Volume 13 - Issue 08
Aug 2015
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Posted on: Aug 02, 2015


The Yoga of Selfless Service
- 3rd Sevadal Conference, 16 Nov 1975


When the Lord comes in our midst there are two important aspects to His descent that stand out among others. One is His powerful and enchanting presence, which has the potency to transform and raise all who comes to Him. Everyone who comes to Him benefits, some considerably and few immensely, depending on one’s receptiveness. The other aspect is the message that He brings, and this has some unique benefits of its own. Adherence to the message has the power to manifest the Lord in one’s life. A tryst with Divinity could be a blessing for good acts of the past, but it is in loyalty to the message that one completely benefits and finds redemption, and also a means to express one's devotion to the Lord. So it is indeed of paramount importance for each of us to dwell on His message.

As part of the 90th Birthday offerings, we will begin every month from the present one with excerpts of a discourse from the Golden Jubilee Birthday Celebrations of Bhagawan. During the grand 50th Birthday celebrations, Baba gave discourses specific to the Seva wing and the Bal Vikas wing, apart from discourses revealing His own message and mission. Let us listen and re-listen, read and re-read even as we imbibe the essence contained.

‘Atmano mokshartham jagat hitaya cha’ - These are immortal words from the Rig Veda meaning, ‘work for the spiritual emancipation of yourself and for the benefit of the world’. Bhagawan through His message literally redefined these lines for us when He exhorted us to serve humanity, and through that service discover Divinity within and in all around. And each of these two pursuits gains value only when in conjunction with the other. Another line from the Vedas that we have heard Swami oft repeat is, ‘tyagenaike amritatva manasuh - It is only through sacrifice that immortality is attained’. Selflessness is the very source-feeling for sacrifice of any form or magnitude isn’t it? Service to society is a God given opportunity to kindle in ourselves that selflessness and also transform it into activities that will uplift the downtrodden. It is for granting this opportunity to scores of aspirants Bhagawan started the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation in the 1960s. Hundreds of thousands of men and women, professionals, homemakers, students, government employees, bankers, doctors, accountants and even CEOs and directors of organisations have ever since enrolled to be Seva Dal. And they not only serve in Swami’s ashrams and hospitals, but are involved throughout the year in service activities wherever they hail from. This inspiration of seeking one’s goal through service has spread to every part of the globe where Baba’s devotees live and Swami’s devotees are seen rushing to scenes of need and emergency, however inhospitable and trying the conditions may be. You can visit this site, sailoveinaction.org to have a glimpse of the work Bhagawan’s Organisation has been doing in different quarters of the globe.

It is indeed quite common for good natured humans to be drawn by such opportunities to serve and bring relief to their brethren. But even as one is involved in such work it is important to always keep in view the underlying purpose of it all. We are also quite likely to believe that spiritual pursuit is all about solitude and detachment. But does that mean being withdrawn and idle? Bhagawan would Himself clarify such doubts, guide and inspire the Seva Dal from time to time through conferences and meets held in Prasanthi Nilayam. In this article we bring you excerpts from a discourse Bhagawan delivered during the 3rd Seva Dal Conference held as part of His 50th Birthday celebrations in 1975. We, in an earlier article offered you excerpts from another discourse delivered during the same conference (Selfless Service for Individual and Societal Progress - 15 Nov 1975). We now bring you excerpts from the discourse delivered on 16 Nov 1975.


In man's life, it is only when there is a relationship, connection and communion between different components of the community that life will be happy and pleasurable. Man cannot live in isolation from society even for one moment. So to take notice of the problems of the society and through the efforts to resolve that if we seek peace and perform our Sadhana, that would be the best and sacred path to tread. Man’s good and bad are inextricably tied up with the society. It is only when the society is good that man can also be good and do good to his environment, but if the society is bad, man can become bad and can do harm to his environment. So, the proper path is for us to find out the ways in which we can do service to the society and through service to the society, we should acquire the right path of action for ourselves.

To save a drowning man, mere willingness and eagerness to save him is not good enough. One must also know to swim. So too, we may have the pure intention to be of service to others, but apart from resourcefulness, there are other prerequisites for service. Yes, there are and Bhagawan clearly indicates what they are in the following clip.


For acquiring success in our attempt to do service to the society, the first step will be for us to acquire success in service to our own household. From service to our homes we must progress to societal service. Before we can solve the problems of our household, we must first attempt to solve the problems of our individual selves. It will not be possible for a person who fills the mind with problems to serve the society. There is no yoga better than service to the society. The great ones have declared, “Yoga helps in controlling the vagaries of the mind.” But we do not find people who can give a practical definition for this sacred word. To control one's mind is something which is not possible for any individual. From time immemorial, we have been using this word (yoga), but we do not find even a single person who have practiced it and benefitted from it. It is essential to understand that using the mind for the right purposes is in itself controlling the mind. There is no way man can live without thoughts (sankalpas). So if you control all thoughts and ideas, doesn’t life become useless? Thus, to transform your thoughts into pure ones and to apply them in solving the problems in society is the true meaning of controlling the mind.

In the Gita, Arjun laments how the mind is ever flickering and agitating, strong and stubborn, and controlling which is more difficult than controlling the wind. Lord Krishna acknowledges the same and replies, “Abhyasena tu Kaunteya vairagyena ca grihyate” (But oh Kaunteya, it is possible through detachment and practice.) What we hear from Swami in this discourse is a clear elaboration of the same message. That this herculean task of controlling the mind can be achieved through Vairagya or detachment that comes from selfless service, and Abhyasa or constant practice of sublimating our thoughts and using them to solve the problems in society. Clearly Seva is beneficial as much for the giver as it is for the receiver, if not more. In fact Bhagawan goes on to declare that Sadhana without service to the society we live in is futile.


To isolate ourselves from society, to stand at a distance from society and to think that we are doing something great or something important is wrong. So first and foremost we must, to at least some extent, participate in service to society and thereby do good to our own country and its future by introducing and infusing sacred ideals into our thoughts - this should be recognised by the Sathya Sai Sevadal as their primary duty. Without taking part and participating in service, even if you do different kinds of Sadhana, you are not going to get any benefit out of it.

Path to no goal of substance will be without tribulations. Shouldn’t we expect them when the goal is the ultimate one of self-realisation and the path is that of service? But Bhagawan explains with what attitude we must take on these tests, and what can we do to prepare ourselves to face these challenges.


For those participating in sacred work, a number of troubles and obstacles come in the way. But we should not be bothered about them. If not today, tomorrow this body will perish; without being bogged down by problems that come to such a body, we should keep our focus on our divine goal and strive to obtain God’s grace. To promote such programs and to keep ourselves within this channel and this path, certain disciplinary rules are necessary. By accepting such regulations, putting down such regulations for our work and the work in which we wish to participate and by merely accepting regulations only for the purpose of today we are not going to achieve our objective. To consider service as primary sadhana, and to understand the significance of service is very essential for Sevadal.

While personally guiding devotees who enrolled as Seva Dal in the earlier years, Swami would say, “You are not a Seva Dal only when you wear a scarf. Remember you are a Seva Dal always and every opportunity to serve that presents before you, you must utilise it.” Clearly Bhagawan was not suggesting that we merely be a part of a group or organisation and perform Seva on weekends and holidays alone. He was encouraging us to develop the attitude of Seva. For that we must consider this as a path that leads to our goal, the Lord. Then the feeling of gratitude for the opportunity and reverence for the act will be spontaneous. This will also aid in us performing Seva in the best possible way. Swami gives us a simple method, a practical means for developing the right attitude for Seva.


When we do service, instead of merely doing service for one's own satisfaction, service that is done keeping the satisfaction of the recipient in the mind is the best form of seva. You must first introspect if your act of service is causing any harm or inconvenience to others. The essence and ideals of the Sathya Sai Seva Organisation should be promulgated and practiced; this should be taken up as an important Sadhana. Serving humans alone is not service. It is essential to serve all beings and creatures when the need arises. God is present in all beings. You must first recognise this Truth that God is present in all. It is only when this sacred thought is established in your mind, the seva that you do is sanctified. Without this faith and belief, any service rendered merely for earning name and fame will not aid you in sanctifying your life.

Bhagawan would often say that the role of Avatars or Divine Descents was to teach man the means of progressing towards one’s goal by living out their message. In the clip to follow, Bhagawan describes how Lord Krishna through His life taught mankind the message of Seva.


Man is born with many debts. He should recognise that in order to discharge and liquidate such debts, he has to do service. When the Rajasuya Yaga was being performed (by the Pandavas), Krishna came there and enquired, “Dharmaja, is there any opportunity for me to perform any service in this Yajna? Please grant me some task of service." Krishna requested him thus. Dharmaja then replied, "Swami, Yes. If You can tell me what is the appropriate service You can undertake, then I have no objection in giving You that service." Krishna then replied, "You yourself take cognizance of my abilities, power and training and allot an appropriate task. I have a degree, a M.A. degree" Dharmaja did not understand these words. Dharmaja asked Him in turn, "Swami, what is this M.A. degree? What is the qualification and what is it that You acquire from this M.A. degree?" Krishna explained, "'M' stands for used leaves, the leaves in which you have taken your food. 'A' stands for removing and discarding them. (Swami in this line plays with the Telugu words used to describe the task of removing leaves after people have eaten from it.) This is the meaning of My M.A. degree!" Krishna who is all-knowing, all-powerful and can perform any task, undertook to do this little mean work of removing the leaves in which people have taken their food, during the Rajasuya Yajna.

What is the inner meaning of this? Krishna was demonstrating and proclaiming to the world that there is immense sacredness in the act of service. Though Krishna was all powerful, He donned the simple role of a charioteer for Arjuna. It is very incorrect for us to consider any act of service to be small or menial. Nishkama seva or service from which you do not expect to get fruits has been described as yoga. Man's primary duty is to participate in such selfless service and not seek the fruits thereof and attain proximity to God.

Our knowledge of the lives of the earlier Avatar’s are confined to books and of course the authentic descriptions we have heard from Swami. But what we have ourselves witnessed is that of Bhagawan Himself. And clearly we do not have to go far in search of inspiration or ideals. In this next part Bhagawan explains how He keeps Himself ever busy in the service of mankind and how we should strive to emulate Him.


Many people ask Me, “Has Swami got a secretary or an assistant? Who looks into all the mail that Swami gets? Is there anybody to assist Swami?” Who needs a secretary? The one who has secrets needs a secretary. I don’t have any secrets, so for me a secretary is unnecessary. My happiness lies in Me being able to use My whole life in service to all of you. That is true prosperity. Ishwara or God is the embodiment of all forms of prosperity (Aishwarya). So any work, I do it Myself, I look after it Myself and I enjoy it. That is why when people ask for My message I tell them the phrase, ‘My life is My message.’ I can give you a small example: Be it a small work in this auditorium, or some visitor who needs to be given a room or the timing to start a particular event, you may think that there are some organisers who take care of such things. No, no, every detail, every discipline and schedule is looked into by Me personally. I then come and sit silently here like a witness. This is the reason why I am eternally blissful. It is only when we involve in work and utilise our energies without wasting them, we can obtain true happiness. Mentally or physically we must always be active. That is why it is said, ‘Laziness is rust and dust, realisation is best and rest!’ We should not turn out to be lazy people. We are born in Karma yoga, we are born into this field of karma (action), so we must use this body for doing work.

In the Gita, Krishna declared to Arjuna, “There is no duty for me to do in all the three worlds, O Partha, nor do I have anything to gain or attain. Yet, I am engaged in prescribed duties.” This truly is what comes to our mind when we recollect Bhagawan’s life. And in that clip He reveals the secret for His Ananda, when He says that He keeps Himself busy in the service of those around. And to give us the same joy, Bhagawan has given this tool called Seva. Swami would beautifully describe what should be the journey of every devotee in this manner - Chamatkar (miracles) to Sanskar (refinement or transformation), leading to Paropakar (being of service to others) culminating in Sakshatkar (Self-Realisation). In the clips we presented today we heard Swami speaking lucidly on this journey from Paropakar to Sakshatkar. The direction and the base for Paropakar must be the goal, Sakshatkar. But at the same time one cannot deride Paropakar as nothing but meaningless action, just because once sight is fixed on Supreme Oneness. When this message of Bhagawan is internalised, our actions will be sanctified, and our spiritual quest itself will bring benefit to those around, and our success will be guaranteed.

- Radio Sai Team

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