Stages of Realization Through Sacrifice

For all human beings, who start from the standpoint of the individual, isolated, and egoistic human view, it is an extraordinary leap, a reversal of consciousness, to reorient oneself to the standpoint of the universal Being and see everywhere Oneness. This does not ordinarily occur in one step; rather, we tend to see a progressive development and widening of consciousness as we go through various stages of growth, starting from our experience of fragmented consciousness and moving successively through the process of the sacrifice toward the experience of one consciousness that manifests and experiences.

Sri Aurobindo describes some of these intermediate stages as we begin by worshiping and sacrificing to the gods, the powers of creation and action put forth by the One to achieve specific and limited objectives: “He recognises that his life is a part of this divine action in Nature and not a thing separate and to be held and pursued for its own sake. He regards his enjoyments and the satisfaction of his desires as the fruit of sacrifice and the gift of the gods in their divine universal workings and he ceases to pursue them in the false and evil spirit of sinful egoistic selfishness as if they were a good to be seized from life by his own unaided strength without return and without thankfulness.”

Eventually, as this attitude becomes more pervasive another stage is attained: “As this spirit increases in him, he subordinates his desires, becomes satisfied with sacrifice as the law of life and works and is content with whatever remains over from the sacrifice, giving up all the rest freely as an offering in the great and beneficent interchange between his life and the world-life.”

Yet further development then becomes possible: “But the highest only comes when the sacrifice is no longer to the gods, but to the one all-pervading Divine established in the sacrifice, of whom the gods are inferior forms and powers, and when he puts away the lower self that desires and enjoys and gives up his personal sense of being the worker to the true executrix of all works, Prakriti, and his personal sense of being the enjoyer to the Divine Purusha, the higher and universal Self who is the real enjoyer of the works of Prakriti.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 12, The Significance of Sacrifice, pp. 110-111