Much has been said and written about the need for and the benefits of seva and how it can best be done. Like a farmer, the gracious Master tills the soil of spirituality, sowing the seed of Nam. The soil is suitably prepared, protected with the fence of satsang, then watered and harvested through daily meditation. Seva is meant to check the tendencies of the lower mind which would otherwise be like weeds in the field where the seed of Nam is sown. This is why the saints have laid stress on seva as an integral part of discipleship.
Looking at the disciple’s overall development, the Masters explain that seva is of four types: with wealth, with the body, with mind and with the soul. The first three sevas are the means to the real seva, which is the seva of the soul, or connecting the soul with the sound within. Seva means that service which pleases the Master, and the most pleasing seva to him is our meditation. Seva of wealth is useful because accumulating wealth usually leads us towards self-indulgence, and attachment to wealth creates an inflated ego or sense of superiority within us. Wealth used for the benefit of the whole community helps to eliminate the element of greed and sense of possession. Wealth used for the common good in rendering service to our fellow beings invokes the love and compassion of the Lord.
Seva with the body is also done in order to eliminate ego from within ourselves. Since ego is the biggest barrier between us and the Lord, any service that helps to reduce or eliminate it is acceptable to the Master. The mind is highly impressionable, and by giving us an opportunity to come together and serve, the Master deliberately puts his disciples in a safe and secure environment where they can grow. It is a sure sign of his grace and he wants his disciples to learn to work in harmony and love. The best seva is done when the mind is kept in check and no free rein is given to it. Whatever the assigned seva role may be is immaterial. If the seva is carried out in harmony and in a spirit of love, it has a powerful cleansing effect on the mind. It is a great mistake to think that one seva role is more important than another. Seva is meant to produce the necessary mental discipline and humility to be able to succeed in meditation. Hazur Maharaj Ji spoke about any outward form of seva as “adornment of meditation”.
To stay the seva course, just like a long distance runner, certain disciplines - some do’s and don’ts - form an integral part of training and ultimate success. If physical seva is done merely with the body, without the accompanying discipline and love, then its benefits are naturally limited.
Obedience and discipline are often tested during the Master’s wonderful official or surprise visits to a Centre. Our physical discipline is lacking if we deny Baba Ji the space to come and go freely by rushing and following him from one location to another. When we exercise restraint, the Master praises our discipline to encourage us, but we should remember that there is always room for improvement. Since we are the direct beneficiaries of this discipline, any transgression simply works against our interests and risks the displeasure of the Master.
There have also been instances when we become frustrated and upset if seva is not available on demand. Seva at Centres is meant to facilitate the provision of satsang. In reality we appear to be saying that we can do without satsang but not seva. This is putting the cart before the horse. There may be times when seva is not available in the short term, and accepting the situation cheerfully is also a form of seva. John Milton, the English poet, wrote: “They also serve who only stand and wait.” We are then in the arena of the ‘seva of self-restraint’. Seva of this type is often more difficult than carrying out physical tasks, since we have to check the urgent impulses of the mind. This takes us from the physical to the mental, which links to the spiritual. Seva with the mind means to adopt a positive attitude.
Different types of sevas serve like links in a chain in the development of a disciple. According to the saints, service with the body and wealth is comparatively easy to do. Service with mind is more challenging, and to serve the Lord in spirit by carrying out meditation is the most difficult.
The Master reminds us not to mistake any outward form of seva as a substitute for meditation. To keep the soul attuned to the divine Shabd resounding within us forms the core practice of the science of spirituality. After connecting the soul to the sound current, the Master aims to keep us usefully engaged in seva, alongside meditation, so that our spiritual practice rests safely on a sound foundation of selfless service.
The first and most important thing for an initiate is to realize the great value of human life and the true purpose for which the Lord has conferred this rare gift on us. A soul comes into human life after sometimes passing millions of ages in the lower, sub-human species in which God-realization is not possible. This privilege and capacity to return to our eternal home has been given to human beings only.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Quest for Light