The Heart of Seva

By Swami Sahajananda

Seva (selfless service) is doing your work, and everything else, as an act of worship.  Without expecting results, you make this offering to God and/or Guru.  You see and honor the Divine in each person whatever the task may be.  Swami Muktananda said that no work can be an obstacle on the spiritual path. He promised that anyone worshipping God while fulfilling his or her vocation is fulfilling the purpose of their birth.  It’s a beautiful practice, no matter what you do in the world, dedicating it to God makes it a spiritual pursuit.

Last month, I was immersed in the seva of supporting many people in our India Retreat.  This experience gave me a richer understanding of this deeply powerful practice.  All our retreatants lovingly attended to their various sevas. Throughout, they were present and grounded in their assigned tasks.  To a sevite who cleared and cleaned the tent 3 or 4 times daily, I expressed my appreciation for her attentiveness and positive attitude.  I marveled that she stacked up the very heavy blankets each time.  Without hesitation she said, “It’s my seva!”  That said it all.

Also many people served and supported me while I was in India. I became aware of feeling their actions emanating from their heart.  Each action was a dedication to God.  The power of their attitude of service amazed me.  I felt they saw each person they were serving as God. God was serving God —never a sigh of exhaustion, exasperation or complaint. Always, a friendly smile readily emanated from their heart through their eyes.  Yes, many receive pay for their work; still, I experienced their service coming from their deeper essence.  A human heart-to-heart layer is always there.  Their gaze lingers eye to eye, with their hands in front of their heart, as they say, “Namaste.”

I can trace this feeling back to before my sannyas (swami) initiation.  Even before I considered becoming a swami, I decided to offer my teaching work as seva.  It felt right, even amidst some objections from my mind.  That decision shifted me.  It has changed how I live my life.  It has allowed me to attend to teaching in a whole new way.  My attitude now is that I am serving God.  I remind myself that the Divine is within each student whom I teach or talk with.  This knowing expands as I interact with them and see and feel the Divine within everyone.

Looking at life this way shifts everything.  Doing all for God, I am going to do the best I can.  For what else is there?  It’s not about competition or making more money.  It’s not about status or fame.  It’s about giving what I can from a place inside of me that is free of the constrictions that make me small.  I serve from my heart, which is my Self.  Seva thus opens the contracted space my mind has created, dissolving the walls and divisions.  When relating to the people in my life this way, my being expands.  I am just serving God.

To serve God from my own Divine Essence frees me from the tethers of my mind. There are so many ways to experience and offer seva.  In giving of herself or himself, free from expectations, the sevite receives so much.  The gift of offering seva is that is takes you into the essence of your own being, your own Self.