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The more profound path of sacrifice that Krishna outlines [in the Bhagavad Gita] is the sacrifice of one’s self — meaning that we begin to do every act we do in the light of our awareness of Brahman. As our practice gets deeper and deeper, that awareness of Brahman takes on flesh and blood; it starts to be a deeply valid sense of relatedness, to something much greater than the games we’ve been playing. We were always asking, “Am I getting enough?” Now we start asking, “How can I get rid of all my stuff, so I can become part of everything?” That flips around the meaning of every act.

In the example of eating, you get so that you feed your body, so that you can maintain the temple, so that you can deepen your wisdom, so that you can increase your samadhi, so that you can get through your ego, so that you can come to Brahman. Far out! And that includes having that pizza — I mean, it’s all of it. Everything you eat becomes your offering. The offering, the sacrifice — that becomes what eating is all about for you.

But using food that way is only the beginning. Your offerings include everything you do — the sneaky stuff, too. Like how about when you’ve just bad-mouthed somebody. You’re sitting around gossiping, and suddenly you think, “This is my offering to God at this moment — far out! Look what I offered God today.” Gossip? Greed? Lust? Great. I mean, don’t worry about it, don’t judge it — the Brahman can take it all in, no problem. Just notice your action, notice what it is you’re offering to God.

The curriculum of service provides us with information about our strengths as well, and we discover how these contribute to genuinely help-full service. Each time we drop our masks and meet heart-to-heart, reassuring one another simply by the quality of our presence, we experience a profound bond which we intuitively understand is nourishing everyone. Each time we quiet our mind, our listening becomes sharp and clear, deep and perceptive; we realize that we know more than we thought we knew, and can reach out and hear, as if from inside, the heart of someone’s pain. Each time we are able to remain open to suffering, despite our fear and defensiveness, we sense a love in us which becomes increasingly unconditional. . . .

Common to all those habits which hinder us is a sense of separateness; we are divided within ourselves and cut off from others. Common to all those moments and actions which truly seem to help, however, is the experience of unity; the mind and the heart work in harmony, and barriers between us dissolve.

Separateness and unity. How interesting that these root causes, revealed in the experience of helping, turn out to be what most spiritual traditions define as the fundamental issue of life itself. Awakening from our sense of separateness is what we are called to do in all things, not merely in service.

 

- Ram Dass

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