Man's relationship to God

CHENNAI AUG.27 . It is human nature to become curious about what is not articulated explicitly and this trait has been put to advantage in the spiritual tradition by the scriptural texts to portray abstract realities. An oft-quoted example of this technique is the Upanishad analogy, "Two birds, ever united companions cling to the same tree. Of these two, one eats the sweet berry. The other looks on without eating." This does not have anything to do with birds. The Upanishad here portrays the close association of man (soul in bondage) and God— who indwells in him as the Antaryamin— as the birds on the tree. Man engages in the world and experiences joy and sorrow. In the process he acquires fresh Karma, which pushes him again into the quagmire of rebirths. God as the Antaryamin remains just a witness.

Mystics like the Azhwars have also resorted to this method while expressing their spiritual experiences in their hymns. Tondaradippodi Azhwar in a verse of the Tirumalai explains man's nature and his relationship to God by resorting to this approach. The soul is different from the body and eternal in nature. After this basic truth is understood a spiritual aspirant must next realise that his existence becomes meaningful only in serving the Lord. Then he must realise how to make himself eligible to serve God. As long as a person identifies with his worldly relationships he will engage more and more in sensory pursuits. When this identification shifts to God all his thoughts and actions would become oriented to spiritual life, said Sri M.A.Venkatakrishnan in his discourse.

Another subtlety that the Azhwar underscores in this verse is the attitude the devotee must have while performing any service to God. Every action he performs must be done for pleasing the Lord and not for deriving joy from it. There is every chance of the senses clamouring to find fulfilment even at this advanced level of spiritual evolution. So he has to constantly remind himself that he is engaging in service to please the Lord and not himself.

Andal in the Tiruppavai prays to God to change this natural human attitude. How is a devotee to know what will please the Almighty? One has to learn from the lives of preceptors, saints and mystics like Periazhwar who offered garlands to Lord Vatapatrasayee taking his cue from the Bhagavata Purana, which describes Krishna asking for flower garlands when He went to Mathura to meet Kamsa.

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