© Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust

Sincerity and Loyalty
6 January 1951

"What a Child Should Always Remember

The necessity of an absolute sincerity.

The certitude of Truth's final victory.

The possibility of constant progress with the will to achieve."

Why do I insist on absolute sincerity? Perhaps the younger children don't understand what sincerity is, but the older ones surely ought to know! You have all passed through childhood and you probably remember what you were taught, what you were told when you were young. Parents nearly always tell their children, "You must not lie, it is very bad to tell a lie." But the unfortunate thing is that they lie in your presence and then you wonder why they want you to do something which they don't do themselves.

But, apart from that, why do I insist on the fact that children should be told from a very early age that it is absolutely necessary to be sincere? I am not addressing those who were brought up here, but those who were brought up in an ordinary family, with ordinary ideas. Children are very often taught how to outsmart others, how to dissimulate so as to appear good in others' eyes. Some parents try to control children through fear, and that is the worst possible method of education, for it is an incentive to lying, deceit, hypocrisy and all the rest. But if you repeatedly explain to children something of this kind: If you are not absolutely sincere, not only with others but also with yourself, if at any time you try to cover up your imperfections and failings, you will never make any progress, you will always remain what you are throughout all your life, without ever making any progress. So, even if you only want to grow out of this primitive unconscious state into a progressive consciousness, the most important thing, the one absolutely important thing is sincerity. If you have done something which you ought not to have done, you must admit it to yourself; if a less-than-admirable movement has occurred in yourself, you must look it in the face and tell yourself, "It was not good," or "It was disgusting," or even "It was wicked."

And don't think that there are people to whom this rule does not apply, for you cannot live in the physical world without having a share in the physical nature, and physical nature is essentially a mixture. You will see, when you become absolutely sincere, that there is nothing in yourself that is absolutely unmixed. But it is only when you look yourself in the face, in the light of your highest consciousness, that whatever you want to eliminate from your nature will disappear. Without this striving for absolute sincerity, the defect, the little shadow, will stay in a corner biding its time to come out.

I am not speaking of the vital, which is hypocritical, I am merely speaking of the mind. If you have a small, disagreeable sensation, a slight uneasiness, see how quickly the mind gives you a favourable explanation! It lays the blame on someone else or on the circumstances, it says that what you did was right and that you are not responsible, and so on. If you look carefully into yourself, you will see that it is like that and you will find it most amusing too! If a child starts examining himself carefully very early, observing himself honestly so as not to deceive himself or deceive others, it will become a habit and spare him much struggling later on.

Now I am addressing parents and teachers, for it is very important to teach children that it is absolutely useless to "look" as if they were good, to "look" as if they were obedient, to "look" as if they were studying well, etc. Very often, the course parents and teachers adopt with their children is to encourage them to "look as if". It often happens that if a child spontaneously confesses his mistake, he is given a scolding. This is one of the greatest mistakes of parents. You must have sufficient control over yourself never to scold a child, even if he has broken a very valuable and cherished object. You should simply ask him, "How did you do that?" "What happened?" For the child ought to see why it happened, so that he can be more careful next time. But that is all. In this way you will get the child to be sincere with you instead of trying to deceive you.

The greatest obstacle to the transformation of one's own character is hypocrisy. If you always keep this in mind when dealing with a child, you can do him a lot of good. Of course, you must not sermonise or lecture him, etc. You should simply make him understand that there is a nobility in the being, a great purity, a great love of beauty, which is so powerful that even the most wicked and criminal people are forced to acknowledge a truly beautiful or heroic or selfless act.

For, in human beings, there is a presence, the most marvellous Presence on earth, and except in a few very rare cases which I need not mention here, this presence lies asleep in the heart--not the physical heart but the psychic centre--of all beings. And when this Splendour is manifested with enough purity, it will awaken in all beings the echo of this Presence.

Why does insincerity get such a sanction from society?

Because society is obsessed with success.

Is there a difference between sincerity and loyalty?

There is always a difference between two different things. Of course, it is very difficult, I suppose, to be loyal without being sincere, and vice versa. But I have known people who were loyal and yet lacked a certain kind of sincerity. The opposite is not unusual. The one doesn't automatically follow from the other, but it is obvious that honesty, straightforwardness, loyalty and sincerity are closely related. I think that it is extremely difficult for someone to be perfectly sincere without being loyal and honest, but of course this demands the utmost.

Isn't loyalty limited by a feeling for something or someone? Isn't sincerity something wider?

Yes, it is. Loyalty implies some kind of hierarchical relationship, so to say, with someone or something. There is a sort of interdependence. The usual idea is that loyalty means keeping one's word, doing one's duty scrupulously, etc.

Someone who lives all alone in a forest can practise total sincerity, but you can only practise loyalty in social life, in relation to other people. A person who is entirely consecrated in an act of inner devotion to the divine Presence, can be loyal to this Presence. This implies a relationship with something in front of you, or a relationship with the universal.

The German generals were loyal to Hitler, but they weren't sincere with themselves.

This is a very complex problem. They might have been sincere in relation to their own ideal. You do not know.

I have known beings who were the most active instruments against the divine life, against the divine realisation. Well, to some extent, they were loyal to their own ideal and very sincere in their... (Note1) These beings are called Asuras, but as I have just said, they were sincere in relation to their own ideal.

So sincerity is not enough?

I didn't say they had an absolute sincerity. I simply said that they were very sincere. Perhaps, in some part of their being, there was something that did not try to know any more than it knew. It is quite probable.

Some people think they have achieved absolute sincerity.

If you are sure you have achieved absolute sincerity, you can be sure that you are immersed in falsehood!

Note 1: Words missing in the transcription.