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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Diwali – Lighting up Naperville through Sewa

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Sewa is a Sanskrit word that describes the act of selfless service.

And Selfless service is one of the main concepts in Sanatana Dharma popularly known as Hinduism, as well as most of the religions that have branched from it, in the spiritual land of Bharat, India.

During this season of giving and on the auspicious occasion of the Hindu festival of Diwali, organizations and numerous individuals in the Chicagoland area and across the Country came together to collect donations for food pantries.

Over the last few months, as part of the “Sewa Diwali” initiative, over 13,500 pounds of food was collected and donated to 12 food pantries in the Chicagoland area. And across the country approximately half a million pounds have been donated.

The food drive, coordinated by HSS (Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh) along with more than 50 Indian American organizations, was a collective effort of the local cultural and religious communities, yoga institutions, and numerous other organizations rooted in the Dharmic value of Sewa. During this drive, hundreds of “Karyakartas” (volunteers) made their homes “collection centers” for their neighbors to contribute.

People were encouraged to donate canned goods and non-perishable items, which could be donated to food pantries or homeless shelters. The efforts were recognized by the city councils of Naperville and Aurora. Here are a few glimpses of volunteers in action during Sewa Diwali, donating the collected food to organizations like Aurora Interfaith Community Services, food pantries like Marie Wilkinson and Loaves & Fishes. The Naperville City Council also recognized the efforts of HSS for Sewa Diwali with a Mayoral Proclamation.

The act of Sewa leads to collective benefit of society and it’s performed without any grand expectations or regard for the outcome or for the benefit of the individual doer. In Shri Bhagavad Gita, which is one of the most sacred texts in Hinduism, Shri Krishna encourages selfless service as a way to develop spiritually. Thus, it is closely linked to the concept of Yoga and more specifically Karma Yoga.

While forms of Yoga which have become popular in this modern age, mainly focus on performing “Asanas” (Yogic postures) to transform the physical body, performing Sewa can help transform and enhance an individual’s personality.

Naperville City Council Meeting, Nov. 16, 2021

Seva may be performed by any person in any number of ways, in any capacity, but the term is often associated with the work done by volunteers and volunteer-based organizations.

About HSS: Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA  (HSS or HSS USA) is a volunteer based, nonprofit, social, educational, and cultural organization that aims to coordinate the Hindu American community to practice, preserve, and advance ideals and values of Hindu Dharma.

Submitted by Shreyas Suresh

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