Goal of Gurmat Based Sevaa

One can find all sorts of definitions of ‘Sevaa-ਸੇਵਾ’ on the internet and in books – including but not limited to selfless service, selflessly helping others for their welfare etc.

Many think and consiselfder ‘Sevaa‘ to be ONLY going to Gurdwara and participating in various activities there such as Langar, washing utensils and plates, cleaning Gurdwara building and premises, dusting shoes of Gurdwara attendees, donating for Gurdwara building and related projects, ritual reciting/reading Bani, placing elaborate Langar and Shabils on every street during Gurpurabs or Nagar Kirtan and force-feeding people again and again who are already full or satiated (ਰੱਜਿਆਂ ਨੂੰ) etc.

Religious hooligans/murderous thugs consider it ‘Sevaa‘ even killing and hurting fellow humans in the name of protecting the dignity of one’s religion/Guru/God/scripture!!!!!

  • ਹਉਮੈ ਨਾਵੈ ਨਾਲਿ ਵਿਰੋਧੁ ਹੈ ਦੁਇ ਨ ਵਸਹਿ ਇਕ ਠਾਇ ॥ ਹਉਮੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਸੇਵਾ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਤਾ ਮਨੁ ਬਿਰਥਾ ਜਾਇ ॥੧॥ : False-ego-sense (Haumai) is opposed to the divine Naam; both cannot coexist in the mind. ‘Sevaa‘ is not possible in Haumai (false ego-sense), and mind becomes empty. (sggs 560).
  • ਦੇਖਾ ਦੇਖੀ ਸਭ ਕਰੇ ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਬੂਝ ਨ ਪਾਇ ॥ ਜਿਨ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਹਿਰਦਾ ਸੁਧੁ ਹੈ ਸੇਵ ਪਈ ਤਿਨ ਥਾਇ ॥ : Manmukhs (Unenlightened persons) do everything seeing other people do to make a show (Pakhand, ਦੇਖਾ ਦੇਖੀ, ਨਕਲ, ਦਿਖਾਵਾ…), but they themselves have no understanding of the true way of living. (On the other hand) those who have become the Gurmukh (Enlightened by following the Creator- Connecting Guru Shabad), their mind are Pure (free of vices/Bikaar), their ‘Sevaa‘ is successful. (sggs 28).

As Counseled by the Guru Shabad, any ‘Sova‘ done without Guru Giyan-Wisdom becomes a cause of hardening of Haumai (false ego-sense). The Guru Shabad asserts that Sova‘ done in Haumai becomes useless. The reason it becomes useless is because the spirit of ‘Sevaa‘ is meant to remove Haumai, NOT further increase/inflate it.

Before learning prerequisites of ‘Sevaa‘ from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), let’s first try to learn the Goal of the Gurmat based ‘Sevaa‘.

Goal of Gurmat Based ‘Sevaa

In some form or other, Sevaa has been adopted and preached by every man-made religion (ਮਜ਼ਹਬ) in the world.

In Sikhi of Baabaa Nanak, any Sevaa done without Realizing the Enlightening Message contained in the Guru Shabad becomes a cause of hardening of one’s Haumai or false ego-sense. In turn, this hardening of Haumai gives rise to vices/Bikaar (i.e. lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride; and their countless variations), madness of Jaat Paat, idol worship, following living Gurus (e.g. sants, babas, deras etc.) instead of SGGS), anti-Gurmat rituals, and so on.

With that said, then the purpose of Sevaa would be to adopt Godly Virtues and eliminate one’s Haumai (false ego-sense), vices/Bikaar, evil thoughts, evil intentions, evil behavior, bad character etc. Furthermore, such Sevaa is NOT done to ask for favors or any rewards from the Guru/God. It is done in True Love. There is NO point in doing Sevaa if one is not willing to listen to the Counsel of the SGGS or make any effort in changing one’s deluded mind. The Gurbani warns:

  • ਸਾ ਸੇਵਾ ਕੀਤੀ ਸਫਲ ਹੈ ਜਿਤੁ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਕਾ ਮਨੁ ਮੰਨੇ ॥ ਜਾ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਕਾ ਮਨੁ ਮੰਨਿਆ ਤਾ ਪਾਪ ਕਸੰਮਲ ਭੰਨੇ ॥ ਉਪਦੇਸੁ ਜਿ ਦਿਤਾ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਸੋ ਸੁਣਿਆ ਸਿਖੀ ਕੰਨੇ ॥ : One is considered to be doing Seva if that Seva is in accordance and in acceptance of the teachings of the Guru (Instructions contained within SGGS). When this condition is met ONLY then the Seva done is considered acceptable. This is the Instructions (Counsel-Updesh) given by the Guru and we are to listen and adhere to it attentively (So Suniya Sikhi Kanney). (sggs 314).
  • ਕਿਸੁ ਹਉ ਸੇਵੀ ਕਿਆ ਜਪੁ ਕਰੀ ਸਤਗੁਰ ਪੂਛਉ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਸਤਗੁਰ ਕਾ ਭਾਣਾ ਮੰਨਿ ਲਈ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਆਪੁ ਗਵਾਇ ॥ ਏਹਾ ਸੇਵਾ ਚਾਕਰੀ ਨਾਮੁ ਵਸੈ ਮਨਿ ਆਇ ॥ ਨਾਮੈ ਹੀ ਤੇ ਸੁਖੁ ਪਾਈਐ ਸਚੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਸੁਹਾਇ ॥੧॥ : I asked my Satguru: Whom should I serve and whom should I Realize? (The Satguru’s answer is to) leave my self-will and follow the Guru’s Instruction (Shabad, Upadesh, Wisdom, Guidance). Through such Sevaa and work, the Naam (Eternal Giyan-Wisdom / Virtues) comes to mind. Happiness is obtained from the Naam itself and the Spiritual life becomes beautiful. ||1|| (sggs 34).
  • ਸੇਵਕੁ ਸੇਵਾ ਤਾਂ ਕਰੇ ਸਚ ਸਬਦਿ ਪਤੀਣਾ ॥ : A ‘Sevak’ (Sevaadaar) can perform ‘Sevaa‘ only when his/her mind performs Sevaa in accordance and in acceptance of the teachings of the Guru’s Shabad (instructions contained within the SGGS). (sggs 767).

In short, the Guru/God does not need ‘Sevaa‘, the ‘Sevak (Sevaadaar) needs to perform ‘Sevaa‘ to refurbish his/her own mind with the unbiased mental strength by internalizing the Enlightening Message contained in the Guru Shabad – relinquish the negative impact of Haumai or false ego-sense from one’s own mind, and so on.

  • ਵਿਚਿ ਹਉਮੈ ਸੇਵਾ ਥਾਇ ਨ ਪਾਏ ॥ ਜਨਮਿ ਮਰੈ ਫਿਰਿ ਆਵੈ ਜਾਏ ॥ : Any ‘Sevaa‘ performed in Haumai or false ego-sense goes in vain. (Such person’s mind) continues to go through cycle of spiritual birth and death. (sggs 1071).

Such ‘Sevaa‘ based on Gurmat can be performed if one can collect his/her prejudiced, divided and wandering mind. NO mental trickery, show off, Pakhand, religious robes, religious paraphernalia, rituals (Karamkaand), Langars, ritualistic reading/listening of the Guru Shabad, Nagar Kirtans etc. will do the trick! Falsehood (Jhooth-ਝੂਠ) is shallow. Therefore any Sevaa performed in selfishness and with the scattered or fragmented mind would be false (ਝੂਠ-Jhooth), superficial, Pakhand etc.

  • ਹਉ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਸੇਵੀ ਆਪਣਾ ਇਕ ਮਨਿ ਇਕ ਚਿਤਿ ਭਾਇ ॥ : I follow the teaching of the Satguru (True Giaan-Wisdom of the Shabad) by becoming ‘Ik Mani Ik Chiti’ (one) Within. (sggs 26).
  • ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥ ਹਉਮੈ ਮਾਰੇ ਕਰਣੀ ਸਾਰੁ ॥੭॥ : Undertaking the deed of controlling my false ego-sense (Haumai) and Enlightening myself with the spiritual Message within the Shabad (Shabad Vichaar) is service (Sevaa) of the Guru (ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਸੇਵਾ – Gur Ki Sevaa). ॥7॥. (sggs 223).

Last but not least, the Gurbani’s edict (ਫੈਸਲਾ) is to become SACHIAARAA‘ (God-Realized) and abide in Nij Ghar within.

  • ਸਚਿਆਰ ਸਿਖ ਬਹਿ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਪਾਸਿ ਘਾਲਨਿ ਕੂੜਿਆਰ ਨ ਲਭਨੀ ਕਿਤੈ ਥਾਇ ਭਾਲੇ ॥ : Those Sikhs (learners, students of the Guru Shabad) who have become ‘Sachiaar‘ remain connected with the Giyan-Wisdom of the Guru Shabad in daily life, but false ones are found NOT to follow Message of the Guru Shabad. (sggs 305).
  • ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਸਿਖਿ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਧਿਆਇਆ ॥ : The Guru’s Sikh remembers the Giyan-Wisdom of the Guru Shabad in daily life. (sggs 869).

Becoming ‘Sachiaar‘ is the GURMUKH State of the mind (Enlightened). ONLY by Internalizing the Message of the Guru Shabad (GURMUKH-Hood State of Mind) can one discern fake from true, unreal from the real, and so on.

Since the way of the Gurmukh is arduous (like walking on a razor’s edge …), Gurmukhs are said to be ‘rare‘. Nonetheless, the Gurbani time and again urges us to become the Gurmukh – Sach Santokhee, Enlightened, Sachiaaraa capable of restraining his mind instead of following his mind etc.

  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਖੋਟੇ ਖਰੇ ਪਛਾਣੁ ॥ : The spirituality of the Shabad (i.e. Internalization of the Message of the Shabad) distinguishes between fake true (in conscience within. (sggs 942).
  • ਸੇਵਾ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਰਹਸਿ ਗੁਣ ਗਾਵਾ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਬੀਚਾਰਾ ॥ ਖੋਜੀ ਉਪਜੈ ਬਾਦੀ ਬਿਨਸੈ ਹਉ ਬਲਿ ਬਲਿ ਗੁਰ ਕਰਤਾਰਾ ॥ : With the Conscience of ‘Sevaa‘ I live daily life of Divine Virtues, and by becoming a Gurmukh I Reflect On the Guru Shabad. The searcher (Seeker-ਖੋਜਣ ਵਾਲਾ ਮਨੁੱਖ) grows (in Spiritual or Divine Life – ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ), and the arguer (Mayaic debater, quarrelsome, ਝਗੜਾਲੂ, etc.) annihilates (or ruins his Spiritual). O Gur Kartaaraa (Divine Wisdom…)! I am a sacrifice to you (sggs 1255).
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਪਰਤੀਤਿ ਭਈ ਮਨੁ ਮਾਨਿਆ ਅਨਦਿਨੁ ਸੇਵਾ ਕਰਤ ਸਮਾਇ ॥ : (sggs 1423).

In a nutshell, on the one hand Gumat based ‘Sevaa‘ is a supplement to Divine remembrance (Divine Virtues, Naam Sevaa, living in harmony with Hukam…), on the other hand it destroys the self-hood, superstitions, and social disharmony – prejudices, casteism or Jaat Paat, rituals or Karamkaand, fanaticism, religious Thugy and hooliganism, gender inequality etc.

Prerequisites of performing Gurmat based ‘Sevaa

Now perhaps we can appreciate the Gurmat’s prerequisites for performing Sevaa (ਸੇਵਾ).

First, one must be free of the negative impact of Haumai or false-ego-sense. That being said, Gurmat based Sevaa can only be performed by eradicating the self-hood (‘ਸਾ ਸੇਵਾ ਕੀਤੀ ਸਫਲ ਹੈ’- Saa sevaa keetee safal hai), sggs 314):

  • ਆਪੁ ਗਵਾਇ ਸੇਵਾ ਕਰੇ ਤਾ ਕਿਛੁ ਪਾਏ ਮਾਨੁ ॥ : If one serves without false ego-sense (Aapa Bhaav) then one receives recognition. (sggs 474).

Next, one must be contented within (ਸੰਤੋਖੀ) for only those who are contented (ਸੰਤੋਖੀ) within can serve selflessly.

  • ਸੇਵ ਕੀਤੀ ਸੰਤੋਖੀਈ ਜਿਨ੍ਹ੍ਹੀ ਸਚੋ ਸਚੁ ਧਿਆਇਆ ॥ ਓਨ੍ਹ੍ਹੀ ਮੰਦੈ ਪੈਰੁ ਨ ਰਖਿਓ ਕਰਿ ਸੁਕ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਧਰਮੁ ਕਮਾਇਆ ॥ ਓਨ੍ਹ੍ਹੀ ਦੁਨੀਆ ਤੋੜੇ ਬੰਧਨਾ ਅੰਨੁ ਪਾਣੀ ਥੋੜਾ ਖਾਇਆ ॥ : Only those do the real Sevaa who are contented. They contemplate the Truth. They do not walk on the path of
    corruption (wickedness, ill-doings…), but do good deeds and live by Dharma. They burn away the bonds of the world (Maya’s fetters…), and live on a little water and food (i.e., they do not eat for the sake of sense-gratification).

The implication is that, without Godly contentment, there can be no selflessness (ਨਿਸਕਾਮਤਾ). In the absence of selflessness, one’s Sevaa will be motivated by vices/Bikaar (lust, greed, attachment, pride, selfish intentions, and so on. The Godly contentment (ਸੰਤੋਖ) indicates absence of self-hood (ਆਪਾ ਭਾਵ), selfishness, vices/Bikaars, Mayaic hunger (ਮਾਇਆ ਦੀ ਭੁੱਖ) etc.

  • ਬਿਨਾ ਸੰਤੋਖ ਨਹੀ ਕੋਊ ਰਾਜੈ ॥ : Without contentment (inner contentment, True Contentment, ਜੇ ਅੰਦਰ ਸੰਤੋਖ ਨਾ ਹੋਵੈ…), no one is satiated (ਤ੍ਰਿਪਤ, ਰੱਜ). (sggs 279).
  • ਸਤੁ ਸੰਤੋਖੁ ਹੋਵੈ ਅਰਦਾਸਿ ॥ ਤਾ ਸੁਣਿ ਸਦਿ ਬਹਾਲੇ ਪਾਸਿ ॥੧॥ : When a person acquires Godly (Virtue of) Contentment, and offers his prayer (Ardaas) to God; then God listens to his prayer (Ardaas), and the person feels His Presence Within. ॥1॥ (sggs 878).

That being said, the way to inculcate the Consciousness of ‘Sevaa‘ (Sevaa Surati – ‘ਸੇਵਾ ਸੁਰਤਿ’) is to abide in Guru Shabad (the Gurmukh State of the mind).

  • ਸੇਵਾ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਸਬਦਿ ਵੀਚਾਰਿ ॥ : By Reflecting On the Guru Shabad (Upadesh, Instructions…), one’s consciousness turns towards ‘Sevaa‘. (sggs 1343).
  • ਸੇਵਾ ਸਾ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਭਾਵਸੀ ਜੋ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਪਾਏ ਥਾਇ ॥ ਜਨ ਨਾਨਕ ਹਰਿ ਆਰਾਧਿਆ ਗੁਰ ਚਰਣੀ ਚਿਤੁ ਲਾਇ ॥੮॥੨॥੪॥੯॥ : Only the Creator-approved ‘Sevaa‘ is acceptable to the Creator Within. Nanak, ‘Jan’ (Gurmukh, Daas, Bhagat etc.) remembers the Creator by attuning to the Guru’s Eternal Giyan-Wisdom. ||8||2||4||9|| (sggs 757).

As instructed by the Guru Shabad, any ‘Sevaa‘ done without the Guru’s Giyan-Wisdom becomes a cause of hardening of Haumai (false ego-sense). It is the instruction of the Guru Shabad that service done in Haumai becomes useless. Because the spirit of ‘Sevaa‘ which was meant to remove Haumai, without Guru Giyan-Wisdom, becomes ego-filled ritual of ‘Sevaa‘ that further increase/inflate one’s Haumai. Therefore, it is necessary to first try to understand ‘Sevaa‘ from the Gurbani in SGGS.

Ending Note

The practical Spirituality of the SGGS is of the SELF, for the SELF, by the SELF. That said, there is NO concept of transfer of blessing in the Sikhi of Baabaa Nanak. Instead the principle of Baabaa Nanak’s Sikhi or Gurmat is:

  • ਆਪਣ ਹਥੀ ਆਪਣਾ ਆਪੇ ਹੀ ਕਾਜੁ ਸਵਾਰੀਐ ॥੨੦॥: (So long there is breathPraan) accomplish the task (of God Realization) yourself ( i.e. with self-efforts, hard work: Shabad-Vichaar …). ||20|| (sggs 474).
  • ਆਪਣਾ ਕਾਰਜੁ ਆਪਿ ਸਵਾਰੇ ਹੋਰਨਿ ਕਾਰਜੁ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥ : (One) resolves his own affair himself (i.e. the ultimate Purpose of life of God Realization); anyone else cannot do this work (for him). (sggs 351).
  • ਬਿਨੁ ਖਾਏ ਬੂਝੈ ਨਹੀ ਭੂਖ ॥: Without eating, hunger is not satisfied. (sggs 1149).
  • ਭੁਖਿਆ ਗੰਢੁ ਪਵੈ ਜਾ ਖਾਇ ॥ : A person who is hungry establishes a connection with his body only if he eats food (otherwise death may follow). (sggs 143).
  • ਆਪੇ ਬੀਜਿ ਆਪੇ ਹੀ ਖਾਹੁ ॥ : Whatever you sow, you will reap. (sggs 4).

That being so, in Gurmat based ‘Sevaa‘, the Self serves the Self! In other words, performing ‘Sevaa‘ considering it relinquishing one’s own false ego-sense (Haumai) and its faults from one’s own mind is actually doing one’s own service!

  • ਤੇਰੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਤੁਝ ਤੇ ਹੋਵੈ ਅਉਰੁ ਨ ਦੂਜਾ ਕਰਤਾ ॥ : Your ‘Sevaa‘ is done by motivation from within one’s own Self, none else can do it on your behalf. (sggs 1185).
  • ਆਪੇ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਆਪਿ ਹਰਿ ਆਪੇ ਮੇਲਿ ਮਿਲਾਇ ॥ ਆਪਿ ਦਇਆ ਕਰਿ ਮੇਲਸੀ ਗੁਰ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਪੀਛੈ ਪਾਇ ॥ : The Self brings about Enlightenment the Creator-Connecting Guru Shabad, and the Self brings about
    Realization of the Omnipresent Creator Within. I bestowed benevolence on my Self to enable Realization of the Counsel of the Creator-Connecting Guru Shabad by abiding by It. (sggs 41).

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  1. I have read it time and again, and the end note is just ultimate. Every word invokes effortless presence , effortless meditative takeover, effortless shining of what just is. Reading it is meditation where Self alone is. A powerful post indeed. Living this is Sewa, unbroken effortless continuity is Sewa. This is such a beautiful post . Just gratitude ! 🙏🙏🙏

  2. Thank you T Singh Ji. How blessed we are to have an opportunity to read non dual wisdom of non dual Sewa. What a pointer to abide as the non dual presence in the midst of mind attacks. Sewa in battle. Waheguru

  3. It was then I learnt the meaning of SEVA BHAAV without a shikan / thought/duality in my mind. I think the divine sometime makes us be Karamyogi or puts us onto the road of seva when its most unlikely to strike us :)

    •ਸੇਵ ਕੀਤੀ ਸੰਤੋਖੀਈ ਜਿਨ੍ਹ੍ਹੀ ਸਚੋ ਸਚੁ ਧਿਆਇਆ ॥ ਓਨ੍ਹ੍ਹੀ ਮੰਦੈ ਪੈਰੁ ਨ ਰਖਿਓ ਕਰਿ ਸੁਕ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਧਰਮੁ ਕਮਾਇਆ ॥ (sggs 466-467).
    •ਸਾ ਸੇਵਾ ਕੀਤੀ ਸਫਲ ਹੈ ਜਿਤੁ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਕਾ ਮਨੁ ਮੰਨੇ ॥: (sggs 314).
    •ਜੇਹਾ ਤੂੰ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਕਰਹਿ ਤੇਹੇ ਕੋ ਕਰਮ ਕਮਾਵੈ ਜੇਹਾ ਤੁਧੁ ਧੁਰਿ ਲਿਖਿ ਪਾਇਆ ॥੨॥: (sggs 736).

  4. Hello Sir,

    I can narrate an incident from my college days . Me and my friends used to go to the gurudwara ( my second time in 17 years) near the Engg college initially for fun and eating home like food, slowly we started cooking in the kitchen, we started washing utensils, cleaning the gurudwara, washing other people’s clothes,tending to sick or not so monetarily rich people. Not even for a single moment we thought about which caste we belonged to, how rich my father was, how unhealthy the other person was etc etc…
    This was when I had never recited any Sikh prayers in my life.

    I feel sometimes Seva Bhaav comes from within maybe innocence is the word for us then girls , but it was gradual over 6 months period and it was all unintentional and unplanned.

    It was then I learnt the meaning of SEVA BHAAV without a shikan / thought/duality in my mind. I think the divine sometime makes us be Karamyogi or puts us onto the road of seva when its most unlikely to strike us :)

  5. Thank you Gurpreet Singh Ji for taking time to comment on this post. Your comment made it more meaningful.

    Pehla eh shabad nu vichar ke mann ne apne mool (chit) di sewa karni hai…

    Well put. The Gurbani:

    •ਮਾਣਸ ਸੇਵਾ ਖਰੀ ਦੁਹੇਲੀ ॥ ਸਾਧ ਕੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਸਦਾ ਸੁਹੇਲੀ ॥: Maanas sevaa kharee duhelee. Saadh kee sevaa sadaa suhelee (sggs 1182).

  6. Satkar jog gurmukh T.Singh jio
    very well said ji
    ਹਉ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਸੇਵੀ ਆਪਣਾ ਇਕ ਮਨਿ ਇਕ ਚਿਤਿ ਭਾਇ

    ਤੇਰੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਤੁਝ ਤੇ ਹੋਵੈ ਅਉਰੁ ਨ ਦੂਜਾ ਕਰਤਾ

    Pehla eh shabad nu vichar ke mann ne apne mool (chit) di sewa karni hai, apni marzi tyagni hai tan hi oh shareer(body) karke koi sewa kar sakda hai .
    je agar bina apne mool di sewa karke oh sirf shareer naal koi sewa karda hai ta oh dhong karda hai usnu aisa karan naal thoda sansari maan hi milda jo abhiman(ego) vich badal janda hai.


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