--> Skip to main content

The Meaning Of Seva In Hinduism

In Hinduism, the word seva is derived from 'saha eva', to be one with another person, who is in need, and therefore, serve her/his needs. Such service is part of the values of most religions. In the Bhagavad Gita, probably the most well known Hindu text, the aspirant is advised to perform Karma Yoga, throughout life, as the path to Gyana Yoga, spiritual wisdom. As many readers would be aware, the central element of Karma Yoga is nishkama karma, action without desire for its fruits. The action will benefit the needy. For the sevak, such helpful action is its own reward.

Seva is a prominent core value in all Indic religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, in particular.

Sometimes, the seva may benefit not just an individual, but a group; an organization; a community; nation; region; or even the world. The Gita advocates seva for loka sagraha, holding society together.

Those people who have adequate income and wealth, can buy the goods and services they need in the marketplace. Generally, it is the poor who need seva in basic areas such as physical survival; health; education; skills; and jobs. Sometimes, the severely sick or old may have the problems of loneliness, sadness, depression, etc. So, seva can take many forms. Feeding the poor; helping illiterate adults; educating the youth; ministering to the sick and old; helping to cremate the poor, abandoned dead; caring for the severely disabled, physically and/or mentally; serving one’s guru; maintaining an ashram, gurukul, school, hospital, hospice or similar institution of seva.