Reflections on Sacrifice

By George A. Boyd ©2023

Q: What are some of the sacrifices that aspirants have to undergo in order to make this life [the one in which] they unfold all [of] their spiritual potentials, and at what stage do the sacrifices end?

A: Sacrifice is part of all worthy personal endeavors. For example:

  • Children must sacrifice play and games to go to school and obtain an education.
  • Athletes must sacrifice to develop their skills.
  • Young adults must sacrifice going to parties to go to college and do their assignments required to pass their classes.
  • Adults must sacrifice other things they might want to do to work a job to provide livelihood for self and family.
  • Parents must sacrifice their needs and desires to care for their children.
  • Soldiers are willing to sacrifice their lives to defend their country.

It should not be surprising that sacrifice is also a part of your spiritual life:

  • Neophytes must sacrifice their old, comfortable view of the world to experience the inner worlds of consciousness.
  • Aspirants must sacrifice aspects of the life of their ego to become alive to the inner life of the attentional principle, the spirit, and the Soul.
  • Disciples must be able to sacrifice activities that take up time in which they can make progress along the spiritual Path.
  • Initiates sacrifice their personal choices and preferences to be of service to those who are under their watch care and receive their ministry.

When we look at the progression of willingness to give up desires—to sacrifice for something greater—we can visualize seven major levels, ranging from complete self-absorption to complete selflessness:

  1. They only care about their own desires. They use others to achieve what they want, and abandon others, when they are no longer useful.
  2. They mainly care about their own desires, but they are capable of looking after the needs of others for whom they have responsibility.
  3. They continue to care for their own desires, but they begin to have genuine concerns for the welfare of others. They may start to engage in charity or acts of kindness at this stage.
  4. They balance care for self with caring for others. They bring love and thoughtfulness into their relationships with others.
  5. They begin to take care of others and neglect their own needs. They make sure others are taken care of before meeting their own needs. This stage may express as martyrdom or codependency, when they are poignantly aware of the sacrifice they are making, and they resent and resist it.
  6. They forget their own desires and needs and only live to serve others. They completely sacrifice their desires and spend nearly all of their waking hours taking care of others. Saints and other highly advanced disciples on selected spiritual Paths operate from this stage.
  7. Very rare individuals incarnate Divine Love and Grace, and live only to bring the Light of the Divine to others. At this stage, they become an Avatar or Divine Incarnation.

In spiritual life, we see individuals begin to function from levels (4), (5), and (6). They become capable of expressing spiritual emotionality: love, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. They become more willing to sacrifice their own desires to help others.

We encourage you to reflect on the ways you have sacrificed personally to obtain an education, to enhance your skills, to work, and to care for your family. If you have embarked upon your spiritual journey, you may wish to reflect upon the ways your spiritual development has required you to sacrifice.

When Does Sacrifice End?

As for when sacrifice will end? If you regard something is more important than simply fulfilling your desires and indulging your fantasies, you will make sacrifices. You make sacrifices in your personal life; you will make sacrifices in your spiritual life. Personal growth requires sacrifice; spiritual development also requires sacrifice.

As long as you aspire to something greater than a life of mediocrity or idleness, you will sacrifice. As long as you work for worthy goals, or to achieve self-transcendence, you will sacrifice.

The parts of you that want their desires fulfilled and resist deferring gratification will fight against you like inner demons when you sacrifice. But if you wish to progress, and not merely stay where you are—or even deteriorate—you have to sacrifice.

It is not comfortable… it is not easy… it is not convenient… it is often unpleasant to sacrifice, but if you want to move forward in your life and mature; if you want to advance on the spiritual Path, you will need to willingly embrace sacrifice.

You need to sacrifice your addictions. You need to sacrifice your ignorance and delusions. You need to sacrifice your selfishness and narcissism. You need to sacrifice your clinging to old patterns that no longer serve you. You need to sacrifice your limitations and embrace your greater life and potential.

Do not regard sacrifice as a burden; you cannot grow and learn without it. Even though it is difficult and challenging, you cannot move from where you are today to the next step in your life or your spiritual development without sacrifice.

Do not regard sacrifice as an enemy; it is your friend. It forces you to marshal your resources and summon your strengths, and do something better and more noble than you have done before. And if you persist, sacrifice will open the doors to even greater possibilities than you have even dreamed… if you can let go… if you can have the willingness to face change and undergo transformation… if you can sacrifice, these greater things will also become possible for you.

Confrontation with Dharma

By George A. Boyd © 2006

Excerpted from Question and Answers with Swami

Q: I’m in a lot of conflict right now. It seems my Soul requires one thing of me—and my parents, friends, and church require another. What do I do?

A: To become your own person, to individualize and realize your authentic self, it sometimes becomes necessary to deviate from established norms that are placed upon you from the outside, so that you may remain true to that norm which is inside (Dharma). To remain true to Dharma means that you are living in integrity, you are in harmony with the law within your own heart. These types of violation of societal norms include:

  • Deviation from cultural (ethnic group) norms – Going against custom, following a life path other than that which is expected
  • Deviation from societal (legal) norms – Breaking the law, performing behavior that violates codified statutes enacted by legislative bodies
  • Deviation from ancestral (parental) norms – Going against requests of your parents, going against parental expectations of model behavior and lifestyle
  • Deviation from peer (friendship) norms – Performing actions that violate the conscience of friends, going against peer expectations of model behavior and lifestyle
  • Deviation from corporate (workplace) norms – Performing actions that violate company rules or policies, not performing work to required standards of excellence, efficiency, precision, accuracy, or professionalism
  • Deviation from political (political party) norms – Voting or expressing political opinions that do not agree with the approved ideology of your political party
  • Deviation from religious (religious group) norms – Performing actions that violate behavioral and belief standards established by the church (or other religious body) which the church believes are authorized by scripture and sanctioned by the Divine or the representative (Master, Savior, Prophet) of the Divine
  • Deviation from personal conscience (Dharmic) norms – Violating an internalized standard or value believed to be true, right, or good. Not living in integrity with one’s inner sense of truth (Dharma)

Even if you rebel from these outer norms, if you remain true to your inner sense of truth, you will have inner peace. But if you deviate from your Dharma to live up to the outer norms, to fulfill the expectations of your culture, your nation, your parents, your friends, your employer or your religion before your own inner sense of truth, then you will live in conflict. This conflict is a felt-sense that something is missing—a vague uneasiness or unidentified anxiety, a feeling that your own self is angry with you, is condemning you for your folly or a sense of emptiness or desolation within.

Dharma appears in different forms according to the Ray type of the individual:

First Ray – The Will of God, the Fiery Triangle

Second Ray – The Wheel of the Law, the Eightfold Path of Noble Truth

Third Ray – The Law of God, the Ten Commandments, the Divine Order behind the laws of the Physical and Astral Planes, the laws underlying the Creation of Heaven and Earth

Fourth Ray – The Law of Nature and Consciousness, the Way, the Tao

Fifth Ray – The Law of Truth, the Razor’s Edge, Perfection, Perfect Mastery

Sixth Ray – The Law of Love and Grace, living according to the Master or Savior’s commandments

Seventh Ray – The Tree of Life (Kabala) – the Laws of Karma, Manifestation, Wisdom and Spiritual Essence

On whatever Ray it manifests to you, this image, voice, or felt-sense of Dharma will become very clear to you at certain crucial points in your life.

  • Sometimes your Dharma will require of you things that go against your desires, your plans, or what seems reasonable to you.
  • Sometimes, when you have already started on a course of action, it will pull you back and start you down another path.
  • Sometimes it will unexpectedly intervene when you wish to marry someone and indicate that this person is not right for you.
  • Sometimes it will bid you to leave the security of your job and strike out on your own.

However Dharma manifests to you, when it confronts you, you have a choice. Do you follow this inner requirement of your Soul or do you follow the dictates of your desire, your preferences or your reason?

If you follow Dharma, it will sometimes create disruption in your life.

You may have to:

  • Cancel plans
  • Make awkward explanations to friends and family about your sudden “irrational” decision
  • Go through unforeseen personal sacrifice and hardships
  • Do things that feel terrifying or illogical to you
  • Re-think where your life is going and what you will do with the rest of your life
  • Experience antipathy and continual criticism from those who were your friends and colleagues
  • Receive threats of violence or promises of revenge from those whose values and beliefs you have acted against through courageously acting upon your integrity

If you reflect upon it from the standpoint of your ego, the part of you that only wants to fulfill its own desires, live its dreams and be happy—it is madness; it is utter lunacy.

But from the standpoint of the Soul, it is an absolute requirement: it is necessary to fulfill the Divine requirement.

Because of this, you will run into a conflict between the free will agency of the personality, which wants to have its own way and create the future it desires, versus the impulse of Destiny, the pressure of the spiritual life upon the human life, which is a Dharmic imperative.

If you run away from your Dharma, your decision haunts you. You have your freedom, but it is a hollow, tormented freedom. Things go wrong, you sabotage yourself, your plans fall through—it seems to you sometimes that the world is against you.

It passes through your mind that you are cursed or that you have sinned against some higher principle. You feel a sense of desperation. You may achieve your goals and find that they have no enjoyment for you, they seem empty and meaningless.

Outside the door, the Soul waits, until the karma that you have created by your own free will plays itself out. This may last from a number of days to several lifetimes. Then your Soul will appear before you, its Voice will whisper to you, you will feel its presence once again. Again you will be given the opportunity to follow, to fulfill your Dharma. What will you choose this time? Will you again choose your egoic freedom and abandon your Soul?

This process of choosing or abandoning your Soul is placed before you. Sometimes it can occur from moment to moment at certain periods. Sometimes it will appear only one time in your lifetime. It is put before you to live according to the requirements of your Dharma—or abandon it and reap the karmic consequences. This requirement is very definite: there are no gray areas here—it is yea or nay, and there is no middle ground.

Forced choice is used in ethnic groups, in society, by parents, friends, and employers, in political parties, and in religious conversion and preaching to require you to make a decision. It is very clear to you what the consequences will be if you do not choose what they want you to do.

On the other side is your Soul, which also places before you the forced choice of embracing or abandoning your Dharma. From the outside, these social forces that make powerful demands of you are pulling you one way. From the inside, your Soul is pulling you another.

Sometimes it must feel to you that you are being ripped apart. People sometimes do go insane and have nervous breakdowns because the pressure is too great. It stretches them beyond their limits and their capacity to endure. It breaks them apart, because they cannot have both what the world desires and what the Soul requires.

People who become mystics, saints, and sages tell us that they have not regretted choosing Dharma, but that it was a very difficult, arduous path they traveled as a result of the choice.

People who have embraced the dictates of their ego, who have followed the path of desires, obeyed the cultural requirements of their group, their society, their parents, peers, and employers and have faithfully followed their religion tell us that they have lived good, reasonable happy lives. They tell us that they have had no major confrontations with their conscience and they believe that their Soul is safe in the hands of their Savior, Master, or Prophet.

This is a very difficult choice that you must make, a life-wrenching choice. It seems cruel that Life has required this of you, and has spared others to be at peace with themselves and with the world.

Your Soul is calling you, making requirements of you that don’t make sense. You feel frightened and confused, and don’t know whom to trust. If you tell your friends and family, they will think that you have gone mad. If you go to a psychiatrist, he or she will certify that you are insane and give you medication to shut down your whirling thoughts and churning emotions.

If you go to your priest or minister, he or she will tell you that it is the Devil talking to you and to follow the teachings of the church. Where do you turn at a time like this?

It helps to pray and ask the Divine for guidance, to show you the outcome of both choices, to bless you to make the best decision for you. Then you must decide, you must choose a path. It may be the right way, it may be the wrong way, but you must choose and take the consequences.

When you realize that your choices do have consequences, you start to gain wisdom, you begin to be able to take responsibility for your life. This is a major challenge for every human being. This is an important step of growth for you.

It is not easy when you have to confront your Dharma, but it can be a great blessing to you if you can successfully navigate these troubled waters. We encourage you to be courageous, to rouse yourself, and rise to this challenge. Face it like a warrior. Be ready to make a firm and resolute decision. Be willing to cast your holy yea or nay. Be willing to have those who are not your true friends fall away, because those that truly love you will love you still, even if you follow a path that they do not approve of or understand.

Confrontation with Dharma can be a shattering, life-changing, revolutionary experience. But sometimes it is the greatest opportunity you will ever be presented.