Most people get the reason why we meditate. They can understand it’s relevance to the spiritual path – going deeper into one’s own being.
Also, with the practice of Mantra repetition, once they understand how these spiritual sounds effect us, they can easily see how important Mantra repetition is to our spiritual sadhana or path.
But when it comes to seva – people can get confused.
Seva is the simple task of offering our time and talents to our highest ideal without any expectation of anything in return.
One of the ways we can do this is by donating our time and effort to our spiritual teacher’s mission, if we have a teacher. If we don’t have a spiritual teacher we can do seva for our Ishta Deva through volunteering at a shelter or the like.
It is the offering of ourselves in this way that we do something extraordinary – we do this seva without expecting anything in return. It is to be offered selflessly – meaning without any self interest.
In this world where most are doing ‘business’, it often seems that every connection is about ‘I’ll do this for you if you’ll do this for me’. ‘I’ll give you this product for this price’, ‘I’ll be your friend as long as you promise never to disagree with me’ or ‘I’ll love you if you promise to love me back’.
The practice of seva gives you a part of your life that is exempt from that behavior….to have something you do in life with the aspiration of pure motivation, with no expectation and to carry it out with love. It is such a high practice that it can take you all the way to enlightenment. Yes! It’s that powerful.
But it’s not that easy to do.
One of the ways we can help ourselves once we find a seva to do that we like, is to build some ritual around it. Saying a prayer before we begin and when we complete the action, saying another prayer to offer it up. In this way we are showing ourselves that these set of actions that we are doing are an offering – not like our normal day to day.
Another way we can help ourselves while practicing seva is to stay present as much as possible. Almost use it as a meditation. Be very aware of what is going on in the seva circumstances. What thoughts arise? How you feel about the other people you are doing seva with? How you feel about yourself? Are you doing it with love, with attention, with devotion?
A mistake often that people make when they are offering seva for their spiritual teacher is they feel like they are doing it for the teacher – the person – they feel – ‘Oh my teacher is benefiting from me washing this dish’, or ‘Oh, you know, when I do this out in the world, people pay me x amount of dollars for this’ or ‘ha! my teacher should be paying me! You know with all the work I’m doing for this organization – I should be getting a cut of what they make!’
If you are thinking this way – you have totally missed the point.
Seva is not about serving the human being called ‘teacher’. Seva is about serving the Divine energy within you and in doing so, serving the Divinity in all beings. It’s about connecting with that.
If you feel your spiritual teacher is walking their talk and really teaching to benefit others and you believe in them – then help them with an open joyful heart because in the end it will be you who will truly benefit. If you don’t feel like they are walking their talk then I would leave right away and find a teacher who is.
There are amazing gifts and insights that the offering of seva can bring you – so many in fact I couldn’t fit them all here, but here are a few that you might experience:
1. A sense of closer connection with your teacher and teacher’s lineage – when you help a true spiritual teacher you align yourself with their Shakti – with their energy and the energy of their lineage.
2. A realization of non-doership – where you realize it is not ‘you’ who is doing the actions – they are just getting done by this body, this mind and this speech.
3. A sense of contributing to something greater.
4. A sense of belonging to a community with like minded people on the same path.
And that’s just a few of the benefits that one can experience on the glorious path of seva.
In the end, everything becomes seva. Your whole day and all your actions within it is an offering to the Beloved that lives within you.
A Mantra that can help us with our attitude and practice of seva is of Hanuman:
OM HUM HANUMATE RUDRATMAKAYA HUM PHAT SWAHA
SALUTATIONS TO THAT PRANA WHICH IS ENERGIZED BY THE POWERFUL ATTENDANT OF SHIVA. MAY THAT PRANA ELIMINATE ALL NEGATIVE INFLUENCES.
Say it 108 times in the morning and 108 times at night and make space in your life for the beautiful offering of seva or selfless service. You will be amazed at what will happen in your life and how it will be transformed – the trick is though to not expect it to do so:-)