Seva

 

A GENEROUS HEART, KIND SPEECH, AND A LIFE OF SERVICE AND COMPASSION ARE THE THINGS WHICH RENEW HUMANITY.

Gautama Buddha


"Seva" is a Sanskrit word that means "selfless service" or work that is done without any expectation or reward. One of the things I’ve discovered on my journey is that helping others is really good medicine. When I’m spinning around in a vortex of self-centered delusion, it always helps to forget my problems and focus on other people. When I do, I remember the Buddha’s teachings that “sufferings exists” for everyone and, in order to be happy, we need to lift each other up. 

The Indian philosopher Krishnamurti once said, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” In today’s age of materialism and greed, we are encouraged to compete and compare, to judge and consume. But these values aren't the foundation of a healthy society, as every wise being through the ages has taught. What makes life beautiful is the realization that we are all interconnected—that one person’s suffering is ultimately our suffering. Instead of hoarding, judging, and criticizing, seva teaches us to see the inherent worth and goodness in everyone.

These are precarious and vulnerable times. There are so many around the world who suffer from a lack of food, shelter, medicine, and education, and others who ache from a lack of love and support. Even if we can't serve on a large scale, we can still make an effort to offer our gifts: Plant a tree. Visit a nursing home. Write a representative. Listen to others with an open mindMake art. Forgive (especially yourself). 

This is ultimately what contemplative practices help us do. In the truest sense, such disciplines aren't just for our own benefit. When we dedicate the fruits of our practice to all beings, the power of our inner work is amplified a million-fold. 


LOKAH

 
 

OM LOKAH SAMASTAH SUKHINO BHAVANTU

In the yoga tradition, there are various mantras that are chanted specifically for peace. One of the most beautiful of these invocations is Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu, which means: May all beings everywhere be happy. If there is any mantra that has far-reaching benefits for the planet, this is it. 

Today, ancient spiritual wisdom and modern science agree that we are all connected in the great web of life—no one is an isolated island. For this reason, every prayer and positive thought we generate adds peace. Although we may not be able to perceive the impact of our efforts, each heartfelt intention and action makes a difference. No matter where we are, we can always chant this mantra and spread positive vibrations. In this way, chanting the Lokah mantra is a kind of seva, a service that has far-reaching impact beyond what our eyes can see.