Discipline of Service
It is a divine law that man must labor to earn his bread; for, to live man must work. "Work is worship." Work is the name of God is pious, that indeed is Real Worship. Worship of God is no doubt a noble task, but service of humanity in the name of the Creator in such a ‘worship’ which is acknowledged by the people in this world and by the Almighty Lord in both the worlds. The divine law of labor is an absolute necessity for the development and advancement of a person and the nation. There is an inseparable relation between honest labor and success in any calling, be it individual or collective. The noblest act in life is "Honest Labor". We cannot look around us without rejoining in its ‘bloodless triumphs’.
For every person on this earth, work is a moral obligation. We are seldom aware that out comfortable living depends upon the work of several thousands of people. And for the comfort of others we have an obligation to contribute something. We should not forget that work is our life-long companion, as well as our greatest teacher. Honest work for a good cause is the real antidote of grief. One who is involved in the selfless service of others does not suffer from grief to that degree as a person would suffer who is not busy is any such selfless noble job. The cultivation and practice of selfless service which is termed as Nishkam Seva in Gurbani or the Sikh Scriptures – attract God’s grace and when He bestows His favor, the Holy Name comes to dwell in that person who performs such service. Then he thinks more of his duties than of his rights. He become aware of the needs and comforts of his neighbors, society and the community. He performs Nishkam Seva in all the spheres of life where he can do something.
Sikhism teaches that a Sikh should have an occupation. He must work to earn his livelihood and should not be a burden in a society. Besides earning his bread he should make himself busy in some way for the benefit of the community. By doing so the disciple then realizes that the real good lies in doing service to others. He submits his will to the Divine Will. Thus by selfless service and devotional meditation, he removes the ego – which acts as a partition between God and the human soul. Guru Nanak says: "By shedding the ego, man merges in God." As the curtain between the soul of the disciple and God gets removed, he has a vision of Divinity. He feels himself as a part of his Creator. Again to quote Guru Nanak:"They who rid themselves of their selflessness are ever in bliss and always beauteous."
"Earning one’s bread by honest labor; sharing one’s earning with the needy; and meditating on the holy Name of Lord Divine" is a convenient summing up of the fundamental teachings of Sikhism. Guru Nanak says:"He alone treadeth the path of righteousness, sayeth Nanak, Who earneth his bread with honest labor and shareth it with others."
But earnings are to be shared with others willingly and with pleasure. "It is only what you willingly give away in charity to those who deserve it here, out of your lawful earnings, which will benefit your souls hereafter". "Practice charity and worship the Lord and deal honesty with your fellow beings", said Guru Nanak. No matter how poor one is, there is always a piece of bread that can be shared and when so given makes one feel nobler. The desire to receive and give is part of the human nature which make for graciousness in life. However instinctive may be the desire to give, it needs to be pruned so as not to be merely an emotional outpouring. Otherwise charity would lose its effectiveness. ‘Sharing one’s earnings with others’ is a gesture of service, which is a practical expression of love. ‘There can be no worship of God without active service’, and those whom one is to serve must be loved. They who love the Lord love everybody – and hence serve everybody. Evils, such as caste and untouched ability, that make distinction between man and man, have no place in a religion of service.’"Religion does not consist in mere words : He alone is religious who looks on all men as equal."
When you give a morsel of food to the hungry or a piece of cloth to the needy, you worship God through them. We have to serve one and all. When we face the whole humanity we have to stand in reverence – that is in a proper attitude of service. God is best worshipped through selfless service of humanity, wherein everyone participates to get His blessings."Rid thyself of ego and perform service. Then alone shalt thou attain honor."
Guru Nanak wished his disciples to be the servants of God and His people. Having created the human body God has installed His very-self therein. And, ‘this world is the chamber of God where in resideth the Truth One Himself.’ Therefore, ‘service rendered here shall win thee a place of honor hereafter.’ This was a great lesson taught by the great teacher. Such lessons, i positive virtue, which Guru Nanak gave, were a great improvement upon the traditional ethics. There are always two kinds of duties: what we ought to do and what we ought not to do. The world had very beautiful sets of commandments, like the Jewish Decalogue, have come down to us. But by concentrating all their attention on one side of the matter, the people forgot that any other side existed at all.
‘Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not lie’ – thou shalt not do this or that – this was all that was understood by Dharma and Duty. This emphasis on the negative side of virtue led to the adoption in the east of asceticism or renunciation as the highest ideal of life, which ultimately meant the negation of all human duty. Guru Nanak preached positive truth. He substituted Love in place of all the intricate doctrines of faith. And the practical expression of this Love is service – service in the name of God to serve the needy. His followers amply profited by this teaching. One can see no higher record of service in annals of mankind than that of Sikhs, who were taught to annihilate the thought of self and to utilize all their energies in the service of God and mankind. Discipline of service has played a prominent role in the evolution of Sikh religion. ‘Service in one form or another is an integral part of a Sikh’s duty.’ According to Sikhism, service should not be confined to fixed forms of sectarian charity but shall be freely varied according to the needs of those to whom it is rendered.
The Sikh Gurus make something of the man here in this world instead of merely promising high destinies in the next world to come. For this purpose Sikh institutions were so designed as to abolish invidious distinctions between man and man and to retain all who came into their orbit in the arts of peace and service. And the Guru’s Langar is one such institution. For a Sikh, looking after the needs of the disciples gathered in a congregation, cooking food in the Free Kitchen, serving meals to the needy and washing dishes is a lesson in egolessness, humility and love for others.
Bertrand Russel says:"Our mental make-up is suited to a life of very severe physical labor. If the human race is to survive, means must be found out for securing an innocent outlet for the unused physical energy that produces the love."
The community kitchen gives an opportunity for using the unused ‘physical energy’ and by serving those who come to partake in this institution not only share food but also give love to others and take love from others.