27 Dec Seva: The Art of Selfless Service

“The sun never says to the earth, ‘You owe me.’ Look what happens with a love like that. It lights up the whole sky.”  – Hafiz

Discovering the Art

Everyday, the Sun practices seva towards the Earth. In Sanskrit, seva means ‘selfless service’: the act of giving without any expectations of receiving. The purest loving kindness with no reciprocity, which then differs from an ‘altruistic action.’ Seva is all about altruistic devotion.

How often, instead, do we call on ‘karma’? And we act kindly for receiving good karma back? This is led by a cause-effect principle…and a lot of expectations! There’s absolutely nothing bad about it. However, embracing seva would bring our actions to a whole new blissful level and would lead to the ‘art of blessed actions.’ The blessing of finding joy in just offering and discovering a reward in the act of giving to others.

It sounds more complicated than it actually is. In reality, it’s simple.

Seva is being humble. Seva is a silent smile, it is not something to show off, we don’t have to blast what we’ve done over Facebook or Instagram. We don’t have to do ‘big things’ in order to embrace it. Seva can be as little, yet meaningful, as a hug, a smile, a helping hand to a stranger. When we think about it, doesn’t this come naturally to us?

The act of selfless service is intrinsic to our instinct; we just have to let it flow naturally without too much reasoning around it.

“Helping out is not some special skill. It’s not the domain of rare individuals. It is not confined to a single part of our lives. We simply heed the call of that natural impulse within and follow it where it leads us.” – Ram Dass

In Hindu cultures, like Bali, seva was believed to contribute to individual spiritual growth, while supporting the whole community: seva and kula (community) work hand in hand to create harmony in the society and ordinary daily life. Imagine the beauty that blossoms when everyone in a group practices love and kindness with no the expectation of receiving something in return? The act itself becomes a gift to everyone being part of it.

Practicing seva: BaliSpirit Festival

Beautifully woven together, seva and kula are at the very heart of BaliSpirit Festival, a community-based event happening every year in Bali, the Island of Gods. The festival summons a diverse and vibrant community, with its roots in the core life principle of Balinese Hinduism: Tri Hita Karana –  to live in harmony with God, with people and with nature.

For a week – from April 2-8 2018 – the festival invites us to open our minds and bodies in over 200 workshops in yoga, dance, music, meditation, breathwork and to experience heart-opening and energetic music concerts, ecstatic dances and cacao ceremonies.

Like most yoga festivals around the world, BaliSpirit Festival was firstly born as a community of mindful individuals gathering to both practice together and to support social projects. Up until now – its 11th edition – the festival annually operates two outreach programs: the HIV & AIDS education program Ayo! Kita Bicara HIV & AIDS and the reforestation initiative, Bali ReGreen.

BaliSpirit Festival also hosts a “Dharma Fair”, a lively community market where partner NGOs and ethically conscious brands are invited to participate and spread the word on worthy social projects. For example, this year Keep Bali Beautiful, Palestine Yoga Movement and Yoga for Nature amongst others will join.

An event like BaliSpirit Festival not only gives us the change to deepen our self-exploration and transformation through yoga, but also inspires us to bring the practice off the mat. To discover the practice of selfless love and service. To embrace seva and bring it back home, to our family, friends, coworkers and community.

So, next time we ask ourselves the questions “Can I help?” “Can I make the difference?” The answer, with seva, is yes, yes and…yes.

By Elisabetta Crovara