What is Seva?
“ਸੇਵਾ ਕਰਤ ਹੋਇ ਨਿਹਕਾਮੀ ॥ ਤਿਸ ਕਉ ਹੋਤ ਪਰਾਪਤਿ ਸੁਆਮੀ ॥
One who performs selfless service, without thought of reward, shall attain his Lord and Master.”
(SGGS p 286)
The Sikh Tradition of Seva
The importance of seva, or selfless service, is often talked of in the Sikh holy text, the Guru Granth Sahib, quoted above.
Guru Nanak emphasized the importance of becoming ‘desire-less’ (or nehkaami) while performing seva, in order to truly reap the benefits of doing good for others.
Guru Nanak: Growing Closer to God
Guru Nanak was the son of a high-caste Hindu family. When he was a young man, his father wanted to set him up in the merchant business, sending him to the market with some money to purchase goods. Along the way, Guru Nanak gave the money away to starving villagers instead.
His father was angry, but Guru Nanak insisted he had made a ‘Sacha Sauda’, or true bargain. By helping the needy, he had become closer to God, and in this way, Guru Nanak saw his gifts as a profitable interaction. In the place where this ‘true bargain’ took place, the Gurdwara Sacha Sauda Sahib was built.
Sikhs Practicing Seva Across the Nation
Today, Sikhs across the country and around the world engage in seva as an important tenet of their faith. Just this month, Sikhs have been caring for their neighbors after the terrible fires that have ravaged Northern California. Several Gurdwaras there have banded together to form a group called Sikhs for Humanity (SFH), and in the wake of the Kincaid fire, the SFH served hot food to over 700 evacuees, providing them with critical sustenance and comfort in a time of fear and loss.
Sikhs honor Guru Nanak as they continue to carry on the tradition of caring for one another without thought for reward.
“ਸੁਖੁ ਹੋਵੈ ਸੇਵ ਕਮਾਣੀਆ ॥
You shall find peace, doing seva”
(SGGS p 25)