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Archive for the ‘seva’ tag

Faith Inspires: Hindu American Seva Charities

Photo Credit to Myra Iqbal, AOL

Niki A. Shah teaches yoga to a group of kids as a part of the Hindu American Seva Charities.

by Jahnabi Barooah
from The Huffington Post

This week’s Faith Inspires highlights the work of Hindu American Seva Charities (HASC), an organization whose mission is to engage in “seva, interfaith collaboration, pluralism, social justice and sustainable civic engagement to ignite grassroots social change and build healthy communities.” Seva, which means “service” in Sanskrit, is an important aspect of the Dharmic traditions, which include Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.

In 2009, when President Barack Obama issued a “call to serve,” Anju Bhargava, a Hindu American resident of Livingston, NJ, was appointed to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. HASC is a result of that collaboration, and was designed to strengthen and put a spotlight on civic engagement and community service efforts in the Dharmic community.

Despite the White House’s support and guidance, HASC did not have the easiest start, and their success over the past two years can be attributed as much to creative theological thinking, as to the Dharmic community’s desire to be fully accepted in the American community.

“The Hindu community didn’t have a faith-based infrastructure [to perform community service],” Anju Bhargava, the founder of the HASC told The Huffington Post. Even though many Hindus were engaging in community service through informal means, Hindus did not have access to sustainable community service programs that were faith-based. If the goal was to bring seva to the forefront and make it relevant in the American context, the challenge was that the Hindu-American community was so fragmented because of its varied religious and philosophical beliefs, Bhargava told The Huffington Post.

Click here to read full article

 

Dharmic Seva and Vivekananda: The Catalyst to Building Pluralistic Communities

by Anju Bhargava from Huffington Post

The Dharmic American community has an immense, untapped potential to serve at home and abroad. Dharmic Seva can become a catalyst to strengthening and building pluralistic communities. Our ancient expression, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (The Whole World is One Family) is a key principle driving Hindu American Seva Charities (HASC) as we prepare for the first historic briefing at the White House, followed by the conference at Georgetown University.

The theme of the event is “Energizing Dharmic Seva (Service): Impacting Change in America and Abroad,” and is designed to inspire all toward community service. We will explore ways to further strengthen America through service and honor those within our community who have served, are serving and will serve. We have an impressive slate of speakers coming to share their perspectives.

As we started our journey to impact change and encourage new service ideas, HASC sponsored a widespread civic and service participation essay contest to develop service plans. The winners of the contest will be recognized by HASC at the White House briefing on the 29th. With their Seva Plan we expect our participants to become change makers as they become part of expanding the ongoing seva movement. They will play a role in America valuing the talents of its diverse faiths, its pluralistic multicultural communities, the New Americans. As a member of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in our report we recommended and are now implementing interfaith cooperation and community service as an important way to build understanding between different communities and contribute to the common good.

We asked our community to tell us: What role does your dharma (religion/faith/spirituality) play in civic engagement, social justice and development issues? How do you propose to establish and expand seva (service) on campus, places of worship, yoga centers, in towns, cities or rural areas (for example through “seva centers” or virtual hubs)? What other ways will you grow the faith and/or interfaith seva movement? What is the change you want to see in yourself and in your communities by doing selfless service?

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Seva: Celebrating the Sacredness of Service

by Andrew Blackmore-Dobbyn
from Huffington Post

The best way to find your self is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Mahatma Gandhi

What we seek from religion is a sense of meaning, purpose, belonging; a stronger connection to each other. This is what seva is and this is what seva does. When we speak of seva, we mean ego-less service in which we put ourselves to work in aid of the greater community. It answers all these needs in a profound way. Vikas Khanna and I began exploring seva in True Business, our first Holy Kitchens film about Sikhism. We were intending only to show how people shared food but quickly discovered that sharing food was just the beginning of seva. This work of quiet dignity allows its practitioners to directly benefit from the work they do in that they can see its effect in front of their eyes. Hungry people come and they are fed. The fear of starvation is removed from their lives. When you take away someone’s hunger, you make it possible for him to think about his existence on a higher spiritual plane. In the secular world we refer to this as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In a spiritual setting it is putting someone in reach of the divine. When you put a roof over someone’s head, provide access to clean water, give children medicine to keep them alive, this is seva. It is keeping the promise of the covenant that we are all our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.

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The Importance of Seva and Social Justice for Inner Transformation

From The Huffington Post

On the surface, emphasis in the Hindu and Dharmic (eastern) traditions appears to be primarily on inner self realization. We are encouraged to engage in community service as a transformation practice, sadhana, without personal recognition or publicity. Our underlying Vedic philosophy, often quoted by Mahatma Gandhi is Service to Man is Service to God. (Nar Seva, Narayan Seva). It is an inside out approach to living. Our definition of seva is: “Service which is given without consideration of anything in return, at the right place and time to one that is qualified, with the feeling that it is one’s duty, is regarded as the nature of goodness.” – Bhagavad Gita 17.20

It is no wonder then that in America, where community service is institutionalized as a well disciplined field, many wonder, where is Dharmic (eastern tradition) seva? Do Hindus serve the needy? Where is community service through their faith based institutions? What theology guides the Hindus to serve?

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February 23rd, 2011 at 12:20 pm