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Posted by paramdeep singh | Friday, January 1, 2010 | 0 comments

Question 35: What is the place of "service" in Sikh Religion?

Manual labour and service to God's creation are an essential part of Sikhism. The Sikh Gurdawaras are the training places where the Sikhs practice the teachings of their Gurus demonstratively. In the Sikh Temple the usual service involves singing hymns, sweeping the temple precincts, fanning the congregation, cooking and serving food in the Langar (free kitchen), drawing water or procuring fuel for the kitchen. From an early age the children learn to serve and shoulder responsibility in the kitchen while doing selfless services side by side with the grown-ups. The Gurus laid stress on the purity of life attained through honest labour done with a sense of giving. Guru Nanak argued "This world is the chamber of God wherein the True One resides (Eh jag sachhe ki hai kothri sachhe ka vich wass) so whatever service we do in this world will secure for us a seat in the court of the lord" (Vich Dunia sev kamaye ta dargah baisan paiye). The Guru thus wanted his followers to be the servants of society and move in the rhythm of the universe in harmony with His laws. In Sikhism service is considered to be of three types. It is done with Tan (body-manual service), Dhan (money-material service), Man (mind-intellectual service). Manual service can be done anywhere, i.e., in the kitchen, on the road, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, serving the lepers, repairing the temple, dusting the shoes of the holy congregation, and extending ready patronage to the weak, the needy and the distressed. The Gurus extolled service so much that they said "Useless are the hands and feet if they do not serve humanity (Bin sewa dhrig hath paer). The Gurus practically demonstrated this in their lives. Intellectual service involves understanding the holy scriptures, interpreting the text and education the others about it. It also involves praying for others and wishing the good of everybody. Material service means donating money for langar, school, temples, asylums, hospitals wells and other works of public good. The Gurus have laid down that every Sikh should donate one tenth of his earnings to charity. In donating money the Sikh would not take into account the race, religion, sex, colour or social status of the recipient because this would result in strengthening his egoism. Service done as a labour of love frees man from greed, pride and undue attachment and teaches him humility, forgiveness, mercy, alms-giving, charity and rational understanding. Guru Nanak was the first of all to demonstrate the practically of this idea when he bought a farm at Kartarpur, worked with his own hands and declared: "Work hard and share your earnings with others This is the only way to find 'the way'."

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