Seva also Sewa, short for the word Karseva refers to “selfless service”, work or service performed without any thought of reward or personal benefit. In the Punjabi language the person performing such service is called a Sevadar.
All Sikhs are encouraged by their Guru (Guru Granth Sahib) to perform Seva or Selfless Service. This is not only good for community relations but also is good for the moral uplifting of the person. You will find Sikhs engaged in free service in Gurdwaras washing dishes, cleaning the floors, serving food, etc.
The importance of selfless seva is highlighted by the Guru in this verse: One who performs selfless service, without thought of reward, shall attain his Lord and Master.” (SGGS p 286)
Guru tells the followers that peace can be obtained through Sewa: You shall find peace, doing seva” (SGGS p 25) Doing seva bring its own tranquility and serenity which you cannot find in doing anything else. For a Sikh, simran and seva are the spiritual right and left hand. As a Sikh, you must do both to keep a balance. These are like the two wings of a bird – the bird must use both otherwise it will not be able to fly.
Seva in Sikhism is imperative for spiritual life. It is the highest penance (GG, 423). It is a means to acquiring the highest merit. The Sikh often prays to God for a chance to render seva. Says Guru Arjan, Nanak V, “I beg to serve those who serve you (GG, 43)” and “I, your servant, beg for seva of your people, which is available through good fortune alone (GG, 802).” According to Guru Amar Das, “He who is turned towards the Guru finds repose and joy in seva” (GG, 125).
Three varieties of seva are sanctioned in Sikh lore:
That rendered through physical means – “taan”
That rendered through the mental apparatus “maan”
That rendered through one’s material resources “dhan”.
The first of these is considered to be the highest of all and is imperatively prescribed for every Sikh. “Cursed are the hands and feet that do not engage in seva” (Bhai Gurdas, Varan, 27.1).
These photos remind us of what true seva is all about:
A young disabled child sweeps the floor at the Sri Harmandar Sahib Plaza
A man without hands picks up heavy buckets of water for Seva
Khalsa Aid volunteers serve food to Earthquake victims in Nepal
Khalsa Aid volunteers serve food to disaster struck victims in Mumbai
Khalsa Aid volunteers serve food packages to Syrian refugees
Midland Langar Seva Society feeds the hungry on the streets of Delhi
A group of Sikh organisations joined together to restore houses demolished by the earthquake in Nepal
MLSS serve food to children on the streets of Delhi
MLSS volunteers serve food to syrian refugees in Calais
Sikh volunteers feed the hungry in Delhi
Guru Nanak’s Free Kitchen feeds the homeless daily on the streets of UK
British Sikh Council install water pumps for the needy in India
Even the elderly do what they can during Seva
Sikh Gurdwaras across Nepal came out to feed refugees in Nepal during the earthquake
Sometimes the best Seva is for no one to find out seva was even done