To Serve the Master
O fount of eternal love, what may I say of You? How can I forget You, who have deigned to remember me, even after I was corrupted and lost? You have showed mercy on Your servant beyond all my hope; You have given grace and friendship beyond all my deserts. What return can I make to You for this grace? … And is it a great thing that I should serve You, whom all creation is bound to serve? It should not seem much to me that I should serve You; rather it is great and wonderful to me that You should see fit to receive in Your service one so poor and unworthy, and count him among Your beloved servants.
Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ
As we grow on the spiritual path, many of us develop a keen desire to serve the Master. With the overwhelming love and encouragement constantly showered upon us, we long to offer something in return – however little it may be. Serving our Master is our small way of expressing our love to him.
In the above quote, Thomas à Kempis conveys his gratitude with profound humility – a potent reminder of how truly fortunate we are, that in spite of our heavy load of sins and our unworthiness, the Master grants us the privilege of serving him.
The mystics have often described serving the Master, or seva, as a gift. Apart from helping us control the mind, it diverts our attention from the material world, and keeps us focused on our spiritual goal. We learn to imbibe the virtues of humility and compassion, and perhaps, most importantly, we become truly aware of our insignificance. We realize that without the Master’s guidance and grace, we actually cannot achieve anything.
Although there are several types of seva that we can participate in, such as seva with the body, seva with the mind, and seva with wealth, the Masters have always emphasized that none of these can ever take the place of the most important service – seva of the soul.
You cannot serve the Master in a better way than by following his instructions and living his way of life – attending to your meditation. That is the best service to the Master. You have seen the gardener working harder on the trees that don’t yield any fruit, than on those trees which yield fruit. Those which yield fruit are actually helping the gardener by not demanding much of his time. They are serving the gardener. And those which don’t yield any fruit at all, are making him work harder and harder, more and more. So we can serve the Master by following the teachings, and by living the teachings, thus bearing the fruit for which this human birth has been given to us.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Die to Live
Wanting to serve the Master sincerely, means living in obedience to his will. It is when we carry this attitude of wanting to please him at all times that we show him the depth of our commitment to the path. The Masters continually remind us that meditation is our life support system. It is also the way by which we help the Master accomplish the task of ending our sentence in this otherwise endless prison of birth and death. Through meditation, we invoke his grace to burn the karmas that stand in the way between the Lord and us.
We can only look to the Masters as perfect examples of true servants of the Lord. Out of deep love for their Master, they go through all kinds of hardship to ensure that each and every soul under their care is taken safely back to the Lord. Christ has said, “I lay down my life for the sheep.” And each of us has seen evidence of this as we watch the Masters give their lives to their sangat in order to achieve that one goal: union with the Supreme Lord. It is only by serving our Master, in the way that pleases him the most, that we can truly express our deepest gratitude for everything he does for us.
All that I have is Yours …
Yet, it is really You who serve me, rather than I You …
What return can I make for all these countless favours?
If only I could serve you faithfully all the days of my life!
If only I could render You worthy service, even for a single day!
You are truly my God, and I Your poor servant,
who am bound to serve with all my powers,
nor should I ever weary in Your praise.
This is my wish and desire;
whatever is lacking in me, I pray you to supply.
Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ