The Importance of Seva
In Sant Mat the importance of seva, meaning selfless service, is paramount. Mahatma Gandhi summed up the importance of service in his statement, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Through service one loses one’s sense of self-importance and becomes humble. But we can share only what we have within ourselves. This is why Maharaj Charan Singh says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III:
Everything we get is from meditation or from seva or satsang. These are the three things that help us in our spiritual development, and we should try to concentrate on only these three things. Either we should be attentive in satsang, or we should be doing some seva or we should be in meditation. These are the means for our spiritual development.
Sevas other than meditation are a means to an end. That is why the Masters ask us to faithfully attend to meditation as our key seva. Even when putting in our best effort, we don’t know when we will experience any visible inner progress because that is not in our control. He will take us inside when he sees fit. Fortunately for us, the Master has promised to return us to Sach Khand. We can relax and know that he has our best interest at heart. In Spiritual Perspectives,Vol. III, Maharaj Charan Singh writes:
The whole of meditation is seva. The purpose of meditation is to prepare us to accept what the Lord gives, to prepare us not to expect. In prayer we always expect, but in meditation we always accept. That is the difference between meditation and prayer. We pray because we’re expecting something; we do meditation because we are preparing to accept what he wants to give us. In prayer we speak to the Lord; in meditation we hear him. So meditation itself is a seva. First we have to clean the utensil, then we have to fill it. This is also known by mystics as seva. So whenever a disciple can get an opportunity for seva, most welcome.
If you learn to love repeating the Name,
the web of illusion will be torn away,
the ocean of the world will evaporate.
In this age of darkness, tell me,
has anyone ever made the crossing
by another practice, however great?
Reading or teaching scriptures can’t do it –
just repeat the Name.
Rituals can’t lead to knowing God,
you can’t achieve it with yoga or austerity – …
You earn the fortune of devotion
only in the company of mystics.
God has given me his promise, says Namdev,
no other method is needed.
Namdev in Many Voices, One Song