Guru Seva and Sadhana

Life should be chiefly service. Without that ideal, the intelligence
that God has given you is not reaching out toward its goal. When in
service you forget the little self, you will feel the big Self of Spirit.

– Paramahansa Yogananda

Again and again the Master has told us that the purpose of life is to find God. But in the quote above, he alludes to a second purpose; he says that without the ideal of service, something very deep and strong in our nature as spiritual beings is left unfulfilled, unsatisfied, unrewarded; like an arm that is never used. We are, in a sense, un-purposed. And we don’t know this – we can’t really know it — until we experience that connection, that forgetting of self.

When devotees across the world learn of the opportunity which Yogananda Seva presents and move to take advantage of it, they feel that expansion of their life’s purpose. For many, it is the feeling, I did not know it, but I have been waiting for this. For they see that the very skills and experience which they have practiced and perfected in their work will now enable them to help bring the vision of YSO to a tangible infrastructure, linking them more closely with Mother Center and serving the Guru in new ways as never before.

The release of Yogananda Seva is like a beacon that says: the time has come for lay members to express themselves. We asked some volunteers how participating in YSO impacts their sadhana. Here are some of their responses:

Pure giving gets me out of my head. I stop thinking about my problems and anxieties. I’m so immersed, so tuned into giving and doing for others and my guru, joy just rises. There is so much joy in that fellowship, the joy of serving the guru with other devotees! People need to discover what guru seva is. There’s something mysterious about it. There are layers and layers to it.

(R.H., USA)

When I saw the notice for YSO, I just hit the sign-up box, thinking, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll help.’ Then YSO got hold of me, and the whirlwind began. I thought, ‘This is Master, and he’s not waiting!’ Then one day it hit me; I saw that all the work I do — whether it’s volunteering, or my job, or helping people in the outside world — is work for God and Guru! What Yogananda Seva has made me see is that it doesn’t matter if I’m paid or not, or where the money is coming from; it’s all service!  It’s all for Master.

(B.J., Canada)

Impact is the right word! Brother Dharmananda used to say, ‘It’s not a gradual creeping-up progress on this path, it’s a sudden steep climb!’ That is what YSO is for me. I’ve always served, in many capacities, but such a kinship I’ve never experienced, fulfilling beyond any other. It’s amazing that you can feel that joy and privilege shared with such true colleagues — like being on a divine team. Such a privilege!

(J.V., USA)

The truth that each disciple’s relationship with the Guru is one of a kind, matchless, inimitable has meant much to me in the past. But nothing demonstrates that uniqueness more clearly than my Guru’s allowing me now to serve His mission by employing the very proficiencies I have developed in my work and creative life. It amazes me to think how Master has been preparing me all along for this!  Also, how guru seva ripples out and becomes more a way of living.

(J.B., USA)

When thinking over how I could put into words the ways in which guruseva has enhanced my spiritual life, I felt deeply just how personal this is to me, and much too personal to discuss or share. It is an inner experience with my Guru. It is an aspect of the Guru-disciple relationship.

(Anon.)

Master has brought an unexpected sweetness and joy into my life through Yogananda Seva. My husband of 50 years just died, and it could have been a horrible time. Friends of mine who are widowed are crying all the time; so sad. But Guruji has given me a needed challenge, and his timing was perfect. Others from the London center are online leaders as well, and we work on each other, giving feedback and helpful hints. It could be daunting, to be alone and thinking that all those silent devotees are looking at me, but it’s always very sacred. I often think how Master has turned lemons into lemonade for me. Such joy! Sometimes I think, “Wow! I’ve found what I wanted!” 

(R.T., UK)

When I was eight years old, during meditation services at the SRF Center in Mexico City I watched the reader lead a meditation and thought, “Someday I would like to do that”. Since last December, after careful training, I have been allowed to lead online meditations worldwide in Spanish, and it’s fulfilling my dream!

Serving our Guru Paramahansa Yogananda is not only a source of great joy, it is a commitment, a responsibility to be an example for many people around the world. This leads me to be more careful and disciplined in my spiritual practice, very respectful of the teachings of our Guru and, above all to remember that, by serving him, we are a kind of channel because it is He who expresses His message through us. 

(M.C., Mexico)

Joy is the word. I am no geek, so when I was asked to usher the German OMC, I felt hesitant. But early in the training I started to realize how beautiful it is to be a part of it. With all those people out there meditating, I feel the same one goal. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know their names or what they do in life; they’re on the same path as I am. In my work I scroll down through all those pictures of devotees meditating so still, and in so many I see an altar or picture of a guru in the background; a metaphor of what unites us. Knowing we’re all in it together helps me on my own path. 

Ushering gives my life a new regularity. Knowing I’ll be ushering Friday increases my desire to meditate, and indeed to keep on meditating at times throughout the day.

(I.N., Germany)

As a teenager, I had a dream of one day being a translator in the United Nations. Now Master is giving me the fulfillment of that dream in a way I never could have imagined: my role as an OMC usher allows me to help people around the world to connect with and deeply understand one another.

There is no joy like the privilege of serving with people who are also committed. People I meet through my work are gifts. In my work as an usher I get to work with people like the online meditation leaders; their commitment inspires me. There is a deep sense of spiritual camaraderie as we interact; Master’s presence is palpable.

(G.S., Equador)

We may be long-time devotees, having meditated for many years, but it’s when we take that Guru Seva step that we get into a sort of magical place where we are changed in the way we need to be changed. I was a very cold, scientific person before; not until I got into Guru Seva did I see that each circumstance of life is arranged by Master for our growth and that of those around me. When it comes to his work, we are the servants of God, and the servants of His servants.

(U.S., India)

Brother Chidananda’s vision of making OMC happen before the coronavirus struck was an example of Guruji’s perfect timing. And doubly so for me, since just then I was made an OMC usher, planning and monitoring the 2-hour Saturday online meditation services.

This new activity of serving Guru’s worldwide mission has connected me with a schedule and helped me regain my regularity of sadhana. It is the connecting with other devotee volunteers that uplifts me so much.

(K.S., USA)

Sri Yukteswar said that environment is more powerful than will power, and that is borne out by the wonderful souls I work with in this OMC endeavor. It’s like being around angels, with everyone acting like they’re a channel. You get beyond ego attachment.  When I’m leading online, and beforehand, I’m just saying inwardly, “It’s for you, Master. It’s for you.” 

This guru seva work has resulted in more peace and harmony in our marriage. After these past years of challenges in joining our group services, we find the ease of joining in the online services to be so effortless, and blessed.

(V.M., USA)

My connection with Master’s worldwide family is strengthened by participating in YSO; I feel the blessing of each online meditation.

I have been an online service leader, and now am taking on the role of usher as well. It’s much to learn, but my head is not fighting it; you just want to do your best for Master and all the devotees around the world who are tuning in. Such a privilege, such an honor, to serve this way.

And I have a sense of excitement about the future. When I used to hear that Master predicted the work would resemble a zephyr at first, then grow until it became a mighty wind sweeping across the world, I never figured that would take place during my lifetime. But here it is happening!

(J.T., USA)

 We close with the words of Swami Shyamananda, whose untiring service to YSS helped build that organization in India and around the world.

“I used to long to be free just to meditate. But if I went solely for meditation
and my mind wandered from God, in those moments I would be one hundred
 percent lost from Him. But if I am working for God and Master, and if my mind
wanders, still I am some percent with Them. That, I came to realize, is the secret 
of Karma Yoga . . . I am convinced that in this work lies my salvation!”