Spirit of Service; Service of the Spirit!! – by Dr.Kouchik Narayanan

Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba has established mega service projects like the Sathya Sai Super Speciality Hospitals, Water Projects, Educational Institutions and so on… He lived His entire life for others… in selfless service… “Love all; serve all” this is all that He was; this is all that He taught. What does His Life and Work mean to us? To the modern man, he prescribes “Seva” as a means to make life more meaningful and purposeful. Let us try to understand the inner and spiritual significance of this Unique Divine Prescription.

Let us begin with an incident from the life of Emperor Charles V. One day he visited his loyal servant who had been bedridden for a long time; the emperor had come to know that his days were numbered. Seeing the emperor by his bedside, the old man was overjoyed. The emperor told his dying servant,

“You have served me devotedly for many years. Now that you are dying, I would like to make some form of return for the service that you have rendered to me. If there is anything at all that you desire, tell me; I shall see that it is fulfilled.”

Very politely, the servant replied, “I ask of you; O! King! Grant me one more day of life; just one more day!”

“I am considered one of the most powerful monarchs upon the earth,” the emperor replied. “But in this matter, I am absolutely helpless. Only God can grant and sustain the gift of life.”

The reply that the servant gave was very illuminating, “Alas! I have wasted all my life in serving an earthly king; I should have spent my time serving God.”

Yes, in the highest sense, only the acts that are aimed at serving God have meaning; all our thoughts, words and deeds must be canalized toward serving the Almighty.

Service to Man is Service to God!

How should we serve the Lord??  There is the story of a Russian cobbler named Martin. On a Christmas Eve, he hears a voice which says, “Martin, tomorrow I shall come to you.” The next day, he is ready to receive the Lord, but the Lord doesn’t turn up. He helps the sweeper, the beggar and the starving mother who come to his doorstep.

Before going to bed, he goes to a picture of Jesus and complains, “Lord, what happened to your promise? You said You would come, but You did not come.” He hears a voice that says, “Martin I came to you three times. Even though you did not recognize me, I am pleased at your service.” Let us help others as much as we can, believing that we are serving the Lord. Let us not harm anyone even a little. As Bhagavan reminds us,

“Sarva Jeeva Namaskaaram Eashwaram Prathigacchathi

Sarva Jeeva Thiraskaaram Eashwaram Prathigacchathi”

Service – the Saadhana for the Beginner

Bhagavan Baba gives a graphic description of the efforts of a casual Saadhaka of the modern times. He sits down before the altar for Naamasmarana. Just listen to his chanting: “Namah ShivaayaNamah Shivaaya… Has the newspaper come?… Namah Shivaaya, Namah Shivaaya… Is the food ready?… Namah Shivaaya… Who is at the door? Namah…”

Many a time, this is our predicament when we sit down to meditate. It is difficult for the beginner to focus his mind completely on the Lord. For such persons, Seva is the ideal prescription. He comes to have glimpses of Divinity and gradually he becomes more efficient in spiritual pursuits also; with dedicated effort, he will soar to great heights as a Saadhaka. Bhagavan Baba categorically remarks, “Service is the first step along the spiritual path.”

Spiritual Attitude – the Basis of Sai Seva

Bhagavan exhorts, “Dhil me Raam; Haath me Kaam.” A question was posed to three stonecutters as to why they were cutting stones. The first replied, “I am earning my livelihood.” Another said, “I want to be the best stonecutter around.” The third one replied, “I am building a church for my God.”

The third stonecutter’s answer reflects a spiritual attitude. He will always remain a happy and contented person. In Sai Seva also, we may encounter some hardships and challenges. If we do not have a spiritual attitude, it is very easy to lose interest and enthusiasm or to meander into pride and power.

Serve so that you may be saved!!

Why do we do service? Is it to help others? The answer is an emphatic NO! Of course, others may be benefited; but that is not our concern! Bhagavan points out:

“We invariably buy a cow for the milk it gives. The quantity of milk it gives determines its price. At the same time it gives us cow dung. This is a by-product which benefits mankind in many ways. But nobody buys a cow just for the dung. Similarly, when you do good work with purity of thought and word and deed, no doubt, people benefit. But this is only the by-product of service. The milk is your inner transformation.”

Once Swami asked a group of youngsters as to what all service activities they took up. They started to say, “Swami, we’re helping the aged … We’re helping the handicapped… We’re helping the primary school children…” Swami said, “Enough of it! You are not helping anybody. You are helping yourselves.”

Bhagavan has many a time reminded us that the greatest enemy against one’s spiritual progress is the ego. If we fall prey to it, all other evil tendencies infest us and lead us to downfall. The greatest antidote of ego is selfless service. With an empathetic heart, if you visit the slums, hospital wards and asylums, the ego in you will automatically fly away, is it not? Once you get rid of your ego, it becomes easy for you to conquer other evil habits and tendencies.

Let us not restrict our definition of Service…

We say; Seva is Love in action. But Seva does not confine itself to action alone. Seva is an attitude where Love fills the heart, overflows and reaches each and every human being.

Suppose Seva is action alone; it is certain that you are not working always. If that is so, Seva becomes a part-time job. But Swami has many a time reminded us that Seva is a full-time job. How to make Seva a full-time job?

Suppose you are walking all alone, how are you to do Seva? You may pray for your relatives or friends. You may pray for your friend who is sick. Such an act is definitely that of Seva. You may not even pray; generation of good thoughts in the mind itself is Service. The good thoughts send out pure vibrations into the atmosphere that stimulate positive thoughts in the people around. A consoling word, a word that brings happiness in the listener is also Seva.

Encompassing the attitude of Seva in your thoughts, words and deeds helps you to generate Love in yourselves – a must for every spiritual aspirant! Also, generation of Love strengthens your Seva and makes the Love in you broader and stronger. As Bhagavan puts it, “Service broadens your vision, widens your awareness, deepens your compassion.”

We should not forget that the area of our profession or occupation grants us ample opportunities for service. The experience of Prof. N. Kasturi (Swami’s biographer) proves beyond doubt that all work is God’s work. After his retirement as the principal of a prestigious college he was offered an important responsibility at the All India Radio (AIR). But his desire was to settle down at Prasanthi Nilayam and serve Swami. One day Swami asked him, “Kasturi… Do you think that the AIR is not Mine?” Swami permitted him to settle at Prasanthi Nilayam only after his responsibilities with the AIR were over.

Bhagavan reminds us, If you do the job for which you are paid properly, conscientiously and you do what is expected of you, then that itself is service.” Thus anybody – teacher, doctor, shopkeeper, driver or sweeper – doing his job sincerely, truthfully and lovingly is doing Sai Seva, no doubt! To top it all Bhagavan sums up the whole idea in His inimitable style, “Being an example is the best form of Service.”


The scriptures declare, “Paropakaaraartham Idham Shareeram – The human body is meant to serve others.” As beginners, let us set apart some of our time, energy, talents and resources to serve others. Slowly and steadily, let us strive to make Seva an attitude that fills each and every moment of our lives. No doubt, we will realise the true meaning and purpose of our lives! Sai Ram!

Dr Koushik Narayan, Junior Consultant in Orthoapedics, Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences – Prasanthigram, Puttaparthi.