Sincerity of heart is the starting point of spiritual practice and
ethical living. A person's inner intention goes far towards determining
the extent to which a particular action is Good and Evil, pp. 464-69. In
theistic traditions, God sees into the heart and requites a person
according to his or her inmost reality. For Shinto, sincerity (makoto)
means the inner, harmonious coherence of thought and action, of the
individual's will and the will of the kami. Or in Buddhism, as the
Dhammapada so forcefully states, action begins with the mind; it is
created by the mind; it goes forth according to the inner state of the
mind. In some of the passages gathered here, sincerity means the natural
and spontaneous flow of the mind, devoid of all pretense and all egoistic
grasping. Other passages view the matter differently, and call for
self-examination and self-cultivation in order to manifest true sincerity.
Even when the outward form of an act is obedient and faithful, the
person's inner intentions become manifest in the end. The concluding
passages examine how differences in the progress made in the religious
life are due to the different hearts with which people approach the same
Sincerity is the single virtue that binds divinity and man in one.
It matters not whether you do much or little, so long as your heart is
directed to Heaven.
Judaism. Talmud, Berakot 17a
Berakot 17a: Berakot 5.1, p. 839; Baraita Kallah, p. 867; Psalm 145.18, p.
A man becomes pure through sincerity of intellect; thereupon, in
meditation, he beholds Him who is without parts.
Hinduism. Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.8
Sincerity (ihsan): You should worship God as if you saw Him; for although
you do not see Him, He sees you.
Islam. Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi 2
Sincerity (makoto) is the mind of the kami. Accordingly, when serving the
kami in worship, if one has a mind of sincerity, the kami will surely
Shinto. Ekken Kiabara, Divine Injunctions
"The one true God is Spirit"; therefore, when you pray to the Divine
Spirit, you must be true in spirit.
Omoto Kyo. Michi-no-Shiori
Abu Huraira reported God's Messenger as saying, "God does not look at your
forms and your possessions, but He looks at your hearts and your deeds."
Islam. Hadith of Muslim
Through the best righteousness,
Through the highest righteousness,
May we catch sight of Thee,
May we approach Thee,
May we be in perfect friendship with Thee.
Zoroastrianism. Yasna 60.21
A worship without love
And an unfeeling act,
Behold, my brothers, is
A pictured loveliness--
No joy in its embrace;
A painted sugarcane--
No relish in its taste.
O Lord, without sincerity
Is no piety.
Hinduism. Basavanna, Vachana 126
Mundaka Upanishad: Cf. Rig Veda 10.151.4-5, p. 752. Forty Hadith of
an-Nawawi 2: Compare Analects 3.12, p. 867. Divine Injunctions: Cf.
Records of the Enshrinement of the Two Imperial Deities at Ise, p. 829;
One Hundred Poems on the Jeweled Spear, p. 768.; also Boran Prayer, p.
829; Chuang Tzu 23, p. 735. Michi-no-Shiori: Cf. Records of the
Enshrinement of the Two Imperial Deities at Ise, p. 829; also Sifre
Deuteronomy 41, p. 829; Boran Prayer, p. 829; Psalm 145.18, p. 826.
No matter how dark, the hand always knows the way to the mouth.
African Traditional Religions. Idoma Proverb (Nigeria)
Mind is the forerunner of all evil states. Mind is chief; mind-made are
they. If one speaks or acts with wicked mind, because of that suffering
follows one, even as the wheel [of the cart] follows the hoof of the
Mind is the forerunner of all good states. Mind is chief; mind-made are
they. If one speaks or acts with pure mind, because of that happiness
follows one, even as one's shadow that never leaves.
Buddhism. Dhammapada 1-2
Thoughts alone cause the round of births (samsara); let a man strive to
purify his thoughts. What a man thinks, that he is: this is an old
By the serenity of his thoughts a man blots out all actions, whether good
or bad. Dwelling within his Self with serene thoughts, he obtains
If the thoughts of a man were so fixed on Brahman as they are on the
things of this world, who would not then be freed from bondage?
The mind, it is said, is of two kinds, pure and impure: impure from the
contact with lust, pure when free from lust.
When a man, having freed his mind from sloth, distraction, and
vacillation, becomes as it were delivered from his mind, that is the
Hinduism. Maitri Upanishad 6.34.3-7
By the Truth I mean purity and sincerity in their highest degree. He who
lacks purity and sincerity cannot move others. Therefore he who forces
himself to lament, though he may sound sad, will awaken no grief. He who
forces himself to be angry, though he may sound fierce, will arouse no
awe. And he who forces himself to be affectionate, though he may smile,
will create no air of harmony. True sadness need make no sound to awaken
grief; true anger need not show itself to arouse awe; true affection need
not smile to create harmony. When a man has the Truth within himself, his
spirit may move among external things. That is why the Truth is to be
Taoism. Chuang Tzu 31
Idoma Proverb: This means that regardless of the circumstances, you can
always know yourself. Dhammapada 1-2: These are the justly famous opening
verses of the Dhammapada. Cf. Lankavatara Sutra 64, p. 155; 78, p. 182;
Matthew 15.11-20, p. 860; Sarvarthasiddhi 6.3, p. 466. Chuang Tzu 31: Cf.
Chuang Tzu 13, p. 220; Doctrine of the Mean 20.18, p. 227.
The truly upright is that which flows out of your genuine innermost self
as a result of the sincerity shown by the kami; on all occasions, you must
exert this sincerity to the utmost, even in the most minor of your
activities. Courtesy and ritual without this sincerity and honesty is
mistaken and insufficient. It is like drawing a bow and merely releasing
the string blindly without firming your hand, or like trying to move in a
boat without an oar.
Shinto. Moshimasa Hikita, Records of the Divine Wind
You should speak with your mind--your inmost self. If it is sympathetic
with others, you can become one with God and automatically know the truth
of the universe.
Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon, 11-19-78
Brother! without guidance of the Preceptor comes not illumination (sahaj).
>From the holy Word arises equipoise (sahaj), And is the holy Lord
attained. What in serenity (sahaj) is sung is properly rewarded; Without
serenity all utterance is in vain. From equipoise arises devotion; Ffrom
equipoise comes love and dispassion towards the world. From equipoise
arise joy and peace; Without equipoise is life a waste.
Sikhism. Adi Granth, Sri Raga Ashtpadi, M.3, p. 68
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul,
and with all your might.
Judaism and Christianity. Deuteronomy 6.5
Because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of
Christianity. Revelation 3.16
We should examine ourselves and learn what is the affection and purpose of
the heart, for in this way only can we learn what we honestly are.
Christian Science. Science and Health, p. 8
Records of the Divine Wind: Cf. Chuang Tzu 13, p. 220; 23, p. 735. Sri
Raga Ashtpadi, M.3: The key term in this passage is sahaj, variously
translated illumination, equipoise, serenity, sponaneous devotion. It is
essentially an unforced, spontaneous dawning of the self, born from
within. Sikhism is opposed to hatha yoga, a term which it uses to
classify all yogic practices involving forced austerities, extreme effort,
and asceticism. Instead it seeks to cultivate a spontaneous sense of
harmony and poise: sahaj. Hence a comparison with Taoist and Shinto
concepts of spontaneity and sincerity is useful. Cf. Chuang Tzu 23, p.
735. Deuteronomy 6.5: This is taken from the Shema, Deuteronomy 6.4-9, p.
55. Revelation 3.16: This letter, sent to the wealthy church of Laodicea,
complains that their lukewarm Christianity is nauseating. It is the
antithesis of the absolute sincerity called for in the previous passage.
What is meant by "making the will sincere" is allowing no
self-deception, as when we hate a bad smell or love a beautiful color.
This is called satisfying oneself. Therefore the superior man will always
be watchful over himself when alone.
When the inferior man is alone and leisurely, there is no limit to
which he does not go in his evil deeds. Only when he sees a superior man
does he then try to disguise himself, concealing his evil and showing off
the good in him. But what is the use? For other people see him as if they
see his very heart. This is what is meant by the saying that what is true
in a man's heart will be shown in his outward appearance. Therefore the
superior man will always be watchful over himself when alone.
Tseng Tzu said, "What ten eyes are beholding and what ten hands are
pointing to--isn't it frightening?"
Wealth makes a house shining and virtue makes a person shining.
When one's mind is broad and his heart generous, his body becomes big and
is at ease. Therefore the superior man always makes his will sincere.
Confucianism. Great Learning 6.1-4
Truth [sincerity] means the fulfilment of our self; the moral law
means following the law of our being. Truth is the beginning and end, the
substance, of material existence. Without truth there is no material
existence. It is for this reason that the moral man values truth.
Truth is not only the fulfilment of our own being; it is that by
which things outside of us have an existence. The fulfilment of our being
is moral sense. The fulfilment of the nature of things outside of us is
intellect. These, moral sense and intellect, are the powers or faculties
of our being. They combine the inner or subjective and the outer or
objective use of the power of the mind. Therefore, with truth, everything
done is right.
Confucianism. Doctrine of the Mean 25
Great Learning 6.1-4: These two Confucian passages and the following
Buddhist text describe a more active and mindful type of sincerity, one
requiring constant effort at practice and self-examination. It is quite a
different concept from that of the Taoist and Sikh passages just given.
See Doctrine of the Mean 33, p. 110; Mencius II.A.2, p. 740. Doctrine of
the Mean 25: 'Truth' means trueness, the state of the fullest expression
of one's being. Hence it may also be translated 'sincerity.' The
necessary complementarity of internal and external, of morality and
material production, is characteristic of Chinese thought.
If, brethren, a woman or man or a young lad fond of self-adornment,
on examining the reflection of his own face in a bright clean mirror or
bowl of clear water, should see therein a stain or speck, he will strive
to remove that stain or speck; and when he no longer sees it there he is
pleased and satisfied, thinking, "A gain it is to me that I am clean."
Likewise a monk's introspection is most fruitful in good conditions, thus:
"Do I or do I not generally live covetous? Do I or do I not generally
live malevolent in heart? Do I or do I not generally live possessed by
sloth and torpor? Do I or do I not generally live excited in mind? Do I
generally live in doubt and wavering, or have I crossed beyond it? Do I
generally live wrathful or not? Do I generally live with soiled thoughts
or clean thoughts? Do I generally live with body passionate or not? Do I
generally live sluggish or full of energy? Do I generally live
uncontrolled or well controlled?"
If on self-examination a monk finds thus: "I generally live
covetous, malevolent in heart, possessed by sloth and torpor, excited in
mind, doubtful and wavering, wrathful, with body passionate, sluggish,
uncontrolled"--then that monk must put forth extra desire, effort,
endeavor, exertion, impulse, mindfulness, and attention for the abandoning
of those wicked, unprofitable states.
Buddhism. Anguttara Nikaya v.66
A man is led to follow the road he wishes to pursue.
Judaism. Talmud, Makkot 10b
Like a clear mirror
Reflecting images according to the forms,
So from Buddha's field of blessings
Rewards are obtained according to one's heart.
Buddhism. Garland Sutra 10
To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving
nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are corrupted.
Christianity. Titus 1.15
Actions are but by intention and every man shall have but that which he
intended. Thus he whose migration was for Allah and His messenger, his
migration was for Allah and His messenger, and he whose migration was to
achieve some worldly benefit or to take some woman in marriage, his
migration was for that for which he migrated.
Islam. Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi 1
When a person is devoted to something with complete faith, I unify his
faith in that. Then, when his faith is completely unified, he gains the
object of his devotion. In this way, every desire is fulfilled by me.
Those whose understanding is small gain only to transient satisfaction:
those who worship the gods go to the gods. But my devotees come to me.
Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 7.21-23
Anguttara Nikaya v.66: Cf. Majjhima Nikaya i.55-63, pp. 845f. Garland
Sutra 10: Cf. Kularnava Tantra 13, p. 817. Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi 1:
The migration was the exile of Muhammad and his Companions from Mecca to
Yathrib (Medina). Yet the point of this tradition is universally
applicable. Cf. Analects 7.29, p. 114. Bhagavad Gita 7.21-23: Cf.
Bhagavad Gita 7.3,17,28, p. 752; Tao Te Ching 23, p. 685; Analects 7.29,
The Dharma is without taint and free of defilement. He who is attached to
anything, even to liberation, is not interested in the Dharma but is
interested in the taint of desire. The Dharma is not an object. He who
pursues [the Dharma as an] object is not interested in the Dharma but is
interested in objects... The Dharma is not a secure refuge. He who
enjoys [it as] a secure refuge is not interested in the Dharma but is
interested in a secure refuge... The Dharma is not a society. He who
seeks to associate with the Dharma is not interested in the Dharma but is
interested in association.
Buddhism. Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti 6
If you pray to God (Imana) for blessing while sitting on a hearth he
anoints you with ashes.
African Traditional Religions. Ruanda-Urundi Proverb (Burundi)
When the monks assembled before the midday meal to listen to his lecture,
the great Hogen of Seiryo pointed at the bamboo blinds. Two monks
simultaneously went and rolled them up. Hogen said, "One gain, one loss."
Mumon's comment, "Tell me, who gained and who lost? If you have an eye to
penetrate the secret, you will see where their teacher failed. However, I
warn you strongly against discussing gain and loss."
Buddhism. Mumonkan 26