Understanding the Quality of Sincerity in the Practice of the Integral Yoga

The general definition of sincerity as understood in society is the quality of unifying one’s intention with one’s words or actions. This definition is a good starting point for understanding sincerity in the yogic sense. The major difference between the two is the level of inward review and detail orientation that takes place in the process of the integral yoga. It is not sufficient to have a general alignment of intention with action; rather there must eventually be a systematic review of the motivations behind every act, however seemingly small or insignificant and the source of that motivation.

The sadhak in the integral yoga quickly learns that the vital nature is very clever at having its own desires met under the guise of supporting the ideas of the mind and the justifications it presents for any line of thought or action, and thus cleverness remains active as the yogic undertaking develops. Ambitions, desires, various types of withholding of the consent or modification of the actions to accommodate the expectations of the vital all are, in many cases in very subtle forms. Seemingly altruistic acts can actually appeal to the desire for approval of others, or to gain name, fame, wealth or position in society. Public displays of worship can also support the vital’s needs for acknowledgement or acceptance, rather than being pure acts of sincere aspiration or devotion.

Sincerity is not perfect in any individual at the beginning of the yogic process, and with the subtle influence of the vital, the seeker can usually ferret out hidden motivations if he looks for them for a long way on this journey of self-discovery. It is far easier to judge the actions of others than to spot one’s own weaknesses or failings. It is an extraordinary clue, however, that when one becomes disturbed by the actions of another individual, there is something that still resonates within oneself that bears examination.

Sincerity reflects the qualities of aspiration, combined with rejection of those movements and motives that smother the aspiration, and a surrender of the entire being to the higher Force at work, which then works through the vital’s wiles and the mind’s justifications and the body’s resistances to align the entire being in a total harmony of focus on the spiritual realisation.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “Men are always mixed and there are qualities and defects mingled together almost inextricably in their nature. What a man wants to be or wants others to see in him or what he is sometimes on one side of his nature or in some relations can be very different from what he is in the actual fact or in other relations or on another side of his nature. To be absolutely sincere, straightforward, open, is not an easy achievement for human nature. It is only by spiritual endeavour that one can realise it — and to do it needs a severity of introspective self-vision, an unsparing scrutiny of self-observation of which many sadhaks and yogis even are not capable and it is only by an illumining Grace that reveals the sadhak to himself and transforms what is deficient in him that it can be done. And even then only if he himself consents and lends himself wholly to the diving working.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 5 Bases of Yoga, Sincerity, pp. 115-117

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