Seva is the foundation stone of spirituality – The Vedanta Kesari, December 2014 – Centenary Year Special Edition

Seva is the foundation stone of spirituality

The Vedanta Kesari, December 2014 – Centenary Year Special Edition

– Pramod Kumar

A Life of Purpose

There is a popular Sanskrit Subashitam (proverb) which declares that the very purpose of life is to lead a life of purpose:

Paropakaaram vahanti nadya, paropakaaram duhanti gaaya |

Paropakaaram phalanti vriksha, paropakaaram idam shariram ||

“Just as the rivers flow for the benefit of others, the cows give away milk for the benefit of others, the trees bear fruit for the benefit of others, so is the human body meant for the service of others.”

The Vedic vision of the oneness of life, the Buddha’s message of compassion, Mahavira’s emphasis on ahimsa and Nanak’s emphasis on brotherhood have one underlying principle in common – spiritual knowledge culminates in a vision of life whose practical application is seva and vice versa – seva done with proper attitude leads a human being to zenith of spiritual attainment. Thus, seva bhava has always been one of the central themes of religion and spirituality in India.


Surviving vs. Contributing

Vedanta urges every human being to become a contributor and not merely a survivor. Seva or the attitude of giving and serving becomes natural to a society which is not chronically impoverished but well-nourished and economically stable. India till the 16th century was known as ‘Sone ki Chidiya (Golden Bird),’ for it occupied a position of dominance in the world economy – experts on the history of world economics like Angus Maddison point out that India retained the no.1 position in world economy for a long period of 1600 years from the 1st century CE to 16th century – an unprecedented and unmatched feat in the history of humanity!

For a prosperous society whose worldview was rooted in the ideals of Dharma, Karma and Daana, service became an integral part of the everyday cultural life of the Indian people. It is an erroneous notion popularized by colonial historians that Hinduism is other-worldly and therefore did not encourage its followers to serve and contribute.

The householder or grihastha was the economic pillar of Indian society who supported people in all the other phases of life – brahmacharya, vanaprastha and sannyasa. Hence, we find that the dharma shastras exhorted the grihastha to share and to contribute wholeheartedly.

The Brihadarnyaka Upanishad, for example, highlights the value of charity ‘Datta’ for human beings through the following story:

“On one occasion the gods, the human beings and the demons all observed self-restraint, Brahmacharya, Tapasya and austerity for the sake of gaining knowledge from the Creator. Having observed great austerity they went to Brahma, the Creator Himself, and said, “Give us instruction.” Who went? Three groups. One group of the celestials, the gods, denizens of Indra-loka, paradise, who enjoy all sorts of pleasures, second the men of this earth plane, and third the demons, extremely cruel in their nature. To the gods he said, “I give you instruction. Listen! Da.” He said but one word, “Da”. “Do you understand what I say?” “Yes, we understand.” “Very good! So, follow this instruction.” Then he looked to the human beings, “Do you want instruction from me?” “Yes!” “Da,” he said again. “Do you follow what I say?” “Yes, we understand.” “Very good! Now go and follow this instruction.” Then the demons were called and he said “Da” to the demons also, and the demons, like the others said, “Yes, we have understood what it is.” “Go and follow this instruction.” To all the three he told the same thing, but the meaning was taken differently by the different groups. “Da, Da, Da,” he said. That is all he spoke. The celestials, the people in paradise, are supposed to be revelling in pleasures of sense. They are fond of enjoyment. There is no old age there. There is no sweating, no toiling, no hunger, no thirst, no drowsiness and nothing untoward as in this world. It is all pleasure and pleasure, honey flowing everywhere in paradise. They are addicted to too much enjoyment. So the instruction to those people was Da-‘Dāmyata’. In Sanskrit Dāmyata means, restrain yourself. Damyata comes from the word Dam, to restrain. Subdue your senses. Do not go too much in the direction of the enjoyment of the senses. That was ‘Da’ to the celestials. Kama is to be controlled by self-restraint. Human beings are greedy. They want to grab everything. Hoarding is their basic nature. “I want a lot of money”; “I have got a lot of land and property”; “I want to keep it with myself”; “I do not want to give anything to anybody”. This is how they think. So, to them ‘Da’ meant Datta – ‘give in charity’. Do not keep with you more than what you need. Do not take what you have not given. Do not appropriate what does not belong to you. All these are implied in the statement – be charitable. Charitable not only in material giving but also in disposition, in feeling, in understanding and in feeling the feelings of others. So, to the human beings this was the instruction – Datta, give, because they are not prepared to give. They always want to keep. Greed is to be controlled by charity. And to the demons, who are very cruel, who always insult, injure and harm other people ‘Da’ meant Dayadhvam – be merciful to others. The third ‘Da’ means Dayadhvam – be merciful. Do not be cruel and hard-hearted. Demons are hard-hearted people. They eat, swallow, destroy and demolish everything. Anger is to be controlled by mercy.”[1]

The householder was expected to contribute at least one-tenth of his income to charity. This contribution was not merely a suggestion but a compulsory injunction. The well-being of the individual here and in the journey beyond death depended on the quantum of charity made by him / her. The law of Karma applied to giving encouraged the conviction that what one gives in charity in this life comes back as inheritance in the next. Poverty becomes the only inheritance for misers, to teach them the value of caring and sharing.

The grihastha was also enjoined upon to perform the ‘Pancha Maha Yajnas’ (Five Great Sacrifices) – Deva Yajna, Rishi Yajna, Pitru Yajna, Manushya Yajna and Bhuta Yajna. Manushya Yajna and Bhuta Yajna laid out the individual’s responsibility to serve fellow human beings and all other beings in the plant and animal kingdom. The practice of setting aside food for unexpected travellers or guests and sharing a portion of the food with cows, crows, dogs and other animals became a household custom.

The Downfall – from Seva to Selfishness

However, the picture that the average Indian and the great Indian middle class presents today is one of rank selfishness which manifests in public life through symptoms like corruption, a sickening indifference and apathy to the plight of the poor and downtrodden and the ‘mera kya mujhe kya’ (what will I get if I do this?) or ‘chalta hai’ (let it be) attitudes which have come to define us a people today.

What led to this degeneration of the Indian character from seva to selfishness? It is important to understand the root cause of this change as it will enable us to bring in correction and revive the old ideal of seva in the everyday life of our people.

There are two causes which seem to have warped the Indian spirit of giving and sharing – (1) prolonged slavery and poverty imposed by the harsh circumstances caused by foreign invasions and colonialism and (2) a materialistic education system that produces only selfish survivors instead of productive contributors to the society

This is not the right place to recount the economic atrocities under British rule which led to genocides like the Great Bengal Famine. But it is important to understand that at least some of the selfishness and cut-throat attitude one comes across in the Indian middle classes today is partly a hangover of the crushing poverty caused by colonial rule. The Indian people never accepted poverty as their fate. But in their eagerness to regain their economic status they have perhaps lost sight of the instruction of ‘Datta’

The educational policies which India adopted after Independence were completely divorced from the ideals of dharma and seva. Secularism devoid of dharma and a materialistic education that excelled in producing degree-holders devoid of life enriching skills have only helped in corrupting our inborn commitment to share and serve.


Swami Vivekananda and the revival of the Indian Ideals

Swami Vivekananda was one of the pioneering visionaries of modern India who revived the ideals of seva and tyaga and reintegrated them into the institution of sannyasa which had otherwise become fossilised with the world rejecting attitude of the ascetics who sought their own moksha and turned a blind eye to the suffering of their countrymen.

Swami Vivekananda’s Vedantic vision of charity stands out in dazzling brilliance in the most inspiring lecture he delivered at Rameswaram:

“This is the gist of all worship — to be pure and to do good to others. He who sees Shiva in the poor, in the weak, and in the diseased, really worships Shiva; and if he sees Shiva only in the image, his worship is but preliminary. He who has served and helped one poor man seeing Shiva in him, without thinking of his caste, or creed, or race, or anything, with him Shiva is more pleased than with the man who sees Him only in temples.

A rich man had a garden and two gardeners. One of these gardeners was very lazy and did not work; but when the owner came to the garden, the lazy man would get up and fold his arms and say, “How beautiful is the face of my master”, and dance before him. The other gardener would not talk much, but would work hard, and produce all sorts of fruits and vegetables which he would carry on his head to his master who lived a long way off. Of these two gardeners, which would be the more beloved of his master? Shiva is that master, and this world is His garden, and there are two sorts of gardeners here; the one who is lazy, hypocritical, and does nothing, only talking about Shiva’s beautiful eyes and nose and other features; and the other, who is taking care of Shiva’s children, all those that are poor and weak, all animals, and all His creation. Which of these would be the more beloved of Shiva? Certainly he that serves His children. He who wants to serve the father must serve the children first. He who wants to serve Shiva must serve His children — must serve all creatures in this world first. It is said in the Shastra that those who serve the servants of God are His greatest servants. So you will bear this in mind.

Let me tell you again that you must be pure and help anyone who comes to you, as much as lies in your power. And this is good Karma. By the power of this, the heart becomes pure (Chitta-shuddhi), and then Shiva who is residing in every one will become manifest. He is always in the heart of every one. If there is dirt and dust on a mirror, we cannot see our image. So ignorance and wickedness are the dirt and dust that are on the mirror of our hearts. Selfishness is the chief sin, thinking of ourselves first. He who thinks, “I will eat first, I will have more money than others, and I will possess everything”, he who thinks, “I will get to heaven before others I will get Mukti before others” is the selfish man. The unselfish man says, “I will be last, I do not care to go to heaven, I will even go to hell if by doing so I can help my brothers.” This unselfishness is the test of religion. He who has more of this unselfishness is more spiritual and nearer to Shiva. Whether he is learned or ignorant, he is nearer to Shiva than anybody else, whether he knows it or not. And if a man is selfish, even though he has visited all the temples, seen all the places of pilgrimage, and painted himself like a leopard, he is still further off from Shiva.” [2]

In these few words, Swamiji has condensed the essence of Vedanta and spirituality and given us all a manual to live by. Shiva Bhave Jiva Seva and Daridra Narayana are the new taraka mantras which have the potential of liberating Indians from the shackles of demeaning selfishness which have bound ourselves with.

It is heartening to see that Swamiji’s fiery message of seva and tyaga is reaching out to more and more youth across the country, inspiring them to do great deeds of service. A Babar Ali who set up a school for the poor kids of Bengal and became the youngest school principal of the world or Dr. Hanumappa Sudarshan who left behind his medical practice to work with the tribal communities in Karnataka or R. Balasubramaniam who launched the Vivekananda Youth Movement – they are all living examples of the ideals of seva and tyaga that Swami Vivekananda placed before the Indian youth.

India is eagerly waiting for their numbers to grow, for those “… hundred thousand men and women, fired with the zeal of holiness, fortified with eternal faith in the Lord, and nerved to lion’s courage by their sympathy for the poor and the downtrodden, will go over the length and breadth of the land, preaching the gospel of salvation, the gospel of help, the gospel of social raising-up, the gospel of equality.”

[1] The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad by Swami Krishnananda, Chapter V,

[2] Address at the Rameswaram temple on real worship, Lectures from Colombo to Almora,

Posted in General | Leave a comment

My column on Smriti Irani posted on


HRD Minister and the noise about a formal degree

by M Pramod Kumar


Smriti Irani has much to cheer about as she is not an emaciated victim of the Indian education system. A lady who managed to scare the M Phil pass from Trinity College, Cambridge, UK (or so we are told), and reduced his victory margin drastically in barely a month in Amethi, is definitely capable of emerging as a game-changing HRD Minister. She may yet plug the gap that produces educated clerks while entrepreneurs find their own way by exiting the educational mainstream.  

Posted in General | Leave a comment

My column on Vijayvaani – “Congress: Party without differences”

Congress: Party without differences

M Pramod Kumar

9 June 2014


Conspiracy, secrecy, slavish obedience to the dynasty and intolerance towards all dissidents characterizes theCongress leadership today. No wonder that there is no difference of opinion whatsoever within the Congressparty as far as the leadership abilities of the dynasty is concerned, despite its worst electoral defeat. Thus, theCongress can now proudly proclaim that it is a party without differences, in contrast to the BJP – the party with a difference, where even a ‘chai bechne wala’ can become Prime Minister!


Posted in General | Leave a comment

My column on Vijayvaani about the Shirdi Sai Baba controversy and Swami Swarupananda

Swami Swarupanand is an embarrassment to acharya parampara

by M Pramod Kumar on 26 Jul 2014


“Swami Swaroopanand’s divisive agenda must be exposed and refuted decisively. If Hindu society succumbs to such bullying, we will soon be on the road to irreversible decline and disintegration.”

Posted in General | Leave a comment

10 great lies in Teesta Setalvad’s talk at IIT-Madras

Recevied over email:

Lie # 1. Reg the Hindu Undivided Family & Inheritance Act: It is the
BJP (her pet hate) which has always argued for a uniform civil code to
bring about real equality of all citizens before the law. If the
‘minorities’ hold on to their ghetto mentality and oppose the uniform
civil code, why is she blaming the ‘majority’ for it.

#TeestaisaLiar Lie #2: Aurangazeb gave grants to Hindu temples. Why
did Aurangazeb then order the demolition of Hindu temples like the
Kasi Viswanath, Tulja Bhavani etc. ?

#TeestaisaLiar Lie #3: RSS spread hate propaganda against Hemant
Karkare. It was the Congress MP A R Antulay who came up with cheap
conspiracy theories about Karkare’s death in 26/11 attributing it to
an RSS conspiracy. Teesta is propagating such cheap lies.

#TeestaisaLiar Lie #4: “I oppose both majority and minority
communalism” – in a lecture which lasted 1 hr 30 min, why did Teesta
not tell us what she did for the victims of the Godhra train burning?
Why is she selectively targeting the Hindu community.

#TeestaisaLiar Lie #5: The FIRs against me are filed by a vicious Gujarat Govt:
The SIT, which investigated complaints against Gujarat Chief Minister
Narendra Modi and others in a riot case, told a court on Tuesday that
activist Teesta Setalvad might tamper with evidence if she was allowed
to inspect the original documents of the probe.

#TeestaisaLiar Lie #6: Kausar Bano case was validated by courts:
As the SIT goes about its task, more and more evidence is surfacing
that the human rights lobby had, in many cases, spun macabre stories
of rape and brutal killings by tutoring witnesses before the SC. In
the process, it might have played a significant role in misleading the
SC to suit its political objectives against Modi and his government.

#TeestaisaLiar Lie #7: Gulbarg society complaint against me is vendetta:
How Teesta Setalvad lied in defence of her lies
In response to this note, members of Gulbarg Society, who have been
allegedly duped, wrote an open letter to three of those signatories –
retired judges. They expressed surprise and amazement at how retired
judges could sign a letter in support of someone without knowing the
facts of the case. They also alleged that this act by such retired
judges was an “act to influence the administration of justice”.

#TeestaisaLiar Lie #8: There is no case against me about influencing
Gujarat victims:
“in 2005, Zahira Sheikh accused Teesta Setalvad of physically
controlling her from July 6, 2003 to November 3, 2004 and tutoring her
to give a certain type of testimony in court. She said the affidavit
submitted to the NHRC in the name of Zahira Sheikh by Setalvad
(600-odd pages of documentation) was unsigned! They were, Zahira
sneered, mere pamphlets.”

#TeestaisaLiar Lie #9: RSS does not respect Indian Flag:
When China slapped Nehru then he invited patriotism of RSS to
participate in the Republic Day Parade in 1963.
See pic at the link above of 3500 strong contigent of Swayamsevaks
participating in Republic Day parade in 1963.

#TeestaisaLiar Lie #10: RSS is divisive:
1) CNN-IBN coverage on RSS-Uttarakhand-Relief-Works
2) RSS role in Tsunami Relief Work:
The massive relief work carried out by Seva Bharati following the 2001
Gujarat earthquake, the 2008 Bihar flood and the 2004 Indian Ocean
earthquake and tsunami came in for considerable appreciation from
various quarters.[1][2] The organisation is also known for its efforts
in rehabilitating the victims of terror, especially the children who
are rendered orphans by terror attacks.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Response to the scandalous attack on Mata Amritanandamayi Devi by Gail Tredwell

” In response to the scandalous attack on Amma and  her institutions I would like to say the following. First of all the whole world knows the tremendous positive work that Amma has done and does on a daily basis.  Any one can see the positive effect that Amma has  had on society. However , i want to post an alternative view on Gail Tredwell seen here at “‘. 

Here we find  an alternative picture of Gail Tredwell  . On leaving the ashram in 1999 she sent an email in which she says ‘ everyone should keep their  love and faith in Amma. Please check “‘.

  Then in  2006, I know for a fact that she came back for Amma’s darshan in San Ramon. Gail also does not mention in her book her real reasons for leaving- her love affair with an american devotee , nor does she mention the fact that she was staying free at a devotee’s house in hawaii for a year , and the ashram actually  sent her money to help her out- far from having to ”flee in secrecy’ she was a trusted guest of Amma’s devotees and the ashram very well knew where she was and treated her with love and respect.

Now if she had really been abused,  would she have stayed in the ashram for so long?  Would she have written an email saying ‘ Everyone should  keep their Love and Faith in Amma’ on leaving?  If it was true that she was abused, why did she come back for Amma’s darshan in 2006? And the after 13 years she writes a book full of accusations without any evidence.

All these dont add up. It is clear that Gail’s latest book is a fragment of her imagination, an attempt to defame one of the greatest masters on earth today. – probably due to anti hindu groups  to whom Amma’s rising popularity is seen as a threat . 

Amma spends 18- 20 hours daily , meeting each and every one of the thousands who come to Her in what has become Her legendary embrace of Love. Her organization has received international recognition in the vast humanitarian efforts that it has done.  See
Amma  and the work  She has done has earned International acclaim with the UN declaring the MA Math as a consultant NGO for disaster relief.

Amma wipes the tears of thousands daily, and has caused so many homeless to have homes, sick and ill people to have free  medical help, entitre communities to prosper by Her social outreach programmes whether its through women empowerment, or tribal schools, or vocational  skill training , or through relief efforts, rebuilding homes, building homes for homeless,  or through green initiaives or the Amala Bharatham campaign.

Last and not the least , Amma has personally met and counselled 22 million people- hugging them as a mother hugs Her child  and has single handedly started a wave of Love, compassion and service in this misery ridden world. 

Please dont use unverified slander and the contradictory reports of an obviously confused person to through mud on one of India’s greatest children “

Posted in General | 1 Comment

The true story behind the Birbhum ‘rape’ case

The true story behind the Birbhum case sensationalized by the media – as told by a Bengali friend with authentic sources of information on the ground there:

Medical reports fail to establish the so-called gang-rape of a Santhal girl in a village of Birbhum district in West Bengal. The E&e media, as always expected of it, has been very gaga over the incident as they got another anti-humane element of our civilization+culture to expose and masala-talk about — the kangaroo courts, nee the Khap panchayats.

Well, after her so-called gang-rape by some 12/13 young and old men from her village, and all throughout the night, so much so that she lost count, she was seen riding a bicycle the very next day!

The ToI, our national newspaper, says it will take 2-3 days for medically establishing the rape!! Wonder, who is fulling whom

[P.S. The Tribals are always an extremely closely-knit society. They never encourage extra-communal kinship. When the villagers found this girl, in spite of their warning this girl and her family on occasions before, in a severely compromising position with another man who is not only from a different community but a father of two, they arrested the two culprits, tied them to a tree near the village headman’s house for the night. In the kangaroo court the next morning they were fined Rs25,00 each. The girl’s brother came and took her away thereafter. Period.]

Posted in General | Leave a comment