One of the threads that creates the tapestry of any religion or spiritual pursuit is the thread of sacrifice. From the onlooker's point of view, a lot of what might be attained rests on the surrendering of what the social order holds dear -- home, wealth, possessions, position, power. To attain understanding -- or even to get on god's good side -- sacrifice is required.
And when it comes to sacrifice, the social matrix seems fond of referring to "the ultimate sacrifice" -- the willingness to die. Soldiers in battle are sometimes forced to make "the ultimate sacrifice," which fellow human beings then acknowledge through mourning or accolades. The spiritual realm is sometimes referred to as a battleground as well ... "onward Christian soldiers," etc. And suicide bombers make an incredible sacrifice, however insane it may seem to their enemies.
But I have a feeling that death, however confounding or consoling or threatening it may seem, is not really the hardest of all sacrifices in the realm of spiritual endeavor. The dirty little secret, so to speak, when it comes to spiritual sacrifice, is the imperative willingness to surrender the beliefs that have shaped and inspired any spiritual practice. Is it any wonder that institutionalized religions can go ape-shit when a spiritual (wo)man appears?
Of course the more mature religions make room for their mystics, but the puppies can go berserk ... to sacrifice belief is not part of the the established program because the establishment would dissolve without the belief that upholds it. Better the woo-hoo of sacrificing your life, making death the "ultimate sacrifice," diverting the attention from the sacrifice that would scare the pants off anyone inclined towards spiritual life.
It doesn't interest me much what institutions do or suggest in the realm of sacrifice. Institutions have their good points and bad. What does interest me is the individual willingness to consider the honest nature of sacrifice... and which sacrifice might be the most difficult. No one can believe that surrendering belief is the most difficult sacrifice ... that would just be heaping belief on top of belief and compound the difficulty. But what individuals can do is to investigate within the world of belief ... paying close-closer-closest attention to that which seems to demand an unremitting attention.
"Sacrifice" is a believer's word. There is nothing wrong with it. An active imagination can promote some wonderful (and horrific) actions. "Getting closer to God," "entering this moment," "finding a sound and abiding peace," "do this," "don't do that," etc.
But I have a feeling that at some point, in order for spiritual endeavor to fulfill its promise, the 'ultimate sacrifice' will be required.
Take a leak in the morning.
Wash the dishes.
And kiss your child good night.