This is the fourth teaching in the Cafh course “Sacrifice.” The course expands our usual understanding of sacrifice by referring to the Latin roots of the word: sacer+facere, to make sacred. It discusses various aspects of life that we often consider painful and suggests how we can meet them constructively, in ways that will deepen our knowledge of ourselves and help us unfold spiritually.
“For everything you have missed, you have gained something else; and for everything you gain, you lose something else.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), American writer and philosopher.
The Universe, as we perceive it, expresses itself in continuous change. Nature, as well as societies and individuals, is in constant becoming. Nevertheless, in our search for a permanent good, we lean toward the static. This discrepancy between a world of continuous changes and the human yearning for permanence brings us suffering.
We change. Yesterday we conquered our status as adults; today youth is lost; tomorrow our material well-being is in danger. Friendships and loved ones change. When it is not need or death, circumstances or lack of affection separate us from our loved ones. A very wealthy man lost his beloved; he then consulted a clairvoyant to find out whether or not she would come back to him. Receiving a negative reply, he became annoyed and, moved by arrogance, retorted, “I have money; I can use as much as necessary to get what I want, and so I will.” However, as the clairvoyant had predicted, even his abundant fortune could not help him recover his beloved.
Customs change; those which today seem good are discarded tomorrow as inadequate. It is difficult for us to conform to a system of relationships which change continuously, because it makes us feel out of step.
The environment changes; what is considered healthy and safe today will no longer be considered so tomorrow. We have to adapt to the insecurity that is implicit in unpredictable situations.
Interpretations of the world and life change. The understanding of reality that made us feel safe yesterday is no longer enough to respond to today's challenges; we have to become flexible in our way of thinking and develop new visions of the reality in which we live.
Many other changes are also beyond our control. There are bonds which, when broken, cannot be reestablished and goods which, if spent or lost, cannot be recovered.
The attitude of sacrifice, by bringing us to acceptance, can transform the suffering caused by those changes and losses into serenity, understanding and consolation.
Although we cannot avoid the changes that are a part of life, we can turn them into a source of understanding and wisdom as they teach us to discern the difference between transitory and permanent goods. If we accept the continuous disattachment forced upon us by changes, we develop the capacity to discover permanent goods such as disinterested love, reverence, participation, and the habit of supporting ourselves on those permanent goods.
The experience that expands our state of consciousness, the understanding that increases our knowledge and the degree of love that we have reached are beyond what we can lose. On the contrary, we can broaden and deepen them. The expansion of our state of consciousness is ours forever, even though the years pass, health declines and customs change.
On the other hand, if we understand that changes-including those seen at first glance as negative-are factors that stimulate our progress and that of society, we stop fearing them. The continuous changes that life exposes us to are one of the sources of the development of our possibilities. It is precisely the existence of possibilities which allows us to advance in all respects, as much in our understanding of nature and our surroundings as of ourselves.
A possibility is simply an indication that we can produce a change. A change is not necessarily a threat or loss. If we meditate on what changes we can produce and we work to implement those which bring benefits to ourselves as well as society, we turn changes into a true engine of human unfolding.
Opening to continuous change is opening to the flow of becoming, and on that foundation we base our work of unfolding. This applies not only at the level of spiritual unfolding, but also at the level of physical survival.