Seva: Serving the God in All
“Ego is the biggest disease and is also the biggest solution. If you can divert your ego and use your ego so that, ‘I have to become a forklift and I am to lift everybody; whatever comes my way, I’ll keep up to uplift people.’ That is seva. That is service. That will give you perpetual friendship, perpetual relationships, dignity, integrity, opportunity, wealth, prosperity, you name it.” -Yogi Bhajan
Seva is non-attached action; giving without the expectation of receiving or gaining a special outcome. Seva is not volunteer work that you do in exchange for attendance, fame, or acknowledgment. Seva is selfless service. Arjuna acted in seva when he stepped into battle after his enlightened exchange with Krishna. Arjuna learned that despite his preferences and his attachment and his desires, the Universe was moving in a direction and he had to serve that truth and that reality. This might sound easy, but how do you know truth; how do you know what is real?
In order to be in seva, in service to God, in service to higher consciousness, you must know higher consciousness—your true self. When you are clear about who you are—your divine identity—your actions can serve that divine identity, and when they do, when you are in that clarity, you are automatically in seva. All your talents and your unique personality will be used by the Universe to serve others. What happens to you and through you will feel miraculous because you are in service to the vastness of God's creation.
Not only do you need to understand your divine identity to be in seva, but you have to experience it regularly through sadhana—through actions that train you to experience vastness and God. This is why seva is a part of many religious and spiritual traditions. The masters, saints, and sages are trying to help you find your divine identity though assigning you to learn about selfless service. The intention is to give you the personal experience of the impersonal: if you serve any person or situation, you serve in the spirit that they are divine and infinite just as you are and just as God is, so you are serving God and Infinity through that situation.
It may take some time for you to break through to the true experience of seva. First you may experience feelings of distrust, or you may experience feelings that you are working harder than anyone else (e.g. I am washing the pots here at Summer Solstice and someone over there is just welcoming people—it’s not fair!). You may wish you were in charge of the seva team and be unhappy with the way it is being managed. There can be any number of thoughts and feelings. According to the spiritual path of seva, if you keep up, you can break through the hierarchy of thoughts that separate you from everyone else, and the thoughts judging yourself and others. You can experience that reality that you are part of the universal consciousness, serving one who is you, who is all, who is God.
You serve in order to first learn, and then continue to experience the bliss that God is everywhere, in all people, in all environments, and in all actions. Those who serve are blessed. Those who demand through need and hidden agendas are not in the spirit of seva. They are not in service to universal truth, but are serving ego and fear. On a spiritual path one must be aware that seva is spiritual service, not a power trip. Seva is the power, and cannot be a manipulation.
“You do not have the right to judge, you only have the right to serve.”
In the late 1990’s, I was serving at a Master’s Touch course. Yogi Bhajan was teaching. He asked, “What is the purpose of life?” Many students raised their hands to answer. One by one he took the answers.
“To love God.”
Many students answered many different ways. He said no to all. Then one student said, “To link your Sat with your Nam.” Yogiji laughed. He was looking for another answer but could not deny the truth in this one. He smiled and said something like, “Ah, you have been studying. Yes, that is correct, but what else?” We continued the conversation. Yogi Bhajan went on to say that the purpose of life was to enjoy it!
Seva, like any part of a spiritual path will ultimately bring you great fulfillment and bliss. Yogi Bhajan taught that our capacity for seva, as a community, will be what defines us as leaders and spiritual teachers. When you read his teachings, watch the videos of his classes and lectures, and study the teachings of the ten Gurus, you will be inspired to reach the state of mastery that true seva represents. Chant Sat Nam, and let your Sat link with your Nam: let Truth be your Divine Identity. Let your actions serve that truth. Vibrate the Cosmos and the cosmos shall clear the path.
“What is your power? Money? Health? Knowledge? No! Your everlasting power is seva, selfless service. If you do not have the power to elevate others, you have absolutely no power. If your attitude does not elevate others, you are not human. Lack of seva can raise you to nothing. Real seva can raise you to everything. What is keeping you bound down to your lower self? It is your neuroses. You are stuck in your neuroses. You are trapped. You love your ego more than your identity. “In God I trust,” is what you have to learn. Get up in the morning, do your sadhana, cleanse yourself. It will bring you purity and piety so you may elevate yourself, and then you can elevate others.” Yogi Bhajan
IKYTA Members can join Hari Kaur for a special Community Conversation about seva on Thursday, November 11 at 5:30 pm (MT): Seva—Kundalini Yoga Teachers as Leaders and Spiritual Teachers. Learn more about Yogi Bhajan's teachings on Seva and share what you are doing in your communities. This Community Conversation is Free for IKYTA Members. To register email [email protected]
Hari Kaur Khalsa teaches Kundalini Yoga Classes and Teacher Trainings in the U.S. and abroad. She is founder of Village Yoga (yoga classes in the beautiful sanctuary of St. John’s Church) in partnership with Pastor Lyndon Harris. Hari and Lyndon Harris work together to bring healing and arts to the West Village in NYC and create breakthrough paradigms for yoga classes in sacred spaces in NYC and beyond. Married to jazz musician Dave Frank, Hari and Dave make their home in New York City, bringing music and yoga to uplift the spirit. Hari is co-author of A Woman's Book of Yoga: Embracing Our Natural Life Cycles (Penguin 2002) and author of A Woman's Book of Meditation: Discovering the Power of a Peaceful Mind (Penguin 2006). www.reachhari.com