Self-sacrifice is one of the fundamental principles in the teachings of the Great Spiritual Masters. It consists in yielding up self, or selfishness, so that Truth may become the source of conduct. Self is not an entity that has to be cast out, but a condition of mind that has to be converted.
The renunciation of self is not the annihilation of the intelligent being, but the annihilation of every dark and selfish desire. Self is the blind clinging to perishable things and transient pleasures as distinguished from the intelligent practice of virtue and righteousness. Self is the lusting, coveting, desiring of the heart, and it is this that must be yielded up before Truth can be known, with its abiding calm and endless peace.
To give up things will not avail; it is the lust for things that must be sacrificed. Though a man sacrifice wealth, position, friends, family, fame, home, wife, child—yea, and life also—it will avail nothing if self is not renounced.
Buddha renounced the world and all that it held dear to him, but for six years he wandered and searched and suffered and not till he yielded up the desires of the heart did he become enlightened and arrive at peace.
By giving up only the objects of self-indulgence, no peace will ensue, but torment will follow. It is self-indulgence, the desire for the object, that must be abandoned—then peace enters the heart.
Sacrifice is painful so long as there is any vestige of self remaining in the heart. While there remains in the heart a lurking desire for an unworthy object or pleasure that has been sacrificed, there will be periods of intense suffering and fierce temptation. But when the desire for the unworthy object or pleasure is put away forever from the mind, and the sacrifice is complete and perfect, then, concerning that particular object or pleasure, there can be no more suffering or temptation. So when self in its entirety is sacrificed, sacrifice, in its painful aspect, is at an end, and perfect knowledge and perfect peace are reached.
Hatred is self. Covetousness is self. Envy and jealousy are self. Vanity and boasting are self. Gluttony and sensuality are self. Lying and deception are self. Speaking evil of one's neighbor is self. Anger and revenge are self.
Self-sacrifice consists in yielding up all these dark conditions of mind and heart. The process is a painful one in its early stages, but soon a divine peace descends at intervals upon the pilgrim. Later, this peace remains longer with him, and finally, when the rays of Truth begin to be radiated in the heart, remains with him.
This sacrifice leads to peace; for in the perfect life of Truth, there is no more sacrifice, and no more pain and sorrow. For where there is no more self there is nothing to be given up. Where there is no clinging of the mind to perishable things there is nothing to be renounced. Where all has been laid on the altar of Truth, selfish love is swallowed up in divine love. And in divine love there is no thought of self, for there is the perfection of insight, enlightenment, and immortality, and therefore perfect peace.
More from James Allen
James Allen was a little-known philosophical writer and poet. He is best recognized for his book, As a Man Thinketh. Allen wrote about complex subjects such as faith, destiny, love, patience, and religion but had the unique ability of explaining these subjects clearly and in a way that is easy to understand. He often wrote about cause and effect, sowing and reaping, as well as overcoming sadness, sorrow, and grief. For more information on the life of James Allen, click here.