amritayoga.com_Yoga Talks_Karma Yoga at AmritapuriMy experience of Seva

“Do your work and perform your duties with all your heart. Try to work selflessly with love. Pour yourself into whatever you do. Then you will feel and experience beauty and love in every field of work. Love and beauty are within you. Try to express them through your actions and you will definitely touch the very source of bliss.” -Amma

It was Amma’s love that allowed me to feel safe and comfortable as I started my seva experience at the ashram. I took note that we could pick a service that we would enjoy, so that we could live and spread that joy. My main seva was in the Bakery. The volunteers there were so nice, so creative, walking the talk of heart service—what a lovely way of doing that by providing delicious baked and raw foods. I found that the gluten free line was the best I tasted anywhere. Amma’s blessings infuse the people and the food. That’s why it’s so good! There were some very complicated recipes and no effort was spared. As for me, I found that the simple repetitive jobs never bored me, another case of magic at the ashram.

“Children, having a selfless attitude will uplift us. By helping others we are, in fact, helping ourselves. On the other hand, every time we do a selfish action, we are harming ourselves.” -Amma

As time passed, I heard Amma reinforce the practice of not judge a job as being ‘beneath us’. International children were praised in that we undertake all seva without the mindset that comes of caste. I watched some international devotees in selfless service all day long. It was their way of life. Contributing to any service at the ashram supports Amma’s humanitarian programs worldwide. I heard and saw happiness in recycling, composting, gardening, and Amma’s prasad crafting, to name a few. I was delighted to find that the people I served in my seva took care of me in theirs, inter-relationship. I noticed that some Indian devotees did their seva with devotion, with love. I am yet to have the experience of selflessness to that degree. I did fully enjoy the two weeks I spent working physically hard, serving Amma’s cows. The volunteer there said I was probably clearing some karma. Not on the list at the Seva Desk, I will offer more cow-loving next visit. Another seva aspect around the ashram was in coming upon people not asking for help with what they were doing and helping anyway. Or saying yes automatically without thinking, if asked for help.

“Children, don’t miss a single opportunity you get to serve others. Nobody should have to wait patiently to receive our help according to our own convenience.” -Amma

The shadow of seva was also present. Overwhelmed by their seva, some can become stressed and speak in harsh tones or look outward with unkind eyes. Some people do not contribute. They seem to congratulate themselves on finding excuses to avoid seva. Some take excess care of themselves with personal appointments and leave their co-sevites with more work. Just as it is a practice not to judge the seva at hand, I encouraged myself to not be judgmental toward others, after all Amma says that those people need more love; and who am I to say where on the path they should be. It is between Amma and them. This was a daily practice for me and bore fruit towards the end of my stay. My supervisor also helped me in this, in fact it was her attitude that I enlisted: she was not stressed by anyone not turning up, she made adjustments then and there. My shadow side was with (at least) two posts that I did not agree with or didn’t want to tackle. Of those two, I eventually softened my thinking and participated in one, with love. I’m saving the second for my next visit.

Consider the Shakespeare quote from Hamlet: “for there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” Seva goes beyond that. Equanimity towards an action is not necessarily karma yoga. Only those actions performed selflessly, with heart and soul as an offering to God can be called Karma Yoga.

“We should serve others without any expectations whatsoever. When others throw thorns at us, we should be able to throw flowers back at them. When they give us poison, we should give them payasam (sweet rice pudding). This is the kind of mind we should have. The purpose of serving the world is to develop that sort of mind.” -Amma

Thank you Amma, for providing the teachings and stage for me to be aware of overcoming my useless judgment loops, in fact the whole concept of ranking things in general; to chant my mantra while working; to practice opening my heart as I serve; and to be able to take a welcoming attitude home and enjoy service and open mindedness around the house and community.

Author: Bernice