By Shabad Kaur Khalsa, LCPC, LMFT, E-RYT 500 and Shiva Singh Khalsa, E-RYT 500
“Giving is the only way. Don’t give only to those who ask. Give to those who don’t ask. Keep on giving. Become a giver. Your faculty and God’s faculty will become the same. That’s absolute divinity.”
-Yogi Bhajan 9/4/01
At our Solstice staff meetings each year we talked about the best ways to encourage the attendees at Solstices to participate in Seva (selfless service) teams. Yogi Bhajan emphasized three types of yoga: Kundalini Yoga, White Tantric Yoga® and Karma Yoga—the act of selfless service without being attached to the reward or even the end result.
As we study and live the 3HO lifestyle it becomes immensely clear that we are blessed to have had a teacher like Yogi Bhajan who courageously taught us the complete system of yogic lifestyle, translated into action from the ancient writings to a modern model.
He said in every way possible that being a giver was essential for spiritual growth. He told us to love, serve, obey, excel, and, of course, to Keep Up!—the essence of Cherdi Kala—to approach all things including challenges, with an attitude of gratitude, serving the Infinite, seeing G-O-D in all.
In the timeless Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna described the foundation for practicing a spiritual life as not necessarily remaining in solitude or ‘actionless,’ since the state of action or inaction is primarily determined in the mind. So we can see that service performed in a householder’s life and also in community activities, can definitely be a life informed by spirit.
Giving is going beyond yourself, and it is healing in relationships and can even inspire creativity. Why do you think we call it ‘making’ dinner and ‘making’ love and even ‘making’ up after a disagreement?
“Service is where you totally don’t feel like serving; you’re tired, you’re jet-lagged, you’re obnoxious, you’re very, very angry; and still you go into the kitchen and you make a good dish and you say, ‘Are you hungry? I made this for you.’ That’s called serving.”
Yogiji often said ‘Duty is beauty,’ leading to the same conclusion to live in Dharma and not stuck on the wheel of Karma.
How do we teach the value of seva? It is often the teacher that has the blessing to create a spark that makes the embers glow and finally consumes the ego. Unconscious self-absorption transforms into radiance. In our Teacher Training, we give the Trainees simple housekeeping tasks to do on Training days, to serve each other in small ways. Then the spark occurs.
Spirit Rising Foundation
Our Spirit Rising Foundation is committed to be known by our service. Over the years we have organized regular seva projects ranging from cleaning up parks to feeding families of hospitalized children to serving meals to the homeless. We partnered to help found I-Grow Chicago, which has taught yoga, peacemaking and community farming to hundreds of youth in Chicago’s violent and poverty-stricken Englewood neighborhood.
We also worked to make a difference by crafting handmade holiday cards for an organization that works to prevent isolation and loneliness for the elderly. We strive to find seva projects that families and children can participate in, so that children can experience the value and benefits from giving at an early age.
And who do we serve? Even though many of us may be privileged and not in great need, it is still vital to serve each other. After all, evidence of true prosperity is a willingness to share with others.
“Recognize that the other person is you.”
(1st Sutra of the Aquarian Age)
It’s a way of walking through life. Shiva Singh’s father left this written to him in a Bible: “Never hesitate go to the aid of the unfortunate for fear of ingratitude.”
When Shiva Singh did some agency work on HIV prevention with drug addicts, sex workers and others, Yogiji’s words were shared with him, “Never say or do anything that makes a person ashamed of who they are or what they’ve done, just serve them.”
Seva is as natural as breathing. It is ‘a given’ that we will serve each other through all times.
Shabad Kaur Khalsa, LCPC, LMFT, E-RYT 500, KRI Level 1 Lead Teacher Trainer, organizes and leads the Annual Midwest Women’s Yoga Retreat. She is co-founder and director of Spirit Rising Yoga Center and Spirit Rising Foundation. She has taught Kundalini Yoga as well as practiced psychotherapy for nearly 30 years, integrating the yogic teachings into treatment for adults and couples.
She is honored to have served Yogi Bhajan directly and has transcribed, edited, and illustrated several books including his Women’s Camp lectures, Master’s Touch and Flow of Eternal Power. The health and empowerment of women through the teachings of Kundalini Yoga is a cause that is near and dear to her heart and she also specializes in Humanology, marriage, conscious birth, self-care, and health and wellness. www.spiritrisingyoga.org, [email protected]
S. S. Shiva Singh Khalsa, E-RYT 500, is the co-founder of Spirit Rising Yoga Center, President and CEO of Spirit Rising Foundation, and a KRI-certified Mentoring Lead Teacher Trainer. Since 1971 he has taught and practiced with the guidance of Yogi Bhajan, who said of Shiva Singh, "You have always been an inspiration to me." Shiva Singh draws on a wealth of experience acquired through decades of spiritual practice, devotion and service. This is the foundation for his teaching and his life. He is known as a Jupiter teacher—jovial, inspiring and uplifting.
As a minister of Sikh Dharma International, he is recognized as a leader of the spiritual/interreligious community, as well as an activist of HIV prevention and care of the aged and infirm. Shiva Singh teaches and lectures on yoga and meditation, spirituality and transformation, diet and nutrition, and other mind-body topics in a long list of venues including state prisons, places of worship and wellness centers. He has always emphasized the personal transformation possible through the practice of the 3HO lifestyle.
Photo Caption: Seva Day at ‘Feed My Starving Children.’ Spirit Rising Foundation organized a group of volunteers to hand-pack nutritionally complete meals which are shipped to reach the neediest children around the world.