The word means "selfless service" in sanskrit.
In theory the concept is very nice, and yet in the Western world the idea of selflessly serving is a bit like bowing. It can make our well-developed egos feel a little lowly and degraded.
I mean, how many times have you felt comfortable helping someone when they didn't thank you? Or giving someone something without them knowing YOU gave it to them?
In our culture, we'd be more likely call this type of activity fuel-for-resentment, thankless-tasks, or no-thanks-I-have-to-stay-home-and-wash-my-hair.
In India, they glorify it.
In a sense, needing a "thank you," or a look of gratitude, or a big hug is a sort of payment for services rendered. Psychologically, our ego can justify a good deed if it gets paid even in the most abstract currency. And it feels less degraded and used. Yet, that is not seva.
When we give to someone, help someone, love someone without the need of "payment" in the form of a feedback loop, we are trusting that the Universe will take care of us. We are not placing that huge responsibility in the hands of another person.
It is a very peaceful feeling to know that we have enough (nay, an abundance) to give, that we can never run out.
We must realize that in every moment the most important person in the world is eternally grateful for our graceful actions and our loving thoughts—our own Self, which is the perfect image of God existing on Earth.
The Universe thanks us for our service with a big fat check that reads: INNER PEACE.
What could be better than that?
In peace and prosperity,