The Transformational Effect of Seva
Metamorphosis is the transformation of a creature into a completely different one, either through natural or supernatural means. The most common example of metamorphosis is the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly. Let us consider the butterfly’s process for a moment in the light of seva, which has a similar transformational effect in our life.
After it is born the caterpillar indulges in the pleasures of its little world – eating incessantly. Its movement and worldview are limited to the plant on which it is born. But at some mysterious point, something clicks in its little caterpillar ‘brain’ and it loses all interest in eating. It finds a suitable spot, builds itself a cocoon, and withdraws into it.
There it completely surrenders itself to a magical process. Biologists tell us that in the cocoon the caterpillar dissolves into a sort of chunky, protoplasmic soup – some of its parts remain intact, some completely dissolve. Over time it regenerates into a completely new form – that of a beautiful butterfly.…
Similarly, every disciple of a true master has the opportunity to undergo a process of spiritual metamorphosis. Initially we too are involved in incessant indulgence in the sense pleasures. But at some point, just like the caterpillar, we begin to lose interest. Seva – with body, wealth, mind and soul – is the cocoon we voluntarily enter. Each time we meditate, or cook a meal for the sangat, or do a round of simran – we are entering our spiritual cocoon.
Creatures like butterflies and moths enter the cocoon once, remain in it for several days, and come out transformed. Our process is different: we enter our invisible cocoon every day for little bursts of time and then are forced out again into a world of temptations. Over and over again we make sacrifices to set aside these temptations and re-enter the cocoon. This requires countless efforts – big and small – that slowly deepen our faith and resolve.… The process of transformation takes a lifetime to complete.