Seva, Tikkun Olam, Amr Bil Ma’rouf and Nahi ‘an al-Munkar, The Bodhisattva Ideal, Service


As our students have proceeded on their Religious Diversity Journeys, they have learned a great deal about philosophies, rituals, clergy, dress, diet, language, scripture, art, history, culture, and many other interesting facets that distinguish faith traditions from each other. They have also had a chance to participate in a wonderful series of projects that illuminate the common thread of service that runs through each of the traditions.

At the Bharatiya Hindu Temple, students created Valentines Day cards for patients at Henry Ford Hospital. At the Sri Venkateswara Temple and Christ Church Cranbrook, they decorated bags for SnackPax that the Song and Spirit Institute for Peace fills with food for needy children. And at the Gurdwara Sahib Mata Tripta, they made cards and wrote inscriptions in copies of the “Boy with the long hair” books being donated to two elementary schools in Detroit through the Detroit Public Schools Foundation.

Each tradition has its own description of the process of doing good, and each has a philosophy of how service to others defines our relationship with God, with the planet and with each other. But flowing out of each one is the simple and wonderful way that we all experience a connection to a higher power through improving the planet and the lot of its inhabitants.

To illuminate this beautiful aspect of faith traditions, IFLC newsletter contributors have shared a few words about their faiths:

For the Jewish people, Tikkun Olam, “repairing the world,” is a commandment that we all must obey.  Jews are committed to social justice, as much as they embrace ritual, prayer and ceremony. To be a Jew is to care about the world around us – to hear the voice of the prophets and to strive to make our world a better place to live. The ancient command “Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof! Justice, Justice shall you seek!” is very crucial to Judaism.  – Gail Katz

The dual path of Simren and Seva ( meditation and service ) are the two pillars of Sikhism. They are part of the internal and external journey that the Sikh is taking on the path towards God. The soul’s journey requires constant remembrance and meditation on God’s name. The Sikh is also required to live and fully participate in the world – and service of God’s creation is part of that life.  Simren is considered to be the highest and greatest blessing and Seva is the highest and greatest honor. Both are required to help destroy the evil of anger, attachment and ego and replace them with compassion, contentment and equilibrium. And they both help to align the thoughts, words and actions of a human being to align with God.  – Raman Singh

“Seva” is a Sanskrit word meaning “selfless service” or work performed without any thought of reward or repayment.  According to Hindus, seva is believed to help one’s spiritual growth and at the same time contribute to the improvement of a community. Please note that Sikhs and Jains also use and do seva, while the word’s origins are Sanskrit – the language of the Hindu scriptures. – Padma Kuppa (from the Bhagavad Gita, one of the holiest and most popular Hindu scriptures – translation by Eknath Easwaran)

The concept of Service in the Wiccan and other Pagan traditions is very open to individual interpretation. Wicca like most Pagan religions can be very decentralized. There is no infrastructure for most communities of like-minded Wiccans, Witches and Pagans. But there tends to be an emphasis in recent years on various ways of volunteering. Most community events always ask for donations of food or clothing in place of or along with other entrance fees or costs. Within specific organizations for Pagans, such as Covenant of the Goddess, Aquarian Tabernacle Church, or ADF – A’r nDraiocht Fe’in, an organization for the modern Druid movement, there are more organized outlets and directions for service. In addition to volunteerism and food donations these and other organizations also do outreach in prison ministries and Interfaith outreach and networking. Also some covens of the older traditions may emphasize mentorship and outreach for initiates into higher degrees. – Alan Toubeaux

A scripture from the Book of Mormon that is often quoted in this context:

“Behold, I tell you these things that you may learn wisdom; that you may learn that when you are in the service of your fellow beings, you are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17)

Perhaps the best examples of our unusual commitment to service are the young men and women, aged 18 to 22, who devote 18 to 24 months serving as missionaries, away from home, often overseas, learning a new language, living a disciplined life in humble circumstances, and paying for the privilege of doing so, either with their own funds, or with the support of their family. Despite the challenges (and because of the challenges) of this service, they return home calling it the best two years of their lives. Of the many lives that are changed by their service, their own lives rank high on the list. – Greg Geiger

Among the primary duties Muslims are mandated to uphold, other than rituals and worship, is to help fellow human beings in need and to strive for establishing a just community or society, “…and do good (unto others) that you may prosper. And strive hard in God’s cause as is His due…” (Quran,22:77-78). The Arabic Quranic term for charity is “sadaqat” while the term “Amr bil ma’rouf and Nahi ‘an almunkar” is used to express the struggle in God’s cause to establish justice as in God’s kingdom of heaven on earth. The expression literally means, promote or enjoin what is right and forbid the wrong or evil. “(O Muslims), you are the best of peoples evolved for (serving) mankind, enjoining what is right (Amr bil ma’rouf), forbidding what is wrong (Nahi ‘an almunkar) and believing in God” (Quran, 3:110). The concept of social justice or (Qist) for Muslims is found in the following verse, “O Muslims, uphold justice (Qist) and bear witness to God, even if it is against yourselves, your parents, or close relatives…” (Quran, 4:135) – Imam Mustapha Elturk

“Happiness cannot be pursued, it must ensue” from our service in the world, wrote Viktor Frankl. Service in Buddhism is often represented in the ideal of the bodhisattva

. “Bodhi” means “awake,” and “sattva” means “being.” Bodhisattvas are understood as both awakened beings and beings who awaken others. Traditionally represented in various archetypes — the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, or of Compassion, etc. — the bodhisattva ideal is practiced in our lives as parents, teachers, citizens, etc., finding its full flowering in the direct realization that while each of us has our own unique history and responsibilities, none could ever be inherently separate from the whole. In practical terms, this means that the very idea of “me” serving “you” is further transformed into the compassionate activity organically arising from clearly seeing there really is no “me” apart from “you.” To serve is to dance in the very realization of our interconnectedness.