If we just think about our own response to examples of service that we witness we can get an inkling of why it is such an important quality.
Every religion extols the importance of giving one’s self for the good of others. There are anecdotes from different religions that relate to how someone has found favour with the Lord because he or she has helped one in need. Even if a person is not a saint or a holy one, his or her status is raised in the eyes of God due to a noble gesture which leads to the relief of another’s suffering.
If we just think about our own response to examples of service that we witness we can get an inkling of why it is such an important quality. We often read accounts in the newspapers or magazines or watch stories on television about people who have taken heroic steps to help others. We are often moved and inspired by reports of those who have risked their lives to save someone else. We honour heroes who have died for their country. We raise to martyrdom those who have tried to help humanity and have lost their lives in the process. Service is one of the great acts one can do in this lifetime.
It is rare that the average person has to face the choice of giving up his or her life physically in order to save someone else. But there are numerous opportunities that offer themselves to us daily in which we can help someone else. The sacrifice may be of our time, of our money, of our resources or of our skills. But there is no dearth of chances to give of ourselves for the good of humanity.
The benefits of selfless service: Selfless service presents to us a paradox. To truly perform selfless service, one must act without any desire for a reward or recognition. It is given freely and motivated by an innate desire to help another. At the time of giving, one forgets one’s own needs and wants as well as one’s comfort and safety to help someone else. There are even those who give their own lives to save others. Truly selfless people do not expect anything in return for their deeds. The underlying paradox of selfless service lies in the fact that while wanting no reward, selfless service elicits the highest reward — the pleasure of the Lord.
This benefit may seem to be intangible. But for those of us who are interested in our spiritual development, it is the highest gift we can receive in life. One reaps the benefits when one sits in the silence of one’s own self and finds the inner door of light, love and peace open with ease. These treasures flood selfless souls, filling them with an inner joy and fulfilment beyond any we can receive from worldly attainments. Sant Darshan Singh used to say that the benefit one receives by performing selfless service is as great as one receives by putting in an equal amount of time in meditation.
When we help someone, our heart expands. It reaches out to embrace another as a member of one human family. This act alone opens up our soul. As our love for others flows out, God’s love for us can pour in. As this exchange takes place, our soul currents begin to rise up to the point at which we can experience the divine light within us. Our meditations receive a boost, and our soul, filled with peace and joy, transcends to higher states of consciousness. Thus, it is through selfless service that we speed up our progress towards the attainment of inner peace and ecstasy.
By serving selflessly, we expand our hearts from our own self to our family, to the community, our country, the world and ultimately the cosmos. Selfless service comes from an understanding that we are all members of one large family of God. True selfless service encompasses helping more than our own physical family; it includes all humanity. It is a noble quality to have feelings of love for all people, both those we know and those who are strangers. It is one of the goals of spirituality to help all of humanity develop the qualities of love and service to all.