In light of the present situation of blindness (unawareness, sleep) in society, the perception of sacrifice brings the onset of what I call the martyr spirit.  It is also at the heart of the Christian religion.  I’ve released that years ago, but watch on the news sometimes how this pervades the lives of the television evangelists and many politicians.

Do you have any words on sacrifice, Swami?  I would value reading them.

Thank you for asking about sacrifice. It’s a term used and considered a requisite to experience the Divine by all the major faiths so it’s a very important question, for all devotees, to make the distinction, to understand what is meant by that.

The sacrifice which pleases God is NOT found in scourging the body. The Buddha made that point abundantly clear. Nor does simply offering one’s body into a fire. Joan of Arc, the witches and the Tibetan monks burn for the sake of Truth; nor does merely the act of having one’s body nailed to a cross. Else the death of the remaining thief on one side of Jesus would have pleased the Lord. Jesus made that point clear, though he might wince sometimes about the ignorance said in His name.

Jesus’ monumental sacrifice, of which his death on the cross is a symbol, was in surrendering the last of his will to Divine Will (as he did in the Garden of Gethsemane) and the last of his ego to Spirit, which he did on the cross itself. Thus, I would respectfully disagree that the “heart” of Christianity is as you describe. To my way of speaking, you are describing the heart of some of her fanatics, some so-called martyrs which have garnered attention over the centuries, that’s all.

Guruji describes three kinds of devotion in one of his books:

We could divide bhakti yoga into three stages—”gouni” or initial, “madhyama” or middle, and “para” or the supreme. Gouni, the initial stage, is a preparatory stage where there is an attraction toward the path of Truth and inquisitiveness about the details of worship and rituals. Blind faith, a crude form of love, a fanatic outlook, hating of others’ opinions and believing one’s own ideas alone to be true and all others to be incorrect predominate during this initial stage. Taken universally, this is crude, partial and fanatic; taken individually, such people’s progress in what they believe to be true is often stupendous because of their exclusive devotion to one book or set of principles.

If the devotee does not stop until the highest is reached, there is every possibility of a change in his outlook when he develops from the initial to the middle stage. At that point, he tolerates others even though he may not accept them. He hates not, but loves all as creatures of one God. He comes to know that Truth has various faces and various approaches.

When he reaches the “para” or the supreme stage of bhakti, however, the devotee realizes, “Truth is one; the wise call it by various Names.” (Essence of Bhagavad Gita and Bible, p.102.)

Krishna also, throughout the Bhagavad Gita, details what is meant by “sacrifice,” that is, the kind of sacrifice which pleases God. In all cases, it is the sacrifice of the non-self, the false self, the sense of “I-ness,” doership, ego, one’s ignorance, one’s propensity to say “I know,” or “I do,” or “I… fill in the blank.” The biggest sacrifice of all is to consent to the death of one’s “I,” not to death itself. Death of the body is not a big deal. We die that way over and over again, serially, until we “get” It, that is, liberation from I-ness.

I hope this little note, perhaps after reflection, clarifies the teachings for you or at least, provides a springboard for further research.

OM and Prem,
Sw. Vandana

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