One thing closest to my mother’s heart was ‘Narayan Seva’. Narayan Seva are two hindi words meaning Narayan- Lord/God , Seva- Service; so Narayan Seva means serving God. How does this serving God differ from our daily worship, offerings and prayers to God? This is serving the Lord who is present in each and every one of us; especially the ones who are in need of our love, care and concern. This was what her Master, guru and guide; Bhagavan Baba had taught her. ‘Love all, Serve all’. She took to this teaching with great devotion, fervour and love despite having weak health.
Swami’s message on Narayan Seva- Swami during His discourse on the 21st of November 1975 spoke about Narayan Seva thus; “Who is poor and who is rich? He who has much desires is poorest man, he who is content is richest man. Narayan seva is not poor feeding. When you do such a noble task, will you do it ‘poorly’ that you call it ‘poor-feeding’? English does not have a proper translation for Narayan Seva which is actually an opportunity to feed the Lord Himself.”
Every 4th Sunday of the month saw my mother enthusiastically preparing hot rice and dal (lentils) for this seva to be served during lunch time to the homeless and slum people near our home with a lot of love and to a great taste. She would see to it that many vegetables are added, tempering with ghee (clarified butter) done and the consistency of the preparation be quite thick so that the people may derive great joy as well as nutrition from the dal. The collection point used to be our home. As most of the readers who have read my past posts on our home and my mother; would have known that with His grace our home was blessed to be a centre for all Sai activities in our area. Huge buckets would be placed in our front room and people would fill the buckets with cooked rice and dal from their homes. It was sad at times when some people used to comment as to “why give such dals loaded with vegetables, ghee etc to these poor people; they are not used to rich food.” This used to upset my mother more so because their watery dal would be poured on top of my mom’s painstakingly made dal. She was so particular that the food given should be of high standards just the way we offer to God.
This was the monthly Narayan Seva. There were other yearly sevas like for Mahashivratri, Dassera etc which she initiated and participated with great enthusiasm. During Shivratri, dry provisions and clothes would be collected at our place and sent for leprosy camp at an ancient Shiva temple in Ambernath. This has been shared in detail in my earlier post https://premaarpan.wordpress.com/2015/02/17/reminiscences-of-mahashivaratri-as-a-kid/
Dassera day would see her up at 5.30 am in the chilly winter morning, set to preparing 100 rotis (chappati-wheat bread) along with hot and spicy potato curry. By 10.30am these would be ready to be packed into 25 packets and dad would set off on his scooter to look out for the needy people. I have vivid memory of my dad mentioning during one such winter morning of Dassera when he went to the nearby railway station, he saw a dishevelled poor old man cuddled in a torn blanket lying down on the platform. He was taken by surprise when my dad woke him up and lovingly handed him the packet of hot food. My dad still remembers the gratitude seen in the eyes of that poor man which were filled with tears on receiving this unexpected hot lunch offered with so much love from a total stranger. My dad was also touched by the poor man’s plight and felt so blessed to be able to do his bit. Both the giver and the receiver experience the same joy; it is such a beautiful way of serving the Lord in another human. Swami always said; “Manava Seva is Madhava Seva.” Serving man is serving God.
I have observed the above sevas carried out by my parents with total love and dedication. For many years I was unable to do these for some reason or the other; but thanks to Swami for the past 5/6 years I have also been blessed to do my part for this seva.
Parents have the most important role in imparting values to children and my parents are my role models.
Narayan Seva as a Path to Self-Realisation– Lessons learnt
- In what spirit do I perform this service? Whenever I give food for the poor, do I give the remnants and discards or do I give freshly cooked food? Swami often says that love expresses itself as sacrifice and Narayan Seva should be an act of love. Lesson of love; seeing God not only in idols, altar or temples but in every creation of His. Serving others with as much love as one would serve God.
- A beautiful story illustrates the message that giving should be with a spirit of actually offering to the Lord. Once a messenger came from the king to Kabir and said “Because you are Anatha (orphan), the king has offered you great wealth.” Kabir said, “I have a Natha (Lord) – Rama. Rama has no protector or Lord and so, He is Anatha. Give all alms to him not me.”(The word Anatha in Sanskrit means – one who has no protector. Therefore, it is commonly used to denote the orphans and destitute.)
Never consider anyone as Anatha. Only God is Anatha. Keep alms for the poor, regarding them as embodiments of God. These poor people, knowingly or unknowingly utter, “I am Anatha”. Anatha is one who has no beginning and end. If you see, they are actually proclaiming the ultimate Truth because all are indeed divine.
- We can do our bit, it is not how much one gives that matters but with what feeling one gives is more important. Swami says; “You may not be able to buy large amounts of rice. Every day, in your pooja room (altar), you make an offering to God. Instead of that, keep that amount as “bhiksha” (alms) for Swami. Take me as the beggar at your home. Once a week, all such devotees who have kept aside food for Swami can come together, cook that food that has been kept aside and use it for Narayana Seva. Have the feeling that this is alms for Swami. Consider Swami as your ‘daridra’ and offer your handful of rice.”
- Narayan Seva is about empathy and not sympathy. It is not as if the ‘giver’ is big and the ‘receiver’ is small. Both are equals – children of God. It is just sharing of His blessings with others. Both receive equal joy.
One must be indeed fortunate to get an opportunity to be of help to others. When the East Godavari people came to thank Swami for providing their villages with water supply; Swami told them that He should be thanking them as He was given an opportunity to help them. Similar incident was also shared by the Hyderabad youth who once came to Parthi on a ‘bike yatra’. On the way they were distributing clothes, food etc to the needy. When asked by Swami what they did on the way; they informed Swami about the seva they did. Immediately He asked them; “Will You give an opportunity also to help?” and He then went to His room and got a heap of sarees and asked the youth to give it to the poor women on the way back to Hyderabad. When the Master is so humble and looks for an opportunity to serve; how should we be as His devotees? Narayan Seva should make us humble. Swami is the ideal for such humility. Sai organisation all over the globe are a testimony to these teachings of their Master.
- Thus when we become aware of the above and start serving with that spirit we will see the we are all one big family and as we keep purifying our heart and allow the Lord in us to shine forth we will realise that we are indeed one and the Lord residing in each one is from the same source and we are all Him. That is indeed attainment of self-realisation.
Dearest Ma, when you were in your mortal frame you have imparted so many lessons to me, the impact of which I realise only now when you are no longer here to see me. But whenever I see His mercy flowing I know it is your blessing and upbringing that bestowed us with the grace of being in His fold and every year as I dedicate a tribute to you; your guiding presence of awakening me within is seen. Thank you for everything ma. Love you
(Courtesy: Swami’s messages are taken from http://aravindb1982.hubpages.com/hub/What-is-Narayan-Seva-and-how-must-it-be-done-Sathya-Sai)