Sacrifice was taught to the world at different times,
in different degrees suited to the stage of evolution that
had been reached, just as we teach a child by its dolls.
At first men were taught to sacrifice a goat or a sheep,
because at that time they cared so much for a goat that
they were ready to kill another man for the sake of a goat.
We see that the same ignorance still exists; for the
sake of a trench men killed many men, and even then they were
not sure that the trench would remain theirs.
A man who had so much cruelty in him that he could not
refrain from killing and eating a goat was taught, 'First
sacrifice it. When you kill the goat, do it for God, do
it for others.' If he had been told, 'Sacrifice yourself,'
he might have said, 'How can I sacrifice myself when I cannot
even sacrifice my inclination to eat the goat?'
Afterwards self-sacrifice was taught, which Christ explained
so well in his life and in the Sermon on the Mount. This
sacrifice – to turn the other cheek, to give the cloak away
when the coat has been taken – could not be understood by
the ordinary person, because it is the moral of sages and
saints. This makes it very difficult for them to live in
the world, and has made many people turn away from religion
altogether. They said, 'The teaching of the prophets and
saints is too high for us. We cannot understand it.' If
one says to a businessman in his office, 'Give whatever
they claim from you, and give more,' he will say, 'No, I
have a thousand claims in the law-courts; I will fight and
When Muhammad came, all that had been taught before
prophetic messages was united in his message. Both sorts
of sacrifice were taught: the sacrifice of animals, that
is of their property, for those who were in that grade of
evolution; self-sacrifice for those who had reached a higher
The moral of sacrifice was taught at a time when
mankind in general was much nearer to the animal. The
dog, even when it has had enough food and there is some
remaining on its plate, will not let another dog take
it. Even in this time we do not like another to share
our profit, our benefit, even if it is our own brother.
If he has his profit somewhere else it is all right, but
he must not take the best part of ours. The dog does not
like to let another dog have even the remains of its food, because it does not
know whether it will get more at another time. Where we
see our own benefit, there we are blind, and it is only
this that keeps us imperfect.
If you see your own benefit, there may be a wife in your
house, a child, a sister, a brother, a friend, or a servant
but you will see only yourself. If you consider yourself
as being the whole family, then you are the sister, the
brother, the wife, the child, the friend, the servant. Then
you are a perfect family: by opening yourself you have become
a perfect family. If you can say, 'I am the nation,' you
are greater; if you say, 'If my nation's honor goes down,
I go down,' you are the nation. If you can say, 'I
am my race,' that is greater still. And if you can say, 'I am the
whole humanity,' that is the greatest. Then everyone who
comes before you is your sister or your brother. You are
yourself all. When a man is his individual self, then he
is narrow and imperfect; when he is all, then he is perfect.
I was reading this morning a verse of the Bible and was
much touched by its meaning, 'Ye are the salt of the earth.'
The salt is that which in water has the strongest flavor.
So in the whole manifestation man is the strongest power
on earth, and 'if the salt hath lost its savour, wherewith
shall it be salted?' If man loses his human quality, where
shall it be found? The birds, the animals cannot give it
to him; God Himself is helpless to give it to him. All man's
perfection is within himself, if only he would uncover it
and see it. The Kingdom of God is within man, and his will
should rule it.
All godheads were really men, not different from us.
What was in their soul is in our soul also. If we single
out one man for our worship, it proves our ignorance, our
ignorance of our own soul. We are as they were; it is only
that the divine power, the divine wisdom was working through
The dog, as I said, does not like to let another dog
take even the remains of its food, because it has no confidence
in the sustaining power of nature; also its self is always
before its eyes, and it is the idea of the self that blinds.
We have read in books and we have understood intellectually
that God is all, that we are the Whole Being. But when a
little insult comes to our self, to our pride, how angry
we are! We think the whole world is altered. In reality
there was no harm, it was just a little hurt to our pride.
But if we are so angry, it is because we have understood
only with our intellect that God is all; we have not realized
it in our own life.
We cannot easily become saints – they are the great ones;
we cannot become prophets – they are greater still. But
we can ask ourselves every day whether we have considered
the other as ourself, whether we have considered
his benefit as our benefit. There are many practices, but
this is the greatest practice and the most difficult one.
It does not require more study, more learning; but by this
practice we can reach perfection.
There is a great teaching in the story of Abraham's sacrifice.
It has often been misinterpreted and so its meaning has
been lost. The great religions have often been misinterpreted
by their followers and by historians, and this has caused
their downfall for which otherwise there was no reason.
I will tell you this legend in which there is a great revelation.
Abraham had a son whom he loved very much. At that time
children were prized much more than they are in the present
age. Now we have many other possessions besides children,
and these other possessions distract our thought from the
children. Then a child, a son or a daughter, was all. A
son was valued more, because they thought a son keeps the
name and a daughter does not.
Abraham loved his son very much. It is the nature of
every human heart to love and especially of one chosen to
be a prophet. That Power which draws all and everyone to
itself became jealous of this love; for it is our nature
that whatever we love is the whole world to us, whether
it is a child, a brother, a friend. When we have it we think
that we have the whole world, and when we lose it we think
that the whole world is lost.
A voice came from the Divinity to Abraham, 'Sacrifice
your son to Us.' Abraham was ready to sacrifice his son
to God. He asked the mother's consent; she gave it. Then
he asked his son; he was also resigned to the will of God
for his own sacrifice. He said, 'Yes, I may be sacrificed.'
Then Abraham took a knife and cut his son's throat. As he
cut it his son was taken away and he saw him standing before
him, safe. A goat was put in his place.
The meaning of this legend has often been misunderstood;
it has been said that the goat, the life, should be sacrificed.
The meaning is much greater. Abraham is the spiritual teacher,
the father. We still call the priest father; he who shows
the way to God is the father of the spirit. Ismail (in the
Islamic tradition it was Ismail rather than Isaac
(Ishaq) whom Abraham offered for sacrifice) is the
pupil, the child to whom the Murshid shows this way to sacrifice:
the sacrifice of the self, of the individuality. This is
the greater sacrifice, the annihilation of the self. By
shaghl and amal (mystical concentrations with
breathing exercises) and other practices the self is made
to disappear, it is lost. When the self is gone from before
us then all other selves can come, then illumination comes;
then, when the individual self disappears, the spiritual
self appears. Only the illusion is lost; the self is not
lost, but the beginning is annihilation. This is all the
secret of mysticism, all that the prophets and mystics have
Sacrifice has been much misunderstood by those who practice
it. It is thought that God will be pleased with the life
of a goat that is offered – and which the sacrificers then
keep for themselves. The bankbook is not sacrificed, property
is not sacrificed, nor the house, the furniture, but a goat
is brought and killed, and they make a feast.
It was taught to say when sacrificing: Allahu akbar,
la ilaha illa-llahu – God is great, none exists but
God. This shows that the sacrifice of our animal self is
meant by the law of sacrifice. We should sacrifice our time,
our sleep, thinking, 'Before my birth I slept and I do not
know where I was. In the grave sleep is waiting for me.
Now only is the time when I can work.' Then the thought
comes, 'That day I felt as I should not feel, that time
I spoke as I should not speak, that year I acted as I should
not act. So many months and years, so much of my life is
past, and nothing is done that was worthwhile.' This makes
us think that it is not too late to awaken.
If we can sacrifice our sleep to work for humanity, we
should do it. If by having not such good food we can share
with another, we should do it. If by having not such a nice
dress we can give a dress to one who needs it, we should
do it. If by having one dish instead of many, we can share
with someone who needs it, we should do that. If we can
sacrifice our pleasures, our theatres, to give to others
we should do it. We can sacrifice our anger when
anger comes upon us. We can sacrifice our pride. We can bow
to those who think little of us. There are many sacrifices
that do not cost one penny. We can give some of our time
if we cannot afford a great generosity. We can give our
patience to those who need our patience. To those who want
some liberty – very well, we can give liberty. I think all
this is worthwhile sacrifice: we should do it.
Sacrifice is only legitimate when, through every cost
or loss, it is willingly done. The one who sacrifices may
feel the reward much more than the cost or pain he has endured
or suffered in sacrificing. The law of sacrifice is that
it is only valuable when it gives pleasure to the one who
sacrifices. The sacrifice must be done wholeheartedly. Sacrifice
is like a bath in the Ganges; it can be more sacred than
anything in the world.
When a person does not do it for a principle, but only
for the good he may receive in return, then it is useless.
When it is done for the joy of sacrifice, in that case the
joy is great.
The law of sacrifice depends upon the degree of evolution.
One sees this among children. A child who grows up understands
life better and is perhaps more ready to make a sacrifice
than the child who knows only the object he wants and nothing
else. In this world it is not the difference of years but
the evolution of every soul which keeps it young: the more
grown-up the more ready to sacrifice, and the younger the
less ready for the joy of sacrifice.
Apart from the point of view of the benefit hidden in
the idea of sacrifice, it is not a thing that every soul
can understand. One person will do something and consider
that there is great wisdom in his sacrifice, while another
who is not evolved enough to understand it will say, 'How
very foolish!' Remember therefore that not only to the wise
person the man of little sense seems foolish, but even to
the foolish person the wise one seems foolish. The points
of view of both are different: one looks from the top of
the tower, the other standing on the ground. So there is
a vast difference in the range of their sight.
It is a man's outlook on life which makes him broad or
narrow, and it is the grade of his evolution which gives
man the illumination of sacrifice. What a man was not inclined
to do last year, he may be inclined to do this year; the
sacrifice one could not make yesterday, one can make today,
for the rate of speed of man's evolution cannot be limited
to a particular standard. A broad outlook enriches man and
a high point of view ennobles the soul.