Blavatsky on Self Sacrifice
There is far more courage to live than to die in most cases.
The wheel of sacrifice has Love for its nave, Action for its tire, and Brotherhood for its spokes.
Neither is Theosophy the pursuit of happiness, as men understand the word; for the first step is sacrifice, the second, renunciation.
Life is built up by the sacrifice of the individual to the whole. Each cell in the living body must sacrifice itself to die perfection of the whole; when it is otherwise, disease and death enforce the lesson.
Quote from The Key to Theosophy:
ENQUIRER. Is equal justice to all and love to every creature the highest standard of Theosophy?
THEOSOPHIST. No; there is an even far higher one.
ENQUIRER. What can it be?
THEOSOPHIST. The giving to others more than to oneself -- self-sacrifice. Such was the standard and abounding measure which marked so pre-eminently the greatest Teachers and Masters of Humanity -- e. g., Gautama Buddha in History, and Jesus of Nazareth as in the Gospels. This trait alone was enough to secure to them the perpetual reverence and gratitude of the generations of men that come after them. We say, however, that self-sacrifice has to be performed with discrimination; and such a self-abandonment, if made without justice, or blindly, regardless of subsequent results, may often prove not only made in vain, but harmful. One of the fundamental rules of Theosophy is, justice to oneself -- viewed as a unit of collective humanity, not as a personal self-justice, not more but not less than to others; unless, indeed, by the sacrifice of the one self we can benefit the many.
ENQUIRER. Could you make your idea clearer by giving an instance?
THEOSOPHIST. There are many instances to illustrate it in history. Self-sacrifice for practical good to save many, or several people, Theosophy holds as far higher than self-abnegation for a sectarian idea, such as that of "saving the heathen from damnation," for instance. In our opinion, Father Damien, the young man of thirty who offered his whole life in sacrifice for the benefit and alleviation of the sufferings of the lepers at Molokai, and who went to live for eighteen years alone with them, to finally catch the loathsome disease and die, has not died in vain. He has given relief and relative happiness to thousands of miserable wretches. He has brought to them consolation, mental and physical. He threw a streak of light into the black and dreary night of an existence, the hopelessness of which is unparalleled in the records of human suffering. He was a true Theosophist, and his memory will live for ever in our annals. In our sight this poor Belgian priest stands immeasurably higher than -- for instance -- all those sincere but vain-glorious fools, the Missionaries who have sacrificed their lives in the South Sea Islands or China. What good have they done? They went in one case to those who are not yet ripe for any truth; and in the other to a nation whose systems of religious philosophy are as grand as any, if only the men who have them would live up to the standard of Confucius and their other sages. And they died victims of irresponsible cannibals and savages, and of popular fanaticism and hatred. Whereas, by going to the slums of Whitechapel or some other such locality of those that stagnate right under the blazing sun of our civilization, full of Christian savages and mental leprosy, they might have done real good, and preserved their lives for a better and worthier cause.
ENQUIRER. But the Christians do not think so?
THEOSOPHIST. Of course not, because they act on an erroneous belief. They think that by baptising the body of an irresponsible savage they save his soul from damnation. One church forgets her martyrs, the other beatifies and raises statues to such men as Labro, who sacrificed his body for forty years only to benefit the vermin which it bred. Had we the means to do so, we would raise a statue to Father Damien, the true, practical saint, and perpetuate his memory for ever as a living exemplar of Theosophical heroism and of Buddha- and Christ-like mercy and self-sacrifice.
ENQUIRER. Then you regard self-sacrifice as a duty?
THEOSOPHIST. We do; and explain it by showing that altruism is an integral part of self-development. But we have to discriminate. A man has no right to starve himself to death that another man may have food, unless the life of that man is obviously more useful to the many than is his own life. But it is his duty to sacrifice his own comfort, and to work for others if they are unable to work for themselves. It is his duty to give all that which is wholly his own and can benefit no one but himself if he selfishly keeps it from others. Theosophy teaches self-abnegation, but does not teach rash and useless self-sacrifice, nor does it justify fanaticism.