The original article is found at www.3ho.org and reposted here for our local yogis to read. Sometimes this comes down to the most important aspect of yoga, yet so often overlooked. It is not the action, but the cultivation of strength and perception to offer yourself to another.
SEVA AND SERVICE
“You do good to somebody, it remains good if you do it in the name of your own God. That is a seva. If you do it in the name of your own spirit, your own soul, that is seva. If you do something expecting something tomorrow, you better not do it. It’s not worth it. It’s not seva. Seva is a conscious and deliberate service to benefit another person, even at your cost. Remember, whosoever does seva it is one to a hundred, God comes through.” ~ Yogi Bhajan
WHAT IS SEVA?
Seva is an attitude as much as it is an action.Seva, defined as selfless service, is when you approach the world around you from the perspective of “what can I provide to uplift these people, this place.” Then, going to the grocery store is not about restocking your pantry but an opportunity to connect to people in your community with a smile or a joke as well as support your family and household. Every action and interaction can become seva when it is conceived and executed without thought to how it benefits you or if you will receive praise.
At other times, seva can be a focused, premeditated activity such as preparinglangar, a community meal, volunteering with an existing service organization, or even starting your own organization to fill an unmet need in the community. The concept of seva is familiar, usually central, to many faiths and cultures. And doingseva feels good!
POWER TO SACRIFICE LEADS TO HAPPINESS
In the seven steps to happiness outlined by Yogi Bhajan, the sixth step, Power to Sacrifice, equates to seva and leads directly to happiness
Once seva has truly become selfless, then you know you’ve made it. When your actions are without all the trappings of ego and maya, then you are in a state of yoga, a place of union. It is the culmination of all those Kundalini Yoga kriyas, the early mornings of sadhana, meditations to clean the subconscious, and the commitment to live consciously. Possessing the power to sacrifice manifests asseva, living in a space of neutrality, beyond duality.
AN EXPRESSION OF GRATITUDE
Being able to give is also an expression of deep gratitude. Starting with our breath, each of us receives so much, every day, from the Infinite that participating in sevais a natural response rooted in gratitude. When connected to sweet presence of the divine, serving others is a way of expressing thanks and responding to the gifts we receive.
Seva allows us an opportunity to be fully compassionate, to engage with our world and community. Along with creating a space of neutrality that results in happiness, the act of seva is one of gratitude.
INVISIBLE ACTS OF POWER
The power in kind words, thoughts, and compassionate responses given in the name of love is the energy of grace. In her book Invisible Acts of Power, Carolyn Myss, Ph.D., offers this “to-do” list of invisible acts of power that hundreds of people reported meant the most to them:
1. Hold a door open.
3. Offer a kind word and encouragement.
4. Give a compliment.
5. Listen without interruption.
6. Make a call when your intuition tells you to.
7. Offer a prayer for a homeless person.
8. Pray – period.
9. Forgive others and yourself.
10. Prepare a meal for a friend.
11. Refrain from judging another person harshly.
12. Remember that life is full of miracles and have faith that every difficult situation can change in the blink of an eye.
13. Remember the truth that there is no such thing as a small or insignificant act of service.
14. Keep your power and attention in the present time.
15. Begin and end the day in appreciation of either doing or accepting an act of service.
As a recipient of a kind act, we often react with the thought, “Oh, I must pay this person back.” Whether it be about acknowledging the gift, evening the score, or displaying gratitude, this response tends to be centered in the ego. Instead, when you receive a gift, physical or otherwise, first bring it to your altar. Thank the Infinite, the true source of all we receive in this life, and recognize that the person who gave it to you is G.O.D. Saying a prayer or blessing for this person is a beautiful way to acknowledge his or her seva. And, of course, a big smile or thank you directly to the person is a wonderful courtesy.