Seva: The Sanskrit word for service – to work selflessly without attachment or ego while holding the intention to face challenges and hardships in order to grow spiritually. This is the path of Karma Yoga.
The practice of seva helps us realize through our own experience that we are inter-connected in ways that reach far beyond age, race, class, and material wealth. This practice helps cultivate space and opening of the heart to give unconditionally. The challenge is to reduce the illusion of separation between self and other. What is the difference between you and the homeless person sitting on the sidewalk? Consider that person may have been just like you. Situations change quickly and here they are, without a roof over their head. Just a small turn of chance resulted in that person’s unfortunate situation. On first glance you may see a person with old or filthy clothing, perhaps in need of a bath, on the outside they appear disheveled. Look deeper. What is the expression on their face? Have they not experienced joy and sorry, love, and laughter just like you? Look deeper. What is the desire in their heart? Deep within every person is the desire to be happy, to be safe, to be free from fear and anger? Do you share this in common also? Look deeper. Can you cleanse your inner vision until you see the light within them? Who are they beneath the societal norms, behind the mask of a person with thoughts, memories, and habits? We are all divine. Infinitely capable of the greatest gifts of love and joy despite the harshest of realities.
In doing this work, certain qualities are cultivated that shape us. Practice humility, control the inner ego of striving and boasting. Be simple in your thinking and find solutions that are straightforward. Balance kindness and be firm when necessary coming from a place of love. You don’t have to be perfect to practice seva, know that you are ready anytime with whatever tools and resources you have available to you. Karma Yoga invites us to adjust our lofty standards and the harsh expectations that block the heart from opening and contort the eye from seeing clearly. We must forgive others that may have done us wrong in order to face new situations without resentment, greed, anger or delusion.
Make no mistake, this is not charity work! The practice of seva is as much for our own benefit as it is for those that we hope to serve. Seva is not about solving the world’s problems, rather, it is the practice of opening ourselves up to be available for the universe to use us! To be a humble tool for positive peaceful change. And holding this, in every moment can we focus our mind and heart on the thought, “How can I be most useful, how can I serve the greater good for all of humanity”. That is the greatest and most selfless thought we can have. It is this thought that liberates our egos and frees us from the grips of contempt and fear. This thought will never bring you suffering because even if hardship befall you, nature and the universe will witness that you are dedicating yourself to help all beings and you will be supported, you will be upheld and provided for. There is almost infinite inner and outer power available to those who giving of themselves to the world and ask nothing in return. Give of yourself and you shall have everything.
To practice of seva is to connect with people and look deeper. To look at the world through this lens is to embody an experiential mode of being that encourages growth of empathy and the practice of generosity. Consider practicing seva with everyone. Try not to limiting your practice within the confines of your comfort zone. Be like the water jug, full and ready to give unconditionally nourishing whoever is thirsty.
“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broad concerns of all humanity.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.