Seva (Selfless Service)

The Sanskrit word “seva” means selfless service. Seva is an integral part of spirituality. There is an old Indian saying: A tree does not eat its own fruit and a river does not drink its own water. It is for the welfare of the other that a good soul takes this body.

This is the essence of seva  – acts of giving for which we expect nothing in return. When we are aware of all of the blessings in our lives, we are filled with a sense of gratitude. The overflow of this fullness manifests as seva in the world. Seva requires generosity of the heart. Living in the world with the attitude of “What can I do for you?” If it is within our means to fulfill that need, even after a little sacrifice or inconvenience, it is a noble thing to do.

Usually in our interactions we are always looking for an exchange for our good deeds.  Whenever an exchange is involved, there is a transaction that ends. The experience of seva is different. With seva, the feeling of gratitude in the heart of the recipient keeps coming to us in the form of blessings. 

We have to come from a place of fullness to give. If we expect anything in return for our actions of kindness, even acknowledgment or thanks, we short-change ourselves of the real blessings of seva. Our act becomes self-serving. If we are not careful, our good deeds can easily turn into acts of self-aggrandizement and we end up deluding ourselves. 

The mind will say, “What is in it for me?” When you engage in seva, you are always getting ten times more back. It may not be very apparent, but the fruit of that action comes back to you and is received by your deep Self. 

Seva is not only working in soup kitchens or shelters. We engage in seva any time we put others’ interests first. Sometimes it takes very little – it can be letting someone go in front of you in line or picking up trash on the beach.  And seva can be as large-hearted as opening your home to someone in need, like a neighbor of ours who recently offered shelter and support to a refugee family. 

If we pay attention, there is seva happening around us all of the time.  

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