The perfection of sacrifice
is attained with sacrifice
till there is no more sacrifice.
Few of us can love all humanity. Life for us cannot but be centered around ourselves. Indeed, if we do not have a love for our own life, we cannot survive. So we should start with at least a love of ourselves, and thereafter we can try to expand our love to all of mankind.
Once there was a woman who married an older man. She loved to go out dancing but her husband had neither the time not the energy to join her. When he forbade her to spend nights dancing with other men, she complained, telling him, “You don’t understand. Love is supposed to be a sacrifice of oneself; if you love me you should sacrifice yourself for me.”
What should the couple do? From the standpoint of the husband, the wife should sacrifice, and from the standpoint of the wife, the husband should sacrifice. How will they settle their argument? They probably will not, because both are actually quite selfish. In this story, we perceive the contrast between two types of love: that which is directed only towards the self and that which attempts to incorporate others.
Real love is giving, not just taking. But in the context of one’s own life, wealth and love, how many people can say, “All I want to do is give, not take”? Certainly not the couple in our story. Many people may actually be capable of this altruistic attitude, but only to a certain extent and at certain times. It is virtually impossible always to be so disposed [without further spiritual training with the Buddha’s teachings].
Ch’an Master Sheng-yen
Ch’an Newsletter (No. 36)