Seva: Selfless Service


“Actions speak louder than words.” Or to bump it up, here’s Maya Angelou dropping some wisdom, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Both quotes make likeable Instagram posts, especially when laid over a killer beachy landscape, but how do they look in real life?

Well, that may be asking too much, but treating people well and acting kindly to others is definitely not a tough expectation to realize. Smash the two quotes into Willy Wonka-like gobstopper machine and  out will pop a candy so sweet, you will want to live in its sugary high all the time. And it’s called seva.

No, not stevia. You read it right the first time, seva. Seva is a Sanskrit word meaning selfless service, or giving to others without expectation of receiving anything in return. In a Western understanding, that can be volunteer work or offering a service of some kind without receiving payment, which includes praise, so be sure to leave the live-tweeting out of it.

The refusal of anything in return highlights the description of this particular type of service -- selfless. Selfless in this definition means acting without being told to do so, recognition, or getting out of work; doing something, anything really, that takes your self or ego out of the situation and focuses wholly on another person. It is acting from a place of pure compassion and enthusiasm to help. What a lovely existence that would be, right?

So now the challenge is to perform seva daily and practice it within the scope of your everyday to-do list. Yes, you can wait an extra moment to hold the door. Yes, you can pay for the woman’s coffee behind you in line. Yes, you can kindly let someone merge into your lane during rush hour (then try not to be a hater when he or she doesn’t give you the polite wave, as hard as that is!). Yes, you can clean up your neighborhood or local beach. And yes, you can gladly take out the trash again!

The reach of your kindness will extend far beyond your single action. It’s like that commercial a few years back--others will witness your gesture and the cycle of giving will gain steam, ultimately serving more people than your one action could have possibly done on its own.

Ram Dass, explains seva beautifully, saying, “Helping out is not some special skill. It is not the domain of rare individuals. It is not confined to a single part of our lives. We simply heed the call of that natural impulse within and follow it where it leads us.”

We would love to know ways you incorporate daily acts of seva into your day! Let us know, and happy seva-ing!


For your sharing pleasures and because we just had to:

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