The Best Seva
Maharaj Sawan Singh, in Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. IV, offers a touching description of the relationship we have with God:
All living beings are of the same essence as the Lord. They are his children. Just as a child is a part of the flesh of the mother, it lives in her womb and is brought up there, similarly we are born in God, are brought up in him and are connected with him in the same way as a child is with the mother. In fact he is never separate from her.… A mother is never neglectful of her child. Because of her genuine love, she cannot be indifferent to him. We have an even stronger connection with the Lord.… The Lord is never unmindful of us even for a moment. He is always looking after us. We have never been separated from him. He is always with us and always pervades our entire being.
We are part and parcel of the Lord, and yet sometimes we question whether or not we are getting enough of our Master’s companionship. It is important to remind ourselves that some of the things we imagine about our relationship with the Lord and with the Master are pure fiction.
One of these imaginary concerns relates to physical darshan. We may believe that the more we can be in the Master’s physical presence, the greater will be our spiritual progress. The logical conclusion to this concept is that people who live at the Dera or who see him frequently will not have to struggle as hard in meditation as we do. We may also think that those who get to visit yearly get all the spiritual advantages. And then it would follow that those who sit in the front rows receive more from the Guru than those with seats in the back. But none of this is true. Physical distance does not affect our relationship with our Master, which is personal and internal.
Maharaj Charan Singh puts it plainly in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III:
Your Master is always within you. He is not anywhere outside at all. We should try to reach him, seek him who is our constant companion. He never leaves us, though we may leave him. So we should never feel disheartened at all. We are never alone – our Master is always with us.
Seva is another fruitful playground for the mind and its delusions. Concerning seva and sevadars, we might assume that those whose seva brings them into personal contact with the Master are more blessed than those who work in a far distant field. Or that those who have been given some measure of authority, or responsibility, or leadership are more valued by the Master and are receiving more grace than those who merely quietly serve. Or that only a few lucky ones are given the chance to serve and to contribute to the sangat because seva is a precious and very limited commodity that is only distributed to select individuals. But the Masters proclaim that they have no favourites and that the grace of the Lord is present in the life of every disciple.
Maharaj Charan Singh has said that the value of seva is not ultimately related to the type or amount of seva given, but rather to what we put into it. In Legacy of Love he is quoted as saying, “The value of seva is not how much one offers, but in the feelings and love with which it is offered.” We might begin to get a glimpse of the wondrous power of this kind of love and feeling when we see the manner in which the Masters themselves offer their service to the sangat.
The chief mischief of our fanciful imagined deprivation or distance from our Master is when it distracts us from our genuine good fortune: every initiate has already been given the best seva, and we are invited on a daily basis to enjoy a very personal relationship with our Master.
Every day each initiate is invited to spend two and one-half hours with his or her Master. In meditation, our Master is fully present. Even when we are unable to focus our entire attention on him, he is still completely available to us. Every day we are urged to sit in his presence and to relax into the most loving, important and purposeful relationship of our lives. Every day, 365 days each year, for our entire lifetime we are given the opportunity to turn our gaze away from the world and to look toward our Beloved. Most amazing of all, our Master accepts all the varieties of meditation we offer to him, including the scattered, meandering, distracted kind.
If we are initiated, then we have already been given the real prize, the choicest assignment, the ultimate promotion, the best possible meditation practice. We have been given the privilege of spending two and one-half hours daily of private inner time with our Master.
And what about all that happens outside in the world? We have to trust that the Lord gives each of us what is spiritually in our best interest. Sometimes that is physical darshan, sometimes not. Sometimes we get to do seva that we love. Other times our physical seva seems impossibly difficult. Sometimes the seva we enjoy is taken away from us and we are handed new assignments. Sometimes we get along wonderfully with our fellow sevadars. Other times we may feel alienated, frustrated, and alone. As happens in all circumstances in the external world, our moods, our satisfaction, and our comprehension rises and falls, ebbs and flows. The struggle with the mind is constant.
But we have been given a refuge. We have been given a seva where we can take shelter from the unpredictable winds of the world. Every morning, and throughout the day, we are invited to turn inward to the source of our ultimate happiness, peace, and comfort.
If someone asks us, “What seva has the Master asked you to do?” We can smile and reply, “I have been given the highest form of service. I have been given the opportunity to meditate.”
Seva is the needed medicine for the disease that sickens all of us: ego. If we become intensely absorbed in serving, we just may forget the self. When we begin to discard or disregard the self, the task we are doing begins to be seva. We might not even be conscious that this transformation is taking place because we are so absorbed in our service.…
The master repeatedly explains that the purpose of seva is to support meditation. The highest seva is meditation itself.
Physical or outer seva helps to create the right frame of mind for attending to meditation. It is a means, not an end. There is no substitute for the inner service of meditation.
A Wake Up Call: Beyond Concepts and Illusions