A Bloodless Sacrifice

A good sacrifice or offering as inspired by the Kutadanta Sutta – A Bloodless Sacrifice. This subject concerns ritual offerings or sacrifice for worshipping. You may read about the sutta in the link here.

Part One

In relation to making sacrificial offerings, the sutta starts by advising an irreproachable way of making huge sacrificial offering by a king in accordance to the Brahmin tradition but modified in accordance to Buddhist principles.

It is important to note that Buddha was recounting his past life, when he was a Brahmin priest.

From this initial portion of the Sutta, I think the message is that

  • One should make offerings in accordance to one’s financial capabilities.
  • The resources that funded the offering is irreproachable. I guess, it means one does not rob, steal or plunder another’s wealth to make sacrificial offerings.
  • The sponsor making offering should be doing it happily and without meanness or hostility
  • The sponsor should not have any regret before, during or after the offering
  • The sponsor should have strong believe and understanding of Karma
  • The sponsor should have a charitable nature
  • The offering should be open to as many participants as possible.
  • The sponsor should be knowledgeable and know what he is doing
  • The benefits of the offerings accrue in accordance to the participants and recipients. One need not worry about the quality of the participants. “Those who are virtuous and observes the precepts will have a successful sacrifice/offerings and will rejoice in it, and their hearts may be calmed within.”
  • The ceremonial master should be irreproachable, virtuous and knowledgeable


However, it is the latter part of the sutta that appeals to me most. Here’s the portion of the sutta that I think is most meaningful. 


“In this sacrifice, Brahmin, no bulls were slain, no goats or sheep, no cocks and pigs, nor were various living beings subjected to slaughter, nor were trees cut down for sacrificial posts, nor were grasses mown for the sacrificial grass, and those who are called slaves or servants or workmen did not perform their tasks for fear of blows or threats, weeping and in tears. But those who wanted to do something did it, those who did not wish to did not : they did what they wanted to do, and not what they did not want to do. The sacrifice was carried out with ghee, oil, butter, curds, honey and molasses.”


It is imporatant that a ceremonial or ritual sacrifice has the following considerations.

  • (No harming of sentient beings)
  • (No negative environmental impact)
  • (No negative social impact and entirely Voluntarily)
  • (use simple and affordable substances)


“And, Reverend Gotama, is there any other sacrifice that is simpler, less difficult, more fruitful and profitable than this three-fold sacrifice with its sixteen attributes?”

“There is, Brahmin.”

“What is it, Reverend Gotama?”

“Whenever regular family gifts are given to virtuous ascetics, these constitute a sacrifice more fruitful and profitable than that.”

“Why, Reverend Gotama, and for what reason is this better?”

“Brahmin, no Arahants or those who have attained the Arahant path will attend such a sacrifice. (refering to the sacrificial or ritual offerings – see ONE) Why?  Because there they see beatings and throttlings, so they do not attend.  But they will attend the sacrifice at which regular family gifts are given to virtuous ascetics, because there are no beatings or throttlings.  That is why this kind of sacrifice is more fruitful and profitable.”


I interpret beatings and throttlings to representing disharmony and bullying etc. in our present context. In a large ceremonial or ritual offerings where many volunteers and staff are involved, it is inevitable that unfair treatment, bullying, harshness etc occur between members. Such illwill negates the “pureness” of the offerings. While lesser gods and goddesses may attend, the enlightened noble ones shun them.

Under TWO, the Buddha taught that offerings made to monks, nuns and spiritual practitioners are better sacrificial offerings.

Example of offerings to spiritual practitioners may also include making offerings of food and basic necessity etc or sponsoring participants attending meditation retreat, chanting retreat or other Buddhist retreats such as the NyungNay retreat etc.


“But, Reverend Gotama, is there any other sacrifice that is more profitable than either of these?”

“There is, Brahmin.”

“What is it, Reverend Gotama?”

“Brahmin, if anyone provides shelter for the Sangha coming from the four quarters, that constitutes a more profitable sacrifice.”


In our modern context contributions towards the maintenance and upkeep of monasteries would also count.



“But, Reverend Gotama, is there any sacrifice that is more profitable than these three?”

“There is, Brahmin.”

“What is it, Reverend Gotama?”

“Brahmin, if anyone with a pure heart goes for refuge to the Buddha, the Dhamma and  the Sangha, that constitutes a sacrifice more profitable than any of these three.”


To better understand this, one has to understand the essential meaning behind taking refuge. We should not mistaken this to mean attending refuge ceremonies.

When we take refuge in the Triple Gems, we live our life in accordance to Buddhist principles. As a result, we “sacrifice” conduct or livelihood that is contrary to the Buddha’s teachings.


“But, Reverend Gotama, is there any sacrifice that is more profitable than these four?”

“There is, Brahmin.”

“What is it, Reverend Gotama?”

“Brahmin, if anyone with a pure heart undertakes the precepts – to refrain from taking life, from taking what is not given, from sexual immorality, from lying speech and from taking strong drink and sloth-producing drugs – that constitutes a sacrifice more profitable than any of these four.”


A better sacrificial offering from a Buddhist perspective, is to give up or “Sacrifice” our unwholesome actions, speech and thoughts that arises from greed, hatred and ignorance.

As can be seen here, the Buddha will be much happier if we “sacrifice” or give up or offer our bad habits that is rooted in the 3 poisons.


“But, Reverend Gotama, is there any sacrifice that is more profitable than these five?”

“There is, Brahmin.”

“What is it, Reverend Gotama?”

“Brahmin, a Tathágata arises in this world, an Arahant, a fully-enlightened Buddha, endowed with wisdom and conduct, Well-Farer, Knower of the worlds, incomparable Trainer of men to be tamed, Teacher of Gods and humans, enlightened and blessed.  He, having realized it by his own super-knowledge, proclaims this world with its Devas, Maras and Brahmas, its princes and people.  He preaches the Dhamma which is lovely in its beginning, lovely in its middle, lovely in its ending, in the spirit and in the letter, and displays the fully-perfected and purified holy life. 

A disciple goes forth and practices the moralities, etc (Digha  Nikáya 2 verses 41-74).  Thus a monk is perfected in morality. 

He attains the four jhanas (Digha  Nikáya 2 verses 75-82). 

That, Brahmin, is a sacrifice… more profitable. 

He attains various insights (Digha Nikáya verses 83-95), and the cessation of the corruptions (Digha Nikáya 2 verse 97).   

He knows:  “There is nothing further in this world. 

That Brahmin, is a sacrifice that is simpler, less difficult, more fruitful and more profitable than all the others. 

And beyond this there is no sacrifice that is greater and more perfect.”



We understand from this sutta that the Buddha regards personal cultivation and spiritual progress as better “sacrifices”.

Why is it sacrifices?

Well, if we really wish to tame or go beyond our craving, we will be sacrificing stuff such as entertainment of senses. Isn’t that a very difficult sacrifice to make?

Giving up our pride. Isn’t that hard to achieve?

Therefore it is by far the noblest and best “Sacrifice” or “Offerings”

In the way of Buddhist practice, we try our best.

So if the best sacrifice narrated in SIX is beyond our current capability, we can try to perform something that is of a lower level.

In this order, the lowest level of offerings are those material offerings that we place on the altar.


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