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Concept Of Seva In sikhism

Discussion in 'New to Sikhism' started by Sikh80, Jan 29, 2008.

  1. Sikh80

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    Oct 14, 2007
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    Concept of Seva

    The word “Seva” stands for "to serve, wait or attend upon, honour, or worship". It is mainly translated in English as 'service'.

    He pervades His Creation. Therefore, service rendered to His creatures, amongst whom also comes humanity, (i.e. God within man) is indeed considered a form of worship. In fact, in Sikhism, no worship is conceivable without Seva. The Sikh is forbidden from serving anyone apart from God ('Serve you the Lord alone : none else must you serve' (Guru Granth Sahib, p. 490). This means that whomsoever we serve in this material world, our actions must be aimed at serving Waheguru through him. Therefore, it becomes incumbent upon a Sikh to render seva with the highest sense of duty since thereby he or she is worshipping the Lord.

    Seva in Sikhism is imperative for spiritual life. It is the highest penance (Guru Granth Sahib, p. 423). It is a means to acquiring the highest merit. The Sikh prays to God for a chance to render seva. Says Guru Arjan, the fifth Nanak, "I beg to serve those who serve You." (Guru Granth Sahib, p. 43) and "I, Your servant, beg for seva of Your people, which is available through good fortune alone." (Guru Granth Sahib, p. 802) According to Guru Amar Das, "He who is turned towards the Guru finds repose and joy in seva."

    Three types of seva are sanctioned in the Sikh way of life that rendered through the corporal instrument (tan); that rendered through the mental faculties (man) and that through the material means (dhan). The first of them is considered to be the highest of all and is imperatively prescribed for every Sikh. "
    Accursed are the hands and feet that engage not in seva" (Bhai Gurdas, Varan, 27.1). In traditional Indian society, work involving corporal labour was considered low and relegated to the so-called lowest castes. By sanctifying it as an honourable religious practice of the highest order, the Sikh Gurus established the dignity of labour, a concept then almost unknown to the Indian society. Not only did the Gurus sanctify it, they also institutionalized it, e.g. service in Langar (the Guru's community kitchen) and serving the sangat (Sikh congregation) in ways such as by grinding corn, fanning the Sangat to soften the rigours of a hot day and drawing water from the well. " I beg of You, O, Merciful One, make me the slave of Your servants... Let me have the pleasure of fanning them, drawing water for them, grinding corn for them and of washing their feet,
    " prays Guru Arjan. (Guru Granth Sahib, p. 518)

    Seva through the mental faculties (man) lies in contributing one's talents - creative, communicative, managerial, etc. - to the corporate welfare of the community and mankind in general. It also lies in sharing the pain of others. Response to the pain of others is a sine qua non of the membership of the brotherhood of man. That is why the Sikh prayer said in unison ends with a supplication for the welfare of all. Seva of this kind is motivated not by the attitude of compassion alone, but primarily to discover practical avenues for serving God through man.

    Seva through material means (dhan) or philanthropy (daan) was particularly sought to be made non-personal. The offerings (kar bheta) made to the Gurus and the dasvandh (tenth part of one's earnings) contributed by the Sikhs went to the common coffers of the community. Personal philanthropy can be debasing for the receiver and ego-enhancing for the giver, but self-effacing community service is ennobling. Seva must be so carried out as to dissolve the ego and lead to self-transcendence, which is the ability to acknowledge and respond to that which is other than the self. Seva must serve to indicate the way in which such transcendence manifests in one's responsiveness to the needs of others in an impersonal and selfless way.

    The Sikh is particularly enjoined upon to render seva to the poor. "
    The poor man's mouth is the depository of the Guru
    ", says the Rahitnama of Chaupa Singh. The poor and the needy are, thus, treated as legitimate recipients of daan (charity) and not the Brahman class which had traditionally reserved for themselves this privilege. Even in serving the poor, one serves not the person but the light of Waheguru in that person. This, thus, is the Sikh ideal of seva

    In the Sikh way of life, seva is considered the prime duty of the householder, the family-man opposed to an ascetic . "
    That home in which men of God are not served, God is served not. Such mansions must be likened to graveyards where ghosts alone abide
    ", says Kabir. (Guru Granth Sahib. p. 1374) The Sikhs are all ordained to be householders, and seva is their duty. In Sikh thought, the polarity of renunciation is not with attachment, but with seva.

    True seva according to Sikh scriptures must be without desire (nishkam), in humility (nimarta), with purity of intention (hirda suddh), with sincerity (chit lae) and in utter selflessness (vichon aap gavae). Such seva for the Sikh is the doorway to dignity as well as to mukti (liberation). "If one earns merit here through seva, one will get a seat of honour in His Court hereafter. (Guru Granth Sahib, p. 26)

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