a huge smiley face.
By the time they run to their parents, calling: “Mommy, Mommy !” The man is gone.
Just before he turns around the corner, he has a quick glance on top of his shoulder: he sees the mother looking left and right on the street. He smiles and walks away.
- A man walks in the park, and picks up the litter left by other people.
- A person is in a park, and sees a young woman who fell off her bike and is injured. They help her out, and ride with her for fifteen minutes to the closest hospital where they leave her at the Emergency Room.
All these actions carry the power of doing Secret Good.
The power of Secret Good becomes better when more people practice it. Like any network effect, it compounds exponentially !
A study in altruism looked at random acts of kindness. One practice observed was when people pay for their meal at a McDonald’s drive-in, and also pay for the meal of the person after them. Often, the person after feels so much gratitude that they decide to pay for the person after them too. If I recall properly, the world record was set by a chain of about 36 cars paying for the car after them (which is done without the intention of setting a record of benevolence, contrary to other records) !
Notice that when you shift only two letters, you shift from “Secret” to “Sacred”.
On this planet, there are countless beings doing Secret Good every day.
We don’t talk about them, we don’t see them, we don’t hear them. But we do live in a better world thanks to them.
What Secret Good would you love to do?
What could you do today, or tomorrow?