Sewa: The Manifold Joys of Selfless Service
One of the unutterable joys of being a sadhak, an aspirant on the spiritual path, is the unique opportunity to offer sewa in which one has the immense good fortune and privilege of selfless sharing – whether of material resources, one’s energy, time or mental faculties. Indeed, it can be aptly called a labor of love as the aspirant does not want anything in return but just to experience the joy of loving and sharing.
The joys of selfless sharing are many even in day to day life, but especially when pertaining to the spiritual path it is supposed to confer immense merit. However sewa has necessarily to come from the heart, with full involvement at all levels, when head, heart and hands are in synchronicity. It cannot be undertaken with a view to gain attention, favor, privileged position or fame. Its only and priceless reward is joy untainted, happiness undiluted, bliss unalloyed.
Only when one is drenched in love of the master can sewa become a transformational experience. Scriptures extol the endless virtues of sewa as it is sewa which purifies the mind and makes its inhospitable barren soil fertile for higher knowledge to take root and flourish. It is the boundless compassion of the master which creates such opportunities for the disciple to give of himself whole-heartedly. Well, the Guru does not want anything from the disciple, nor does the Guru need anything; for what can one give the Guru, who already embodies the sacred Truth and lives it moment to moment. Sewa too in a way is a coveted treasure, a precious gift from the master which nourishes sadhana by infusing humility in the aspirant.
An Exquisite Synthesis
Sadhana, dedicated spiritual practice, without sewa can make one egotistic and dry, devoid of the richness of love and devotion for the master. Then it becomes merely an intellectual exercise without heart, without life, without the invigorating flow of faith. On the other hand, sewa without sadhana has wings but no feet – if one is coming only from heart, then there is a danger of becoming airy-fairy, scattered in mind, being carried away by emotions. One is not centered, grounded as the firm base of discipline is missing. Discipline is an absolute must for an aspirant because for sewa as well as sadhana a healthy, fit body and consolidated mind are primary pre-requisites. Therefore both sewa and sadhana complement each other beautifully; one without the other is incomplete. A happy harmony, a supreme synthesis, a beautiful balance of both is what the sincere practitioner strives to cultivate.
Sewa Vs. Work
Given the importance and relevance of Sewa, one might question – what’s the difference between work and sewa? Well, work may at some point tire you out, especially if it is something you do not enjoy or it’s not up to your liking or worse, when you feel that it is below your ‘dignity’ to do a certain chore. However, when it comes to sewa, no action is mean or lowly when you serve with a loving heart. One is delighted to undertake anything; to top it off, one has abundance of energy which never fizzles out. On the contrary, one is full of zest and vigour and the same task (which may take hours if done reluctantly) is completed within a jiffy!
When you do something just because the Guru has told you to do it, that is not sewa - it becomes work. Sewa is any selfless service, undertaken willingly and voluntarily when you see that something needs to be done and simply do it, out of sheer love.
A Supreme Catalyst For Transformation
Sewa done in the right spirit allows one to effortlessly glide into a meditative state. In fact, some aspirants choose to do sewa itself as their sadhana as they experience the same equipoise and bliss that a practitioner derives by sitting in meditation. For them the entire practice comprises of sewa and culminates in sewa. An opportunity to serve the sangha, community of fellow aspirants - spiritual brothers and sisters on the path, is even more of a joyous celebration as the thread of love for the Guru creates an irrevocable bond. One of the ten Sikh Gurus has said that just serving the Guru is not enough; serving those who serve is supreme.
Sages and mystics, reminiscing about their spiritual journey always lovingly mention that it was sewa, selfless service in love of their Gurudev which lifted them high above limitations of self, purified the inner being, burnt out negative samskaras (deep-rooted impressions) and impurities and removed all the dross, allowing a glorious glimpse of Self to shine through in all majesty and splendor.