Thought Bite: On Sacrifice

In his wonderful book titled The Perennial Wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita, Swami Rama discusses the concept and benefit of sacrifice as opposed to ego gratification. He says,

“Western culture and psychology consider the ego to be the center of consciousness, but the perennial psychology of the East disagrees. It regards buddhi, pure reason, as one aspect of the internal state called antahkarana chatustaya and ego as another. In the West all the activities of the human being are directed toward strengthening the ego. Such a perspective cannot incorporate the idea of sacrifice, learning to give the best one has selflessly.” Pp. 134.

Even worse, sacrifice is seen as losing something.

“Because the West believes the ego to be the center of knowledge, the idea of sacrifice is frightening, for the ego is insecure and does not want to give up anything it possesses. One thinks that if he sacrifices, he will not have enough for himself. He thinks that sacrifice is a loss because he is attached to and identified with that which would be given in sacrifice. Thus he is afraid of sacrifice.” Pp. 134.

But, the view from the East is different. Rather than a loss, sacrifice is a gain.

“Actually what one loses in sacrifice is attachment and fear. If one is not attached to the object, there is no loss in sacrifice. The egocentric person believes that sacrifice means being consumed or even dying, but in fact it is only one’s egocentric perspective that dies in sacrifice. The ocean is not used up in giving off moisture through evaporation, and the resources of a human being are not used up in sacrificing. Actually, the more one sacrifices, the more one has. In sacrificing one gives up that to which he has been holding on, and he is open to receive. As long as one is holding on, he is closed off to receiving the sacrifice of the universe. So, what the egoistic person considers to be a death is life itself from another perspective. Thus we say sacrifice is life.” Pp. 134.

In sacrifice, “one gives his best for his beloved, but the selfish person uses all his so-called loved ones for the sake of his selfish pleasures.” Pp. 135.

So, by adopting the East’s perspective of sacrifice, our lives can become fuller and more satisfying.

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