The words sacrifice and freedom transcend barriers of culture and religion. They are manifested differently to each people, but to each they pervade traditions, daily life, and moral problems. Both become a part of who we are and who we will be, a part of the very marrow of the human experience, they shape our thoughts and emotions. The Hindu text, The Bhagavad-Gita and the mythical work Till We Have Faces by Christian author C.S. Lewis are separated by an inconceivable amount of time and place. Yet, each hungrily delves into the themes of sacrifice and freedom, and in doing so, offers an answer to some of the most difficult questions about how (and why) to live.
Each novel recounts stories of a growth in knowledge of their main characters, providing practical advice for the right way to lead life. The Bhagavad-Gita details the story of the warrior Arjuna who is plagued with the idea that he must engage in battle with his relatives. In agony, he seeks the advice of the god Krishna to help him sort through right and wrong. Through Krishna’s counsel, Arjuna reaches a new level of understanding about life. Till We Have Faces expounds upon the ancient Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche. The story follows the life of Orual, a woman who is forced to come to terms with her own corrupt nature through a series of events primarily dealing with her younger sibling, Psyche. While The Bhagavad-Gita is essentially a guide for believers, Till We Have Faces is a story for stories sake. Yet, there are many comparisons and contrasts to be made when talking about the way each novel deals with the themes of sacrifice and freedom.
Essentially, The Bhagavad-Gita can be considered a “gospel of selfless service”. As Arjuna questions whether or not he should fight against his cousins in the war, he learns from the god Krishna that selfless service is necessary. As identified in The Bhagavad-Gita, sacrifice means complete abandonment of ones own desires. All ones duties in life, or Dharma, should be carried out with nothing short of pure joy and devotion to the Lord. The Bhagavad-Gita formulates the theory of the three paths, or margas (Knowledge, Devotion and Action), thus teaching us that action, devotion and knowledge should work in one’s life in perfect harmony. The Bhagavad-Gita states, “So, a true Tyaagi, or a true man of abandonment is one for whom duty has no aspects such as agreeable or disagreeable, dignified or undignified. He gets the same satisfaction from the performance of all kinds of work.” Arjuna is called to be a Sattvic doer, or one whose work is worship of the Lord.
In Till We Have Faces, sacrifice is developed similarly. The themes of sacrifice and spilled blood are found throughout the novel and especially developed in the characters of Psyche and Orual. The ability to be self-sacrificing, which is highly respected among the members of the Greek community in the novel, is intricately tied to the strength of the...