Seva is a word not unfamiliar to yoga teachers. It is translated from Sanskrit to mean selfless service or work performed without any thought of reward or repayment. The Bhagavad Gita (a 700-verse Sanskrit scripture) encourages selfless service as a way to develop one’s character. Seva lies at the heart of the path of karma yoga—selfless action—and asks us to serve others with no expectation of outcome.
A completely selfless good deed is a bit of a challenge, right? Do you not feel good when you help someone or make someone feel good? Is the deed then selfless? Haven’t seen the episode of Friends where Joey and Phoebe debate selfless good deeds? See it here.
Enter intention. If your intention is to do good for a reward, it isn’t selfless. It is attached to a result or outcome. If your intention is to do good and be of service with love and integrity and genuinely help with no attachment to the outcome, you’re on the right track. Essentially, acting kindly while wearing a cloak of invisibility (see Harry Potter.)
Gratitude for your ability to be of service and pleased with a result is different than only doing the work/service for outcome. For example, see some trash lying around? Pick it up and don't post about it on social media. At the grocery store and see someone struggling? Help them out and don't ask for a tip. Do you have extra time? Volunteer somewhere. Ram Dass says “Helping out is not some special skill. It is 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.” Joy begets joy. Kindness begets kindness. Love begets love.
When you are kind and you make the world a better place it’s difficult not to feel gratitude and joy. Joey Tribianni for the win.