The Refuge of Service
When I first started doing sadhana, I thought everything was about powering through big Tantrik practices. But I found as I went on that it’s okay to be simple. And I discovered that beyond the simplicity of seated practice, offering seva—service to the teacher and community or anybody really,—is a great great refuge.
There are many different phases of seated practice. Sometimes we feel really raked over the coals. When you feel you’ve failed, or things are going excruciatingly slowly, when you don’t know if you’ll relax in 10,000 lifetimes, when you feel obstructed, you can always serve. You are never obstructed from serving.
And that is grace. When you give service, you get in touch with goodness. No matter what else is happening, at least you can pick up a dish and wash it. If you think your sadhana is in the pits, you can always sweep something. You can always cook a meal. You can always offer someone a comforting look or a helping hand. Then you can re-experience your goodness, really the goodness in any situation.
In the U.S., we tend to be skeptical about serving teachers and spiritual communites. We think maybe there is something dangerous about serving.
But we serve teachers and our communities because that is a gateway to serving everyone else. Through the medium of our teachers and our spiritual communities, we learn how to relax and enjoy generosity. We discover the beauty of serving. We become more sensitive to the condition of others and what they need.
Ultimately, we don’t want to remain just serving our teacher. That’s like growing a spectacular flower in a greenhouse and never sharing it with anyone. We tend the flower in the greenhouse and then take it out and share it, maybe in this lifetime, maybe in some other. Who knows? The point is that we are practicing to serve everyone.
Service to our teacher helps us to wear down our ridiculous contrived ideas about ourselves and others. We are grinding down the rock of our karmas. But when the rock is gone, then the water can flow freely. We can serve anyone in any situation just by being natural.