The atma does not belong to us. It belongs to God. Therefore those who think of the atma as belonging to them are thieves, said M.A. Venkatakrishnan. Everything happens only at His will. We must not think that we do something or achieve something. It is all the Lord’s doing.
Lord Narayana, in His archa form as seen in temples, has different names in different places. One of the Divya Desas is just one sannidhi in the Kamakshi Amman temple in Kanchipuram. The Lord in this sannidhi is called ‘Kalvar.’ The name Kalvar means thief. Pillai Perumal Iyengar, who is referred to as Divya Kavi, writes in his 108 Tirupati Andadi, that the name ‘Kalvar’ does not suit God. God is not the thief, but he (Pillai Perumal Iyengar) is the thief, for he thinks of the atma as his, when actually it is the Lord’s. And yet no one calls him a thief. The reason is that everyone else in this world thinks along the same lines. Since everyone else also has the wrong notion that the atma is theirs, they do not call Pillai Perumal Iyengar a thief. In just one verse Pillai Perumal Iyengar gives an important message succinctly, namely that when we think the atma is ours, we are thieves.
A man goes to Engalazhvan, to become the latter’s disciple. The prospective sishya knocks on the door to Engalazhvan’s house. “Who is there” asks Engalazhvan. “It is I,” answers the man. “Go away and come back when I am dead,” replies Engalazhvan. The man is puzzled by Engalazhvan’s words. What Engalazhvan means is that the ‘I’ must die, before a man can seek instruction from an Acharya. Our ego, our ‘ahankaram’ (pride), our thought that the atma is ours must all die. So in turning back the man, Engalazahvan, perhaps, offers him the first and most important lesson, namely that one must shed one’s ego, and realise that the Jivatma belongs to the Lord.
In one of his verses, Poigai Azhvar says he will not covet what belongs to others. What he means is that the Jivatma belongs to the Lord, and that he will therefore not think of the atma as his. Those who think the atma is theirs are covetous people, who claim what is not theirs.