What is the spiritual principle behind sacrifice?



1. Service

  • A. Service has to be unto the Absolute Truth (satseva). Unless the spiritual level rises to 60%, service is not rendered wholeheartedly. Until then it is only done intellectually as spiritual practice.
  • B. By giving precedence to satisfying someone else’s desires, gradually one’s needs decline and the seeker becomes more adept at following the path of Spirituality.
  • C. Service of the non-truth (asat); for instance service of the ailing implies considering illusion to be the truth. Also, the ego that ‘I am doing this service’ is present in such an attitude. As a result, as spiritual practice it is not of much use. As against this, to overcome ego, one serves the Guru. Besides with service of the non-truth (asat) a ‘give and take account’ is generated.

Greater details on service are provided in ‘Science of Spirituality: Vol. 3 – The disciple, point ‘Service of the Guru’.

2. Sacrifice

One needs to give up the attachment to the body, mind and wealth in order to make spiritual progress. Of these, sacrifice of wealth is the easiest as it can be done physically. One can give away all one’s wealth. However, the body and the mind cannot be given away so easily. Yet one can sacrifice them before giving up wealth. This means initially one can perform service physically and chant The Lord’s Name mentally. Later, only when a seeker progresses upto a spiritual level of 70% can he sacrifice wealth as well. This is akin to the trapeze artist in a circus. So long as the girl does not let go of the handlebar of the swing she is clutching on to, the man hanging upside down on the opposite swing cannot catch her. Similarly, so long as a seeker does not sacrifice everything, God does not take care of him.

Sacrifice does not mean giving away all of one’s belongings. Rather it is getting rid of one’s attachment to them. The Guru makes the disciple sacrifice the objects in his possession. Finally, when the attachment ceases, He showers him with plenty. Since Shivaji Maharaj had no attachment to the kingdom he had offered to Samarth Ramdas Swami, the Swamiji returned it to him.

प्रापणात्‌ सर्व भोगानाम्‌ परित्‍यागो विशिष्‍यते ।

Meaning: The joy in sacrificing pleasures is greater than in experiencing them.

न कर्मणा न प्रजया धनेन ।
त्‍यागेनैके अमृतत्‍वमानशु: ।। – कैवल्‍योपनिषद्‌, श्‍लोक ३

Meaning: One merges with the soul principle not through action, generation of progeny or amassing of wealth, but through renunciation alone . – Kaivalyopanishad, verse (shlok) 3

2.1 Donation (offering)

Donation should always be to the ‘deserving’, that is ‘to the one worthy of it’. In this world, there is none more worthy than saints. Hence, whatever one wishes to donate should be offered only to them. This is possible only for a seeker in the stage of mental worship (upasanakand). The one practising the inferior Path of Action (Karmayoga) gives alms to beggars, donations to schools and hospitals under the influence of emotions. Only merits are acquired from such actions. Seekers desirous of Liberation (mumukshu) want neither merits nor sins, since only heaven and not the Final Liberation (Moksha) is attainable with merits. Saints and Gurus are the manifest (physical) forms of the unmanifest God. Hence, any offering made to saints and the Guru is as good as an offering to God Himself. Thus offering back to God what belongs to Him does not create a ‘give and take account’ rather completes it. As such, the offering made unto saints reduces the accummulated account (sanchit) and increases the ability to withstand the effects of destiny. Moreover, neither is any ‘give and take account’ thereby created, nor are any merits acquired. Hence, whatever has to be offered should be given only to saints or for the mission of the Absolute Truth.

2.2 Repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name, satsang (holy company), service and sacrifice

How one can achieve the successive stages of spiritual practice once the spiritual level increases, is explained in the following table.

Stage Spiritual level % Spiritual practice
1 40 Repeating (chanting) The
Lord’s Name
2 50 Holy company, paying obeisance
to saints and service of The
Absolute Truth
3 60 Offering to saints (sacrifice)

3. Spiritual love (priti) for others

Spiritual love means love devoid of expectations. In worldly love, there are expectations. By practising Spirituality percentage of the sattva component in an individual is augmented and one tends to make all the animate and inanimate creation around oneself, happy. Love becomes pervasive and one develops spiritual love for others. One is able to perceive the presence of The Supreme God in each and every object and the entire world becomes one loving family – ‘वसुधैव कुटुंबकम्‌ ।’. In order to achieve this, in the beginning, one has to make efforts to love others. For this, it is important to remain in satsang (holy company). At first, one begins to feel spiritual love for other seekers attending the satsang then for seekers from other sects, still later for non-seekers and finally for all living creatures.

4. Spiritual practice for the sake of society (samashti) and individual (vyashti) spiritual practice

The former is spiritual practice for the sake of society while the latter is confined to an individual seeker. According to the influence of time in the Kaliyug, the spiritual practice for the sake of society is 70% important while individual spiritual practice is only 30% important. Hence, to progress spiritually it is important to motivate as many people as possible from society, to practise Spirituality. This is service unto the Absolute Truth in the real sense. But for this one needs to increase one’s own spiritual level.

The following table gives the comparative importance of spiritual practice according to the four classes with reference to individual spiritual practice and that for the sake of society.

Class Importance of
individual Spiritual
practice %
Importance of Spiritual
practice % for the
sake of society
1. Brahman 40 60
2. Kshatriya 70 30
3. Vaishya 95 5
4. Shudra 99 1

4.1 Differences between individual spiritual practice and spiritual practice for the sake of society

These are given in the table below.

Spiritual practice
Spiritual practice
for the sake of society
1. Definition Efforts made for
individual spiritual
Efforts made for spiritual
progress of the entire society
2. When is it useful? When circumstances
are conducive for
spiritual practice
Both when circumstances
are conducive and non-conducive
for spiritual progress
3. Probability of
generation of the
sectarian approach
in the seeker
More Less because the aim is to bring
about spiritual upliftment of all
constituents of society.
4. Proportion of the
seekers having
the desire to learn
Less More because one assists other
seekers and also receives
assistance from them.
5. Special feature Individual spiritual practices
[such as repetition (chanting) of
The Lord’s Name, study of
Spirituality, etc.] continues
6. Probability of
inflation of ego in
a seeker
More as the seeker
harbours the feeling
that ‘I am a seeker’
Less as the seeker is well
aware that other people are also
indulging in spiritual practice.
7. Animosity with
Mostly absent Present because to maintain
social well-being one at times
is compelled to oppose certain
elements (e.g. evildoers)
8. Efforts to bring
about social
Absent With spiritual practice society
becomes righteous and
9. Spiritual progress Gradual Rapid because spiritual
practice facilitates in the
development of an expansive
attitude. (Finally the aim of
spiritual practice is to develop
the attitude that ‘the entire
universe is my home’.)
10. Importance in the
Kaliyuga (%)
30 70
11. Examples Path of Deliberate
Rigour (Hathayoga),
Repetition (chanting)
of The Lord’s Name,
Meditation, writing
biographies of saints
Worldwide spread of
Righteousness and Spirituality,
efforts towards social service,
task of protecting the Nation

5. Reading

  • 1. In Spirituality, the implied meaning has a greater importance than the literal one. If the implied meaning is not understood reading does not yield much benefit. In the phrase, ‘the sun rises in the east’, the literal and the implied meaning is the same. In Indian languages, when a friend who does not visit one frequently drops in after several months, one says, ‘How did the sun rise in the west today?’ Here, the literal and implied meanings differ. In the Shrimadbhagvadgita only Arjun could understand the implied meaning in Shrikrushna’s mind, due to his evolved spiritual level. No matter how many hundreds of periodic readings (parayans) of the Gita one undertakes, since one’s spiritual level is not as high as Arjun’s, one does not gain much spiritual benefit from it. It is for this very reason that despite the lifelong recitation of holy texts like the Dnyaneshvari, Dasbodh, etc. majority of the people have derived hardly any benefit from them.
  • 2. Seekers in the primary stage should read ‘just for the sake of reading’, that is in order to develop faith in Spirituality and its practice. They should read those holy texts which have minimal or no discrepancy between the literal and implied meaning. Later on, when one begins to get spiritual experiences after practising Spirituality, this reading proves useful for their confirmation. For instance, if one experiences a fragrance without an incense stick being lit, one neither feels surprised nor ponders over it, having already read about it and realises that it is a spiritual experience. For a seeker in the intermediate stage, reading is not essential as he now has faith in Spirituality but has not yet got spiritual experiences (anubhuti) of a higher level. Hence, he should ‘spare himself from reading’ and remember the quote of Jagadguru Shri Shankaracharya from the holy text Vivekchudamani 60 which says, ‘The web of words is a great forest which causes the mind to wander and creates confusion’ which implies that excessive reading too can result in confusion. Thus one should spend the time he would otherwise utilise for reading, for practising Spirituality.
  • 3. A seeker should always read literature written by saints, because it contains divine consciousness (chaitanya). There is 100% divine consciousness in texts written by saints as compared to 0-2% in case of spiritual texts written by other authors. Generally reading should be done according to the following steps. Ordinarily the further step is achieved in two-three years.A. Holy texts on Spirituality written by Dr. Athavale (publication of the Sanatan Sanstha). These books are simple and comprehensible.
    B. Shri Dasbodh: Various topics are discussed here as in textbooks.
    C. Hymns (abhangs) of Saint Tukaram
    D. Shri Eknathi Bhagvat
    E. Dnyaneshvari
  • 4. If one does not undertake spiritual practice simultaneously with reading, then there is a risk of one not making spiritual progress due to the vanity acquired as a result of voracious reading and knowledge gained thereof.

6. Satsang (holy company) and service of the Absolute Truth (satseva)

6.1 Meaning of satsang

In general, satsang means company (sanga) of the Absolute Truth (sat). In this holy text, it refers to spiritual meetings or holy company of seekers or saints. Sat stands for God or The Brahman principle. Thus satsang refers to an environment which is conducive for receiving the experience of God or Brahman principle and thus to Spirituality. Attending spiritual discourses (kirtans, pravachans), going to temples or places of worship, staying at places of pilgrimage (tirthakshetras), reading spiritual texts written by saints, remaining in the company of fellow seekers, visiting saints or the Guru, are examples of a satsang of a progressively superior quality.

6.2 Importance of a satsang

  • A. Once an argument took place between Sage Vasishtha and Sage Vishvamitra on the relative superiority of a satsang and penance. Sage Vasishtha proclaimed satsang to be superior whereas Vishvamitra was in favour of penance. To decide the winner of the debate, They went to God. The Lord said, “Only the divine serpent Shesh will be able to answer your question.” Then the duo went to Shesh. When They asked Shesh the question, He replied, “Please lighten the load of the earth on My head. Then I will think it over and answer Your query.” So, Vishvamitra made the following resolve, ‘I offer the benefit acquired as a result of a thousand years of my penance. May the earth on Shesh’s head shift a little.’ Yet, the earth did not stir. Then Sage Vasishtha expressed His resolve, ‘I now offer the benefit gained as a result of half a ghatka (twelve minutes) of being in satsang (holy company). May the earth lighten the load.’ The earth immediately moved upwards.
  • B. In spiritual practice the total importance of chanting The Lord’s Name effortfully is 5%, that of being in a satsang (spiritual meeting) and the company of saints is 30% and service of the Absolute Truth (saints) is 100%.

6.3 Benefits of a satsang

  • A. Majority of people in day-to-day life do not believe in Spirituality and its practice. Hence, they speak against it or ridicule it . As a result, the faith of a seeker in the initial stages may waver. Such doubts in a seeker’s mind are overcome by attending satsangs (spiritual meetings) regularly.
  • B. One of the benefits of group therapy is that competitiveness to recover faster develops amongst patients. This augments recovery. A similar benefit is derived by seekers from a satsang.
  • C. Through discussion seekers gather knowledge about the nature of problems faced by fellow seekers and how they are resolved by them or the Guru.
  • D. Proportion of the sattva component in seekers attending satsangs (spiritual meetings) is more than that in the general population. Due to the cumulative effect of the sattva component present in all the seekers, a sattvik (sattva predominant) environment is created. This helps to increase the proportion of the sattva component in a seeker even further.
  • E. A sattvik environment improves spiritual practice such as chanting, meditation, etc. of a seeker.
  • F. Sometimes pleasant energies accompany people with a sattvik temperament. Seekers also benefit from them.
  • G. At a satsang (spiritual meeting), one develops the feeling that other seekers attending it are ‘one’s own’. Hence, the younger generation starts living amicably forgetting the family feuds and rivalries which have existed for several generations. From this very feeling the attitude that ‘the entire universe is my home’ develops in due course of time. The effect of bad company (kusang) is exactly the opposite; hence, it is best avoided.

6.4 Although being in the company of saints and service unto Them is important, how to recognise whether they are genuine?

In the Kaliyug 98% of the so-called saints and Gurus are fake. So, one should not pay obeisance to such individuals. However, if one has faith in a particular person as being spiritually evolved then on his advice one must pay reverence to a particular saint, accepting that as the truth, and even serve Him.

7. Bhandara (the festival of distributing food for a spiritual purpose)

In addition to individual spiritual practice, participation in satsangs (spiritual meetings), workshops and study of spiritual texts, one should also attend festivals celebrated in the presence of saints (bhandaras). On such occasions, one gets a chance to hear others’ spiritual experiences besides acquiring information on various other religious sects. Most of all, one gets an opportunity to remain in satsang (holy company) and to perform service unto the Absolute Truth. One also begins to feel spiritual love (priti) for others. More information on bhandaras is given in ‘Science of Spirituality: Vol. 3 – The Disciple, point – Service of the Guru’.

8. Efforts to overcome defects in personality

Though Spirituality is a science beyond the five senses, mind and intellect yet till spiritual progress occurs, that is till there is dissolution of the mind and intellect, rather till the impressions in the subconscious mind are wiped off, the mind and intellect continue to function. That is precisely why till there is dissolution of a seeker’s mind and intellect he is flooded with thoughts and doubts, he develops defects in personality and reacts appropriately or inappropriately to a situation. The more the defects in personality the further one is drawn from God. At times a seeker gets dejected with the thoughts and doubts in his mind or because he is not experiencing Bliss. Distressing energies take advantage of these defects in personality to harass the seeker, at times they even take him away from spiritual practice. That is why along with spiritual practice one should decrease personality defects and then erase them completely. What efforts seekers need to make in this direction are given in the holy texts `Spiritual practice to overcome defects in personality and `Hynotherapy for happiness’ published by the Sanstha. Even if one progresses spiritually one should continue efforts to remove all personality defects.

9. Practise what is taught instantly

One should put whatever is taught, (e.g. the arrangement of deities in the temple at home, which Name one should chant, etc.) into practice immediately. According to the principle that thinking changes with behaviour and vice versa, spiritual emotion (bhav) is generated due to various actions in spiritual practice. Similarly, due to an increase in spiritual emotion, there is a proportionate growth in actions pertaining to spiritual practice (that is in other words an enhancement of spiritual practice).

10. Practise Spirituality whilst living in society

‘Repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name’ is spiritual practice which should be undertaken whilst living in society itself. With the help of chanting, one can establish constant communion with The Lord even when performing all activities in the Great Illusion (Maya). This is possible because to attain detachment (vairagya) one has to renounce the materialistic life not with the body, but with the mind.

10.1 Obstacles faced by a seeker with the spouse and solutions to them

  • A. Eccentric behaviour: Should either of the marital partners behave eccentrically it is in all probability a sign of mental illness and requires treatment. If the person behaving abnormally is unwilling to take treatment, then he should just be observed with the stance of a spectator (sakshibhav). One may ask a spiritually evolved person (unnat) whether the eccentric behaviour has a spiritual cause and if so, the remedy for it.
  • B. Expecting others to practise Spirituality: Expecting one’s spouse to practise Spirituality so as to experience Bliss as one is experiencing, is wrong. According to destiny, some practise Spirituality while others do not. At the most, one may suggest spiritual practice to one’s spouse, twice or thrice. Even then if he / she, does not commence practising it; then the topic should just be dropped. Otherwise it results in quarrels. Always avoid alluring children with sweets, etc. to make them practise Spirituality or else, later, they will not practise it without bribes and will remain entangled in devotion with expectation (sakam bhakti). One should lovingly explain the importance of practising Spirituality, to them. Since children love to imitate others, if one practises Spirituality, usually they follow suit. Inspite of all this if they still do not practise Spirituality then one should discipline them by making them chant one or two rounds of malas (rosary) daily. This is similar to being stern with children when getting their homework done. Children in the age group of eight to fourteen years should be taught Spirituality through stories of child devotees like Dhruva, Pralhad, etc. Older children should be suitably taught according to their potential.
  • C. Not complementary to each other: When both marital partners practise Spirituality, instead of each partner saying that the other spouse should look after the household affairs just because he / she is practising Spirituality, the partner who is less evolved should behave in a way that complements the other’s progress. However, not withstanding this, the one who is more evolved should also share the responsibilities of household affairs, occassionally, (e.g. paying attention to the children) so that the one who is less evolved also gets time to practise Spirituality and to develop spiritually.
  • D. Inability to practise Spirituality due to children1. One is unable to devote much time to Spirituality till the children are seven to eight years old. This means that before planning to have a baby a seeker should think about this aspect. However, if either spouse wishes to have a child, then the other should accept this as the other’s wish (parechcha) and should duly bring up the child as one’s spiritual practice.2. Should one tell children to practise Spirituality instead of studying?: If a child loves Spirituality intensely and if he / she has the potential to practise it, then one should certainly tell him / her to do so. However, a majority of children should be asked to do both, study as well as undertake spiritual practice as studying means fulfilling one’s duty in the stage of a student. It is essential to educate every student so that he is able to support himself independently.
  • E. A joint family: In a joint family, there is distribution of work among its members. If one is unable to do one’s share of work on the day of the satsang (spiritual meeting), then one should compensate for it by doing extra work on other days so that others realise that one is amply compensating for one’s absence.
  • F. Following different spiritual paths: Instead of arguing on which spiritual path or whose Guru is superior, both should follow their respective paths.
  • G. A job involving travel or transfers: Instead of going through mental agony for not being able to attend satsangs (spiritual meetings), when travelling one should study Spirituality and as a part of spiritual practice and should carry out the mission of spreading it wherever one goes.

10.2 Obstacles faced by women seekers and solutions to them

In a male dominated society, in comparison with male seekers, women seekers have to face a variety of problems. Some examples of such problems and the possible solutions to them are given below.

A. Opposition from the husband / in-laws

  • A husband disliking his wife attending satsangs (spiritual meetings) or bhandaras (festivals of distributing food for a spiritual purpose): This happens when they are uninformed about what a satsang or bhandara is. If there is a possibility of opposition from the husband / in-laws, then, other seekers especially women should meet the seeker’s husband / in-laws and give them information on Spirituality. If this does not have any positive effect, then that seeker should practise Spirituality at home itself.
  • A husband feeling that his wife is being deceived by the apparent Spirituality of some Guru: In such cases, instead of attending satsang one should practise Spirituality at home.
  • A husband beating up his wife because she attends satsangs: In such a case too, she should remain at home and practise Spirituality.
  • A husband wanting his wife to stay at home and serve him instead of going to the ashram and bhandara to render service’: In such cases again she should practise Spirituality at home itself. Practising Spirituality at home, means repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name, studying religious texts and serving in the house with the attitude that ‘the home itself is the ashram’. One will rarely find a woman with an attitude like Mirabai, who would attend satsangs despite facing several problems. Only rarely can a seeker like Mirabai sacrifice her home and attain sainthood.
  • A husband’s opposition to preparation of foodstuffs for the bhandara, at home: At times husbands resent their wives buying foodstuffs like papad and pickle for the family but preparing it themselves at home, for the bhandara. Some husbands prevent their wives from doing such chores because they are absolutely unaware of the Bliss one experiences whilst rendering such service unto God. At such times instead of preparing papad and pickles at home, one should help other seekers, when it is being prepared in their homes.
  • An atheist mother-in-law would reprimand her daughter-in -law, for wasting oil in lighting a lamp for the deity. When she would start performing ritualistic worship (puja), the father-in-law would mockingly shout, “Ganapati, take this durva, Shankar, take this bel.” When a seeker is faced with such derogatory behaviour it would be advisable for him to perform ritualistic worship mentally (manaspuja), do chanting, etc.instead.

B. Financial dependence: Some women seekers express their frustration about not being able to offer something for the mission of the Absolute Truth since their husbands do not give them money. There is no reason to feel upset about it. Instead of offering money, one can serve physically and mentally. God does not want money. He wants spiritual emotion (bhav). If other seekers purchase one’s ticket when one has to travel to another place for a satsang (spiritual meeting), bhandara (festival of distributing food for a spiritual purpse), etc. one need not feel grateful to them. Spending money for tickets or for fulfillment of other needs of seekers is itself the spiritual practice of seekers who are financially well-off.

C. Household responsibilities: Women shoulder the responsibilities of day-to-day cooking, taking care of the children’s studies, the dietary and medical care of the in-laws, etc. Managing to practise Spirituality while fulfilling worldly duties is quite a simple task. If all this is done systematically then often the husband too, will hardly have any reason to object to spiritual practice done in the spare time.

10.3 Difficulties faced by seekers who are students and solutions to them

  • A. The family not granting permission to attend a satsang or bhandara: Refer point ‘10.2 A’.
  • B. An examination or the illness of a family member: In such situations one should give priority to studies or to the nursing of the sick. Once these problems are resolved one should pay more attention to practising Spirituality. Nursing the sick should be done adopting the attitude of service unto God.
  • C. Feeling upset because the family members are not practising Spirituality: Refer point ‘Expecting others to practise Spirituality’.
  • D. No permission from the family to use domestic appliances from home for the satsang (spiritual meeting) or bhandara (festival of distributing food for a spiritual purpose): One should not feel unhappy when one is unable to bring appliances from home as other seekers do, for a satsang or bhandara. Family members refuse permission to lend their appliances because they do not understand the importance of these actions. However simply the thought of taking things needed for the satsang from home is sufficient. In the mission of the Absolute Truth a resolve (sankalpa) is sufficient, one need not actually perform the action. For an evil action, on the other hand, just a thought is insufficient, the action has to be carried out.
  • E. Financial dependence: Refer point ‘10.2 B’

11. Why is it said that spiritual practice should be kept secret?

One should not preach Spirituality to those who have no inclination for it. If one does talk about it there is a possibility that they may ridicule, express disbelief or feel bored whilst listening to it. However, it is all right if one discusses Spirituality and spiritual experiences (anubhutis) with those who have an inclination for it, since in the process both individuals can learn something from such a mutual discussion. That is why at satsangs (spiritual meetings) each one is encouraged to speak about his own spiritual practice and to share his spiritual experiences with others.

12. Obeying the Guru

Obedience towards the Guru is the monarch of all virtues in a disciple. By obeying the Guru’s orders, the disciple’s progress starts from the Adnya chakra instead of the Muladhar chakra. These chakras are situated in the subtle body approximately at the level of the midpoint between the eyebrows and the anus respectively. Once a disciple decides to do everything following his Guru’s intellect, instead of his own, dissolution of his intellect begins and he merges with the universal intellect of the Guru.

13. Ability to distinguish between right and wrong (vivek), detachment (vairagya), humility and the stance of a spectator (sakshibhav)

Progress occurs rapidly in this fashion and finally the only goal is ‘I now remain only to repay debts.’ This is the state in which one lives only to repay favours done by society onto oneself.

14. Spiritual progress

Spiritual progress depends upon the spiritual level attained through spiritual practice in one’s previous births, obstacles presently faced, motivation of the seeker and grace of the Guru (gurukrupa). Spiritual practice undertaken with motivation and perseverance helps in overcoming obstacles and in being blessed by the grace of the Guru. Thus one should make efforts to accomplish it.


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