Although conventional Christian wisdom teaches us that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” this slogan has only relative value to try to motivate us to make sure we are on the right path. This idea, as far as I can tell, grew out of the concept that one has only one life to obtain salvation, and if one gets it wrong, then eternal suffering in hell will be the consequence. I have often been told by well-meaning preachers that while I might be sincere, I could be sincerely wrong! Fortunately for all souls, God is infinitely more merciful than to give us only one lifetime to walk the path of ultimate righteousness. How many chances do you give your baby to walk?
We read in the Bhagavad Gita, 6th chapter, about the fate of someone who takes to yoga or spiritual practice, but then gives up due to worldly mindedness: “The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: ‘Son of Pritha [Arjuna], a transcendentalist engaged in auspicious activities does not meet with destruction either in this world or in the spiritual world; one who does good, My friend, is never overcome by evil.’” [Bg 6.40] One great devotee translates this last part of the verse as “sincerity is invincible.” Although one may be sincerely wrong, if one is truly sincere, he or she will be led to the right path. We will take our next birth in a situation that will foster our continued spiritual growth. Since Krishna is all-merciful, how could it logically be any other way? The Universe school is set up to help us rise above our ignorance, not simply to punish us for our sins with no chance to learn and grow. Krishna comes to the material world as infinite incarnations and sends messiahs to show by example how to become ever lastingly joyful by uncovering and obtaining our heart’s desire, or finding our love and mission, Krishna and His service.
If we look at some meanings for sincerity it should be evident why true sincerity will not ultimately go in vain: “free from pretense or deceit; proceeding from genuine feelings/ not dishonest or hypocritical”. In Prabhupada’s writings there are thousands of references to sincere and sincerity, so it is an essential quality for a real devotee. True spiritual life is for honest people who are not envious, or at least don’t want to be envious of God, or the reality of our absolute dependence on Him for everything. Many verses in the Gita glorify Arjuna because he isn’t envious of the greatness of Krishna, and in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, we learn: “Such transcendental literatures, even though imperfectly composed, are heard, sung and accepted by purified men who are thoroughly honest.” One definition of a saint is that he or she is honest, or we could say, completely sincere in their dedication to God. This means personal honesty about the truth of one’s level of material attachment and spiritual standing, as well as one’s sincere desire to understanding about God, and living accordingly in the world by the principles of bhakti.
If we can accept the importance of being sincere, we may wonder, how we can obtain, or maintain, lasting sincerity? Fostering or expanding our sincerity is what the practices of devotional service are meant to do. We have to become educated in the philosophy of Krishna consciousness or pure devotional service so we will become convinced of Krishna’s divinity, greatness, and sweetness. People are attracted by the activities of famous or worldly important persons. In the same way—but more so—we have to become attracted to the activities and instructions of Krishna. Our attachments and desires, or what we are absorbed in and motivated by, determine our future—in this life and the next. Life facilitates our desires. Krishna is trying to help us, but most people don’t know what they really want as souls.
The ultimate goal of life is to obtain God, or Krishna. Why? Since Krishna is most dear to everyone, no one can realize their ultimate happiness or fulfillment without reviving our dormant relationship with the Supreme Being. In the material world we search out a friend or lover to help us because we feel lacking and incomplete in our life. A baby will not stop crying until its mother picks it up. Although it has no language to express this, the baby’s relationship to its mother is the law of its being. Krishna is like our dear most friend or our mother who is the only one who can give us the love and nurturance we seek—others can’t give us ultimate or lasting fulfillment.
Out of all the species, humanity is like consciousness waking up to itself and its divine potential, by self-awareness. Human life is an existential question, and our advanced intelligence naturally asks, “why?” The “how” questions are the domain of less complex forms of life, and are concerned with how to eat, sleep, mate and defend. Animals aren’t burdened by contemplating their origins or the purpose of existence, but in human life, we naturally want to inquire about higher things than just physical survival. If we don’t, we are considered only a royal edition of the animals. The Vedic literature is meant to elevate human beings from merely survival instincts to divine life, and spiritual inquiry. This begins by helping us learn to give and practice compassion, which is the hallmark of awakened humanity—voluntarily giving of ourselves to benefit others, with the ultimate giving, surrendering our soul in service to God. Acting on our higher instincts by higher and higher giving shows our awakening sincerity as souls encased in physical forms.
Prabhupada taught us that we become sincere, by being sincere. If we want something we can make a decision to do what it takes to obtain it. If we value Krishna consciousness, we will seek association of those who have it. Learning by association, or receiving instruction by knowledgeable persons, is the key to obtaining anything we desire, whether material education, wealth, or spiritual enlightenment. Of course, Krishna consciousness is more than merely academic knowledge, as it involves a change of heart. This change of heart is what the Vedic scriptures, saintly association, and spiritual practices are meant to foster. Yet it doesn’t happen overnight, or even after many years, but by gradually giving our heart and soul to Krishna and his pure devotee. It could happen in a moment if we are absolutely determined to be successful. If we feel a spiritual lacking, then we need to be willing to do what it takes to obtain attraction and great affection for Krishna, and create a support system where we will feel encouraged to keep the fire stoked on our spiritual quest. Krishna will help us if we make the effort. Our continual endeavor and prayers for perfection is the test of our sincerity.