World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts

Editor, Andrew Wilson



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 task.

Sincerity is the single virtue that binds divinity and man in one.

Shinto. Jingishoju

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. 826.

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 respond.

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 draught ox.

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 secret.

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 imperishable happiness.

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 highest point.

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 prized!

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; From 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 my mouth.

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, spontaneous 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 fulfillment 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 fulfillment of our own being; it is that by which things outside of us have an existence. The fulfillment of our being is moral sense. The fulfillment 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, p. 114.

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


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