Seva, Redefined

One of the underlying issues to many ofthe discussions we have here on TLH seems to focus upon whether or not elements of Sikhi are being redefined as we evolve in the communities within which we reside. We often take concepts such as Seva, Sangat and Simran for granted withoutwondering ifthey are being fulfilled in their true element.I post on this topicnot to argue whether or not what we do is right or wrong – but rather in what forms we see these concepts exist today.

In the midst of this world, do seva, and you shall be given a place of honor in the Court of the Lord. SGGS p26

One example that comes to mind is how gurdwaras and the sangat (I include myself in this sangat) have essentially ‘outsourced’ the kitchen seva. Each time I have visited one of the gurdwaras in my area, I notice that the sangatdeparts after eating langar, leaving behind a kitchen full of dirty pots and pans. This does not seem to be an issue because many gurdwaras have now hired help to come in and essentially do the seva. I understand the gurdwara’s reason for hiring help (the dishes have to get done) butI wonder how we got to this point.I’m not sure if this is an issue unique to North America or whether it occurs in India and alsoin the UK, for example. During my last few visits to gurdwaras in India, I was so impressed by the amount of seva that was occuring in the kitchen and was alsoinspiredbythe energy that was produced from the sangat working selflessly towards a similar goal.

I don’t argue that seva doesn’t exist in themonetary donations provided to the gurdwara. I completely understand the necessity of that. However, there is some value in the act of doing seva that cannot be understated.

Seva is the essence of Sikhism. If there is one solitary word to sum up the Sikh religion, I would unhesitatingly pick seva as the operative word. Seva is the voluntary service to fellow beings without any expectation of reciprocation. It is deeply ingrained in the collective psyche of the Sikhs. Seva is what shines in Sikhism above all. I can say it without any exaggeration or the fear of contradiction that the extent of seva that is found among the Sikhs is rarely found in any other religion. [link]

I also understand that seva comes in all shapes and forms. However, the fact remains that as a community, we should consider what it will ultimately mean.Today we start withpaying for kitchen seva to be done – what will happen tomorrow? It makes me wonder how realistic it is to have a Green Gurdwara and usesteel thaalis instead of plastic/paper plates- who is going to washhundreds ofthaalis if we can’t wash a small number of pots and pans now? I just wonder, if we accept paying for kitchen seva as the status quo today, what will it mean tomorrow? Will we continue to redefine seva to meet our own needs?


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8 Responses to “Seva, Redefined”

  1. Guru Sahib da Nimana says:

    I mostly visit Rexdale Gurdwara (Toronto, Canada), and there is always sangat washing the dishes, and I mean always. The only slight requests the administrators make there, is that on big occasions, they ask bibee's to come help make prashaday; thas it. And they use mini steel thals for appetizers (pakoray) and large steel thals for main langar. I visited U.K once for my cousins wedding, its really different down there, you stand and eat and its like self serve. I remember after the wedding that in the langar hall there were caucasian women serving food, seemed pretty weird. If seva is needed the administrators should ask some of the mature youngsters.

  2. Guru Sahib da Nimanaa Sikh says:

    I mostly visit Rexdale Gurdwara (Toronto, Canada), and there is always sangat washing the dishes, and I mean always. The only slight requests the administrators make there, is that on big occasions, they ask bibee’s to come help make prashaday; thas it. And they use mini steel thals for appetizers (pakoray) and large steel thals for main langar. I visited U.K once for my cousins wedding, its really different down there, you stand and eat and its like self serve. I remember after the wedding that in the langar hall there were caucasian women serving food, seemed pretty weird. If seva is needed the administrators should ask some of the mature youngsters.

  3. Anand says:

    I go to a Gurdwara in LA and this is exactly what happens, at least on Sundays. Maids come in to clean the big pots and clean up the kitchen.

  4. Anand says:

    I go to a Gurdwara in LA and this is exactly what happens, at least on Sundays. Maids come in to clean the big pots and clean up the kitchen.

  5. Sundari says:

    @Guru Sahib da Nimanaa Sikh: I think it's great that the sangat in your community does the seva – especially since your gurdwara uses steel plates. Seva should be done selflessley, so while i agree that the gurdwara committee should bring it to the sangat's attention – you can't force anyone to do it. That's the problem – we don't feel the need to do it anymore. I think it would be great to get the youth more involved and start 'seva days' – and do jobs around the gurdwara…

    @Anand: yes – maids coming in on Sunday afternoon to clean the day's pots/pans is common in the area of CA where i reside too.

  6. Sundari says:

    @Guru Sahib da Nimanaa Sikh: I think it’s great that the sangat in your community does the seva – especially since your gurdwara uses steel plates. Seva should be done selflessley, so while i agree that the gurdwara committee should bring it to the sangat’s attention – you can’t force anyone to do it. That’s the problem – we don’t feel the need to do it anymore. I think it would be great to get the youth more involved and start ‘seva days’ – and do jobs around the gurdwara…

    @Anand: yes – maids coming in on Sunday afternoon to clean the day’s pots/pans is common in the area of CA where i reside too.

  7. Jas says:

    In the small city that I live in, we have one gurdwara. Every time I try to help with the kitchen seva, there are a group of people who think that they are in charge, and they will not let me come in and help. They think that the gurdwara is just theirs and no one else's and only they are entitled to do seva. Even when my family is doing langar seva, I am still forced out. I remember one time, I was standing at the sink, washing a couple of the big pots. I wasn't struggling, just taking my time. And another woman came up and yanked the pot out of my hand, pushed me away, and finished washing the pots.

    I know this is sort of a tangent from the topic of this entry, but does this happen to other people too?

  8. Jas says:

    In the small city that I live in, we have one gurdwara. Every time I try to help with the kitchen seva, there are a group of people who think that they are in charge, and they will not let me come in and help. They think that the gurdwara is just theirs and no one else’s and only they are entitled to do seva. Even when my family is doing langar seva, I am still forced out. I remember one time, I was standing at the sink, washing a couple of the big pots. I wasn’t struggling, just taking my time. And another woman came up and yanked the pot out of my hand, pushed me away, and finished washing the pots.

    I know this is sort of a tangent from the topic of this entry, but does this happen to other people too?