We have to serve the Lord keeping His happiness in mind. In this sense we must be like an inanimate object that pleases the user, but affords no pleasure to the object itself.
If we smear ourselves with sandal paste, we are happy with the fragrance and the coolness of the paste. But what does the sandal paste get by our using it? Nothing.
But it may be argued that sandal paste is inanimate, and can therefore not feel pleasure or pain. How can we, who have brains to think, and the ability to feel, be like sandal paste, when we serve the Lord?
We must be and can be, if we realise that our egos can stand in the path of moksha. And our egos are what prevent us from serving the Lord selflessly. But we must delight in the Lord’s happiness.
That means that we cannot be like the unfeeling sandal paste. So should we be like an inanimate object or an animate one? We should be both like inanimate objects and like animate beings in our service to the Lord, said M.A. Venkatakrishnan.
In serving Him, we should be like an inanimate object. But when He delights in our service, we should delight in His joy. In this case, therefore, we must behave like an animate being. The Lord will be happy only if we are happy at His joy. If we do not respond to His happiness positively, how can He get pleasure out of our service to Him?
Will a man be pleased if his wife stays back in her father’s house, but the father-in-law gifts him many things?
While the inanimate objects, namely the gifts, might be of use to him, will he know happiness in the absence of his wife?
So we should be like inanimate objects and living things in our attitude to serving the Lord.
The Vaishnavite saint Kulasekhara Azhvar set a great example of how to be both inanimate and animate. He prayed to Lord Srinivasa of Tirumala that he should be a step at the entrance to the Lord’s sanctum sanctorum.
So here he wants to be an inanimate object. But in the next line he says, he wants to enjoy the beauty of the Lord’s red lips. Here he seeks to be animate.