Understanding Selfless Service ‘Seva Bhaav’ and its place in our culture`


One of the most extolled human virtues is selfless service. It finds its mention in ancient Indian tradition, scriptures, religious books, speeches by renowned figures of public life and in expression of our daily lives. Selfless Service also referred as ‘seva’  means helping others without expecting a return for personal gain.

In Sikh culture,  Seva or Karseva finds an important place as a matter of responsibility and morality. In the Punjabi language the person performing such service is called a Sevadar. All Sikhs are encouraged by the Guru to perform Seva or Selfless Service.  One can find volunteers engaged in free services in Gurudwara washing dishes, cleaning floors, serving food etc.  They are also involved to help the community by performing unpaid work in hospitals, ‘old peoples’ homes, community centres, etc.

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Selfless service is a virtue that we have inherited visible in various forms in our society.  But does such a thing exist? Does one have to be a saint to engage in such service? How can we serve beyond the obvious forms such as feeding the hungry?

Nearly every person has a natural tendency to extend help within limits of his strength of the impulse. There is a difference between tossing a coin to a beggar and dedicating a whole life volunteering to assist a suffering section of the society. Whether most of us can consistently help others without expecting some reward is a subject of traits and not exactly measurable. Any sane man will not empty his bank account giving coins to hundreds of beggars meandering in city lanes. Neither does it actually solve anything. Selfless service is one of the core values of the Army. A soldier who is prepared to sacrifice his life to protect the sovereignty of the nation isn’t eager to hear a ‘thank-you’ in return. We hold a soldier at the apex in our respect  for his service to the nation.

A lot of us often think that social service is possible only when rich. A lot of us also think that it is the work of NGOs and similar organisations to carry out welfare programs. And a fraction of us is so busy driving through life that we hardly notice what we pass through.  All these assumptions which give way for ignorance are manifested in our society, which has taken a ruthless form where each person remains indifferent and sceptical of each other.

Ameer Singh, a resident of Gho Manhasan in Jammu has been serving drinking water (sheetal jal) to the pedestrians at a small spot located at the Paloura side on Akhnoor Road for over 12 years! Nearing 100 years of age, he travels at least 15 Kms to his spot on Akhnoor Road everyday during summers to offer drinking water to people.  He has consistently been serving water to passerby since 2005 for no apparent reason, but with a certain belief to offer service to the people in his capability.


Research suggests that providers of selfless service benefit in a number of ways. People who selflessly serve feel good about themselves. Selfless service can provide benefits to the giver, as long as the giver is not forced to serve or pressured into service with the promise that it will bring happiness. A feeling of compassion arouses a man to take the needed step which comes from recognizing the state of the society and interactions with it.