Seva is a Sanskrit word originating from the root, sev, which means “to go toward.”
Seva can be roughly translated as “voluntary action” or “selfless service.” The concept of seva encompasses not only the idea of acting freely for the good of others, but is better understood as the desire and action of giving with no hope or expectations to receive in return.
Sometimes we provide service under the guise of karma (not a bad thing, but different than seva), which is governed by cause and effect—thus we are acting under the premise that a certain effect is desired. Seva, however, is acting from a pure heart with no investment in the outcome or effects that might be cultivated.
Seva is our intrinsic nature—it is the instinctive acts we perform through gut reaction rather than processed thought. Seva is leaning in to catch someone who is literally mid-fall, or running to help a child in danger. Though only moments later we will contemplate how we will be perceived for our gracious act, this doesn’t lessen the existence or value of our instinct to serve others.
As we work to incorporate yogic principles into our lives and become better people, maybe we should take a step back. If we stop acting and allow ourselves to be human, we find that these practices were in our nature all along.
Here are six beautiful thoughts about service:
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore
“The sun never says to the earth, ‘You owe me.’ Look what happens with a love like that. It lights up the whole sky.” ~ Hafiz
“When you inhale, you are taking the strength from God. When you exhale, it represents the service you are giving to the world.” ~ B.K.S. Iyengar
“And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.” ~ Khalil Gibran
“Falling in love you remain a child; rising in love you mature. By and by love becomes not a relationship, it becomes a state of your being. Not that you are in love—now you are love.” ~ Osho
“The greatest tragedy in life is not death; the greatest tragedy takes place when our talents and capabilities are underutilized and allowed to rust while we are living.” ~ Amma
Author: Nityda Gessel
Assistant Editor: Hilda Carroll / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Image: Dennis Skley/Flickr