Question: I would like to know the difference between material selfless service and spiritual selfless service.
Sri Chinmoy: Material selfless service is done in the physical world with the physical consciousness. When you work for someone, for your husband or your son or your relatives, you work with the physical body. You may cook for someone or fetch a glass of water or attend to someone who is sick, without any result or even with an adverse result. You are serving him, yet that very person may speak ill of you or find fault with you.
The Bhagavad Gita says, "You have the right to work, but not to the fruits thereof." So here in the physical world, with the physical body, you can practise this philosophy by doing /nishkama karma,/ desireless action. Although you are serving someone most sincerely, with utmost devotion and dedication, he may not be satisfied with you. But just because you are receiving an inner inspiration and aspiration to serve that person in the physical world, you are doing it. You feel that your selfless action is for the sake of the Supreme within that person.
Spiritual selfless service takes place in your deep meditation. At that time you have no desires either for yourself or for anyone else. Your selfless service expresses itself like this: "O Supreme, let Thy Will be done." That is your spiritual selfless service. You know that God will do what is needed for you, for your family and for all humanity. That is your spiritual selfless service.
If you can constantly pray not even for the divine qualities which everybody normally prays for, but only to be one with the Will of God, this is true spiritual selfless service. Of course, it is better to pray for the divine qualities than to pray for the fulfilment of some foolish outer desires. But when you can make the sacrifice of your own will, that is to say, when you no longer feel the need to pray for peace, light, power and all the other divine attributes, at that time you are truly able to say, "I want what God wants." This is the highest prayer. This is your inner selfless service.
Otherwise, if your brother is suffering from fever, you will say, "O God, please cure him." Or if someone is suffering in some other way, you may try in your meditation to help him. But does he need your help? You may feel that he does, but in God's Eyes the person may not be in need. His illness may be an experience which God wants him to have. So in your highest meditation, when you are aspiring most intensely, you will have no desire either for yourself or for humanity. You will care only for the fulfilment of God's Will. When you sincerely want to fulfil God for God's sake, this is true spiritual selfless service.