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.)