Just about every individual, including those practicing a spiritual discipline of some sort, creates an image of himself that he then projects out into the world. This image is something of a stylized and idealized version of himself that attempts to present the highest and best of his aspiration, whether it be mental development, expressions of faith, compassion, goodwill, purity, and an abstemious nature not given to over-indulgence. To a certain degree, if someone has been called to the spiritual path, there is a truth to this presentation; at the same time, the complex elements of human nature and the different parts of the being are not generally unified around this ‘highest and best’ self, and thus, there are moments when the other elements assert themselves and cloud over the aspiration, the faith, the devotion, the compassionate nature. In many instances, the individual does not recognise the chinks in the image, and remains quite ignorant of his own weaknesses and failings, or else, if he is aware of them, he may try to justify their existence on some basis. This is especially the case where the vital nature convinces the mind to justify some expression of desire. This leads to the question of what is sincerity and how it can be achieved by the spiritual seeker.
A disciple inquires: “What does ‘sincerity’ mean, exactly?”
The Mother notes: “There are several degrees of sincerity. … The most elementary degree is not to say one thing and think another, claim one thing and want another. For example, what happens quite often: to say, ‘I want to make progress, and I want to get rid of my defects’ and, at the same time, to cherish one’s defects in the consciousness and take great care to hide them so that nobody intervenes and sends them off. This is indeed a very common phenomenon. This is already the second degree. The first degree, you see, is when someone claims, for example, to have a very great aspiration and to want the spiritual life and, at the same time, does completely… how to put it?… shamelessly, things which are most contradictory to the spiritual life. This is indeed a degree of sincerity, rather of insincerity, which is most obvious.”
“But there is a second degree which I have just described to you, which is like this: there is one part of the being which has an aspiration and says, even thinks, even feels that it would very much like to get rid of defects, imperfections; and then, at the same time, other parts which hide these defects and imperfections very carefully so as not to be compelled to expose them and get over them. This is very common.”
“And finally, if we go far enough, if we push the description far enough, so long as there is a part of the being which contradicts the central aspiration for the Divine, one is not perfectly sincere. That is to say, a perfect sincerity is something extremely rare. And most commonly, very very frequently, when there are things in one’s nature which one does not like, one takes the greatest care to hide them from oneself, one finds favourable explanations or simply makes a little movement, like this (gesture). You have noticed that when things move like this you can’t see them clearly. Well, where the defect is seated, there is a kind of vibration which does this, and so your sight is not clear, you no longer see your defects. And this is automatic. Well, all these are insincerities.”
“And perfect sincerity comes when at the centre of the being there is the consciousness of the divine Presence, the consciousness of the divine Will, and when the entire being, like a luminous, clear, transparent whole, expresses this in all its details. This is indeed true sincerity. … When, at any moment, whatever may happen, the being has given itself to the Divine and wants only the divine Will, when, no matter what is going on in the being, at any moment whatever, always, the whole being in perfect unanimity can say to the Divine and feels for the Divine, ‘Let Thy Will be done’, when it is spontaneous, total, integral then you are sincere. But until this is established, it is a mixed sincerity, more or less mixed, right up to the point where one is not at all sincere.”
“One must never pretend that one is: one must be, spontaneously. … This is sincerity.”
Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter III Growth of Consciousness Basic Requisites, pp. 39-41