Many individuals born in this world live believing in the transient reality and pass away without contemplating on why and how one is here. The pursuit of the much needed spiritual quest can be initiated mainly by involvement with devotional practices and association with the pious.

Highlighting this aspect, Swami Apavargananda, in a lecture, drew attention to Saint Manikkavachagar’s powerful prayer to the Lord seeking “the gracious privilege of abiding amidst the Lord’s servants so that my heart’s purpose be fulfilled.” The saint’s songs reverberate with fervent praises of the Lord’s immeasurable glory which alone is capable of transforming the ordinary Jivatma into a devotee. All devotees claim in one voice that without His grace it is impossible to attain His feet. God’s benevolence is the only guide to tread the noble path towards Him and the journey demands great earnestness. It requires continuous effort, backed up by unwavering determination.

Manikkavachagar exhorts the true devotee to realise his shortcomings with honesty and accept God’s role in instilling devotion in him. The sense of I and Mine, a formidable hurdle that keeps us away from God is to be overcome with humility. Peace of mind and sense of Godliness can be realised if one believes that everything takes place as ordained by Him. From the state of being immersed in worldly affairs, the individual has to turn away from the transient attractions of the world and seek what is permanent. Sri Ramakrishna’s advice to his disciples — if one wishes to travel to the east he has to leave the west behind — drives home this point.

Anger, desire, greed, delusion, pride and Ahankara vie with one another to dominate one’s life. The ill effects of these forces can be tackled by constant meditation on God. This ensures that we think of God even at the moment of death. Azhwars and saints have expressed this sentiment forcefully. They anticipate the fact that physical failings, old age, disease, etc., may prevent them from thinking of God at the time of death. So when their senses are intact, with great insight they appeal to God to be at their side when death approaches and guide them through the transition.