Sincerity means more than honesty. It means that you mean what you say, feel what you profess, are earnest in your will.
When we end a letter with ‘yours sincerely’, it is almost a reflex. Rarely do we give a thought to what it means, how difficult it is to be sincere, and therefore, how rare total sincerity is. In ordinary day-to-day affairs, sincerity means saying what we mean, and doing what we say. Sincerity implies lack of all pretensions. Lack of sincerity is a subtle form of deception. Like charity, sincerity begins at home. We have to first learn to be sincere with ourselves. Suppose I smoke, and I decide to give up smoking. What determines my success is how sincere I am about the desire to give up smoking. Insincerity is likely to express itself through reasons: I want to give up smoking, but ‘my life is full of stress’, ‘to give up smoking is very difficult’, ‘my will-power is weak’, ‘my friends don’t let me do it’, and so on. If I am sincere, I will consider all these reasons to be mere excuses, and I will acquire the will-power to overcome all these difficulties.
Sincerity is the one thing that is needed the most also on the spiritual path. First, the aspiration for spiritual growth should be sincere. Sincerity of aspiration means that I should be interested in the Divine for the sake of the Divine, not for the satisfaction of the ego or some worldly desires, or as a pretense because spirituality is the in-thing among the rich and fashionable. Secondly, sincerity is needed for doing what is right, and rejecting what is wrong. The inner voice, emanating from the psychic being, tells us what is right and what is wrong. Listening to the voice needs sincerity because temptations and calculations of worldly gain and loss are sure to supply many reasons why the authentic voice of the psychic being may be ignored or suppressed.
Total sincerity takes time to cultivate. But at least a person on the spiritual path should not be “fundamentally insincere”, to use an expression of Sri Aurobindo. Being conscious of insincerity is itself a step forward, because it implies a desire to get rid of the insincerity. A person who is not even conscious of his insincerity is, according to the Mother, not insincere but wicked. To him, sincerity is an alien concept.
We generally know what to do or keep away from. Sincerity helps us put the knowledge into practice. A gram of practice is worth a kilo of knowledge. In fact, one who has the knowledge but does not translate it into practice is much worse than someone making the same mistakes because he does not have the knowledge. The Mother called sincerity “the key to the divine gates”. The Divine is within us as well as all around us, and yet we do not see it because ‘a locked gate’ conceals the Divine from us. The analogy comparing sincerity with the key that can unlock the gate tells a lot. Like a key, sincerity does easily what is otherwise almost impossible. Like a key, sincerity unlocks the gate silently. Like a key, sincerity unlocks the gate to the Divine from within, rather than by hammering at the lock from outside. Approaching the Divine involves sincere and silent work that goes on within. The work consists of listening carefully to the dialogue between the head, the heart and the soul; and when there is a conflict, acting upon the voice of the soul. The work also consists of using the uneasiness that follows every lapse as an opportunity for inner churning that culminates in the resolve to be sincere in future. That is why sincerity is indispensable for spiritual growth.