by KRISHNA SASTRI Esq.
The word Self-Sacrifice is a mis-nomer. There is no equivalent for the word in Indian vernaculars. From this fact however it does not follow that the Hindu never had a conception of the virtues indicated by the term. They understood the significance of things better and hence their conception of acts constituting the so-called virtue of Self-Sacrifice was much more ennobling than the petty and not very rational view, entertained by other people.
When a man suffers for another and sacrifice his own comforts the Hindu believes that there is only a glorification of one's Self; but no sacrifice of it which is as reprehensible and ignoble as suicide. A man's self is the most easily expansible thing, and filled with sympathy; it grows in dimensions and takes the whole sentient existence within its fold.
When you are moved by the distress of another, you realize your one-ness with that person. When one individual works for the good of another, there is a flowing of life from one to another; but there is no self-sacrifice, for the happiness of another person is felt as one's own.
The poor mother who stints herself in order that the babe at her breast may live is not sacrificing her Self, for the little one is but the compliment of her Self which will not feel itself to be complete without the dear thing.
Have you ever felt for a weak person suffering injury at the hands of a stronger one? If you have, then verily has your self-thrilled with a life which would expand it out of its in casement.
When you feel for the oppressed, for the down-trodden and espouse their cause against tyrannizing might, it may be that you individually suffer, but the stimulus for the combat comes from a sense of the enlarging of your Self. The self-expands and the individual's concerns extend over a wider field. One sympathizes with others besides oneself. Here indeed the individual becomes a larger being with his range of susceptibilities and his capacity for happiness being enlarged.
When the philanthropist goes to places of pestilence and disease and works to alleviate suffering, sacrificing all conveniences and undergoing trouble himself, he is no way sacrificing his self; but he is only helping it to assert itself to the fullest extent. He cannot fell happy amidst pleasure and ease when the cause of the suffering people requires his aid. He in in his element when he is fighting against suffering and misery. It may turn out that his individual efforts do not avail or what is worse that disease and death claim as their victim. But what does it matter to him? His feeling of self is so all-embracing that the prospect of death does not frighten him in the least.
Nothing good, nothing ennobling can come out of the stifling of the self in Man. In every act of surrender of the individual happiness, there is really as assertion of a larger self.