Hinduism preaches serving both God and humanity, as one begets the other. Seva is a Sanskrit word that means more than just service or to serve. It means to serve without the existence of one’s own identity – to serve selflessly. Bhagwan Swaminarayan revived the true meaning of seva and initiated many humanitarian projects among His followers, ranging from digging wells to serving the ill. His personal example, set as a teenager while traveling through southern India, was the selfless service of an ill stranger. Sevakram was a Brahmin who had contracted dysentery. Neelkanth Varni, as Bhagwan Swaminarayan was known at that time, stopped on His travels to nurse Sevakram back to good health, staying for over two months until he was well again.
Pragji Bhakta, the second spiritual successor, set very high standards of seva. For many months, he served the mandir, sadhus, and devotees for twenty hours every day and slept for only four hours. Yogiji Maharaj, the fourth spiritual successor, stressed seva as a form of bhakti and personally engaged in seva like washing utensils and sweeping the floor. Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the fifth and current spiritual successor, has shown the same inclination for seva and never tires of it. Even over the age of 90 , he still spends hours personally meeting and writing to devotees for their well-being and personal growth.
Following the lead of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the devotees of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha also regularly engage in seva. Medical activities are organized to help communities. Educational initiatives guide children on future courses to follow. Volunteers engage in relief activities when a disaster strikes in their area. Blood drives, career fairs, walkathons for charity are among the activities conducted regularly by volunteers from BAPS centers across the world. Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s adage, ”In the joy of others, lies our own,” propels the organization to devote time and energy towards humanitarian activities in the service of others.