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Sacrifice and Sustainability

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Sacrifice in the Jewish, Hellenistic, and Christian traditions involves a giving up, a surrendering of something for the sake of a greater good. Sacrifice in times past took the form of a bloody offering. In Christianity this has been replaced with the Eucharist, which promotes human conscience and adherence to a moral code. Sacrifice in the ancient Vedic traditions of India entailed the offering of an animal or the symbolic offering of a human being that correlated bodily parts to functions of society and the cosmos. Sacrifice in India in rare instances still includes the killing of animals. Ritual throughout India, known as Puja, celebrates the body, the senses, and their connection with the physical world through offerings of fruits, flowers, incense, and other ritual objects.

The contemporary challenge presented by the need to develop sustainable lifestyles can draw from both traditions of sacrifice. The Mediterranean model urges people to do with less for the sake of a greater good. The Indic model encourages people to recognize the web of relations among humans, nature, and animals and develop sensitivity to the need for the protection of the earth. Both models of sacrifice can serve as inspiration for the development of reasonable patterns for resource management.


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Affiliations: 1: Loyola Marymount University


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