The last blog established how “sacrifice” can be a destructive force. From this point of view, sacrifice is a negation; it implies scapegoating, discarding, abandoning. It is not sacrifice, though, that is the problem. It is what we sacrifice, and to whom, that determine whether our offering leads to good or ill.
|Sacrifice||Hoard / grasp|
|Scapegoat / abandon / discard||Cherish / keep|
|Sacrifice yourself||Preserve yourself|
|Serve the situation||Impose yourself on others|
I have heard people actually say, “If you were spiritual, you wouldn’t mind being the scapegoat.” No. We are not to abandon or discard ourselves; our work is to sacrifice all that separates us from God.
The Passion is such an example. People tend to misread Christ’s sacrifice. They want to see it as a scapegoating in which Christ suffered for our sins and was murdered as a threat to the so-called purity and order of the time. They speak of how much He suffered. In doing this, they belittle who Christ was and what He accomplished. They miss the purpose of retelling the story.
The truth is that we suffer only because we cling to our shrunken selves. This clinging is the essence of sin, because it is our effort to displace God and be the center of the world—it is what separates us from God.
Christ didn’t allow Himself to be scapegoated; He gave up His separate will. At Gethsemane, He sacrificed everything no one should want. The rest was just the completion of the rite. He modeled the correct sacrifice by saying, “Not my will, but Thine be done”.
Because He had sacrificed His separate will, Christ was never reactive. Unfortunately, the rest of us, with our at best partially surrendered wills, are highly reactive: we blame others, or circumstances, when we are the agents of our own behavior. Christ did not trade in blame; He always knew what was going to happen and what was needful.
Patañjali explains this in Yoga Sūtras 4.3 (transl. Hariharānanda): “Causes do not put the nature in motion, only the removal of obstacles takes place through them. This is like a farmer breaking down the barrier to let the water flow (the hindrances being removed by the causes, the nature impenetrates by itself)”.
In Walking Home with Baba, I explain the sutra in this way: “An incidental cause does not create a change in nature; it merely creates an opening for an existing tendency to express itself, just as a farmer irrigates a field by moving obstacles out of the water’s way. We assume that what happens to us or around us causes us to act in certain ways, when in truth those incidental causes merely provide an opportunity for us to manifest an inner tendency. Because we don’t always respond in the same way to similar situations, we know that the situations aren’t really causing our reactions” (139).
It is never the farmer; it is our tendency to irrigate the field that is the problem. The farmer may appear to be the cause, but when we dig deeper we find that the real cause is always our willingness to irrigate the field when the opportunity arises. That is what we bring to the table. People wait for an opportunity to irrigate. When the environment is perfect we “can’t help ourselves”.
The truth is that we can help ourselves, by sacrificing our shrunken selves to God rather than sacrificing ourselves and others to whatever farmer comes along. At any moment when we discard ourselves that way, we throw away our lives. When we understand that it is we who willingly sacrifice ourselves to someone else’s wishes, we realize that we always had choice. Our practice is to work not to irrigate as we have always done. We do not sacrifice others, and we sacrifice ourselves only to God.
We all are then willing to sacrifice what should be sacrificed: that which does not encourage Love.
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