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Excerpt from "The Soul of Wellness"

Principle 8: Seva

by Rajiv Parti, M.D.

Accept the Gift of Selfless Service

What often blocks us from realizing we are children of Spirit is our selfish ego. The ego is a product of evolution. For early humans, every day was a battle for survival in a hard world. Over eons, this deep-seated concern for survival, possessions, and prestige evolved into our self-centered ego.

The selfish ego we have inherited from our dangerous and competitive past is at the opposite pole from Spirit. The selfish ego is about ME, while Spirit is about US. The selfish ego is grasping and greedy, while Spirit is kind and giving. The selfish ego is inward looking and restricted, while Spirit is outgoing, expansive, and in fact infinite.

So are we simply stuck with our self-centered, grasping ego? Or is there another type of ego that is possible for humans? What if we could bypass the effects of thousands of years of competing with others and discover within ourselves an ego that goes hand-in-hand with Spirit? Is that possible?

The Spiritual Ego

There is, indeed, a type of ego that is the opposite of the selfish ver­sion. Instead of constantly looking inward, it looks outward toward oth­ers. Instead of being grasping, it is open and giving. Instead of being only about ME, it holds out a hand to others. It is, simply, our ego as infused and fed by Spirit. In a word, it is our spiritual ego. In particular, if we want our spiritual ego to thrive and flourish to its maximum extent, we must understand and practice something called Seva.


Seva is a Sanskrit word that is similar in meaning to the English word “altruism.” Seva means selfless service. The essence of Seva is to perform actions not for the sake of ourselves, but for others. Seva consists of both an attitude and a way of acting. The attitude is one of respect and concern for the well-being of other people. That attitude gives rise to Seva as a nat­ural way of acting toward others, which is to understand their legitimate needs and help fulfill those needs with no expectation of return.

Seva occurs when a practicing physician decides to join a humanitarian group such as Doctors without Borders in order to help stem disease in a poverty-stricken country. But we need not be a doctor to practice Seva. Selfless service happens whenever we give part of our time and effort to the well-being of others. It could be helping to teach an adult to read or to deliver food in a nutritional program for elderly people living at home. There are thousands of worthwhile projects awaiting our efforts.

The Spiritual Principle of Seva is simply this:

Give of yourself for the well-being of others, and let the giving be your only reward.

Seva is an ancient concept. Virtually every major religion includes Seva as a major part of its beliefs. In many religious traditions, the idea of selfless service appears repeatedly as a way to become closer to God or Spirit. This is understandable since Spirit emphasizes the unity that is present in the millions of diverse individuals that we humans are. And there is no better way for each of us to promote unity than through selfless service to others. Selfless service is also a very familiar concept in our secular culture.

Two Keys to Seva

There are two essential keys to the practice of true Seva. One is that Seva requires us to put forth personal effort. Giving money to a cause is good, but it is not enough. Our most precious assets are our time and energy, our intelligence and sweat. When we devote our personal efforts to a worthwhile cause that we believe in, we are practicing genuine Seva.

Unfortunately, some never take the first step toward selfless service because they think they have no time to spare. But no matter how busy we may be in our lives, there is almost always at least a few hours a week that we can spend for the sake of others. In many cases, just a small amount of time can be of great value to someone in need of help.

Another reason some people never step into Seva is because they feel they have nothing to offer. But that is never true. What each of us can contribute to the world is our individual self: our personality, our interactions with others, what we have experienced, what we have learned. We all have something we are good at, talents that can go toward helping others meet whatever challenges they may face or mak­ing the world a more enjoyable and rewarding place for others. Don’t wait until you feel you are able to do something “big,” but rather follow the words of President Theodore Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

The second key to the practice of genuine Seva is to perform our serv­ice for others simply for their sake, not for some extrinsic reward.

The Many Rewards of Seva

Even though genuine acts of Seva are never done for a reward, the marvelous fact is that doing things for others promotes wellness in all four dimensions (body, mind, heart, Spirit). Physiologically, there is increasing scientific evidence that helping others has important benefits to our physical health. This includes a decade-long study of 2,700 men in Michigan that found a significantly lower death rate among those who did regular volunteer work. Another study of over 50,000 elderly people in California found that those who volunteered for two or more organizations had significantly lower mortality than those who did not volunteer. In addition, Duke Univer­sity Medical Center researchers discovered that recovering heart patients who volunteered to visit current heart patients had a sixty percent faster recovery rate than those who did not volunteer. Selflessly helping others has also been found to have a calming influence on the emotions, thereby combating stress.

Practicing Seva promotes mental health because it connects us to something valuable outside us. When we contribute, we typically get back much more emotionally than we give, in the form of feeling that we are part of a worthwhile project. When we give sincerely of ourselves, the resulting satisfaction far outweighs the time required. We quickly find that the time we spend in volunteering is precious in itself, and very likely to be among our most valuable and fulfilling moments.

Selflessly doing for others also has other mental and emotional ben­efits by energizing our lives beyond our volunteer role. It increases our self-esteem, broadens our perspectives, and sharpens our thinking, all of which better enables us to deal with whatever comes our way. In addi­tion, when we are beset by problems in our own lives, there is often no better way to put those problems in perspective than to focus on the well-being of others.

Seva promotes wellness most obviously in our social dimension—Heart. When we work selflessly for the well-being of others, their needs and aspirations become partly our own. Our dimension of Heart prospers as we feel ourselves joined, at least temporarily, to their lives. And because Heart is the soul of Spirit, our spiritual wellness soars as we are infused with new meaning.

From all of this, it becomes abundantly clear that those who practice Seva, though they seek no reward, are often the ones who receive the greatest gifts from their efforts. I hope that one of those blessed people is, or soon will be, you.

Rajiv Parti. M.D. (aka Dr. Raj) is a world leading specialist in pain management with over 30 years practicing clinical experience. He was the Chief of Anesthesiology at Bakersfield Heart Hospital where he specialized in cardiac anesthesia. In 2005, Dr. Raj personally encountered the first of a series of life threatening health challenges that led him to explore non-traditional evidence based complementary and alternative medicine. Dr. Parti founded the Pain Management Institute of California, and under his direction it has served thousands of patients for acute and chronic pain relief. He now specializes in promoting spiritual wellness and personal growth with various non-traditional healing modalities. Dr Raj’s new book The Soul of Wellness will be released by Select Books October 16, 2012.

The Soul of Wellness is available at all bookstores and online. Please visit Dr. Raj at www.drraj.com

Taken from The Soul of Wellness. Used with permission from Select Books (October 2012).

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