Bhagavad Gita: The Importance Of Sacrifice

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Both Krishna in Bhagavad Gita and Confucius in Analects emphasize the importance of sacrifice. Sacrifice is a very stretchable concept, so everyone perceives it in their own way. This essay will try to reveal the true meaning of sacrifices in Confucianism and Hinduism. Moreover, I will try to make some important points about how similar and different they are.

Confucius was quite an innovator in the idea of building a moral, harmonious society. He identified three of the most important qualities that he wanted to see in every person: filial devotion, humaneness, and ritual decorum. He was convinced that in the practice of filial devotion there would be no collapse of society. Humaneness is “When going abroad, treat everyone as if you were receiving a great guest; when employing the people, do so as if assisting in a great sacrifice. What you do not want for yourself, do not do to others.”( De Bary et al. 55). But the success of Confucius would not have been so significant and special if it had not been associated with traditional religions and rituals. Sacrifice is perceived as a part of rites.“ “Sacrifice as if they were present” means sacrifice to the spirits as if they were present. It may seem that Confucius was agnostic, but in fact, it seemed to him that people performed to sacrifices only as routine, without believing in the presence of spirits. The Master said, “If I am not present at the sacrifice, it is as if there were no sacrifice.” (De Bary et al. 48). A person consists of two parts: the physical body and the ethereal soul. The first is common with animals, the rest with gods. Realizing the minuscule significance of material things, Confucius concentrated more on obtaining the approval of spirits through sacrificial rituals.

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Bhagavad Gita is the teaching of great Krishna. He explains to Arjuna why it is necessary to be a warrior, why action is greater than inaction and why you will be enriched by sacrifice. “Creatures depend on food, food comes from rain, rain depends on sacrifice, and sacrifice comes from action.”( Miller, Barbara Stoller, 45). It means that creatures depend on action, while the action is a sacrifice. Perhaps through most of the scriptures in India, indicating that the principle of life consists in sacrifice of some sort or the other. Moreover, Hinduism is supposed to believe in reincarnation, so it reinforces the fact that action is greater than inaction.

In Bhagavad Gita, a person is unattached and free. There are lots of sacrifices. Krishna said that some people sacrifice by their flow of breath, stopping and resuming, ascetics sacrifice with material objects, others sacrifice restricting their food. “Many forms of sacrifice expand toward the infinite spirit; know that the source of them all is action, and you will be free.”( Miller, Barbara Stoller, 55). Action in sacrifice, charity, and penance is to be performed, not relinquished—for wise men, they are acts of sanctity. But in any case, your spiritual world, your knowledge, and your actions will stand far above your body and material things. In Confucius Analects, a noble person is attached to rituals as “When one’s parents are alive, one serves them in accordance with the rites; when they are dead, one buries them in accordance with the rites and sacrifices to them in accordance with the rites.”( De Bary et al. 47). As we know a ritual primarily religious. “Without knowing what is ordained by heaven, one has no way to become a noble person.”(De Bary et al. 63). In these words, Confucius can be discerned, that viewpoint is more religious and the belief in a certain destiny, which is destined for each of us confirms. This is the main difference between the sacrifice in the Analects of Confucius and the words of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. Confucius takes “sacrifice” directly. “The sacrifice to Confucius comprised three main elements of an offering of silk, feast, and libation. A preparatory begins two or three days before the rite, then drums are sounded, the gates are opened, and the blood and fur of the victims buried outside the main gate. Music is played, the novices dance on the front platform. A prayer is the sung, and the silk, libation, and prayer are placed on the altar. The spirit is bidden farewell, all processes out of the temple through the main gate following behind the spirit, and the prayer and silk (the only two things that are sacrificed by fire) are burned in an oven outside the inner gate. The ceremony does not simply express the idea of reverence toward the gods and spirits, nor does it just symbolize the idea of respect toward one’s elders. More hangs in the balance when the gods receive sacrifices. They are sustained through sacrifice and, in exchange, they nurture the cosmos.”( Thomas A Wilson, 2002). It is an obligatory and well-decorated sacrifice ritual that has been practised in Confucianism to this day. When in Krishna’s words sacrifice is a more abstract concept, and everyone sacrifices in his own understanding, and it is accepted.

Both Krishna in Bhagavad Gita and Confucius in Analects emphasize their attention to the fact that sacrifice is a prerequisite for a noble person. “ But the noble person, throughout the period of mourning, derives no pleasure from the food that he eats, no joy from the music that he hears, and no comfort from his dwelling. Thus he does not do it.”(De Bary et al. 62). Even following the basic principles of sacrifice(in this case after the death of a child), only an honourable person will truly have empathy and sacrifice in the name of gods and spirits. “Men learned in sacred lore, Soma drinkers, their sins absolved, worship me with sacrifices, seeking to win heaven. Reaching the holy world of Indra, king of the gods, they savour the heavenly delights of the gods in the celestial sphere.”( Miller, Barbara Stoller, 88). In Krishna’s words, it is also highlighted that only those people who have a correct and dignified way of life benefit. In truth, despite your affiliation to any movement and religion, despite all ceremonies and rituals, the most important criterion for sacrifice is your true faith and attitude to this process.

It is evident that sacrifice is an integral part of our lives. Everyone in the world is somehow connected to this notion. The fact is that we constantly sacrifice our patience, time, knowledge, breath, maybe even a way of life or material benefits not only to the greatest gods and spirits but also to ordinary people, helpless animals, their own family and so on to infinity. It is a matter of priorities, which is really important to us. Sacrificie is not about losing something, sacrifice is about giving something. As can be seen from the essay, this is also confirmed by the words of Krishna and Confucius that the sacrifice, although perceived differently in various cultures, is intended for noble people with good intentions.

Works cited

  1. De Bary, Wm Theodore, Irene Bloom, Wing-tsit Chan, Joseph Adler, and Richard John Lufrano. ‘Confucius and the Analects’. In Sources of Chinese Tradition, 2nd ed., 1:41–63. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.
  2. Miller, Barbara Stoler, trans. The Bhagavad-Gita: Krishna’s Counsel in Time of War. New York: Bantam Dell, 2004.
  3. Thomas A Wilson, ‘Sacrifice and the Imperial Cult of Confucius’, Article in History of religions, Hamilton College, February 2002.         


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