|Service as a Spiritual Discipline|
When we call to mind various spiritual disciplines, or sadhanas, service is usually not the first one we think of. We commonly cite meditation, devotional singing, or study of holy books. Yet service is a potent and complete sadhana. Selfless service is a path to God-realization.
When service is performed from compassion, without desire for reward or recognition, it can be a source of unlimited joy. That joy is found in the happiness or another, in the recognition that we are all manifestations of God. When we practice that discipline, we come to see that God is everywhere. The world is the body of God. All beings and all objects are manifestations of his will. When we find the Lord everywhere, we know that we too are God.
With time and practice, service becomes an indispensable part of spiritual life. Through service, we learn to see god in all people and all things. Whatever our creed, service opens our hearts and lets the divinity emerge. We can forget our own needs and open up to the needs of others. How better can we serve God than to alleviate the suffering of his children --- and to protect the well being of Earth and all its creatures?
Service is an excellent arena for the reduction of ego. In service, we must consider the needs of others. We must learn to accept criticism and persevere despite all obstacles. This spiritual proving ground enables us to see if we have been successful in reducing our anger, impatience, and greed. It allows us to gauge the depths of our compassion and understanding. Spirituality should not exist only in our minds: spiritual principles must be practiced and made strong by the courage of our convictions and self-sacrifice. This type of service reforms us into images of divinity.
The task of eliminating the self-serving ego is not quick or easy. But through service, we learn to negate the pull of the senses toward the objects of wrong desire. Attachment to material pleasures inflates the ego and makes it difficult for us to experience the atma. As a cure to this tendency, service is ideal. It reduces attachment and keeps us mindful of the needs of others and all the kingdoms of nature.
Eliminating the mind's pull toward desire is a major aspect of spiritual endeavor. The benefit of service is that it directs us away from too much self-concern. It is one of the few practices, which allows us to escape from the cycle of concentrating on our own needs. When we work for the benefit of others, the Lord looks after our needs.