Seva, Simran & Satsang: The Basic Spiritual Prescription

Dr KK Aggarwal
Padma Shri and Dr B C Roy National Awardee
President, Heart Care Foundation of India

Most spiritual movements today follow the path of Seva, Satsang and Simran to achieve inner happiness. It forms the basis for both, Nirankari movement as well as Sikhism. It was earlier propagated by Adi Shankracharya in his book Bhaj Govindum, where he described all three in one path: Satnaam (Simran), Satsangh and Seva: Shlokas 28.

He said that it is the Bhagavad Gita and the thousand holy names of the Lord which are to be chanted and Lord Narayana who has to be meditated upon. He also said that the company of good people should be sought after and one’s wealth should be used for the upliftment of the poor.

Whether it is Brahma Kumari’s ISKON, or any other movement, they all use these principles today. The most important out of these is the ‘Seva bhavna’ or spreading unconditional love.

The word Seva is derived from root word ‘sev’ which literally means ‘to serve, wait or attend upon, honor or worship’. It is usually translated as ‘service’ or ‘serving’.

Service rendered to humanity (i.e. God’s fraction of light in man) is considered a form of worship. In Sikhism, there is no worship without Seva (GGS, 1013).

Seva is imperative for spiritual life. It is the highest penance (GGS, 423). The Sikh often prays to God for a chance to render Seva.

Three varieties of Seva are described: One rendered through the corporal instrument (tan), one through the mental apparatus (mann) and one through the material means (dhan).

The first of them is considered to be the highest of all. Cursed are the hands and feet that do not engage in Seva. (Bhai Gurdas, Varan, 27.1). The best description again comes from Sikhism, “I beg of you, O, Merciful One, make me the slave of Your Slaves… Let me have the pleasure of fanning them, drawing water for them, grinding corn for them and of washing their feet,” prays Guru Arjun Dev (GGS, 518).

Seva through ‘mann’ lies in contributing one’s talents – creative, communicative, managerial, etc. – to the corporate welfare of the community and mankind in general. It also lies in sharing the pain of others.

Seva through ‘dhan’ or philanthropy (daan) is well described in Sikhism where the offerings (kar bheta) are made to the Gurus and the ‘daswandh’ (tenth part of one’s earnings) is contributed to the welfare of the community.

In Sikh thought, the polarity of renunciation is not with attachment, but with Seva.

True Seva, according to the Sikh scriptures, must be done without any desire of fruit (nishkam), in humility (nimarta), with purity of intention (hirda suddh), with sincerity (chit lae) and in utter selflessness (vichon ap gavae). Such Seva, for the Sikh, is the doorway to dignity as well as to Mukti (liberation). “If one earns merit here through Seva, one will get the seat of honour in His (God’s) Court hereafter (GGS 26).”

Originally, the concept of Seva comes from studying the third maha vakya, which originated from Chandogya Upanishad in Sama Veda which is ‘Tat-tvam-asi’ which means that “It is not that just I am Brahman and you are Brahman but the entire substratum of this world is also Brahman”. This is called ‘Upadesha Vakya’ or sentence that is taught by teachers (Gurus) to their disciples to prevent arrogance and develop respect and compassion for others.

This maha vakya teaches all of us to see God in others. When you are helping others, you are serving God and not the physical body in that person.

“Achieve non-duality by seeing God in everyone,” says Adi Sankracharya. “It is the very same Narayana who is in you, in me and in everyone. Then why do you develop the feeling of jealousy? And why do you fight unnecessarily? See the same Aatma in everyone and in everything, discard the feeling of difference and overcome the illusion and ignorance of duality.

Regarding Satnam or Simran, Adi Sankracharya says that by disciplining the mind, one can cross over this samsaara and become liberated (31). “Ride over your wealth, youthful appearance and men, i.e., high connections! All these things may get destroyed in a second! Regard them as illusive and thereby attain brahmagyana as destined”. (Adi: shlokas 12).

According the Adi Sankracharya, Satsang leads to liberation (shlokas 10, Bhaj Govindum). He says that “by being in the company of good people, one can develop detachment to worldly objects. By detachment to material objects, one attains clarity of mind. By clarity of mind, one reaches and realizes the eternal truth. This results in liberation in this very life!” Seek the company of the holy. It is never late (shlokas 21).

Adi Sankracharya says that equanimity leads to Divinity. This can be done by the practice of “Pranayama” and “Pratyahara”. Likewise, contemplate as to what is real and what is unreal by proper application of your intellect. Engage yourself in worship and samaadhi. Practice all these things with due and great care.

The best description of meditation comes from following the guidelines as mentioned in Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

To conclude, one should believe in the concepts of Simran, Satsang and Seva. Simran is always keeping your focus on God and keeping God in your heart at all times. Satsang is the place which makes you do that, and Seva is the act of serving your fellow beings and humanity. Believe in total equality of all beings and respect for all of life. Remember if you can’t see God in all, you can’t see God at all.

The triad of Seva, Satsang and Simran is also the summary of the combined yoga paths of Karma yoga (Seva), Bhakti Yoga (Satsang) and Gnana yoga (Simran or meditation).

In the Bhagwad Gita (Text 55, Chapter 11) also, Lord Krishna says “who engages in My pure devotional service, free from the contaminations of fruitive activities and mental speculation (SATSANG), he who works for Me, who makes Me the supreme goal of his life (SIMRAN), and who is friendly to every living being (SEVA)—he certainly comes to Me.”

About the author: Dr K K Aggarwal is Padmashri and Dr B C Roy National Awardee, President Heart Care Foundation of India, Dean Board of Medical Education Moolchand Medcity, Sr. Physician & Cardiologist, Chairman Ethics Committee Delhi Medical Council, Visiting professor Clinical Research DIPSAR, Past President Delhi Medical Association and Past Academic and Research Wing Heads IMA.

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