What could be a significant sacrifice? A story from the Mahabharata explains:

The greatest sacrifice is not one where the giver can afford to give the biggest gift; it is the one where the giver can least afford to give whatever little they are giving

author_img Gaurav Yadav Published :  06th February 2022 05:58 PM   |   Published :   |  06th February 2022 05:58 PM
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After winning the battle of Kurukshetra, the Pandavas performed a great sacrifice and made very large gifts to the poor. Everyone said that the world had never seen such a sacrifice before. There came a little mongoose, half of whose body was golden, and the other half brown. He began to roll on the floor of the sacrificial hall. He said to those around, ‘You are all liars; this is no sacrifice.’

Everyone laughed at the mongoose. But the mongoose said, ‘There was once a little village, and in it there dwelt a poor Brahmin with his wife, his son, and his son's wife. They were very poor and lived on small gifts made to them for preaching and teaching. There came in that land, a three years’ famine, and the poor Brahmin suffered more than ever. At last, when the family had starved for days, the father could manage to bring home a little barley flour. They cooked it, and just as they were about to eat, there was a knock at the door. The father opened it, and there stood a guest; and a guest is like a god. 

So, the poor Brahmin invited the guest in and set before him his own portion of the food, which the guest quickly ate and said, “I have been starving for ten days, and this little bit has but increased my hunger.” 

The wife said to her husband, “Here is a poor man, and it is our duty as householders to see that he is fed, and it is my duty as a wife to give him my portion, seeing that you have no more to offer him.”

After eating her share, the guest was still burning with hunger. The son said, “Take my portion also; it is the duty of a son to help his father to fulfil his obligations.”

The guest ate that, but still remained unsatisfied; so, the son's wife gave him her portion too. The guest ate and departed, blessing them. That night those four people died of starvation. A few granules of that flour had fallen on the floor; and when I rolled my body on them, half of it became golden. Since then, I have been travelling all over the world, hoping to find another sacrifice like that, but nowhere have I found one; nowhere else has the other half of my body been turned into gold. That is why I say this is no sacrifice.’

This story tells us that the greatest sacrifice is not one where the giver can afford to give the biggest gift; it is the one where the giver can least afford to give whatever little they are giving.

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