I have noticed a mis understanding of this word among those who even recognize it at all. Seva is a word you hear a lot if you go to yoga classes or have been to India. Sometimes a yoga studio will have people do work exchange and call it seva, which is misleading. The word seva means “selfless service”. Seva is not work exchange. Seva is not volunteering to then get something tangible in return, like “free” yoga classes. Pretending seva is some kind of work exchange is dull and uninspiring.
So what is “selfless service”? Why do seva if you don’t get anything in return? Well that’s the thing. Pure seva is supposedly selfless, but I have gotten so much in return for any seva I have done that on a certain level it seems like the most selfish act in the world.
The concept of seva in the west is basically the same as “volunteering”. Why do people volunteer? To help a cause or an organization they believe in. If you ask someone what they get from it, you would hear a lot of answers but a recurring theme would be that they feel like they are “making a difference” and that it is empowering on some deep level. So we are getting something pretty important from the exchange, it’s just not something overtly related to money or material goods. But what are we gaining exactly from this “selfless service”?
The answer I found that resonates is this: “Seva is an energy exchange with the energy field you are serving.” So whatever force/ lineage/ higher power you are serving, you are receiving blessings and energy from that source. It can be on a purely universal level as well – your beliefs don’t need a name for this to work. When you give without thought of the return, the universe has to take care of you. Yogi Bhajan said, “The law of the vacuum is that there is no vacuum”. When you give selflessly, you open up a space that has to be filled by the universe. That is also the reason why tithing works. What you give comes back to you multiplied.
One of the 5 sutras for the Aquarian age is “The other person is you”. Practicing seva is a really practical and empowering way to experience the truth of that. After all, they say what goes around, comes around. All in the fullness of time…