In the Taoist tradition there is a saying ‘dim your light’. In Buddhism we talk about ‘hidden virtue’. Really they are both the same. If we hide our virtue, although we do many good deeds, we try to keep ourselves out of the picture. We keep our view of self small by not attracting attention to ourselves as the doers of virtuous deeds. When we see a need arise, especially one that no one wishes to fulfil—we go ahead and fulfil it. There are many such opportunities in the course of a single day that will serve to occupy all of our idle time and still leave many things undone. Such chores are often tedious and boring, but doing them will consume much time that might otherwise get consumed in idle chatter and unprofitable activities. Thus performing many small good deeds we, in time, accumulate the merit and virtue necessary to perfect our cultivation of the way.
When undergoing hardship and suffering, and even physical illness, we can evoke a response that will shake the heavens by quietly enduring our sufferings rather than proclaiming them abroad. The wise know the value of keeping their physical and mental problems to themselves. Of course at times it is necessary to see a physician or receive advice from another; but this is true only in about one out of ten times. The wise avoid many mistakes and conserve their energies by not letting their needs be known. Thus they are enabled to discover what their true needs really are, and weed out the true from the false.
Cultivating the path of meditation and spiritual inquiry in general requires the utmost exertion of body and mind. The value of hidden virtue as a contributing factor of cultivation cannot be overestimated. Indeed all those who cultivate the path of meditation should investigate this dharma.
Originally published in Great Awakening by BPG in 1985. By courtesy of the Sino-American Buddhist Association, California.