What is selfless service?
Selfless service or Seva is a Sanskrit term describing the act of selfless service. Its meaning is said to be embodied by the root words saha, meaning ‘with that,’ and eva, meaning ‘too,’ meaning ‘together with.’
‘Life is about service. Service, not to people, but service to the Almighty within everyone and everything. We start this service by worshipping, by remembering God.’ - Paramahamsa Vishwananda
Why is it important?
Through seva, we learn to work together with one another just as the synergy in the seed, soil, and sun and the connection between flowers, honey bees, and the food we eat. Though, it is interesting and necessary to note that while humanity can live in harmony with nature, we still have a mind which operates much differently than other sentience in nature. And more importantly than the act of service itself, is the mindset with which we serve.
‘What is in your mind when you’re serving? While you are serving, there should not be any competition. You should serve wholeheartedly. We came as servants to God. We have to remember that. But when you forget that you’re serving God and guru, ego takes over and pride arises. When ego and pride come together, one becomes an angry person and can no longer serve.’
- Paramahamsa Vishwananda
Through seva, we learn to give with gratefulness and love, no matter the task at hand. We aim to focus our mind upon the Divine whether we are cleaning, singing, building, or cooking. What on the outside might just seem like checking a box off on the to-do list, is in fact, a hidden yet continuous opportunity to engage in a powerful transformational yoga practice!
How to perform seva?
In Bhakti Marga and many other spiritual communities, seva is at the core of its foundation. Though delightful as it is to come as a guest, one doesn’t fully experience the depth of what's offered without giving back in some way. This applies to all of life as well. There is richness which comes with forgetting oneself and melting into the joy of contributing to the whole.
I personally have experienced profound moments of revelation and unity, simply cleaning the dishes at the ashram in India more so than spiritual events which are marketed to bring about such internal states. The quality of sincerity that awakens through seva is true spirituality. And, I sense, bringing us home to harmony with life and nature as it's meant to be. It brings us to a sense of purpose.
‘Service starts right around you. Stop seeing differences. Clear your mind of differences and see the same God everywhere. Offer to God the flowers of truthfulness, love, service to people, prayer, devotion, loyalty and control of the senses from deep within your heart. In this way, you don’t even need to sit and pray because He will always be with you. Open up your heart and serve whenever you can. Help whenever you can.’
- Paramahamsa Vishwananda
Wherever you are in the world, whatever your capability, find your local ashram, gather with your community, recalibrate to the rhythm of nature who demonstrates this unconditional giving every day and serve! Contribute to everyday essential tasks and also apply your unique skills. Ultimately, our unique skills are in fact given by God and are designed to be given back. Be open to sharing knowledge that all creativity and skill have their origin in Divinity!
Actually, the grace of seva, just as the journey with guru and God, is also a mystery revealed only through experiencing this action devoid of interest in personal gain.