The Vaishnava tradition believes that the Supreme Being Narayana is immanent in the universe and is transcendent and beyond it. For His devotees, the Lord, though formless, assumes various forms — Para (in Vaikunta), Vyuha (in the milky ocean for creation), Vibhava (in His incarnations), Antaryami (in the inner depths of all beings) and Archa (in the deities in temples). The Lord-Jivatma relationship is seen as one of master and servant. The Azhwars being great devotees practised and preached devotion to Him. Their hymns echo this philosophy, awakening in the Jivatma the desire to seek salvation through surrender to the Lord, said Sri L. Sampathkumar in a lecture.

While treading the path towards Saranagati, the Jivatma steps through the process of self-appraisal. Overwhelmed by the awareness of God’s supremacy, self-doubt pervades him. He wonders whether with all his failings, the Lord will bestow him with His benevolence or reject him totally. His anguish is reflected in Kulasekhara Azhwar’s entreaty: “I have no one else but you as my support like a child chided by the mother in anger that still seeks her love and protection. The lotus blooms only with the warmth of the Sun’s rays and the crops wait for the rains from the clouds that may not come.” Saranagati demands absolute humility and faith and the Azhwars exemplify this attitude in all its nuances.

In one voice they proclaim the Lord’s empathy that establishes an eternal link between the Jivatma and Himself as the most dependable chance for the Jivatma’s redemption.

Of course, the Lord melts with compassion at the anjali mudra — seeking Him with folded palms. He is likened to the rain-bearing cloud that brings rains to sustain life on earth. And the nourishing water has to be stored in wells to reap the benefit. But digging the well alone is not the end. The rains should follow. Again, on the contrary, choosing not to dig the well fearing that the rains may not come will result in total loss. The Jivatma has to surrender to the Lord and pray for His compassion. And he waits with augmented humbleness. The wait may be long and arduous.

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