Types Of Seva


What are the different types of Seva?

There is the physical seva, if you help out in the langar hall, or help clean etc. There is an auntie who does a LOT of seva, literally runs the kitchen (& I'm pretty sure she doesn't get paid for it, but does it for the love of it).

I once hear a pracharak remark that he could not do the seva this bhenji does, he did not have it in him. But his form of seva is to share gian & knowledge of Gurbani with others.

So what are the different types of Seva? physical? intellectual? Is it necessary for a Sikh to focus on each type of seva? ie. for a pracharak to take time out to help out in the langar hall? or is his form of seva enough?
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'.

Sikh weltanschauung does not see God as apart from His creatures. 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 Guru 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 practiceof 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)

source: http://www.sikhpoint.com/religion/resources/conceptofkhalsa.htm


Is seva only that service which is rendered to the sangat, to the Gurdwara, to the Sikh community? Or does it also include other service rendered to non-Sikhs, to the environment and to animals, as long as the Sikh is focused on Akaal Purakh?

Personally I hope the second one is acceptable, but would like to hear other people's opinions.

It is not clear from the quotes provided by Souljyot ji, as one quote says
'Serve you the Lord alone : none else must you serve' (Guru Granth Sahib, p. 490)

and another one says
"I, Your servant, beg for seva of Your people, which is available through good fortune alone." (Guru Granth Sahib, p. 802)



1947-2014 (Archived)
Khalsa Aid

United Sikhs


And sangats in Canada, US, UK, Australia, India, around the world, who are at work at blood drives, feeding the homeless, providing shelter for abused women, endless

Utah Sikhs feed homeless

Only one of many individual sangats who provide food and support for unfortunate people Many threads here at SPN recording their stories.

Serving Humanity

Humanity needs everyone’s help. The best way to give that help starts with loving ourselves and taking care of ourselves in deeply loving ways. In truly loving ourselves, we get to know who we are and what we need by, listening to our bodies, listening to our minds and listening to our spirits and then honoring what we feel, hear, and sense about each of those needs.

We will come to know that we deserve love and happiness simply because we exist and for no other reason. If others do not treat us well or honor us like we deserve, it won’t be so important because, we know how to give love, honor, and care to ourselves and to even have compassion for those who hurt us and those who have not, yet, learned how to love.

Soon, our higher self will whisper to us that we have new needs to fulfill. Now, our cup is so full with love that it spills over to others. We are ready to reach out with firm and loving hands and heart to those who need us. We only need to listen, as we did with ourselves, for where to start. We will be led.

Like a flower, our soul has opened and is in full bloom to serve humanity. It begins with the self, like a tiny seed, struggling to grow. Over time, the little seed grows and grows and then opens with beauty and love and shares all that it can with those who are still growing and trying to find their way. It makes no difference how long it takes the soul to open; the longer it takes the bigger it will be and the more love it will be able to share. Begin to love and honor yourself, today, and your soul will open and be ready to serve humanity at the precise time your gifts can be received by those who are ready to receive them.

- S. Marie Vernon


1947-2014 (Archived)
So much can become of this thread. Come on members!!!!!!!! Do not leave it to linzer and Soul_jyot ji. Post some of your personal stories.

The two examples of seva in Sikhi, that we all follow in spirit, are famous Sikhs in history. I am going to post their stories. After, that I want to see our members posting too!:tablakudi:
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1947-2014 (Archived)
Bhai Kanhalya


Bhai Kanhaiya (Ghanaya or Ghanaia) was born in 1648 to a wealthy family living in Sodhara nearby by Wazirabad in the Sialkot district of Punjab which is now part of Pakistan. His father, a trader, was of the Dhamman line of the Khatri clan. From an early age Kanhaiya sought the company of sadhus and spiritual ascetics. When he came of age, Kanhaiya declined to go into the trading business with his father and left home. He traveled from place to place in search of a ideal spiritual life.

In Service of the Guru:

Kanhaiya found the life he sought when he met Guru Teg Bahadur. Kanhaiya became the Guru's disciple and dedicated himself to the service of the Guru and his Sikhs. He tended livestock in the stables and took part in the Guru's communal langar kitchen.

Founder of Seva Panthees:

Kanhaiya established a mission in the village of Kavha in what is now the Attock district of Pakistan. Known today as the Addenshahi sect of the Sikhs, his followers, the Seva (Sewa) Panthees, or Fellowship of Selfless Service, put into practice humanitarian principles founded on equality, recognizing all peoples as equal without regard to the origins of caste, creed, or color.

Kanhaiya made a visit to Anandpur in 1705 during the reign of Guru Gobind Singh. The occupation of the Mughal army resulted in clashes with imperial troupes, the chiefs and militia of neighboring hill clans, and the army of The Guru. When skirmishes ensued, Kenhaiya went out into the battle field and ministered to those who had fallen in combat. Friend and foe alike, he provided drinking water to the thirsty.

Sikhs complained to Guru Gobind Singh that Kanhaiya had been giving water to wounded enemy soldiers. The Guru questioned Kanhaiya about his actions asking why he gave water to the enemy. Kanhaiya replied that when he looked into the eyes of one in need he could not distinguish between them, that he saw only the light of the one creator which shined forth from every soul. Guru Gobind Singh gave an order that Kanhaiya should also have medical supplies at his disposal to treat the wounded, and gave the command that henceforth he be given the honorary title of "Bhai" and be known as the Guru's own brother, Bhai Kanhaiya.


Bhai Kanhaiya remained in Anandpur ministering to the wounded until after the evacuation of the Sikhs in December of 1705. He returned to his family home in Sodhara where he lived out the remainder of his days in retirement until his death in 1718.

Bhai Kanhaiya practiced the three principles of Sikhism and provided non-partisan aid without prejudice more than 300 years ago, some two hundred years before the American Red Cross was established. His example of seva inspired the founding of GHANAIA, (Giving Humanitarian Aid Necessities Assistance Impartially to All) a non-profit, humanitarian, international disaster relief agency, in 2003 which later became known as the UN affiliated UNITED SIKHS

Lesson: When we serve those in need in a nonpartisan way we are serving the Guru who abides in all.


1947-2014 (Archived)
Bhai Puran Singh


Bhai Puran Singh ji in undoubtly the single Sikh Hero of this century who worked totally selflessly all his life to provide the last hope to the mentally and terminally ill patients. Whenever he use to see a deserted dead body (human or animal) immediately he would prepare (by his own hand) a grave and him human/animal a deserving respect of death. He was to Sikhism, what Mother Teresa is to Catholicism. Against the backdrop of violence and poverty in 1947 he established a premier institute which takes care of sick, disabled and forlorn persons. Whatever money and financial resources he could gathered he used it to establish this institute. It is also believed that he was almost nominated to receive Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 but by not giving him prize it was the loss of sick and disabled persons as well as nobel Prize committee. His life story is a saga of grit, determination, faith in the almighty and unending love for the suffering humanity. A very brief sketch of Bhagat Ji's life is given below

Bhagat Puran Singh, born at Rajewal, Distt. Ludhiana on June 4 1904., at the house of Chaudhari Chibu Mal and Mehtab Kaur. In an interview to Patwant Singh Bhagat Puran Singh discloses how he became a Sikh ,in his early life he use to travel a lot from village to village and would stay at a Hindu Temple. One day when he was staying at a Temple Brahmins told him to clean the temple and then when he was done they sat in front of him and ate the food without offering him., Incidentally next time he had to stay at a Gurdwara and Bhai ji of Gurdwara not only gave him good food but also a cot and a glass of milk afterwards., without asking for any sewa for Gurdwara. After this Bhagat Puran Singh didn't even thought twice and became a Khalsa.

He set out in life for the service of the suffering humanity- the greatest religion. He founded Pingalwara in 1947 with a few discarded patients. He was also a writer as well as publisher and an environmentalist. Pingalwara is a very big home of human service. Bhagat Ji's contribution in spreading awareness about the global dangers of environment pollution, increasing soil erosion etc are also commendable. His dedication was awarded with heaps of honours by many quarters. Prestigious among these was the Padamshri award in 1979, which he surrendered in the wake of the army attack on the Golden Temple in 1984. He left for his heavenly abode on August 5, 1992.

Here are some of the quotes of Bhagat Puran Singh ji

Dignity in death is a birthright of each living thing.

All Punjabi should at least sow a tree of "Bohar", "Pippal" and "Neem". These trees are essential to our eco system.

At this time Pingalwara is run by Dr Inder Jit Kaur, she is also President of All India Pingalwara Charitable Society(Regd). She has embarked upon a mission to produce a movie on the life of Bhai Puran Singh ji. Please spread this information.

More about Pingalwara http://www.pingalwara.net/home.html

Lesson: Any seva, great or small, does not end with the sevadhar or the one who receives a seva. The effort continues in sometimes remarkable and unexpected ways, affecting many.
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Aside from helping out at the Gurdwara (in small ways, like drying dishes), the focus of my voluntary work has been with animals at RSPCA, which is why I ask if it counts as 'seva'. The work involves taking the dogs one-by-one out of their kennels and playing with them in exercise yards, giving them love and attention, then putting them back in their kennels and bringing out the next dogs. It also involved cleaning all their toys in disinfectant and making environmental enrichment toys like treat-filled iceblocks in summer and treat-filled cardboad boxes in winter. But the focus is on being with them, giving them company and affection. Most of them are on death row waiting for a court to decide whether or not their abusive owner can have them back, which can take years. If volunteers aren't there to give them attention they spent the time in basically solitary confinement - jail for a crime committed against them.

They are still living creatures full of jyot. They respond to love, feel fear, get lonely, develop mental problems. They deserve seva too I think.
Animals Teach Us Spirituality

Written by Mary Lou Randour, Ph.D.

Animals have been the spiritual companions of humans since the beginning of recorded time. The earliest indication of the spiritual significance of the human-animal relationship can be found in the 20,000-year-old cave wall paintings of Cro-Magnon people.

In many if not most cultures, animals have served a variety of spiritual functions: They have been linked with supernatural forces, acted as guardians and shamans, and appeared in images of an afterlife. They have even been worshipped as agents of gods and goddesses.

Many ancient creation myths, for example, depict God with a dog. These stories do not explain the existence of the dog; like God, the dog is assumed to have existed from the beginning. In this assumption, these primordial people revealed their intense attachment to their animal companions.

That animals touch us in a deep, central place is not a modern-day phenomenon, but one that pervades the history of the human-animal relationship. We sense that we can benefit spiritually in our relationship with animals, and we are right. They offer us something fundamental: a direct and immediate sense of both the joy and wonder of creation. We recognize that animals seem to feel more intensely and purely than we do. Perhaps we yearn to express ourselves with such abandon and integrity.

Animals fully reveal to us what we already glimpse: it is feeling -- and the organization of feeling -- that forms the core of self. We also sense that through our relationship to animals we can recover that which is true within us and, through the discovery of that truth, find our spiritual direction. Quite simply, animals teach us about love: how to love, how to enjoy being loved, how loving itself is an activity that generates more love, radiating out and encompassing an ever larger circle of others. Animals propel us into an "economy of abundance."

They teach us the language of the spirit. Through our contact with animals we can learn to overcome the limits imposed by difference; we can reach beyond the walls we have erected between the mundane and the sacred. They can even help us stretch ourselves to discover new frontiers of consciousness. Animals cannot "talk" to us, but they can communicate with us and commune with us in a language that does not require words. They help us understand that words might even stand in the way.

Lois Crisler did not use human words to achieve a spiritual connection with animals. Instead, she used their language. Sitting in a tent with her husband one twilight morning in Alaska, she heard a sound she had never heard before -- the howl of a wolf. Thrilled, she stepped outside the tent and impulsively howled in return, "pouring out my wilderness loneliness." She was answered by a chorus of wolves' voices, yodeling in a range of low, medium, and high notes. Other wolves joined in, each at a different pitch. "The wild deep medley of chords," she recalls, "...the absence of treble, made a strange, savage, heart-stirring uproar." It was the "roar of nature," a roar that brings us back to an essential place we have known but lost. It returns us to nature and to creation, not intellectually but viscerally. We recollect in the cells of our bodies, not in our heads. If we open to it, we can make out the image of our animal kin by our side.

Fulfilling our longing for the wild, our primordial desire to hear "the roar of nature" within ourselves, does not require that we camp out in Alaska, or even encounter an animal in its natural habitat. Spiritual contact with an animal can happen under quite ordinary circumstances.

I once took a yoga class while visiting my sister in Sarasota, Florida, in a beautiful studio with floor-to-ceiling windows. As the class was engaged in exercise, we noticed a dog standing outside the window, innocently looking in. The dog seemed curious, and wagged his tail in a relaxed motion. Soon, he was joined by another dog, who also watched us through the window. Occasionally one or the other would bark -- not a loud bark, but a "here I am" kind of bark. For the entire hour-and-a-half session they stood there, noses to the glass, looking in with interest. They seemed calm, but intensely attentive, and clearly interested in joining us.

One could assign any number of explanations to their absorbed interest. I think, as did others in the class, that they picked up on some kind of "positive energy" generated by our collective yoga practice. I put quotes around "positive energy" because I don't have precise language to describe what I think the dogs sensed. And that is the point. They were able to perceive, and experience, something some of us are dimly aware of and would like to understand, but cannot find words to describe. Animals can teach us to live outside of words, to listen to other forms of consciousness, to tune into other rhythms.

It was the rhythm of music that one musician, Jim Nollman, used to communicate with whales. Along with several other musicians, he recorded hours of human-orca music in an underwater studio every summer for twelve years. Positioning their boat so that the whales would approach them, the group transmitted their music through the water. Most of the time the orcas made the same sounds, regardless of whether the music was played or not. But not all the time. For a few minutes every year, a "sparkling communication occurred. In one instance, the sound of an electric guitar note elicited responses from several whales. In another, an orca joined with the musicians, 'initiat[ing] a melody and rhythm over a blues progression, emphasizing the chord changes."'

An uncanny meeting with a whale proved a decisive spiritual moment for another person, a retired female teacher who I have enjoyed hiking with in northern California. While hiking along the ocean, she decided to rest on a large, flat rock jutting out over the depths. She lay there, relaxed, listening to the sound of the water and the sensation of the breeze on her body when, she reports, she felt a presence: "The hairs on the back of my neck went up; I was compelled to sit up." Sitting up, she saw a whale, resting perpendicular on her fluke. As her eyes met the whale's, time stopped. As they gazed at each other, the woman entered an eternal stillness, feeling an unmatched intensity. Difference dissolved; words were irrelevant. She felt a deep sense of connection with all of life. No longer restricted by the categories of "them" and "us," she felt herself flow into a seamless web of existence in which all of life is one. In complete harmony with the whale, this retired teacher felt that she inhabited a web of relations some call "God." She had encountered God in, and through, the eyes of a whale.

Cross-species communication may be so extraordinary because we cannot rely on identifying with the creature the way we identify with human beings for connection. Our human relationships are often based on relating to a being like ourselves: We can identify and empathize with each other because we share similar experiences. Of course, there is nothing wrong with this. The ability to identify with others forms the basis for personal relationships, social bonds, and social justice.

Animals, however, offer us a unique opportunity to transcend the boundaries of our human perspectives, they allow us to stretch our consciousness toward understanding what it is like to be different. This stretching enables us to grow beyond our narrow viewpoint. It allows us, I believe, to gain a spiritual advantage. How can we possibly appreciate and move toward spiritual wholeness if we cannot see beyond our own species? How can we come to know God, or grasp the interconnectedness of all life, if we limit ourselves to knowing only our own kind? The goal of compassion is not to care because someone is like us but to care because they are themselves.

Any spiritual discipline, in any tradition, invites us to open our hearts and minds. This invitation represents an ongoing exercise; the desire and attempt to open to others in our midst are the essence of the spiritual process.

Animals can lead us spiritually in a variety of ways. They can teach us about death, participate in our social and moral development, enhance our physical and psychological well-being, and heighten our capacity to love and to experience joy.

source: http://innerself.com/content/living.../pets/5790-animals-teach-us-spirituality.html

Gyani Jarnail Singh

Sawa lakh se EK larraoan
Aside from helping out at the Gurdwara (in small ways, like drying dishes), the focus of my voluntary work has been with animals at RSPCA, which is why I ask if it counts as 'seva'. The work involves taking the dogs one-by-one out of their kennels and playing with them in exercise yards, giving them love and attention, then putting them back in their kennels and bringing out the next dogs. It also involved cleaning all their toys in disinfectant and making environmental enrichment toys like treat-filled iceblocks in summer and treat-filled cardboad boxes in winter. But the focus is on being with them, giving them company and affection. Most of them are on death row waiting for a court to decide whether or not their abusive owner can have them back, which can take years. If volunteers aren't there to give them attention they spent the time in basically solitary confinement - jail for a crime committed against them.

They are still living creatures full of jyot. They respond to love, feel fear, get lonely, develop mental problems. They deserve seva too I think.

Ishna Ji..you stole my heart...with this post...I have six of the most wonderful dogs...and all my kids go all out to do what you do around town..and when we come back..our dogs sniff those "other dogs" on us..and must wonder..ha ha He is in HIS CREATION..is the Motto of Gurmatt..and its the best sewa of all..hands down..
Ishna ji, petting you own puppies is an obligation, petting the ones in a shelter is seva. It's really sweet. Dogs are social animals and become depressed in solitary confinement.
Gyani ji, Six Dogs? I hope there small .The three that we have, two German shepherds and a lab . They keep us more than a little busy. Add three cats to that and it feels a little like mental illness. We live outside of town with a large yard, so don’t think we completely nuts.

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Soul_jyot ji thanks for the article on types of seva. My wife and I, the only Sikhs in our town, are planning on having Gurdwara once a month starting this year. Since almost everyone, with the exception of some of the sangat of Mexico City, will be new to sikhi, we we're thinking of giving short introductory talks about what is Sikhi, Sikh history, Gurbani, etc. This article makes a nice addition.</P>I wanted to say something about the seva that the Sangat of Mexico City has done. This is second year that they have hosted the Sadh Sangat Samagam here. It really is a monumental labor. They hosted about 200 people from the United States and Canada and apart about 150 people from Mexico. The Gurdwara in Techamacalco (neighborhood in Mexico City) is a house so it can't accommodate everyone.
Apart from renting a hall and setting it up as a Gurdwara, providing langar all day, every day for 4 days (we helped out with two traditional Mexican meals this year. Very tasty by the way. If you want salsa recipes let me know.)They had to receive all the guest at the airport, provide hotel accommodations, transportation, organize the schedules of Kirtan, etc. , take down the Gurdwara and transport everyone back to the airport. In between all this I think they even gave tours of the city. This really was a huge amount of work. The major part of the organization is handled by about maybe six to eight people, but everyone helps out. The community is small, on average the attendance is about 25-30 people. As an aside I want to mention that the Hukamnama is read in three languages, Punjabi, Spanish and English. It was a very warm and inclusive environment.
Thought I’d share that. By the way think about coming next year.
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