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Yogi Bhajan Lecture: Seva is the Food of the Soul

Excerpts from a lecture given on September 9, 1990 in Espanola, New Mexico

Now why are we not successful spiritually, and why are we suffering? That's the point in question. Well, like a beautiful house, we collect dust. Like a beautiful mind, we collect dust. Like a beautiful lamp of light, we collect dust. After five, six months your bulb needs to be cleaned. You may not do it, but if you say it is not collecting dust, that is not true.

Soul is dormant; it needs to be cleansed so it can shine. Mind is super active; it needs to be held, it needs to be cleansed to act according to you and not according to it. Body is active; it needs a lot of rituals to renew it and you know all that. I have seen that people who do Sat Kriya regularly are very intuitive. People who don't are not. I have seen that people who do meditation are very alert and can face problems better than those who don't.

For the physical, cleansing and dusting out yourself is required, and for that I have told you what you can do. For mental cleansing and so you don't blow it, you have to do sadhana. And for spiritual cleansing you have to help somebody to be elevated—seva. That is spiritual food. Your spirit will die without it.

So these are the three processes in life that man has to regularly keep doing. Then man will have the bounty, the beauty, the bliss—three wonderful gifts which come to such a man. Those who don't do it proportionately suffer, that is simple.

There is a secret I want to tell you, we call it ice block. Your personality in the subconscious gets into a refrigerator where the ice cubes are formed of your neurosis and you run around again with them. They are very subtle, they are in us, they constantly haunt us. The haunting thought is so powerful. You see people who do not serve others, who are very slow in spite of the intelligence. People who do not do sadhana are not very accommodating. People who do not take care of their physical way of cleansing are very avoiding; they are not very social. Or they are social but in a very negative way.

In success in life, not only can you succeed with money, but you need two other things too. You need self-confidence and self-esteem. Those are two very definite ingredients which you need. Self-respect will come only to those who relate to their spirit, their soul. Self-esteem will come to those whose mind is under their control through the Shabad of the Guru. Then comes your self-projection. Self-projection will come to those who keep their physical very, very fit.

I am sharing with you my technical knowledge; it is a seva—when you serve another person. Problem is when you serve somebody, you would rather take bad karma because when you serve somebody or you love somebody, you expect something at least equal—if not more, even if you want somebody to thank you. What a ridiculous thing this is.

You do good to somebody. It remains good if you do it in the name of your own God—that is a seva. If you do in the name of your own spirit, your own soul—that is seva. If you do something expecting something tomorrow, you better not do it. It is not worth it; it is not seva. Seva is a conscious and deliberate service to benefit another person even at your own cost. Whosoever does seva, God comes through. 

Whosoever will do Simran (1) in the ambrosial hour will have clarity of intuition, and without intuition you are helpless, useless and bogus. Have you seen that game you play—snake and ladder? You will get all the ladders but when you reach 99 snakes, you will go back to the bottom. That is why Simran is essential. Seva to keep the soul alive, Simran to keep the mind alive and be intuitive. Without intuition you have nothing. Because when time hits you then you are just going to fight it, but when the intuition hits you beforehand and tells you what you are going to fight for, you can avoid it or at least you can be pre-prepared. That comes through sadhana.

Sometimes your body symptoms, your attitude and your manner does represent the handicap of the soul. But if you can keep your soul alive and feed it and nurture it by serving others and forgetting yourself, that is the principle. “I serve thee in the name of my lord and I ask the privilege to serve thee.” That is the mantra of seva. Then all in the world will come to you as happiness.

Seva gives you the radiance.

What I am saying to you is that any person who shall not develop the physical, mental, spiritual capacity to serve flawlessly and serve through the greatest storm of insults and who cannot still walk through the personal tragedies, shall not find himself very fit.

And you must have a grit beyond human, because one who comes to you and seeks help is God also. That person who comes to ask your counseling or advice or looks to you in anger and abuse or in grace or in sweetness—once he has come to you, the truth is, God has come to you. Serve that person not as a human but as a God.

If you do not have the eye to see God in another person and serve him as God, you are blind. If you don't hear his complaint or complex as if God is speaking to you, you are deaf. If you don't speak to him as you would speak to Almighty God, you are dumb.

My dear folks, time has come near and let us be very clear with each other. Let us be sure that the future has to be endured. Let us call on our own God within and let us remember the words of the Guru and let us carry the mission and serve with the attitude and manners of its magnitude, to which we all belong. It's the human thing to do. This Universe and this environment will come and serve you. You will be happy here and hereafter. You will be fulfilled here, blessed here, bountiful here and hereafter. Make a trail on which your generation can walk with pride, with excellence and with success. May Guru bless you all for walking on this path. The very fact that you are here, that is success. Let us keep walking.

(1) Simran is meditation on the Infinite

©The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan