Something Is Missing
Many years ago a keen young disciple, enthralled by Dera and the satsang centres he saw in India, asked Maharaj Charan Singh if they could purchase and develop a property in his home country. It would, he said, make it easier for the Master to visit. However, this was clearly not the right time, and Hazur memorably replied that he would come “for people and hearts, not bricks and mortar.”
Now, in the twenty-first century, we are blessed with a fair share of “bricks and mortar” – satsang properties scattered in many countries outside India, and these are maintained by thousands of sevadars across the globe. Some of them are used to host the Master’s official programmes in those countries, and year-round they fulfil a further function as administrative centres. Whether sevadars are engaged in preparing for a national or international satsang, maintaining buildings and grounds, providing services such as catering or first aid, or keeping the accounts, they are part of a two-way process whereby in giving devoted service they also receive.
Baba Ji has often asked us to support each other in the worldly jungle in which we live. So the purpose of our properties, as well as being a practical solution to the challenge of finding a suitable venue where many people can gather for satsang, is to establish a framework on which seva can grow. They provide a supportive trellis for that tender vine, our spiritual life. Here, at the Science of the Soul properties, we can indeed find that support group which Baba Ji wants for us and that support is what sevadars receive – not praise, not worldly recompense, not status, not position, but simple companionship, occasional learning experiences, and always a reminder of what it’s all about – devotion to the Master we all want to please.
What, then, of the present time, when due to the Covid 19 crisis, many satsang properties are closed? As a caretaker in one such centre, I can report that the wildlife is thriving! At this time of year in the western hemisphere, birds are building their nests and their calls sound from dawn till dusk, clearly audible now that the roads are so much quieter. Marauding geese have taken over the grounds, rabbits frisk outside their burrows, and the kitchen has been invaded by ants. A handful of sevadars are able to deal with these intruders and can tackle the other essential tasks. But how strange the atmosphere. Beautiful? – Yes, it’s always beautiful. Peaceful? – Yes, more peaceful than when filled with busy people at a weekend. Quiet? – Yes, of course. But something vital is missing, and the residents, whilst carrying out all that can reasonably be carried out, experience a lack of what can best be described as buoyancy. Just as sevadars are missing their regular visit or weekend stay at the property, the property is missing them.
It's as if the atmosphere which is usually like a buoyant balloon, lifted and made airborne by the breath which fills it, is now deflated. The loving energy of the sevadars who usually come here is gone. We are missing those affectionate, enthusiastic, devoted, diligent, companionable lovers of the Guru, now confined to their homes.
It’s been pointed out in the media and otherwise that some unlooked-for benefits have accrued from confinement in our dwelling places. Families are having to ‘dig deep’ to keep themselves and their children well-occupied and well-exercised. They have woken up to the need to give attention to elderly family members and elderly neighbours who in the normal hurly-burly of working life may have been overlooked. It’s a good reminder, a salutary lesson, that “charity begins at home” and that this applies to seva too. Seva, or service, begins at home in caring for every member of the family, and only when we are doing our best at home can seva beyond the home be honestly offered.
The other lesson can be summed up by that line in Joni Mitchell’s song Big Yellow Taxi – “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” Now that sevadars are no longer able to come to the properties we are all recognizing just what we’ve got and praying for its eventual return. The following question-and-answer with Hazur Maharaj Ji sums up the great gift of seva that we are missing.
Q: Maharaj Ji, could you tell us the value of seva at home, at our own satsang centres?
Master: The greatest reward in seva is the contentment and happiness that you feel within, that you get an opportunity to serve someone. That is the greatest happiness one can ever get, to make someone happy. It doesn’t make you so happy if anybody makes you happy, but it definitely makes you very happy when you are in a position to make someone else happy, and that is the real seva. Seva for any institution, seva for any individual, seva for the masses – in other words, a charitable attitude of helping other people – that is seva. We do seva with our body, we do seva with our mind, we do seva with our money. The base of seva is love and devotion for the Father.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III, #191