Seva

When I first started out on this journey, I was totally confused about what seva meant (I’m still sort of confused, but it’s much clearer). Was I supposed to spend time at the temple, actually directly offering service to God? Was I supposed to do that at home (I do, weekly, cleaning my little home altar and making a special sweet to offer as prasadam)? Was I supposed to volunteer my time to the homeless?

What was seva?

Whatever it was, I was pretty sure I was bad at it. I am very busy volunteering with a group that gives a lot of time to lots of people, but not the community at large. I have a bit of social anxiety, so seva at temple wasn’t really an option. I donated money to disaster relief funds, gave to Kiva, and some other small things, but that felt like token donations. I don’t have a lot of money. Token will have to do.

Then there was this dog. I know that many traditional Hindus (and Muslims, and loads of other folks from the Indian subcontinent) consider dogs to be unclean, but I’m culturally Western and dogs are acceptable in this culture, so dog. She was hanging around our garage, painfully thin, and we gave her some water. Our thinking was that she would drink the water and move on, like most other strays.

She was still there in the morning. So being the dummy I was, I fed her, and of course she stuck around. And the feeding progressed to keeping her inside during the day to keep her from getting picked up by someone less caring (who would no doubt go and breed her), and now she’s in a crate inside and goes for walks and gets tasty treats. I’ve posted flyers around the neighborhood. I’ve posted “Found Dog” listings around, looking for her owners, if she has any. So far, no luck. She’s been neglected and abused. She’s very sweet, but needs loads of love and care.

And so now I’m at this point of realization, that when I asked Rama for ways to help grow in love for Him, to do service to Him, and asked Shiva for ways to see Him in the world, He sent this little red dog, who needs love desperately for as long as I can give it to her. I can’t quote the Vedas on this (somebody who knows them better will likely know what I’m talking about), but I recall that they say something about caring for the earth and all the creatures on it, and that the act of unselfish care is service to God. God knows how you can best serve Him, and will show you ways to do that.

[EDIT: Art has provided the missing quotation]

Bhagavad Gita 18.54.

The one who is equally disposed to all beings attains Brahman.

Eknath Easwaran’s translation:

“By serving me in every living creature, he attains supreme devotion to me.”

I’m working on it, God!

(She’s not a permanent pet. We’ve got two cats that we adopted from rescue services, and she’ll go to a happy home that can give her far more attention than we will, but for the time being we’ll take care of her and help her find that home.)

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About HappyGoth

By day, I'm a graphic designer. By night, I'm a knitter. I'm doing my part to keep Hotlanta stylish. I imagine that if you don't already understand the title of the blog, you're probably confused and perhaps slightly annoyed, but never fear - I do have a reason (and it's a good one). Having gone to hear Stephanie Pearl McPhee, and then having been inspired to blog about knitting, I found myself wondering what to call the blog. I recalled a conversation I had with Mouse and the Chicken Goddess about why it is a Bad Idea to anger knitters - this conversation was following SPM, aka the Yarn Harlot telling the assembled throng about Those Who Do Not Understand Knitting and Therefore Belittle It Much to the Chagrin of Others, or TWDNUKTBMCO, which is not the acronym she used but is the one I'm using because I forgot hers - that is, we are numerous and we all have very pointy sticks, easily transforming into an angry mob. Therefore, knitters = angry mob.
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23 Responses to Seva

  1. Bhagavad Gita 18.54. The one who is equally disposed to all beings attains Brahman. I like Eknath Easwaran’s translation: “By serving me in every living creature, he attains supreme devotion to me.”

    I’ve rescued many animals, a number of which are permanent members of my family.

    A story from Sri Ramakrishna:

    A sannyasin’s teacher had told him to endeavor to see Rama in all beings. The sannyasin was a very devout man. One day, as he was buttering some bread for his meal, a dog sneaked up, snatched a piece of bread, and ran away. The sannyasin chased after the dog with the butter, yelling, “Wait, Rama! Please let me butter your bread for you!”

  2. Kodanda says:

    Jai Sri Ram!

  3. Sriram says:

    An unclean dog is not religious or cultural. In India its more a problem of too many strays. Truth be told, dogs are fed by people (the stray ones) and there are quite a few interesting Hindu anecdotes about them. But then you are catching the meaning of seva very well :).

    • HappyGoth says:

      Ha! Good to know. Honestly, I’ve always been reluctant to be near dogs, so this has been an adjustment for me, too!

      My neighborhood has a healthy dog population, and so I figure we’re doing our part to shrink it a little, but in a really healthy way.

  4. junkb0y says:

    hindu/indian culture doesn’t encourage to pet the carnivorous animals & be/get cozy with them & that includes animals dogs cats etc. nature has given them their tools to find & hunt down their food.

    • HappyGoth says:

      Ah. Well, I understand the thinking behind that, but in American cities (and I’d argue that this applies to most cities), the environment is not really conducive to an animal taking care of itself on its own. My reasoning for keeping the animals I have is that (1) domestic cats are the largest single contributor to songbird death in the U.S., since they kill for sport and not for food, so keeping my cats inside helps a couple of little birds live longer lives, and (2) the dog we’re taking care of is a pit bull, and in Atlanta, pitbull overpopulation is a huge problem. Taking care of the dog ensures that there are fewer unwanted pit bulls (we’ll be getting her fixed soon), and that she won’t end up attacking someone later on.

      So I guess my feeling is that while nature has given them good tools, humans have then bred and domesticated them to the extent that the tools don’t work so well, especially in an urban setting. It’s sort of a different thing in the country, but it’s the same basic idea.

      Thanks for the explanation on the Hindu/Indian cultural taboo, though. I figured the fact that they eat mostly meat was a big part of that. Honestly, I’m not terribly comfortable keeping the dog in the house, but we don’t have any other way of keeping her safe until we can find someone else to take her in. The room where I keep my murtis is totally off-limits (as in door closed, no pets allowed).

  5. junkb0y says:

    this comment is bit out of context but hope u still will publish it
    animals r not dependent on humans for their survival. nature didn’t create animals like that. they don’t need the of mercy of humans to survive.Evolution doesn’t count on mercy. if u think animals can’t take care of themselves u r wrong ever heard that a pet dog died just coz his master dumped it. i’m not asking u not to take care of ur pets take good care of them. just stating the facts. dog breeders must be stopped, human should not mess with the natural course of evolution.
    in India rich people spend more money on their dogs per month than the charity done in their whole lives. in India u know there are more starving people than the dogs. & the Indian upper class never tries to understand this.
    & sorry for any errors in my English

    • HappyGoth says:

      Ah, I think I get what you’re saying.

      That’s a big problem here, too. You’ve got folks who spend money for their dogs to get pedicures, to have acupuncture or therapy. Their dogs eat gourmet food and go with them everywhere. And at the same time, they don’t want poor people near their neighborhoods. These are the same people who (in my city) spend loads of money on their dogs but want to make their neighborhood a separate city, so their taxes don’t go to poorer neighborhoods, for things like schools and good roads. It really sucks, especially when poorer people have to fight for the things they need, like transportation to and from their jobs, good healthy food, safe neighborhoods for their children and good schools. The money spent on those silly dogs could do so much for those families! On the dog we have? In this country, not so much. We don’t spend a lot on her, and don’t plan to. We don’t spend a lot on our cats, either.

      So, yes. Animals don’t need people to survive. If the dog had wandered off, I probably wouldn’t have thought any more about it, except that as a pit bull breed (believed to be mean and aggressive, raised as fighting dogs) in this city, she’d likely be shot or bred over and over again until she died a miserable death. Ultimately, that would be her fate, but she stuck around my house, so I’ve got a chance to help fix that. I kind of hoped she was a mean dog, because then I wouldn’t mind calling the pound.

      We’re spending as little as we can on her, because while we want to make sure she’s going someplace safe, we’re not going to pamper her. (And I’m still going to give my takeout food to the homeless guy who asks for something to eat, no matter whether I’ve got a dog in my house or not.)

  6. surya says:

    We have a cat as a pet, we all love it. Animals have a distinct and even enviable place in Hinduism. Just look at the deities, each one of them is accompanied by at least one four legged (cow for shiva, krishna) or a two legged ( mouse for ganesha) animal or even a serpent (Vishnu) for that matter. So some posts above making negative connotations are not speaking from hindu religion POV, instead they are speaking for themselves I must say. Coming to dogs, Dharma raja of the Pandava brothers was allowed to ascend to swarga loka accompanied by his faithful dog only, whilst all his 4 mighty warrior brothers were not that fortunate and fell on the way side. So yes hindus cannot torture animals, it adds to their bad karma. Karuna, daya (compassion) must be extended to them as well. The scriptures by saying even cobras must be offered milk on naga Chavithi days went to the extremes and ,well I am sure, animal lovers would love that. Surya

    • HappyGoth says:

      I had forgotten about the animals that accompany the deities (how could I do that? I love Saraswati’s swan!). I figured I’d get a contrary opinion on something eventually; thanks for being supportive and pointing me to positive examples in Hindu scripture. I also often forget that people are individuals, and find myself being unnecessarily defensive; it’s good to hear the voice of reason from time to time.

      Bahut dhanyavaad!

  7. kodanda says:

    Thanks Surya, I was about to bring up that story from the Mahabharata.

  8. Sita says:

    My Parents & Grandparents,are pretty religious & traditional,but they did have dogs as pets!We as children were always encouraged to be kind to strays,dogs,cats or birds.;inspite of cases of rabies in the neighbourhood[My father was once bitten by a rabid stray & he survived,thanks to the Anti-Rabies serum].Lord Dattatreya[one who is an aspect of Brahma,Vishnu & Shiva;& son to Atri Maharishi &Anasuya] has 4 dogs with him.The Dogs represent the Vedas.So Dogs Are definitely not a problem in Hinduism.But we could contract rabies even from other animals not only Dogs.

    • HappyGoth says:

      Rabies was a big worry when we first took her in, and we’re being careful to look for signs. At this point, we’ve had her long enough that i think we can rule it out.

      Actually, the day we found her I’d watched a documentary on the first person to have been cured from a full-blown case of rabies, and so I was very very careful with this dog! Rabies is a nasty thing to get. Glad to hear that your father caught it in time!

      I didn’t know that about Lord Dattatreya and the Vedas. Thanks for the info!

      • Sita says:

        I had forgotten to mention Lord Kalabhairava whom S was kind to mention.He is also the one to whom we pray when/should we get bitten by a dog.Glad you were aware of the protocol for Rabies.You Tube has a few good recitations of KalaBhairavashtakam – Here is one.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASa08VbK5V4

  9. S says:

    Lord Bhairava’s vehicle is a black dog. Also you people should know why Muslims hate dogs. So don’t give your Dog to a Muslim family.

    From Bukhari Vol. 4, #540
    Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar: Allah’s Apostle ordered that the dogs should be killed.

    From Muslim #5248
    Maimuna reported that one morning Allah’s Messenger was silent with grief. Maimuna said: Allah’s Messenger, I find a change in your mood today. Allah’s Messenger said: Gabriel had promised me that he would meet me tonight, but he did not meet me. By Allah, he never broke his promises, and Allah’s Messenger spent the day in this sad mood. Then it occurred to him that there had been a puppy under their cot. He commanded and it was turned out. He then took some water in his hand and sprinkled it at that place. When it was evening Gabriel met him and he said to him: You promised me that you would meet me the previous night. He said: Yes, but we do not enter a house in which there is a dog or a picture. Then on that very morning he commanded the killing of the dogs until he announced that the dog kept for the orchards should also be killed, but he spared the dog meant for the protection of extensive fields or big gardens.

    • HappyGoth says:

      Nope, going to Unitarians! Problem solved.

      We’ve got very orthodox Muslim neighbors, and we’re very careful to keep the dog controlled when we’re around them; she gets a little rambunctious and we would be embarrassed if she were to jump up on them accidentally. I try to be pretty sensitive of other folks (I’d be sure not to let her get too excited about anybody, really; some people just aren’t dog folks).

  10. S says:

    “We’ve got very orthodox Muslim neighbors” — Don’t let them know you are a Hindu (idol worshiper – 🙂 ). you can never predict their behavior, especially “orthodox Muslims” .

  11. Ambaa says:

    My dog definitely wouldn’t survive in the wild! She’s bred to be a lap dog and has almost no survival skills! But, that aside, it reminds me of the story of the dog that ran away with the wise man’s bread. “My Lord, my Lord, you forgot the butter.” Service in every form, big and small, human or animal, is always for the good.

  12. Please don’t visit my site .. By mistake I have given the link …. it is anti Islam and full of vulgar stuffs. ( ISLAM’s True color ).

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