Nature of God's mercy (daya)
According to the Southern school, God, out of His unbounded compassion, actually suffers whenever His devotees suffer (paradukha-dukhitvam). This should not, however, be construed as a defect or imperfection. He shares in their sufferings even as He participates in their happiness. This only indicates His infinite compassion. Rama, as Valmiki depicts, used to suffer greatly when his subjects were in difficulties. When they had occasion to be happy, he would join them and celebrate the event like their father.
vyasanesu manusyanam bhrsam bhavati dukhita
utsavesu ca sarvesu piteva paritusyati
So suffering on the part of God when His children suffer is not a blot on the nature of God. Rather, it enhances His quality of compassion. However, the Northern school contends that although God will show His compassion to living beings when they suffer, He Himself will not suffer. He is perfect in all respects and is an abode of innumerable auspicious qualities. Suffering is a defect, and it cannot be presumed to be present in Him. How then should one explain the Ramayana verse quoted above? It can only mean that Rama did all in his power to alleviate the suffering of His people. Further, since Rama was behaving as an ordinary mortal, he may have enacted suffering along with His subjects. Being the Supreme Being, He is really above all misery and suffering.
Again, this is a point of academic interest that can be interpreted and understood in ways acceptable to both schools of thought. God in his human form may appear to have suffered, but in His supreme state He is always blissful, detached from everyone. The following verse from the Brahmanda Purana reveals the true nature of the Lord:
jnanam apratigham tasya vairagyam ca jajatpate
aisvaryam caiva dharmasca sahasiddham catustayam
Unimpeded knowledge, detachment, absolute suzerainty and righteousness are the four natural traits of the Lord of the Universe.
>>> Ref. VedaBase => Doctrinal Differences in Srivaisnavism
Story: Gardener Manidas
One need not be a man of letters to be devoted to God. A pure humble devotion takes him closer to God than a sea of learning.
Once upon a time there lived a gardener called Manidas in Poori. He made his livelihood by selling flowers. He was not an educated man nor was he rich as per the norms of the modern society. But he is more than any educated man by virtue of his nature. He was compassionate , truthful, god-fearing and honest man. He was free from the petty jealousies and hatredness since he believed in ‘God Manifests Himself in every small object and every human being.’ He was not a landlord but Lord of himself. He might not be appreciated by people around but he won a special place in the heart of Puri Jagannadh. Since he prayed to God not for material gains but for spiritual bliss, he led a happy life.
In due course, Manidas lost his wife and children one after the other, but he was not grieved by their loss like any other human being. He took them as God’s blessings. He felt ‘If I have family, I will be tied down to them and my attention to God will be deviated. But God freed me of my family ties and responsibilities. Now I will devote my full time in praise of God and in service to God.
Such people are rare ! When we flourish in life we give the credit to ourselves. When we suffer we blame God. When we face any suffering we ask ‘Why me ?’ When we enjoy we don’t ask ‘Why me ?’ Manidas did not seek material gains or name and fame, so he turned to God totally.
Now Manidas donned the dress of a Sadhu and devoted his full time on prayer of God. Everyday he woke up early and went to the temple. He sang songs in a melodious voice till the temple door was opened. Sometimes he danced ecstatically. When the door was opened he went inside, stood behind a pillar close to God and stared at God to his heart’s content. He prayed thus to God everyday with tears rolling down his cheeks. ‘Oh Lord ! blessed are they that enjoy your love. How I wish that I breathe my last breath here in your divine presence. You are a touch stone to orphans like me. You are my God Father. You are my Protector. You are my Saviour.
He would continue his singing once again. Some times he would dance vehemently, In his ecstatic mood he would go close to God and his ‘chandanam’ vessel and would come back. He experienced different types of satvik feelings - He laughed, cried, sang loudly, became dead silent, sang songs or praised the Lord. He described the lord’s beauty thus ‘Oh Lord! Oh Jagannadh ! your beauty is indescribable. Your mighty chest resembles the fragrant lotus flowers. Your neck is decked with many garlands and you are decked with various diamond studded ornaments. The crown on your head has a radiant glory. The pleasant, cool face fills the hearts of the devotees with happiness, Your lotus eyes liberate the suffering souls from their misery, Your hands bless the world and the sankhu, chakra, gadha in Your hands are a feast to the eyes. One who seeks your feet will have a great relief Oh Lord ! You are Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Omniscient God. I surrender myself to You. I know nobody except You. Don’t You ever separate me from You.
There arose an occasion which separated him from God. He had been dancing in and around the temple as long as he liked and ate whatever was offered to him. He dedicated his body, heart and soul to the Lord himself. This practice continued till something happened oneday, Religious discourses were arranged in one part of the temple and many pilgrims listened to them intently. Once one pandit was delivering lectures. His lecture was captivating, but he was not captivated by God. There was no depth in his prayer but people continued to be inspired by his speeches. One day Manidas came there in his usual vein, singing loudly and dancing away happily unmindful of the surroundings or the nuisance he was causing. He danced very close to the pandit and disturbed his concentration. He was so deeply engrossed in his love for God that he was unaware of the situation. The pandit was angry at him but nobody bothered, since they were used to his pranks. But when the pandit got angry for the second time all the audience joined hands with him and started beating him black and blue. Manidas was forced to come back to his senses and he was very much offended. He was offended not for the behaviour of the people but for the silence of God. If they could beat him very much in the presence of God, it conveyed the fact that God too supported them ! He left the place at once and sat in a ‘matam’ Poor Manidas or the poor pandit did not know then that God did not support their foolish action ! God wants not an intelligent mind but a pure divine soul surrendered to him totally !
The sun set in the evening. The evening prayers were conducted. The temple doors were closed with the original pomp and show but there was no sign of Manidas. He did not touch his food too !
That night the king of Puri had a wonderful dream. The Lord Jagannadh Swami appeared before him and said, ‘Oh Lord! you are unmindful of the injustice meted out to my priya bhakta. The day doesn’t end happily for me if I can’t hear mesmorizing song of Manidas but today he was kicked out by your ‘Praja’ ! He is brooding over in the imatam’ outside my temple without touching food. You hasten at once to him and make arrangements for his song and dance ! Mind you, they should go on eternally unperturbed by such speeches henceforth ! Hereafter you arrange such things in Lakshmi Mandir but not in the main sanctum sanitorium ! That is to be left out exclusively for my dear devotees!’
How devoted is the Almighty to his devotees. He made arrangements thus and went to the suffferer. He appeared before him as a glow of light, touched his head caressingly with his hand and said lovingly’. Dear Manidas ! why are you starving ? You know something ? Even I did not have food today ! How do you except me to eat when you are starving ?’ When Manidas came back to his senses, he saw before him the plate containing Mahaprasad ! He forgot his anger against God and accepted it.
In the meanwhile, the king woke up from his sleep and wondered whether it was his hallucination or whether it was really God’s command. He couldn’t leave it lightly and when he probed into the matter he found that it had really happened. The king brought Manidas with royal courtesy to the temple and said ‘You are a realized soul! You need not be born in a high caste to win the heart of God. You dance happily before God and I too will derive the pleasure out of it.
Manidas needn’t be requestsed a second time. He was so thrilled at this gesture that he danced his best dance and sang the best song. He continued thus as long as he lived and inspired the lives of thousands around.
Ever since then speeches were arranged in Lakshmi Mandir and the main temple was open to true devotees for their bhajans !
God takes care of them who surrender themselves to God and who shower their ‘navarasas’ on God himself as if he is their friend or son !