As we close out the end of a year and begin the holiday season, let us connect to the true meaning of giving, or seva. Seva is a Sanskrit word that translates to “selfless service”. Seva is not just any service performed, but rather selfless actions performed with a sense of gratitude and without the expectation of reciprocity. It is service infused with kindness and respect for the ones served, and it arises from a place of peace and love.
I was first introduced to seva in my family’s Nirankari church. Volunteers from all age ranges would help out to ensure out that the Sunday service ran smoothly. My husband and I went to a service after our wedding last year and I was struck by the sincerity in which service was given, and which I would like to share with you all. After not having been to the church in many years, and my husband attending for the first time, we were warmly greeted by the ushers, who were young men in sharp suits. They made sure to set us up comfortably with floor seating. One of the young men even sat next to my American husband the entire service to act as a translator to help him understand the lecture, which was mostly in Hindi. At the the completion of the service, young women dressed in light blue and white tunics would have the congregants sit in two long rows and serve food individually to our outstretched plates. Preparing for all of this bustle of activity occurred behind the scenes, so naturally all the volunteers would have to miss a large portion of the service itself. It was clear to me that the individuals performing this seva were operating without ego, and were fulfilled in their sense of purpose and peace.
It is by performing seva, or giving, with kindness, compassion, and positive energy to help others, that individuals connect more deeply with the compassion within themselves, and attain a sense of deep fulfillment. It is said that through giving and seva that we awake the sleeping humanity within our own heart.
However the spirit of seva occurs not only in the realms of charity, faith, or donation of your time, but in our work and the carrying out of other relationships. If we all were to do our work and carry out our other relationships in accordance with seva, the world would change profoundly. Seva is not just about taking time to help others. It’s not something to be turned on and off, as if kindness, compassion, and gratitude are qualities to be doled out in limited amounts. Seva is about designing our lives in such a way that we consistently serve others selflessly. Every action, every interaction should be seva.
Think deeply about your personal relationships and friendships. In what way can we connect more fully to another person’s humanity? In what ways can we give to others to attain a deeper sense of compassion and tenderness?
Even too within our professional lives, we often maintain distance between our clients, customers, or employees. In what way can we offer compassionate service? What if our thoughts, words, and deeds said, “I am thankful to you for finding me worthy of service to you, and for providing the means of my livelihood.” It is often difficult to integrate our deepest spiritual beliefs into the routine of everyday life, but within this challenge lies the path for life’s deepest joy: true fulfillment.