It is a serious limitation of the language we use to express concepts that we use the term “sacrifice” to describe a basic and eternal law of the universal creation, while the word itself is loaded with limiting, negative connotations that tend to distort the actual intent dramatically. Sacrifice, particularly in the West, carries a connotation of giving up something and thereby suffering from that act.
Sri Aurobindo clarifies the meaning that he intends to convey through use of this term: “For this is the truth in Nature, that this ego which thinks itself a separate independent being and claims to live for itself, is not and cannot be independent nor separate, nor can it live to itself even if it would, but rather all are linked together by a secret Oneness. Each existence is continually giving out perforce from its stock; out of its mental receipts from Nature or its vital and physical assets and acquisitions and belongings a stream goes to all that is around it. And always again it receives something from its environment in return for its voluntary or involuntary tribute. For it is only by this giving and receiving that it can effect its own growth while at the same time it helps the sum of things.”
What Sri Aurobindo describes here, then is the truth of the Oneness of all creation, and the interconnectedness and interrelationship of all aspects of existence. There is one eco-sphere, one bio-sphere, one noosphere, within which all beings respond and share and support one another. A simple example is that plants take in the carbon dioxide that we exhale; meanwhile they exhale the oxygen we require to breathe. Each being obtains energy from some form of existence and in turn provides energy to other beings. Everything is part of a ‘closed loop” system and any impact we make through our actions affects the other beings that share that environment.
In its essence, this is the basic principle that the law of sacrifice is intended to convey, and it is the context within which we shall utilize the term as we proceed with the yogic implications of the application of the law of sacrifice for the evolution of our conscious being from the fragmented human consciousness, which fails to recognize this eternal truth of Oneness and relationship, to the divine consciousness, where we see, know and act from a state that lives within this Oneness.
“At length, though at first slowly and partially, we learn to make the conscious sacrifice; even, in the end, we take joy to give ourselves and what we envisage as belonging to us in a spirit of love and devotion to That which appears for the moment other than ourselves and is certainly other than our limited personalities. The sacrifice and the divine return for our sacrifice then becomes a gladly accepted means towards our last perfection; for it is recognised now as the road to the fulfilment in us of the eternal purpose.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 4, The Sacrifice, The Triune Path and the Lord of the Sacrifice, pp. 98-99