Do you have Deities at home?
Seva is an aspect of Bhakti. Bhakti is synonymous with Seva and vice-versa. However there is one more component that holds Bhakti and Seva together. This is sadhana. This sadhana may neither be understood as the typical Ashtanga Yoga sadhana that Yogis talk about nor has this sadhana anything to do with the spiritual rigor that Vedantins go through. This sadhana which goes along with the Bhakti Vehicle as one of its wheels has Seva as the other wheel which makes Bhakti move along. With any one wheel of Bhakti Vehicle punctured, the Bhakti Vehicle shall get dissolved or shall stand convicted. What shall remain may not be called Bhakti, in the first place. It can only be termed as an imitation of Bhakti that harbors within it the poison of matter and materialistic intentions.
Sadhana that is required in Bhakti is “Bhava Sadhana”(भाव साधना) , which is the fuel for Bhakti, as well as one of its wheels that keeps Bhakti in balance. Bhava, simply translated into English is emotion. We all know that Sanskrit terms cannot be represented even to an extent of 20% in the English language, because English is a language of dominance and not one that can convey much spiritual value through the words that it offers. However, with limited aid that English language can offer me, I shall still try to convey the mood of what I intend to say. “Bhava” means mood or emotions that is of a superior kind, not the material ones that we know of. For example we have love for our parents, we may have emotions for them. But that cannot be compared to “Bhava”. When we have Bhava, there is no expectation. A man of Truth has a superior type of emotion. He may be moved by something which ordinary people may not understand as to why he is emotional. It may not be experienced by most men. This is Bhava, the emotion of a superior kind. Bhava occurs when the heart is pure and represents ideals that are dear to Dharma or to the ways of the Lord. Bhava may loosely be used by people to represent simple mundane emotions such as feeling for parents etc. But this cannot qualify as Bhava. Bhava is supra-mundane. It only gets emoted through the “deep squeezing” of the heart, something that shakes the entire persona of an individual. Bhava can occur when somebody is undergoing a total transformation within one’s individuality or when someone is “losing” one’s sense of individuality to a higher domain. This is the nature of Bhava. The devotional service that follows such Bhava is called “bhava bhakti”. One may again simply call it “Bhakti”.
When there is utter transparency in one’s character, when one has no lower aspirations and only aspires for the highest good, the Lord, Bhava emerges through the heart. There is an overflowing of the heart where the emotions have the tendency to super-charge one with other-worldly sense and energy. When devotional service is rendered even to a mortal that too becomes Bhakti. When your heart is fixed on ideals, principles that enhance such Bhakti, everything that you do or perform becomes Bhava Bhakti. Any apparent worldly activity that you may perform, can also represent devotional service of the highest order.
Bhava cannot occur out of the blue. One has to first get committed to higher ideals and work towards it by keeping an eye on the superior goals of transcendence, graduating to the higher spiritual domains engaging fully with Truth and non-expectancy from the world. This is sadhana. The continuous effort to follow Dharma, follow practices so as to align with Truth and accepting deeply the teachings of the Lord in thought word and deed is the basis of sadhana. This is the first wheel of Bhakti. One has to be extremely vigilant as one adheres to the rules as well as demands of commitment to Truth, commitment to the Lord.
As one practices Bhakti through sadhana, one has to be so one-pointed that one should never compromise with the principles, in such a way that one learns through these principles and develops love for Truth. One should develop deep attraction for the Lord and his teachings. If this is not happening then one is either not ready for the jump or one is being hypocritical in one’s adoption of the principles of Bhakti. If the Lord is not being seen in every small undertaking the wheel of sadhana is not on the right track. As Bhakti blossoms, the energy to undertake the Lord’s activities also increases. One shall then take up activities which supports one’s Bhakti as well as sadhana. When Bhakti and sadhana are strong and unshakeable, Seva or activities that are in line and supportive of Bhakti become strong and the character is refreshed with purity and truth, reflected in every activity that the Bhakta takes up for the sake of the Lord. When Seva appears in life, Seva and Sadhana go hand in hand. When Sadhana finally fuses with every aspect of one’s being, finally Seva remains. The individual lives and works only for the Lord with no concern for one’s security or upkeep. This is Para Seva or Para Bhakti (परासेवा पराभक्ति) or Other-Worldly service or Service of the Supreme.
Many times the two wheels of Seva and Sadhana are not in balance. Some devotees, under the influence of other so-called devotees, take up sadhana. But their sadhana is half-baked and immature. This is because they act out of the whims of the mind and under the influence of emotional haste. Such devotees are more in count, in the world today. They have neither developed love for Truth nor have they become resolute in sadhana. Their commitment is skin deep. It’s like ripening a pre-mature mango lot with chemicals instead of letting them become ripe keeping them connected to the tree. These half-ripened devotees have not developed the power within themselves since their consciousness is still impure and convoluted with dogma and unnecessary philosophy of scriptures. As a result the ego becomes bloated and rises its hood when the circumstances are apt. It is to be understood that scriptures are guidelines for testing out one’s realizations that one has developed by committing themselves to Truth and performing the required sadhana. Instead, these days, devotees have mugged up pages from scriptures without an iota of “practical realization”. If these half-baked devotees take up Seva, can it be called Seva? It shall be nothing but corrupt practices masquerading in the form of authentic practices. One has to be clear about the methodology, mood and intention of Bhakti carried by the two wheels of Sadhana and Seva.