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Yogi Bhajan on Service

Lecture Excerpts on Seva and Service by Yogi Bhajan

“There’s only one thing which will bring happiness to you. When you humble yourself and serve others, then God will fill in the gap and shall serve you. People say to me, ‘I have a light.’ People say to me, ‘I have a dharma.’ People say to me, ‘I have happiness.’ I don’t believe any of this. The test of a happy man is when he comes out and serves those who are unhappy. Only that man knows God. It is the highest privilege and honor bestowed on an ordinary man. There’s no other way on the planet to free your soul unto the destiny and unto God but by serving those who need a hand—smiling at them, wiping away their tears, forgiving them.”

“Seva is a win/win, the total source of victory. The moment you serve with heart and head, and without grinding any ax, you win the person forever. You deliver another person facing difficulty to their own strength. You save the person in the face of calamity. You protect him in the face of non-reality and bring home the reality. In any form, shape, or projection, if you can elevate a person’s consciousness, his spirit, his self, his environments, his life, then it is seva.”

“Sometimes when people are asked to do seva in the ashram—to do cleaning, for example—they ask why. Kundalini Yoga is Kundalini Yoga. Karma Yoga is Karma Yoga. Karma Yoga is equally competent to take you to God.”

“I’d like to share something very personal with you. I used to wash the floors of Harimander.[1] I was known as Yogi Baba, and a lot of people used to meditate on me. When they saw me washing those floors, they used to freak out. They asked me, ‘Why are you doing so?’ I asked them, ‘Why do you think I’m doing it?’ They said, ‘We don’t understand it at all. Why do you need this?’ I said, ‘I may have reached God consciousness long ago through meditation, but I have not reached it yet through seva.’ Seva means doing a service of no return. That is how the grace gets multiplied: when you are not seeking any return. I said, ‘By doing this seva at the Guru’s House, I want to make a relationship between me and my Guru. Therefore, I feel that serving the House of the Guru is more graceful for me than anything else.’”

“Some people do not understand that they have come here to serve everybody, to be humble, to be quiet. Guru Nanak said, Sochai soch na hovaee jay sochee lakh vaar. ‘You think and think ten thousand thoughts, but not one thought will give you what you seek.’ I say, ‘If you cannot stop thinking, then do one favor: think what good you can do.’ We are on this planet to love each other, to serve each other, and to uplift each other. We have come to this Earth to give, not to take. Don’t take pride in taking. Give. Give, and there will be virtue in what you will be given. And that will give you God.”

“This body has to earn from karma to the state of dharma. What is dharma? That’s the question which everybody asks. Karma needs action and reaction. Every action you do will have a reaction. That you cannot change. Dharma is when you take action to uplift and serve others—this is your dharma—and for this seva, you will get an abundance; you will get a thousand-fold return.”

“There is a story I want to share with you. Brahma is the source and the giver of Gian (knowledge). Once Brahma had a yag, a gathering, to which he first invited demons. Food was served; they were sitting in langar lines. Brahma said to them, ‘You cannot bend your elbows at this meal.’ So everybody’s elbows were straight, and they were supposed to eat. Do you know what they did? They tried to eat but the food fell on their faces, noses, mouths, clothes, and they couldn’t enjoy the food. Then Brahma gave a feast for the angels. They also couldn’t bend their elbows, so they fed each other and had fun. Being for each other is the ecstasy, it is the divinity. And being for yourself is the tragedy. Self is for being for others; not just for yourself.”

“If you serve, you shall win the hearts of others. If you humble yourself, you shall not only win their hearts, but you will win their souls. If you serve, God will come through for you. Seva is a very wonderful cause, it is the real thing. Service is not what serves you; it is when you enrich another person.”

“Seva is to earn first and then to share. That is seva. Exploitation and getting exploited are not seva. Seva is very misunderstood. Seva is when you have something to share and you can give. It is not seva when you have nothing to share. I do not know what kind of seva that is. That is called pushing too much.”

“Seva is selfless service. When one is forced by environments and circumstances to selflessness in experience, that is seva. When you do something for show or to communicate that you have done something, it is not seva.”

“Seva is when you feel honored by doing something. You feel it within your own self. It is when you honor your self. When I am honored in my consciousness for doing something, it is seva. When I stand before my consciousness, I feel good, and I say, ‘Well, I am so blessed that I could do it,’—that is seva.”

©The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan