Kindness, humility and equality: how the Sikh tradition of Sewa can transcend cultural boundaries and foster unity

Sikh tradition of Sewa

At the core of Sikhism lies the philosophy of selfless service, known as Sewa.

Sewa is a principle that transcends religious boundaries and holds universal relevance. The philosophy encourages individuals to engage in acts of kindness, compassion and service without expecting anything in return.

While deeply embedded in Sikh tradition, people of all backgrounds can adopt the principles of Sewa to enhance their day-to-day lives.


At the heart of selfless service in Sikhism is the genuine desire to alleviate the suffering of others

At the core of Sikhism lies the philosophy of selfless service, known as Sewa.

Sewa is a principle that transcends religious boundaries and holds universal relevance. The philosophy encourages individuals to engage in acts of kindness, compassion and service without expecting anything in return.

While deeply embedded in Sikh tradition, people of all backgrounds can adopt the principles of Sewa to enhance their day-to-day lives.

Start small

Sewa is not so much about a set of specific actions but about the intent behind those actions. It emphasises performing service with a pure heart and without expecting any kind of personal gain. The driving force behind it is the genuine desire to alleviate the suffering of others.

Sewa can be as simple as performing daily acts of kindness. Holding the door for someone, helping a neighbour with groceries, or offering a kind word to a stranger are all examples of selfless acts. Individuals can create a positive ripple effect in their communities by making these actions a regular habit. In more direct ways, one can engage in volunteer work. Whether it’s contributing time at a local soup kitchen, participating in community cleanup projects, or offering assistance at a local charity.

By actively participating in the wellbeing of others, you contribute to creating a supportive and interconnected society

Recognise the divine

Sewa promotes the idea that everyone is equal in the eyes of the divine, and serving others is a way to break down societal hierarchies.

Sikhs are taught to see the presence of God in everyone and everything. This concept is beautifully integrated into the practice of Sewa. When engaging in selfless service, try to recognise the “divine spark” within the person you are helping. This recognition transforms Sewa into a sacred act, and a direct expression of devotion to the divine present in all.

The langar – a central aspect of Sikhism where a free meal is served to all – exemplifies this principle. By serving food without discrimination, Sikhs embody the belief that everyone, regardless of background or faith, is a manifestation of the divine.

Be humble

At the heart of Sewa is the principle of humility. Sikhism teaches us that true service requires people to shed their ego and approach every act of kindness with a sense of humility. By humbling oneself, individuals acknowledge the interconnectedness of all beings and recognise that each person, regardless of their social status or background, deserves respect and compassion.

Humbleness in Sewa is not just a superficial display but a genuine acknowledgment of the equality of all human beings. The intent of doing Sewa is rooted in compassion, kindness, and selfless dedication to serving humanity.

Show empathy

Sewa extends beyond physical acts to include emotional and intellectual support. Mentoring someone in need, offering guidance, or simply being a supportive friend are potent ways to practise selfless service. By uplifting others, individuals can create a supportive and harmonious environment. Understanding the struggles and challenges others face is an aspect of Sewa. By actively listening, empathising, and helping, individuals can build connections and foster a sense of unity within their communities.

Embrace the spirit

Engaging in selfless service – or Sewa – promotes personal growth and can give youa sense of purpose and fulfilment, contributing to overall wellbeing. It can also create a more robust, more resilient community. By actively participating in the wellbeing of others, you contribute to creating a supportive and interconnected society.

Sewa transcends religious and cultural boundaries, fostering unity among people from diverse backgrounds. In essence, embracing the spirit of Sewa is a powerful way to positively impact the world and promote a more compassionate and interconnected society.

 

Kindness, humility and equality: how the Sikh tradition of Sewa can transcend cultural boundaries and foster unity
Kindness, humility and equality: how the Sikh tradition of Sewa can transcend cultural boundaries and foster unity

 

Jaswinder Singh is co-founder and acting chief executive of Sikh Volunteers Australia, which delivers food to disadvantaged groups around Australia


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