Seva In Indian religions

Seva (or sewa), in (Indian religions), is a selfless service that is performed without any expectation of result or award for performing it. Such services can be performed to benefit other human beings or society. Seva means “service”, referring to the selfless efforts for the welfare of all (sarbat da bhala). A more recent interpretation of the word is “dedication to others”. In Hinduism, it is also known as karma yoga, as described in the Bhagavata Gita.

Etymology and religious significance

Seva is short for kar seva, which is derived from the Sanskrit words kar, meaning hands or work, and seva, meaning service.

In Punjabi, the word seva also means “to worship, to adore, to pay homage through the act of love.” In the writings of Sikh gurus, these two meanings of seva (service and worship) have been merged. Seva is expected to be a labour of love performed without desire and intention, and with humility.

Kar seva is often translated as “voluntary labour.” A volunteer for kar seva is called a kar sevak. A kar sevak is someone who freely offers their services to a religious cause. Sikhs use the term kar sevak to represent people who engage in ministrations, altruistic philanthropy, and humanitarian endeavours in service to religion and society. Sevadar (Punjabi: ਸੇਵਾਦਾਰ; also transcribed as sewadar), literally “seva-supporter”, is another Punjabi word for a volunteer who performs seva.

The idea of selfless service (seva) is an important concept in several religions 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 practise of indirectly serving God and living a religious life that is a benefit to others. People of every religion are included in this service.

Volunteers helping prepare the food

Volunteers helping prepare the food

Seva in Hinduism

See also: Bhakti movement § Seva, dāna, and community kitchens

In Hinduismseva is the concept of service to God and/or humanity, without the expectation of return. According to Hindu scriptures, seva is seen as the highest form of dharma (righteousness). Seva has been said to provide good karma which facilitates the atma (soul) to obtain moksha (emancipation from the cycle of death and rebirth). Before the early nineteenth century, the meaning of seva (serving or honouring) had been virtually synonymous with that of puja (worship), which typically also included distribution of prasad (sacrificial offerings or consecrated food), such as food, fruits, and sweets to all gathered. Thus, seva typically involved offering of food to a deity and its murti (idol), followed by the distribution of said food as prasad. The concept of seva and karma yoga is explained in the Bhagavad Gita, where Krishna expounds on the subject. In modern times, the concept has been taken to volunteering for the greater good, such as in disaster relief and other major incidents.

Seva in Sikhism

See also: Langar (Sikhism) and Dasvandh

Kar seva is one of the main teachings of Sikhism — including its ordained philosophy, in Sikh scripture, theology, and hermeneutics. A tradition set forth with the clear understanding that there is God within all of us, and thus by serving humanity you are serving God’s creation.

Seva in Sikhism takes three forms: tan (physical service, i.e. manual labour), man (mental service, such as studying to help others), and dhan (material service, including financial support). Sikhism stresses kirat karō, “honest work”, and vaṇḍ chakkō, sharing what you have by giving to the needy for the benefit of the community. It is duty of every Sikh to engage in Seva wherever possible, such as volunteering at a Gurdwara, community center, senior living centers, care centers, sites of major world disasters etc. Seva is also performed further by offering service for a religious cause, often for constructing a gurdwara, a place of worship serving the One Creator which performs community services such as liturgy and providing communal food kitchens open to all communities and religions, regardless of those who attended the service or not, where the volunteers prepare and serve meals.

Sewa Day

Sewa Day was launched in 2010 by a nonprofit of the same name, a charity registered in England & Wales (No. 4446848). The first six Sewa Days were held on the first Sunday of October, until 2016 when the date changed.

  • 3 October 2010
  • 2 October 2011
  • 7 October 2012
  • 6 October 2013
  • 5 October 2014
  • 4 October 2015
  • 16 October 2016

In 2013, over 75,000 volunteers took part in over 25 countries, resulting in more than 561,000 volunteering hours. Sewa Day has taken place in the following countries:

  • Asia: China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Nepal
  • Europe: Russia, United Kingdom, Ireland, Finland, Denmark, Spain, Portugal
  • Middle East: United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman
  • Africa: Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Ethiopia,
  • Americas: United States of America

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia