The True Purpose of Seva
The subject of seva is not new to seekers on the path of Sant Mat. Many seekers are fortunate to enjoy the great privilege and opportunity to do seva. Most of us will also be aware of the four types of seva – with the body, wealth, mind and soul. Seva with the body and wealth is usually tangible. However, seva with the mind and soul is less visible and may consequently be neglected.
When we do seva with the body or wealth we tend to apply the principles used by us in the world, at work and in business. So, invariably, we are guided by the principles of executing the task within the shortest possible time, with the greatest efficiency, at the least cost, with great speed and the usual competitive spirit – so common in the world and business environment. Although these principles all seem important and appropriate for any task, there is often the risk that these take precedence over the principles of seva.
Seva isn’t purely about the execution of a task. It is really about principles such as love, humility, harmony, selfless service and brotherhood. These lofty principles can so easily be overlooked in favour of simply getting the job done. The task at hand must be seen as only the means to the end, which is love and humility. In Spiritual Heritage, Maharaj Charan Singh said, in relation to seva with the body:
Seva we do to eliminate our ego, not to inflate our ego. If the attitude of authority comes into seva, if we think that by doing seva we have become a boss over others, then we are inflating our ego and it is having the reverse effect. That is not seva. But if we are doing seva for the benefit of another person, then there is humility in it. There should be humility in seva, an attitude of serving. Service, real seva, means to please another person, not to please yourself.
Maharaj Ji makes it clear that seva is not merely the execution and accomplishment of a particular task. It is more about eliminating the ego. We must therefore realize that the task at hand is only the means to an end and not the end in itself.
Clearly, the purpose of seva is to eliminate the ego. This means that we have to remove the self in order to make our seva selfless. So, how is this accomplished practically? The critical ingredients include: an attitude of serving or benefiting others; pleasing others; eliminating any authoritarian approach, not bossing others, maintaining humility, and most importantly, forgetting about one’s own self-interest, and personal agenda.
Seva with body and wealth is only a means to an end because we want to develop humility and subdue the mind in order to do seva with the mind and soul. We know that the mind is an extremely powerful instrument and we therefore need to bring it under our control. So, how do we use the mind in selfless service?
If we use the mind to think wholesome and pure thoughts it will yield wholesome and pure words and actions leading to kindness, compassion, consideration, generosity and love. In addition to making us better human beings it will create the right atmosphere for meditation.
The mind can also best serve us by satisfying the intellect, developing conviction with respect to the path, which will lead to faith and then practice. Seva with the mind is also achieved by reading Sant Mat books, attending satsangs and discriminating between what takes us towards or away from our goal.
These three sevas – body, wealth and mind – are all means for seva of the soul, which is the most important seva and is the crux of Sant Mat. Seva with the soul can only be done by meditation as taught by the Masters. This seva will help us develop love for the Master and the Lord. As Maharaj Charan Singh advised us:
The best way to develop love for the Master is to devote your time to simran and bhajan. The more time you spend in the spiritual exercises with faith, love, and humility, the greater will be your love for the Master and God.
Quest for Light
We know meditation is focusing all our attention at a single point so that our soul current is drawn inwards, which enables us to tune into the Divine Melody or Shabd within and ultimately merge with it. To achieve this focus, the Masters teach us to use the thinking and visualization attributes of our mind. Meditation capitalizes on these attributes to bring the mind under control by controlling our thoughts.
Channeling and focusing our attention at the eye center is only a means to the final goal of listening to the Sound Current that reverberates within every one of us. By attending to this melodious current, the soul is transported inwards and upwards, as it enjoys the peace, bliss and tranquillity of the inner regions.
Eventually the mind is taken back to its home – the region of universal mind known as Trikuti – while the soul continues onwards, ultimately merging with the Shabd to become one with it. Throughout the meditation practice and the journey within, the Shabd Master is always with the disciple, forever guiding and protecting him.
In Light on Sant Mat, Maharaj Charan Singh said:
Real Love is engendered and fostered only when you go in, come in contact with Shabd and have a glimpse of the Master inside. In addition to bhajan and simran, the best way to engender this love is to read Sant Mat literature, associate with devoted satsangis who go in and are in touch with Shabd, render selfless service to satsang (that is, without any desire or expectation), have the company of and association with a living Master whenever possible, and last but not least, do intensive simran – repetition of the five Holy Names.
The importance of our meditation can never be overstated. The Masters reiterate this repeatedly as they draw our attention to this, our most essential practice. In fact, in the book A Wake Up Call, Maharaj Charan Singh is quoted as saying:
My only advice is that whatever we may do and in whatever circumstances we may live, our meditation should be our main concern, and this should never be sacrificed to anything of this life.