Giving to others elevates one’s self
Guru Nanak taught that God is within all people and therefore, serving people is serving God. He encouraged his followers to live normal, compassionate lives in tandem with the larger society. Seva (service to the wider community) and volunteerism towards all people, especially those less privileged or underserved, is a key goal set for all Sikhs.
Sikhism and Service
The Sikh belief in service to others is a crucial component of the religion. The Sikh faith acknowledges that all beings are one, and that living in harmony with each other is a crucial piece of living in peace.
Seva means “selfless service,” meaning service that is done with no thought for one’s personal gain. Sikhs believe that charity should not be given in an attempt to curry favor with God; instead it should be given out of the pure desire to help others, an act that itself brings one closer to God.
Guru Nanak taught that all beings have divinity within them; thus, helping one another is helping God.
Each day, Sikhs repeat a prayer called the Ardās; the third part of this prayer as the “sarbat da bhala” which means “blessings for everyone”. The Sikh concept of sarbat da bhala is a wish for all people to prosper, and a Sikh selflessly prays for this each day.
Seva should be practiced without any thought for a reward; rather, it is part of one’s duty as a person to do good for others and for the community.
There are three types of Seva in Sikhism:
Taan – service through physical action. A crucial example of this is the work Sikhs do participating in langar, the community kitchen. Guru Nanak initiated the concept of langar and offering free food to people of every caste, background and age in the community. This tradition is central to the Sikh faith and continues today.
Maan – service through application of the mind. This can mean providing one’s talents, be they intellectual, creative, etc., to others, but it can also mean expressing empathy for others and sharing in their joy and pain.
Dhan – service through material resources, such as charity or philanthropy. Again, charity is not meant to bring personal gain or praise to the giver; charity is made to be selfless and lacking in ego.
The Sikh holy book, The Guru Granth Sahib, states that “You become like the one you serve.” In other words, to become one with God, service is required.