Sewa means ‘selfless service’. It involves acting selflessly and helping others in a variety of ways, without any reward or personal gain. It is a way of life for many Sikhs and is part of their daily routine. Sikhism teaches that sewa is an act of service towards Waheguru and therefore must be done regularly in order to become closer to Waheguru. It helps Sikhs to become gurmukh and show their faith towards Waheguru.

Sikhs perform sewa in a variety of ways, such as helping the sangat and the local community. Many Sikhs perform much of their sewa by helping at the gurdwara, including cleaning, washing dishes or serving in the langar.

The langar is where food is offered for free to anyone who visits the Gurdwara, regardless of faith

Performing sewa is important because:

  • It demonstrates belief in equality and the importance of all people.
  • By serving others, Sikhs show humility. This is because serving others shows that Sikhs do not believe they are better than anyone else.
  • Showing love and respect by helping others shows love for Waheguru.
  • It helps Sikhs to become more gurmukh. This is because it helps them to develop the virtues of truth and truthful living, compassion and patience, contentment, humility and self-control, love, and wisdom and courage.
  • It stops Sikhs from becoming manmukh, because their focus is on the needs of others rather than themselves.
  • It helps Sikhs to move away from the five vices of anger, pride, lust, greed and attachment to material possessions.
One who performs selfless service, without thought of reward, shall attain his Lord and Master.Guru Granth Sahib 286

Types of sewa

There are three types of sewa. These are tan, man, dhan.

Infographic depicting the three types of Sewa: physical, mental and material aspects.
TanPhysical aspect of sewaThis involves physical work and tasks to show selfless service. For example, this could be cooking or serving in the langar, cleaning the gurdwara or helping with gardening.
ManMental aspect of sewaThis involves a Sikh using their mental skills and talents. For example, this could be teaching people how to read or understand the Guru Granth Sahib, teaching people how to play the musical instruments used during worship or teaching people about the history of Sikhism.
DhanMaterial aspect of sewaThis involves Sikhs selflessly helping others by sharing their material wealth. This could be donating one tenth of their income to the sangat or to charities, which is known as daswandh. It could also involve helping others in times of financial difficulty or giving money to the poor.

All three aspects of sewa are equally important. Sikhs try to complete all three aspects of sewa on a regular basis. However, depending on an individual’s circumstance, a Sikh might be able to perform one type of sewa more than the others.

Through selfless service, eternal peace is obtained.Guru Granth Sahib 125