Insider Look: The Art of Seva & Devotional Living

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For me personally, Seva has its roots deeply woven into feelings, thoughts and actions of Devotion, not to be confused with adoration. Devotion is a sincere sensation, indefinitely more profound, faithful, graceful, earnestly and innocently dedicated.

 

Seva is an act of compassion and care for others above oneself. The Bhagavad Gita, encourages selfless service as a way to develop spiritually; thus, it is closely linked to the concept of Karma yoga. 

 

“ The science of transcendental knowledge has been im­parted to you, O Arjuna. Now listen to the science of God-dedicated, selfless action (Seva), en­dowed with which you will free yourself from all Karmic bondage, or sin. No effort ever goes to waste in selfless service, and there is no adverse effect. Even a lit­tle practice of this discipline protects one from the cycle of repeated birth and death ” (2.39)

 

Unlike other forms of yoga which may focus on performing asanas to transform the physical body, practicing Seva is said to transform the personality. Seva may be offered by a person in any number of ways, but the term is often associated with the work done in ashrams, residents practice selfless service in order to further the work of their guru and their community, for the benefit of others.

 

“Change the world by changing yourself. Heal the world by healing yourself. Find a need and fulfil it. Service is the greatest form of spiritual practice. Everybody can be great because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve, You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace.A soul generated by love.“ 

- Martin Luther King Jr. –

 

 

I never fully realized what Seva meant until i had the good fortune to meet Ramesh Das aka Jacob Karpio, who guided me to the warm embrace of Krishna and imparted many unforgettable experiences, shared from his unique life in support of an ISKON Hare Krsna temple. Being a Vaishnava, he introduced me to a tradition of Hinduism who worship Krishna and in particular the divine couple; Krsna/Radha, an avatar of Vishnu, as supreme Lord. Vaishnavism has developed as an individual movement, famous for its exposition of the dashavatara; the ten (of 24) avatars of Vishnu. Krishna being the third to last avatar, Buddha second, and still yet to come, signifying the end of the Kali Yuga; Kalki, the last avatar of Vishnu. 

 

“The Fish, the Tortoise, the Boar, the Man-Lion, the Dwarf, Parasurama, Rama, Krisna, Buddha, and also Kalki: These ten names should always be meditated upon by the wise. Those who recite them near the diseased are called relatives.”

— Garuda Purana Saroddhara by Navanidhirama (translated by E. Wood and S.V. Subrahmanyam), Chapter VIII, Verses 10-11[6][7]

 

Shaktism and Shaivism tradition are also individual movements, in part of a holy three, the Trimurti; Brahma, the creator. Shiva, the destroyer. Vishnu, the maintainer. [5]

 

 

Seva is a Sanskrit word meaning; Selfless Service, Service and Selfless Efforts for Welfare of All, Attendance on, Reverence and Devotion to [1]  – the call to action arises from the spirit of humility, devotion, ceremony and worship – a service which is performed without any expectation of result or award for performing it, an offering to benefit another human being, a group, a deity or society.  A more recent interpretation of the word is “dedication to others” [2]

 

Seva is believed to support one’s spiritual growth as well as contribute to the improvement of a community. The idea of selfless service is an important concept in a number of religious practices because God is perceived as having an interest in the well-being of others as well as oneself; serving other people is considered an essential devotional practice of indirectly serving God and living a life that is also a benefit to others [3]

 

Additionally, Seva is a root word that has many meanings, each something similar and different in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit and the history of ancient India, Marathi:

 

The penis. A snake. Height, elevation. Attendance. Practice. Employment. Happiness. Wealth, treasure. An epithet of Agni. Of Soma. Sexual intercourse. And, Hail! (an exclamation addressed to deities) [8][9][10]

 

 

A most wonderful facet of Hindu Philosophy is that it is universal; it is fully accepted that you may believe in no God, one God, three Gods, a Rat God, a Cow God, a Monkey God, a Prostitute Goddess, a Devil Goddess, a Lucky Money Goddess, a Never Not Broken Goddess, an Elephant Headed God, a Dancing God, a vicious Lion Headed God, a multi Limbed, multi Headed God, a hundred Gods or 33 million Gods, as there is a multitude to discover, and become devoted to, if you so choose. [11][12][13][14]

 

“ekam sat viprā bahudhā vadanti – Truth is One, the Wise call it by many names“

— Rig Veda 1.164.46c

 

My ISKON Hare Krsna temple is located on Aveneda 1 close to the National Park in the oldest downtown area of San Jose, Costa Rica. Directly across the street Ramesh had his world famous, three level Galleria de Arte. He lived there, in a small loft apartment, showcased wildly eccentric high priced art collections and he organized, heavily promoted and performed in all night long Kirtan festivals, full on with food, lights, big sound, traveling hare krsna musicians, monks and swamis, on and surrounding all auspicious days or events on his calendar. I fondly remember my first experience there, I became transfixed, awestruck and instantly transcendental. The mantras and the instruments, the dancing, the people and the food, perfectly divine, perfectly familiar. It was like a new part of my brain clicked on, something activated in my DNA, even my bones spoke with reverence, that this was home. It was a pleasure to host the Ramesh show many times at my villa in Nosara, Costa Rica. He would always arrive in style, fully loaded with beautiful people entroupe to set up and play Kirtan, papering the town with big glossy posters, setting up at the beach for sunset and at various venus, offering delicious traditional holy food for free, along with a band of musicians chanting the Maha Mantra, more commonly known as the Hare Krishna Mantra..

“ Hare Rāma Hare Rāma

Rāma Rāma Hare Hare

Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa

Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare “

— Kali-Saṇṭāraṇa Upaniṣad

 

 

As the ISKCON movement gained popularity, this became the mantra for all devotees, at some point the pattern shifted to bring in the Krishna name first instead of Rama.

Ramesh is quite a force unto his own, he swept me up and away from my little beach village into a mysterious realm of luxurious devotion, wild charisma, comradeship and a deeply fascinating body of knowledge, by which i quickly grew a bottomless affection for him. We became fast friends and i began to take on the strict requirements in order to become a fully realized and blessed Vaishnava. Over the course of two years I had many wonderfully remarkable and unprecedented experiences, i learned a lot! However, during that time, as i fasted from many foods that had been a part of my diet since a baby, in listening to my body on a deeper level, i experienced some revelations and thus chose to remain a Devotee to Radha/Krsna rather than become a Vaishnava, a significant reason being the strictness of diet [16]

 

Sometimes, the thoughts arise, jumping at the ready to tell us that we have, in some way, failed. By honestly serving with the essence of Seva towards ones own self, we will see the myriad of ways that ego is standing in front of the heart. The opportunity will become clear, to step over the former and listen more deeply to the latter. Seva ultimately becomes a practice of purification.

 

 

It is also in listening to the heart that we begin to understand that our innermost nature is a giving one. While the ego mind may tell us we need to force ourselves to serve, it is only when we shift into the spirit of Seva that we realize we are naturally kind, that we are naturally moved to serve others. In this way, our service becomes less contrived, more authentic and purposeful.

 

I know and understand what feeds my body, what feels good to consume and what does not. this is Seva to myself, this is me holding an overflowing cup from which i may fill any other cup. With Devotion and Love i prepare food, beautiful music and chanting playing in the background. With devotional enjoyment i eat with my hands, acutely smelling my food before i eat it. i offer obeisance to Krishna and really take my time eating, occasionally pausing to set my bowl aside, continuing to finish a few minutes later. i usually drink a glass of water a bit before and majority after my meal. always seeking the most Sattvic [17] option for my organism…

 

“Air is a first class food” 

— Thich Nhat Han (discussion on Emptiness)

 

Breathairianism, Barfoot Walking, Sun Gazing Yoga, Coconuts and Clean Water are the most excellent food sources. Chanting the Maha Mantra along with, exponentially increases potency and potentiality. 

 

“ Whatever you do, make it an offering to me – the food you eat, the sacrifice you make, the help you give, even your suffering. In this way you will be freed from the bondage of karma, and from its results both pleasant and painful. Then, firm in renunciation and yoga, with your heart free, you will come to me. ”

— Bhagavad Gita 9.27

 

I love living a yogic life, simple healthy food is one key ingredient. Often making a large pot of soup and alway too much, so I offer it to friends and locals, deliver as a care pack to anyone sick, run an ad on facebook for a free cup. I consider this as part of my Seva, in addition to guiding curious seekers through the Arkaya Yoga sequence, at various times throughout the year, or as the situation calls for it, is also my Seva. 

 

“ aum tat sat krsna arpanamastu “

aum that truth (highest reality) 

i offer (the food) to krishna

 

 


 

REFERENCES:

Bhajana-Rahasya by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura Mahasaya 2010 : glossary terms

Schlecker Markus, Fleischer Friederike (June 14, 2013). Ethnographies of Social Support. p. 180. ISBN 1137330961.

Sewa, Selfless Service sikhphilosophy.net.

DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary; Śeva — [śukrapāte sati śete, śī-van Uṇ.1.152,154]

Zimmer (1972) p. 124

Subrahmanyam, S. V. (1911). The Garuda Purana. p. 62.

“The Garuda Purana: Chapter VIII. An Account of the Gifts for the Dying”. sacred-texts.com

Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Shabda-Sagara Sanskrit-English

Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Benfey Sanskrit-English 

Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Cappeller Sanskrit-English

https://www.iep.utm.edu/hindu-ph/#SH1b

“Karni Matha Temple The Rat Temple of Rajasthan”www.rajasthantourplanner.com

Marvin Harris (1990), India’s sacred cow, Anthropology: contemporary perspectives, 6th edition, Editors: Phillip Whitten & David Hunter, Scott Foresman, ISBN 0-673-52074-9, pages 201–204

Iyer, L.A.K, Devadasis in South India: Their Traditional Origin And Development, Man in India, Vol.7, No. 47, 1927

https://www.cs.mcgill.ca/~rwest/wikispeedia/wpcd/wp/h/Hinduism.htm

https://www.purebhakti.com/resources/vaisnava-calendar

Paul Turner (2013), FOOD YOGA – Nourishing Body, Mind & Soul, 2nd Edition, ISBN 978-0-9850451-1-1 

Sasha D.

Sasha D.

Senior Yoga Practitioner & Bodyworker | Royal Wellness Group
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Born and raised in Vancouver, BC, from a holistic and organic home, first introduced to yoga at age four, by her grandmother who began her practice at age twenty as a Vivekananda disciple.

With over 2000 hours of teaching experience to all ages and levels of ability, focused on a therapeutic yogic perspective, Sasha maintains several disciplines and certifications. She is Yoga Alliance Registered and holds her E-RYT500, she has also completed and co-facilitated several 200-hour teacher training and certification courses.

Sasha safely guides clientele through physical postures with emphasis alignment and the breath. Her knowledge base is founded on practised techniques to heal mind/body/spirit, strengthen and lengthen, release stress, increase awareness, cultivate acceptance and promote an enriching personal practice from the earth up.

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Yogic Methodologies:
Hatha Yoga, Arkaya Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Yin Yoga, Power/Flow/Ashtanga Yoga, Partner Yoga, Restorative Yoga, Laughter Yoga, Nada Yoga, Nidra Yoga, Kids Yoga, Applied Psycho–Neurobiology, Mental Field Therapy, Toning, Music, Massage and Zen Zwing Inversion Therapy.

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