I am currently writing a book with the working title Ananda Seva, about the power of selfless service and how it can help dissolve the ego. Paramhansa Yogananda taught a path to liberation that combines both meditation and service. There is a wealth of resources to train and support aspirants in meditation: teachers, books, courses, meditation centers, websites, and apps. But even though most people spend much more time in outward activity than they do in meditation, very little is available that focuses on service as a spiritual practice. Even a little training in right attitudes and practices can turn our activity into a true spiritual path.

Can selfless service truly be a pathway to enlightenment? Swami Kriyananda told us this story: A young man came to an ashram to receive training from a guru. The guru assigned him the job of collecting wood for the cooking fires. Day after day, the youth continued his task, his whole focus on his job, unaware of the passage of time. One day, as he returned to the ashram, a tuft of his hair got caught between two sticks of wood, and he saw that his hair had turned completely white. He was stunned to realize that he was now an old man. A great sadness overwhelmed him. His whole life, he felt, had been wasted—he’d never even studied with his guru. Thinking these thoughts, he began to cry.

At that very moment the guru rushed out, and hastily stretched out his hand to catch the first tear as it fell. “Don’t you know,” he said lovingly, “that if the tears of such a great soul as you were to touch the ground, there would be famine in the land for seven years?” The guru then tapped him over the heart, and the man entered the highest state of samadhi. Such is the power of selfless service.

The book has an interesting origin. Five of us, all disciples of Paramhansa Yogananda and good friends, were sitting together in a restaurant in Delhi, India. We had spent the previous day together in Brindaban, where the Paramhansa Yogananda Public Charitable Trust is serving several thousand homeless or destitute widows. We were discussing the wonderful staff and how more than a third had recently learned meditation and become disciples of Yogananda.

Then a flash of insight came: Even though their day was spent serving, they had almost no formal training in service as a conscious spiritual practice. Service, rather than meditation, is by far the dominant part of most people’s day; even the most dedicated meditator is likely to spend vastly more time in activity than in his meditation room. It became obvious that a book is needed to show why service is so important to our spiritual development, and how to do it properly.

As the four others continued their discussion, a powerful torrent of thoughts, ideas, and inspiration began to flow in me. Within fifteen minutes I had jotted down the basic concepts that compose the chapters of the book. Along with this strong flow of energy, there came a joyful sense of approval. It felt to me that the ideas were being blessed by Babaji himself.

Here are just a few of the key concepts:

  • Ananda Seva (joy-filled service) can truly be a way of dissolving the ego.
  • We should serve with a flow of God’s love, both seeing those we serve as a form of the Divine and feeling that it is the Divine who is serving through us.
  • The attitudes with which we serve are more important than the type of service.
  • Our primary goal in serving others is to uplift consciousness, both theirs and ours.
  • Ananda Seva should be done with high energy and magnetism using practical, efficient methods.
  • Our service should be rooted in a daily practice of meditation.

I am doing my best to follow these principles even in the writing of the book—to feel that it is the Divine Hand writing through me.

In service to the Divine,

Nayaswami Jyotish

P.S. Our book Touch of Joy: A Yogi’s Guide to Lasting Happiness will be coming out on February 20. We invite you to visit this link for more information or to preorder.

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  1. Thank You Jyotish. I will be looking forward to reading your book on Seva. Your article has been a tearful reminder that meditation is not the only way to find God. When one is struggling with their practice and trying to figure out which technique will be the one that breaks through the slump while also trying to keep up with all the things that need to be done it will be helpful to have suggestions, ideas, new techniques, and reminders of mindful techniques one can use to keep that selfless attitude alive and that focus on Divine Mother active. Every new point of view of God remembrance will help bring us all to the joy of knowing who we really are.
    Joyful Blessings,
    Patricia

  2. dear jyotishji this is such a wonderful topic to write about i do believe that service to mankind is service to god..and if everyone can cultivate this thought there will be so much more love and peace around us.

  3. Respected and dearest nayaswami Jyotishji and Deviji

    In indian spirutality there is a saying… even your left hand should not know what good deed or seva your right hand has done.. such is the subtleness of seva.

    Thats perhaps the reason.. why all great masters and religion talks and emphasises on seva but don’t mention or write on this…

    I have never in my life given any comment and perhaps would not do it again… this thought came to me all of a sudden when i was meditating today..

    Pl do forgive my imprudence . Perhaps a good video on Ananda seva would convey the same msg..
    ANANDA community is just like the peeple tree serving mankind by providing oxygen and shade but never thinking that it is doing seva.
    I remain
    Jai guru
    Vijay

  4. Nayaswamis Devi & Jyotish, I look forward to reading the book! Would love if you shared more via your blog as it develops. I remember this same advice that you gave me when moving to an area that didn’t have a meditation group. Serving, serving, serving, teaching, sharing…. one day done! All joyfully! Ananda St. Louis is growing. Thank your for your support and constant inspiration!

  5. You’re articulating what we’ve hoped to manifest. Can’t wait to read your book. Each of your initial key concepts is sort of like an affirmation we can repeat as we go forth each day!

  6. To propagate the concept of Ananda Seva through book is itself a fantastic concept. Self less Service is he root of Karma Yoga leading to Chitra Sudhi and deeper meditation for Self realisation by dispelling our ignorance ( Avidya) and enlightening our true nature.

  7. Great idea to write a book on ” SEVA”
    As a spiritually inclined person,I would begin by saying”…. GOD has given us two hands ..one for our own work and the other for doing work for the others(SEVA)…” I firmly believe in this.
    Millions of people ,who are “grihastis” , spend their life time to earn to sustain the family,the children and may be in some cases,looking after ageing parents. Suddenly they realize that hairs have grown white and regret that did not have time to do SEVA,per say. As rightly told in your story, GOD did not allow the tears to strike the Mother Earth ,lest there is a famine… I may only humbly suggest that you need to dwell upon this facet of life for such “grihastis” ,so that they do not have any guilt in mind for NOT doing any SEVA in their life time. They are doing a great SEVA…

    The other point that need to be touched upon is that no one should expect a reward of SEVA,as Gita says.This need to be looked after as KARMA .

    Lastly,I would be too happy to be associated with you and your team for this magnificent project.

  8. Thank you so much Jyotishji for this beautiful letter. It has helped me immensely.
    .
    No matter how much one is aware inwardly about right and wrong, the vision is sometimes clouded by
    circumstances.
    And at such times your letter came as a lighthouse… To show the right path.
    I am indebted to you.

    Pranam
    Jai Guru

  9. Dear Jyotishji, thank you, just exactly what I needed to hear. Looking forward to reading the book. AUM AUM AUM

  10. Thank you for what you have already shared. Such a powerful idea and much needed—can’t wait to read your book.
    Joyfully, Prem-Shanti

  11. AUM Shanti AUM🙏🏾 Blessings for writing this much-needed book on selfless service as part of the path to liberation from the ego.

  12. Thank you! Precisely what I needed to hear this morning. Life gets so busy and sometimes my meditation time gets shortened or moved around. Good to be reminded that we can be increasing our spiritual magnetism through our work as well as meditation. Very encouraging.

  13. Thank you Dear Friend, I spend a lot of time trying to help others that are new to AA and do service here in the community
    and do meditate but my meditations have not been long and deep. I must remember Gyanamata saying. Change not my
    circumstances Lord Change me” Your messages are so important to me and God and Guru must be first in my life. I cannot
    help anyone if I am not close to God and Guru.
    Blessings always, Yvonne

  14. The problem I have with the word “service” is that it — in many people’s minds — seems to imply work otherwise not enjoyed. And putting the label “service” on work we do enjoy (either because enjoyment comes naturally, or we’ve figured out how to make it so) seems either irrelevant or pretentious. Your thoughts?

  15. Wow! Wonderful! Saint Teresa of Calcutta is a wonderful example of Ananda Seva. I think this book should be shared with everyone!

  16. Thank you. I walk with you and know the joy of service…of any kind. Francis of Assisi had it right.. and gratitude for the opportunities abound everywhere… Eleanore

  17. LIFE IS WELL LIVED WHEN WE HAVE INFLUENCED LIVES OF MAXIMUM NUMBERS OF PEOPLE

    ALWAYS BE GRATEFUL TO GET SUCH OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE HUMANITY ( GOD IS ALWAYS PRESENT IN OUR HEART THUS WE RESPECT EACH OTHER

    KIND REGADS
    DR MAHENDRA B JAIN
    INVENTOR GRAVITY OF FINANCE LIVED WITHOUT FINANCE
    INVENTOR MECHANICAL MEDITATION CENTERS SPREAD IN ALL 242 COUNTRIES OF THE WORLD

  18. Dear Nayaswami Jyotish ji,
    Very inspiring the thoughts that listed here. Looking forward to the book 🙂
    In Masters love
    Prem

  19. Pranam Guruji

    I liked the short story of Self less Service.

    With Best Regards & God Bless

    Dayanand Patil

  20. Beloved Jyotishji,
    Thank you. We are all looking forward to this book ever since you spoke about it in Chennai.
    Aum Guru. It will be a great aid to us all.

  21. Pranam Jis

    Thanks for The Pointers , looking forward to Read the Book Please.

    With Gratitude
    R Sundararajan

  22. Thank you dear Nayaswami Jyotish for this awesome article and the wisdom in all the points/reminders made with such beautiful, inspirational clarity. Each and every article that I read from here and Daily Meditator, indeed all from Ananda, are filled with joyful learning of service in all its forms and receive hope, comfort and encouragement and so much more, and always it seems at highly difficult times. Thank you, Devi and all at Ananda. Joy and Blessings always

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