Seva: The Spirit of Service Print E-mail

One of the cornerstones of a spiritual seeker's journey is seva , service. Seva goes much beyond actual service. It is an attitude. When we work in a spirit of seva , we think about what we can give in any interaction rather than what we can gain from it.


Unfortunately, we live in an age where we are getting progressively more self-centred. Whether it is at home, in the office or in interactions outside our circle of colleagues, friends and family, we tend to think more about what we're getting. At home, we're more bothered about how much the other person is doing or not doing rather than focusing on our own efforts to keep the home clean, comfortable and cheerful. As for our office spaces, we are always poor victims being exploited by our companies and bosses. Underpaid and overworked. And in interactions apart from these, we look at what we can extract out of the person or situation that we will come across. The result? Breakdowns in relationships, frustration at the workplace and a definite recipe for misery.


This is why the spirit of seva is necessary in our lives. It comes out of an awareness of all that we have been blessed with. When you realise what you have been given, unasked and unexpected, you realise how important it is to give back. Not because the world needs your help or ours, but because it is simply your duty to do so. When you begin to function out of an attitude of seva , you begin thinking of what you can give. For example, at home, every one has his or her little bit to do. If only we focused on doing our bit and maybe a little more every now and then, would it really hurt us that much? Similarly at work, if we thought about doing a good job without thinking of the paycheck (which is sure to arrive at the end of the month) we'd simplify our lives greatly. And strangely, maybe ironically even, we'd end up benefiting the most.


The first benefit that comes out of seva is a sense of inner peace. It comes out of the satisfaction of doing whatever you can for the common good of the people. The second benefit is that society improves as result of your seva . A little effort of yours can go a long way in helping others. And the third and most important benefit is that it helps you progress on the spiritual path by overcoming your selfishness, bit by bit. It makes you more humane towards the environment and people around you.


Selfishness is like a stalker. You never know when it's going to creep up behind you and grab your personality. Well, that may be a bit dramatic. But you know how it is. There are times when you don't even know it has sneaked into your mind and is rationalising your decisions. This is why it is ever so important to make a conscious effort to deal with it. And what better way, than to work in a spirit of seva .


One of the best ways to inculcate this spirit is by volunteering. It goes much beyond just writing out a cheque for a friend's charity. It involves giving time and effort for a cause you are passionate about. However, seva does not begin and end with volunteering. Seva is an approach that we need at all times and in every sphere of activity.


If you are in Mumbai and are inspired to serve, contact VOLACT – Centre for Promotion of Voluntary Action at: