Devotees of the Lord are happy only in His presence, said Valayapet Ramachariar. Once after the deluge, the sapta rishis were engaged in penance. There was such a scarcity of food, that they could not find anything to eat, but the tubers of the lotus plant.
Normally, rishis will not eat these tubers, but since their survival depended on these, they had no other alternative. At such a time, Indra, the chief of the celestials, dressed up as a mendicant, visited them.
Since it is the tradition to welcome a guest, and offer him food and shelter, even if one is facing hardship, the sages welcomed Indra. The sages went to the river to have their morning bath, so that they could return and offer Indra the lotus tubers, for that was all they had. In the meanwhile, Indra stole the tubers. When the sages returned and found the tubers missing, they thought that one among them must have stolen the tubers.
So each of them began handing out curses to whoever had stolen the tubers. They said that the one who had stolen the tubers would forget everything that he had learnt. He would lose the powers that had accrued to him because of his penance. While they rained down curses upon the unknown thief, they reserved the most severe curse for the last.
When nothing else worked, they said that the one who had stolen the tubers, would lose his proximity to Lord Narayana. They knew that even if nothing else worked, this certainly would, for a devotee of the Lord, will be prepared to face any difficulty and sorrow. The one thing he cannot bear is separation from the Lord.
So they knew, that if they uttered a curse that the thief would be forced to part from the Lord, and if the thief happened to be one of them, then he would most certainly return the tubers, for fear of separation from the Lord. Proximity to the Lord is the one thing that every true devotee craves.
All other difficulties do not seem like difficulties to him. He can put up with any misfortune or sorrow, so long as he is close to the Lord. But even if he has everything else in life, but is separated from the Lord, then that separation will offset all other blessings.