When we use the term "selfless service" we cannot and we must not expect anything. If it is devoted service, we can expect some reward; but when it becomes selfless, then we cannot expect any reward. When we are able to do real selfless service with no desire or expectation of reward, the result we shall get will be far beyond our expectations. Also, during the performance of real selfless service, we get abundant joy. We don't have to wait for any result or after-effect. Selfless service itself is the greatest joy and highest reward.
What is real selfless service?
Real selfless service is that which does not expect a favourable result. Selfless service is service only for the sake of self giving; the result will come naturally. If there is an action, there will be a reaction. But the action will be performed not to please ourselves in our own way, but to please God in His own Way. We shall act when we are inspired from within. We shall work soulfully and consciously. If we work without inspiration, then we are working mechanically, like workers in a factory who do not want to be there. At that time, we have become another machine. Selfless service is not like that. It is cheerful, soulful, conscious and constant. First it is soulful service; then it is selfless; and finally, when it becomes unconditional and uncaring for the result, then it becomes perfect selfless service.
You have said that if we wish to serve the world, we must have the proper attitude. Could you explain please what that attitude is?
If we wish to work in the world and for the world, our attitude should be one of dedicated service. We have to feel that we are all members of the same family and the rest of the world is ours. When the attitude of helping others comes into the picture, immediately we feel that we are superior and we become proud. We have to take the attitude that we are serving others. If we are in an ordinary consciousness, we may feel that serving others means that we are inferior to them. But if we remain in a divine consciousness, we feel that in serving others we are getting a golden opportunity to serve the Supreme, the Inner Pilot who is inside us and inside them. The question of superiority and inferiority does not arise at all.
When we serve mankind, we have to feel that we are not the doer but that Somebody else is. We may not know Him, we may not see Him, but definitely we can feel Him. God is nearer to us than our own nose and eyes, much nearer. When we meditate, we may not see the golden Face of God, but we do feel something guiding and inspiring us. Someone is inspiring us to do the right thing and to become the right person. And that Someone is God.
In order to serve God in man and man in God, the first thing we have to do is pray and meditate. Inside our meditation we will find the divine Message or Command, and we will also see how this Command can be executed. If we discard prayer and meditation and try to become philanthropists or world-lovers, we will be making a deplorable mistake. We will become like a human body without a backbone. First we have to become a God-lover, and then see humanity inside God. If through our meditation we can see God and feel His Presence, then naturally we shall care for mankind. God is like the root of the cosmic Tree. If we want to water the leaves and fruits, it is impossible; we have to water the base of the tree, the root. That is to say, it is only by serving and fulfilling God first that we shall be able to serve and fulfil mankind.