There is a certain joy in getting something. That’s the joy children experience when they get things like toffees and toys. Parents and grandparents feel happy when they give. The joy in giving is much more fulfilling than the joy of receiving.
Have you noticed how happy we feel when we share? When we see a good movie, for instance, we tell everybody about it, even recommending that they must see it. The moviemaker is not giving us any commission to do that! We just feel that our loved ones should have the same experience. Or an elderly lady who cooks different dishes for her grandchildren derives enormous happiness from doing so. People who give, experience more happiness than people who receive. Graduating from the mindset of taking to that of giving purifies the mind and brings immense joy.
There are three ways to purify the mind. Yajna or collective action that purifies not just our minds and bodies, but the environment as well. There are different kinds of yajnas—jnana yajna, dravya, japa, and dhyana yajna, for example. Among these, dhyana yajna—a group of individuals that collect to sing and meditate—is considered the highest. When we sing, chant, or listen to chants, the sound vibrations penetrate every cell of our being and purify the whole system. Likewise, when many people meditate together, the impact multiplies manifold.
When we do daana, charity, or help someone who is really in need, the sigh of relief from that soul brings positive vibrations to you. These good deeds bring you merit, which in turn helps you go deep in meditation and elevate your consciousness. If we think of how we can be useful to those around us, we can never get depressed. People who get depressed do not know this. They get depressed because they keep thinking only about themselves. If they start to give or serve, they will notice that their depression has vanished.
Tapas is the endurance of discomfort or restraining the senses. The practice of knowledge, wisdom, meditation, yoga, pranayama, and fasting all come under tapas. If you are unhappy, one way to get out of your sorrow is tapas. Tapas is being in total acceptance of the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant.
All three, yajna, daana, and tapas, purify our minds, consciousness, and actions. They are, however, not one-time actions, but are to be done repeatedly. Make it a habit. Whenever we get an opportunity to be useful, we should embrace it. If, despite our meditation and other practices, we feel discomfort, we should do something to bring happiness and comfort to others. Giving is essential for spiritual growth. Willingness to share what we have and to help others without expecting anything in return is called seva. Seva connects us to others. It dissolves barriers that separate our happiness from their happiness. We can serve others in endless ways. Serving in whatever possible manner we can, whether by contributing our time, donating money, or just by speaking about positive things, will change our consciousness.
Let’s ask ourselves, “How can we be useful to the people around us, and the whole world?” Then our hearts start to blossom. The best seva is helping someone to understand this eternal nature of life.
Life is a journey, moving from the joy of taking, to the joy of giving.