Earlier this summer, Jorge and I were enjoying a televised baseball game between the Giants and the Dodgers. Los Angeles scored in the first inning when Adrian Gonzalez aided Carl Crawford. There was one out, with a sacrifice fly to centerfield to allow the score.
I like the fact that watching a baseball game can give me the enjoyment and comaraderie of a mainstream sport and time to meditate or contemplate about human behavior. Many of my friends and relatives don’t understand this aspect of my baseball fandom. They just know me as a San Francisco Giants fan. Jorge not only knows this about me, but has the same views of baseball, too.
In case you don’t understand much about the game, the sacrifice fly is teamwork in action. Basically, there is at least one runner on base. The batter hits a long fly ball that will ultimately be caught by an outfielder of the opposing team. During the play, the base runner(s) advance to the next base(s). If there is a runner at third, a successful sacrifice fly enables that runner to advance to home base for the score. The batter is ruled out, because the outfielder caught his fly ball.
In our disappointment, Jorge and I agreed that the LA play was well done. That disappointment triggered a moment of clarity for my friend. He brought up the subject of sacrifice. Jorge mentioned how many of the ancient theistic peoples offered up some very precious property, animals, and even people to their god or gods. The priest or clergy said prayers, performed rituals, and then killed the victim on a holy altar. One form or another of blood sacrifice is still practiced in some parts of the world.
We contemplated the heroism and sacrifices made by the men and women who join the military forces and struggle in the name of their homelands. Many of them make the ultimate sacrifice of giving up their lives.
I thought about what our parents may have given up or sacrificed for the benefit of us, their offspring. Responsible parents give up some important things like financial well-being, leisure time, and often times, their freedom.
Sacrifice is an integral part of life on earth.
I got to thinking about my late life partner, Takeo, who once explained an important part of his path in life. He was a practicing Zen Buddhist. Early in his education, he was taught to learn and to honor the Bodhisattva Vow. The vow was fully woven into Takeo’s personality and character.
Later in life, I began to study the Tibetan path from the Gelug School. The version of the Bodhisattva Vow that I learned is this:
“With a wish to free all beings I shall always go for refuge To the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, Until I reach full enlightenment. Enthused by wisdom and compassion, today in the Buddhas’ presence I generate the Mind for Full Awakening For the benefit of all sentient beings. As long as space remains, As long as sentient beings remain, Until then, may I too remain And dispel the miseries of the world.”
In essence, the practitioner sacrifices her or his ultimate attainment until no more sentient beings are unenlightened. It is thought that to only wish for your own enlightenment is to practice selfishness. On the other hand, one should gather wisdom and knowledge to help yourself and do the same to save other people, too. The Bodhisattva ideal is paramount. This is the foundation of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism.
If you look over the Bodhisattva Vow once more, you’ll probably notice that its most important characteristic is the emphasis that it places upon compassion. It stresses that we notice the suffering of other people and how important it is that people and other sentient beings need and want to be free of suffering. The Bodhisattva works toward Buddhahood until everyone is free of suffering. This is her or his big sacrifice.
By the time Jorge and I had finished reflecting on the sacrifice, our popcorn bowl was empty and the baseball game was over. The sacrifice fly by Los Angeles had been played in vain. San Francisco had won the contest. Dodgers fans were not yet free of suffering.
The Blue Jay of Happiness understands that sacrifice means the efforts and struggles on behalf of all humans and sentient beings, because every living being fully deserves sincere kindness, respect, and compassion.