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The motto that we wore on our school crest said – “Service Before Self”. It wasn’t until I had graduated from high-school that I truly understood the meaning of those three words, even though we carried them close to our hearts for a long time. We all have read (and perhaps practiced) similar phrases like “the greatest leader is the greatest server” and “it is always better to give than to receive”. However, just like most habits that need regular practice and incorporation into our daily lives, the development of a mindset of service is an ongoing effort for me.

In our daily lives, with our tasks, our agendas, our goals and our missions, we may get so focused on accomplishing what we need in the now that we may lose sight of how our actions truly serve others. Some may posit that it isn’t possible for us to align our day-to-day actions with an attitude of service – unless, perhaps, we happen to be in a service-based industry as part of our jobs. Others may rationalize that as long as we do our own duty with integrity, all else will fall into place – and we need not concern ourselves with serving others.

According to Swami Vivekananda – we need to consider the ability to serve others, as a privilege, that is granted to us. It is an opportunity for us to get in touch with our higher selves as we give away our time, energy, resources, or even attention, to those who may need it. Service is a choice that we make to sacrifice our lower Self to reach the plateau of our higher Self.

The only way of getting our divine nature manifested is by helping others to do the same – Swami Vivekananda (collected works, Vol 6.319)

So, what do you think? Is “Service Before Self” practical in today’s busy world? Does an attitude and/or a choice to Serve without prejudice lead us forward on our spiritual path? Are you engaged in a service-oriented role outside of your profession? If so, how? Who, in your opinion, is an inspiration to you as a model of selfless service? 

I invite you to join the #SpiritChat community on Sunday September 9th at our regular time of 9am ET / 2pm UK / 6:30 India as we explore some of these questions and explore the nature and attitude of Service…


Reference: The Spirit of Service – chat held September 11th 2011

Postscript: As we stand on the cusp of the 11th anniversary of September 11th, one would be remiss not to mention the service of those who served the country and gave their all on that day to save the lives of many. Some of them still suffer the long-term after-effects of their service. They cared not whether they lived or died in the cause of their duty. They truly did embody “Service Before Self”. Thank you. You are not forgotten.

Update: Here is the Transcript for chat on Service. Also see the questions asked during the live chat held Sep 9th 2012 at 9am ET. Feel free to answer in the comments or tweet with hashtag #spiritchat to share your answers with the community.

Q1. What does the phrase "spirit of service" mean to you? #SpiritChat 

Q2. What factors prevent us from serving at the levels we know we are capable of? #SpiritChat 

Q3. If service really benefits the server more than the served, is it selfish to serve? Why or why not? #SpiritChat

Q4. What qualities need to develop within us to render meaningful service to others? #SpiritChat

Q5. Service before Self. Is this a realizable ideal in today's world? How? #SpiritChat

Q6. How does engaging in selfless service impact our spirit? The spirit of others? #SpiritChat

Q7. Who are a few (living) role models (people, organizations) of selfless service for you? #SpiritChat

Final Q8. State your service philosophy in seven words. #SpiritChat