In ancient India, pious people used to regularly practice a fire sacrifice, in which they would offer up ghee, or pure, clarified butter, into the flames of a sacred fire, consecrated by the priests. But the tantrika scriptures have advised that for the true worshipper, everything we are and do is an act of sacrifice to the Lord, that we ourselves are the sacrificed and the sacrificer:
“All objects are the oblation, The senses are the ladle, One’s powers are the flames One’s own Self, Shiva, is the fire, And oneself is the sacrificer.” (Parasurama Kalpasutra)
The message conveyed by this beautiful verse is that Truth is One. Thousands of years later, Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Giita advised the same: Brahmarpanam Brahmahavih Brahmagnao Brahmanahutam Brahmaeva tena gantavyam Brahma Karmasamadhina.
(Brahma is the act of offering, Brahma is the object offered Brahma is the sacred fire, Brahma is the one who offers, Brahma can be attained by him alone Who in his action is immersed in Brahma)
Folklore supports this conviction through yet another meaningful story. Once there was a butcher, a great devotee of the Lord who remembered Him day and night.
He would use a sacred stone to weight his meat, not knowing its sanctity. One day a priest saw the stone in the butcher’s shop and was aghast at the butcher’s crude treatment of it. He explained to the butcher that the stone was worthy of great worship, and asked for it for his shrine room.
There he worshipped it with elaborate rituals, using sandalwood paste, flowers, holy water, etc. But the deity in the stone was unhappy and missed the butcher’s spirit of true love and devotion.
“I was so happy there,” the stone said, “the butcher’s heart was so full of devotion that his touch was like a warm embrace. I am not happy here despite your elaborate worship. Please take me back to ceremonial worship. The mortified priest realised only then the true spirit of sacrifice, which is love.
(Story told by Swami Ramdas).