Practical Hints for Service

Do not lose a single opportunity for helping and serving others. An opportunity once neglected may not come again. My method is to be always on the lookout for opportunities. Watch for them and utilize them. Be ever ready to serve. Be full of initiative. Never miss a single chance. Create opportunities. Create a field for good service; create work. There is no yoga or yajna greater than sattwic charity of the spontaneous type.

Actively seek the well-being or comfort of others. Do not procrastinate. Act now, not tomorrow or the day after. The person may change their mind later on and go away. We may not then have the opportunity of rendering our service to them. This is one of the most important rules in selfless service. Opportunities come and go. A karma yogi should be ever vigilant and utilize every opportunity for seva. When a task is put off for the next day, then other tasks accumulate around it and the opportunity for service is lost.

Serve cheerfully and willingly. Serve with pure love, kindness and courtesy. Never grumble or murmur during service. Never show a wry or gloomy face when you serve. The one you serve will refuse to accept such service and you will lose an opportunity. Utilize every minute in serving others in the best possible manner. Do not expect anything when you serve a man or when you give a gift. Thank him for giving you a good opportunity to serve him.

If your guru or friend asks you to wash a towel, take his clothes also for washing without his knowledge. If a passer-by asks for a cup of water, say to him with courtesy, in sweet words: “Brother, take your seat. Here is water. Here is a cup of milk for you. Rest awhile on this seat. I shall massage your legs and fan you. You are tired.” This is real service. This is real yoga. If you do service with this mental attitude for one or two years, you will become an entirely changed being, a veritable God on this earth.

You can do selfless service according to your ability and station in life. An advocate can plead for poor people without accepting fees. A doctor can treat the poor free of charge. A teacher or professor can give free tuition to poor children. He can supply books for study. Give one-tenth of your income in charity. Serve your parents, elders, teachers and guests with divine bhava.

Serve any social institution for one hour daily without any remuneration. Collect some old clothes and distribute them to the needy. Distribute food to the destitute as you walk along the street. Read to the blind, and visit the old and aged, cheer them up with stories and news of happy events.

Equip yourself with first-aid knowledge, so you can always give the first help in all cases of emergency. Get medicine from the hospital or the dispensary to have ready for anyone who may need it. Visit a hospital daily, if you can, or weekly, and give your best attention to the non-paying wards. Distribute fruits to the patients. Sit by the side of the patient and speak a few encouraging words. Smile awhile. Repeat verses or read inspiring passages from the spiritual traditions. Tell him that you will meet him ‘tomorrow’; and then do meet him.

Meet your friends and members of your society in a common place once a week or a fortnight for satsang and kirtan. Develop an understanding heart. Help others in the spiritual path. Lift them up. Throw light on their path. Do not expect perfection from them, but be kind to them. They are doing their best, as you are yourself doing yours. You will grow by helping them.

Kindness is the cheapest of all things. A kind look, a kind word, a kind act, a friendly smile all cost nothing but bring to others happiness which money cannot buy. They are priceless in their value. Do kind acts now as service of your fellow travellers. Kindness is like a healing balm. It soothes suffering. Just as little drops of water make the mighty ocean, little acts of kindness make an ocean of goodwill.

If a guest arrives at your house, this is an opportunity for seva. Welcome them and ensure that they are treated properly, no matter how inconvenient the timing. Seva should be performed generously and with modesty. It should be done with feeling. The food that you offer a guest may be meagre fare, but if you offer it with love it acquires great power, nutrition and taste. Be it a relative, friend or beggar, give food with love and affection, whatever the quality of the food may be.

To be good in actions is to be good at heart, because actions are the expressions of one’s thoughts. Once a visitor and his family came to the ashram without providing previous intimation of their arrival. After enquiring about their welfare, I asked a disciple to give them lunch. The disciple hesitated as it was past lunch hour and the food was also finished. I told him, “It doesn’t matter. Take them and manage somehow. Give them some curd, pappad and fruit. Even if you are unable to give food, at least talk pleasantly.” Unless you are pleasant at heart, how are you going to be good in your actions? The external action does not matter much because one’s action will only be in accordance with what is in one’s heart. Therefore, be good in order to do good.

There is no superior or inferior service. There is no superiority or inferiority among karma yogis. In a machine, the smallest bolt or spring is as essential to its smooth running as the mighty wheel. Similarly, in an organized effort, the person who does even the least work, or attends to an insignificant detail, contributes as much to the success of the endeavour as the chief organizer himself; for, if there is some defect in even a small detail, perfect success cannot be achieved.

He who gives the handle of a sharp knife to another to hold while holding the sharp blade himself, does real service. Generally under the camouflage of serving others, people try to please themselves only. This is a serious mistake. A real sevak takes on his shoulders the most responsible, difficult, arduous and uninteresting of tasks and kills his own little self just to please others. He willingly undergoes pain and suffering in order to serve and please others.

You must develop to a remarkable degree the spirit of discrimination, discernment, alacrity, alertness, the faculty of daksha, expert awareness, which will help you to decide a right line of action when you are in a dilemma. Then only will you be able to find out what is exactly required at a critical juncture or at the right time and not an hour afterwards. You will not regret afterwards in any way.