The True Meaning of the Idea of Sacrifice

After describing the common conception of sacrifice and the painful forms it has taken in practice, Sri Aurobindo turns his attention to the higher conception of sacrifice that is the essential teaching of the Gita in this regard.

“But the true essence of sacrifice is not self-immolation, it is self-giving; its object not self-effacement, but self-fulfilment; its method not self-mortification, but a greater life; not self-mutilation, but a transformation of our natural human parts into divine members, not self-torture, but a passage from a lesser satisfaction to a greater Ananda.”

What we see here is a shift from the human fragmented, isolated and limited personality to the divine standpoint, and the evolution and out-flowering of consciousness which is the central factor in the universal manifestation.

“There is only one thing painful in the beginning to a raw or turbid part of the surface nature; it is the indispensable discipline demanded, the denial necessary for the merging of the incomplete ego; but for that there can be a speedy and enormous compensation in the discovery of a real greater or ultimate completeness in others, in all things, in the cosmic oneness, in the freedom of the transcendental Self and Spirit, in the rapture of the touch of the Divine.”

By giving up the limitations of the ego, the soul gains the wideness, peace and joy of the Divine. “Our sacrifice is not a giving without any return or any fruitful acceptance from the other side; it is an interchange between the embodied soul and conscious Nature in us and the eternal Spirit. For even though no return is demanded, yet there is the knowledge deep within us that a marvellous return is inevitable. The soul knows that it does not give itself to God in vain; claiming nothing, it yet receives the infinite riches of the divine Power and Presence.”

The Taittiriya Upanishad hints at this when it proclaims: “…for when the Spirit that is within us findeth his refuge and firm foundation in the Invisible, Bodiless, Undefinable and Unhoused Eternal, then he hath passed beyond the reach of Fear.” (Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Brahmananadavalli, Ch. 7, pg 271)

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, pg. 101

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