Tamasic Sacrifice

The Gunas pervade all of Nature and thus, impact all our actions. Each of the three Gunas has a characteristic action and effect, and this must be seen and understood also in the actions enjoined by the Gita, including the concept described by the term “sacrifice”. Thus, there is sacrifice that is of the nature of Tamas, as Sri Aurobindo describes it:

“The tamasic sacrifice is work which is done without faith, without, that is to say, any full conscious idea and acceptance and will towards the thing Nature yet compels us to execute. It is done mechanically, because the act of living demands it, because it comes in our way, because others do it, to avoid some other greater difficulty which may arise from not doing it, or from any other tamasic motive.”

Tamasic sacrifice however determines not only the motive for the action, but the means of carrying it out: “And it is apt to be done, if we have in the full this kind of temperament, carelessly, perfunctorily, in the wrong way. It will not be performed by the vidhi or right rule of the Shastra, will not be led in its steps according to the right method laid down by the art and science of life and the true science of the thing to be done. There will be no giving of food in the sacrifice,–and that act in the Indian ritual is symbolic of the element of helpful giving inherent in every action that is real sacrifice, the indispensable giving to others, the fruitful help to others, to the world, without which our action becomes a wholly self-regarding thing and a violation of the true universal law of solidarity and interchange.”

Also missing from the tamasic sacrifice is the offering to those who lead the action, whether an outer guide or guru, or the “veiled or manifest godhead within us.” The empowering thought, in the form of the Mantra, will also not be present, so that the action will look more mechanical than alive in terms of its focus and impact.

“The tamasic man does not offer his sacrifice to the gods, but to inferior elemental powers or to those grosser spirits behind the veil who feed upon his works and dominate his life with their darkness.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 18, The Gunas, Faith and Works, pp. 469-470

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