|NITAAI-Veda.nyf > Compiled and Imp Scriptures > Shrimad Bhagavatam > Canto-7 > Prahlada Maharaja|
Maharaja Parikshit inquired, “My dear brahmana, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vishnu, is everyone’s well-wisher and thus He is equal to all. How, then, did He become partial, like a common man, for the sake of Indra, and thus kill the sons of Diti? How can one who is equal to everyone be partial to some and inimical toward others? Since the Supreme Lord is the reservoir of all pleasure, complete and self-sufficient- what would He have to gain by siding with the demigods? Whether or not Lord Narayana is actually impartial has become the subject of great doubt in my mind, and thus I request you to dispel it with positive evidence regarding His neutrality.”
Shukadeva Gosvami replied, “My dear King, your question is excellent, for it invokes discussion of the Lord’s activities, in which the glories of His devotees are also to be found. The hearing of such topics, which are extremely pleasing to the devotees, always counteracts the miseries of the materialistic way of life.”
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead is always transcendental to the material qualities, and thus He is called nirguna. And yet, in spite of being unborn, the Lord appears in this world through the agency of His internal potency, and accepts duties and obligations like an ordinary conditioned human being. Still, even though the Lord’s activities may sometimes appear otherwise, they are all spiritual and absolute, and thus it is an imposition to think that He acts under material influence.”
“The three qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas cannot even touch the Supreme Lord. On the other hand, when the mode of goodness becomes prominent, the sages and demigods flourish with the help of that quality. Similarly, when the mode of passion is prominent, the demons flourish; and when the mode of ignorance predominates, the Yakshas and Rakshasas flourish. As the Paramatma present in everyone’s heart, the Supreme Personality of Godhead impartially fosters the reactions of these modes, according to one’s activities.”
“The modes of material nature do not work all at once. Like seasonal changes, sometimes there is an increase of the mode of goodness, sometimes an increase of the mode of passion, and sometimes an increase of ignorance. As an intelligent person can estimate the amount of fire present in wood, or the amount of water and air within a pot, so an expert thinker can understand how much one has been favored by the Supreme Lord by observing his godly or demoniac activities”
“Such favor of the Lord is not due to his partiality, however. Rather, it is completely dependent upon the attitude of the recipient. If one situates himself in sattva-guna, then his brightness shines forth; but if rajo-guna and tamo-guna cover him, his natural brilliance remains unmanifest. According to one’s past fruitive activities, the Lord awards him a particular body and then infuses it accordingly with the proportionate modes of nature. The Supreme Lord is the creator of this cosmic manifestation and the time factor, and thus He provides the laws under which the conditioned souls may act. Because the time factor enhances the sattva-guna, the demigods are favored and thus they are generally victorious. Although the Lord is the original cause of this situation, He cannot be said to be partial.”
Shukadeva Gosvami then narrated to Maharaja Parikshit the following incident: Formerly, when Maharaja Yudhisthira had performed the Rajasuya sacrifice, he personally saw Sishupala merge into the body of Lord Krishna. Being highly astonished, the king inquired about this from Narada, who was seated nearby: “O great sage, it is very surprising that the demon Sishupala has merged into the body of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in spite of his being extremely envious. Even great transcendentalists often fail to attain this sayujya-mukti, and so how could the Lord’s enemy achieve it?”
“I have heard that formerly King Vena had blasphemed the Supreme Lord, and was thus obliged to go to hell. From the very beginning of his life, even before he could speak properly, this most sinful son of Damaghosa began blaspheming Krishna, as did his brother, Dantavakra. And yet, in spite of repeatedly blaspheming the Lord, these two brothers remained quite healthy. Their tongues were not attacked by white leprosy, and they did not enter into the darkest region of hell. How was it possible for Sishupala and Dantavakra to receive so much mercy from the Lord, despite their being avowed enemies? My intelligence has become disturbed while thinking about this, like the flame of a candle blown by the wind.”
“O Narada, you are the knower of everything. Therefore, kindly enlighten about cause of this wonderful occurrence. ”
In the presence of all those assembled at the Rajasuya sacrifice, Narada replied, “My dear King, due to being in the bodily conception of life, the conditioned souls become subjected to the dualities, like praise and chastisement. However, because Lord Vishnu has no material body, He also has no false conception of ‘I’ and ‘mine’. For this reason, the Lord does not feel pleasure or pain when offered prayers or blasphemed, nor does He have any enemies or friends.”
“Indeed, the Lord’s acceptance of prayers from the devotees, and His chastisement of the demons, are both absolutely good. Therefore, by enmity, by fear, by affection, by lusty desires, as well as by devotional service, if one somehow or other concentrates his mind upon the Supreme Lord, the result will be the same. Indeed, it is my opinion that by devotional service one cannot generally achieve such an intense absorption in thought of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as one can through enmity towards Him.”
“For example, there is a certain kind of worm that is confined within a hole in the wall by a bee. Due to constantly thinking of the bee, out of fear, the worm later on receives the body of a bee. Similarly, if one thinks of Krishna by any of the above-mentioned means, he becomes purified of all sins, and ultimately attains his original spiritual body.”
“Many, many persons in the past have attained liberation simply by thinking of Krishna with great attention in this way. The gopis attained such perfection by means of their lusty desires; Kamsa by fear; Sishupala by his envy; the Yadus by their familial relationship with Krishna; you Pandavas by your great affection for Krishna; and we, the general devotees, by our devotional service. Somehow or other, if one considers the form of Krishna very seriously, he can return home, back to Godhead. Atheists like King Vena, however, being unable to think of Krishna’s form, cannot attain salvation.”
“O best of the Pandavas, your two cousins- Sishupala and Dantavakra, the sons of your maternal aunt, were formerly associates of Lord Vishnu who, due to being cursed by brahmanas, fell from Vaikuntha into this material world. First of all, these two gatekeepers of Lord Vishnu, Jaya and Vijaya were born in the Satya-yuga as the sons of Diti. One was Hiranyakashipu, who always tortured his devotee-son, Prahlada; and the other was Hiranyaksha.”
“Thereafter, in the Treta-yuga, they were born as Ravana and Kumbhakarna, the sons of Vishrava and his wife, Keshini. Now, Jaya and Vijaya have appeared as your cousins, Sishupala and Dantavakra. Due to being struck by the Lord’s Sudarshana chakra, they became freed from the brahmanas’ curse. Because they thought of Krishna for a very long time, due to feelings of enmity, Jaya and Vijaya were able to regain the shelter of the Lord, by returning back home, back to Godhead.”
Maharaja Yudhisthira then asked, “My dear sage, parents are always affectionate towards their children. When a son is disobedient, the father may chastise him, but this is done for his welfare and not out of enmity. How was it possible for Hiranyakashipu to try and kill his exalted son, who was obedient, well-behaved, and respectful? Also, please explain to me how a small boy like Prahlada could have become such an exalted devotee of the Lord.”
In response, Narada Muni narrated the history of Prahlada as follows. After the death of his brother, Hiranyaksha, at the hands of Lord Varaha, Hiranyakashipu became filled with rage and lamentation. While angrily biting his lip, the great demon gazed up at the sky with his blazing eyes, filling it with smoke. Then, after picking up his terrible trident, Hiranyakashipu displayed his sharp teeth, fierce glance, and frowning eyebrows and spoke to his demon associates: “O Danavas and Daityas! Kindly hear me with attention and then act accordingly without delay.”
“My insignificant enemies, the demigods, have killed my brother with the help of Lord Vishnu. Although the Supreme Lord had always been equal to both sides- this time, being devoutly worshiped by the demigods, He has taken their side. Like a restless child who is easily won over, the Supreme Personality of Godhead gave up His natural equality and under the influence of maya He assumed the form of a boar to please His devotees. I will therefore sever Lord Vishnu’s head with my trident, and then please my dead brother with profuse offerings of blood. In this way, I shall fulfill my obligations, and at the same time achieve peace of mind. When the roots of a tree are cut off, it falls down and dries up. Similarly, when I kill the diplomatic Vishnu, who is their life and soul, the demigods will wither away.”
“My dear demons, while I am engaged in killing Lord Vishnu, you should go down to the earth, which is flourishing due to brahminical culture and a kshatriya government. Destroy all of those people who are engaged in austerity, sacrifice, Vedic study, the performance of vows, and the giving of charity. The basic principle of brahminical culture is to satisfy Lord Vishnu, Who is the personified reservoir of all religious principles, and the shelter of the demigods. When the brahmanas are killed, there will be no one to encourage the kshatriyas to perform yagyas and thus the demigods will automatically perish. Immediately go to wherever the brahmanas and cows are being protected, and set fire to those places.”
Since the demons were very envious and fond of performing destructive activities, they respectfully took Hiranyakashipu’s orders upon their heads and then offered him their obeisances. Thereafter, according to his directions, the demons set fire to cities, villages, pasturing grounds, cowsheds, gardens, agricultural fields, and forests. They also burned down the ashrams of saintly persons, the villages of the cowherd men, and government capitals. Some of the demons broke bridges, city walls, and gates, while others cut down all kinds of valuable fruit trees and set fire to the residences of the citizens.
As a result of all these disturbances, the people gradually gave up the activities of Vedic culture, and thus the demigods also became disturbed for want of sacrificial offerings. Leaving their heavenly abodes, the demigods began wandering over the earth, unobserved by the demons, in order to view the disasters first-hand.
Meanwhile, after performing the funeral ceremonies for his brother, the aggrieved Hiranyakashipu tried to pacify his mother, Diti; his nephews, including Shakuni, Shambara and Vrika; and his sister-in-law, Rushabhanu.
Hiranyakashipu said, “My dear relatives, you should not lament for the death of a great hero, for death at the hands of an enemy is glorious. After all, living entities come together as a family and then later on, as a result of their fruitive work, they separate and go to their individual destinations. It is just like travelers that assemble at a hotel, and after spending the night, continue on to their respective destinations.”
“The spirit soul has no death, however, for he is eternal, inexhaustible, and completely distinct from the perishable material body. Therefore, no one should lament for the passing away of the spirit soul at the time of death.”
“Due to movement of the water, when trees on the riverside are seen as a reflection upon the surface, they appear to be moving. Similarly, when the eyes move due to some mental derangement or intoxication, the land appears to move. In the same way, due to the bodily identification that is caused by the mind’s attachment to the three modes of material nature, the conditioned soul thinks that he is changing from one condition of life to another, although in reality, he is unchanging.”
“In such a bewildered state, the living entity considers some people to be his family and others to be outsiders, and it is for this reason that he suffers. In fact, the accumulation of all such mental concoctions is the cause of repeated birth and death in this material world. In this regard, I will narrate to you an ancient history, for your enlightenment.”
In the kingdom of Ushinara, there was once a celebrated king named Suyagya. After being killed by his enemies in battle, the slain king lay upon the ground, his golden, bejeweled armor smashed; his ornaments and garlands fallen from their places; and his hair scattered. The king’s eyes were lusterless and his entire body smeared with blood. Because, even as his heart was being pierced by the enemy’s arrows, he had bitten his lip to show his heroism, and so his teeth remained in that position. His handsome face was now black and covered with dust, and his arms and weapons were all cut and broken.
Having rushed onto the battlefield, Suyagya’s queens sat down surrounding his dead body, while crying out, “O lord, now that you have been killed, we have also lost our lives.” While repeating these words, again and again, the queens fell at the dead king’s feet, pounding their breasts with their fists. The kunkuma powder on their breasts reddened the queens’ tears falling from their eyes, and their hair and ornaments were in disarray.
While thus evoking the sympathy of the others who were present there, the queens lamented the death of their husband as follows: “O lord, you have been taken, by cruel providence, to a place that is beyond our sight. Previously, you made the subjects happy by sustaining their livelihood, but now your condition is the cause of their distress.”
“O hero, you were a very grateful husband, and our most sincere friend. Now, how shall we be able to exist without you? Please direct us to where you have gone so that we may follow you, and thus once again engage in your service.”
The appropriate time for burning the dead body was quickly passing away, for the sun was about to set. Still, as the queens continued to lament, they kept their dead husband’s body upon their laps, and would not allow it to be taken away. The loud cries of the aggrieved queens were heard even in the abode of Yamaraja. To give relief to the king, who was still hovering as a ghost because his body had not yet been burned, the lord of death himself came to that place.
Yamaraja assumed the form of a small boy, because people are fascinated to hear a child speak philosophy. After coming before King Suyagya’s queens, he said, “Oh! How amazing it is! Although these people are older than I, and have experienced how thousands of living beings have been born and then died, still they are bewildered.”
“The living entity comes from an unknown place and then returns there after death, so why do these people needlessly lament? How is it that these elderly women do not have a higher sense of life than I do? Although I have been left alone to struggle without parents, and am very small, still I have not been harmed. Because of this, I have a firm belief that the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who protects one even in the womb of his mother, will protect me everywhere.”
Then, addressing the queens, the boy said, “O weak women, the entire material creation is under the control of the Supreme Lord, exactly as if it were His plaything. Thus, the creation, maintenance, and destruction of everything is accomplished by His will alone. Sometimes money is dropped on the street, and yet it is protected by destiny and not seen by others so that the one who has lost it gets it back. On the other hand, without the Lord’s protection, even the most carefully protected money may be taken away. If the Supreme Lord gives one protection, even if he is alone in the dark jungle, he will remain safe. On the other hand, another person may be well protected at home by his relatives, and yet somehow die.”
“Although one receives different types of bodies according to his fruitive work, the living entity is completely different from this embodiment, and thus he has nothing to do with its creation and dissolution. As the fire within wood is different from the wood; as the air within the nostrils is different from the nostrils; and as the sky, although all-pervading, never mixes with anything- so the living entity, although now engaged within the body, is separate from it.”
“O lamenters, you are all fools! If the body is the self, then the person named Suyagya, for whom you lament, is still lying before you and has not gone anywhere. What is the cause of your lamentation? If you say that you are lamenting because the actual person who had previously heard you and replied has gone away, this is contradictory behavior, for that person was never really seen by you. What then is the need for lamentation? The body that you had seen is still lying here, and the person whom you now miss was never really known.”
“When the mind wanders during the day, and one begins to imagine himself to be very important, or when one dreams of himself enjoying with a beautiful woman at night, these are actually false. In the same way, the happiness and distress that is caused by the material senses is a mental concoction, and thus should be understood as meaningless. Those who are self-controlled, knowing the soul to be eternal and the body to be perishable, do not become overwhelmed by lamentation- whereas those who lack such knowledge certainly lament.”
To illustrate this, the boy who was actually Yamaraja narrated this story. There was once a hunter who captured birds in his net after luring them with food. Once, while wandering in the forest, the hunter came upon a pair of kulinga birds and managed to capture the female in his trap. Upon seeing his wife put into this great danger by the will of Providence, the male kulinga bird became extremely unhappy.
Being very affectionate towards his wife, because the male kulinga bird could not release her, he pitiably lamented, “What will Providence gain by taking away my poor wife? If cruel Providence takes her, who is half my body, then why shouldn’t He take me as well? What is the use of living with only half of my body, and aggrieved at the loss of my dear wife? The poor baby birds are waiting in the nest for their mother to return and feed them. Since they are very small and have not yet grown their wings, how will I be able to maintain them?”
As the kulinga bird lamented with tears in his eyes, the hunter, who was hidden in the distance, released his arrow and killed him. Yamaraja in the form of a boy then said, “My dear queens, you are so foolish that you lament for others and yet do not see how your own death is approaching. Even if you were to lament for your husband for hundreds of years, you will never get him back, and meanwhile, your duration of life will end.”
Everyone became truly astonished by hearing the instructions of Yamaraja in the form of a small boy, and by understanding the truth of material existence, they gave up their false lamentation. After speaking, Yamaraja disappeared from the vision of the onlookers, and thereafter, the relatives of King Suyagya performed the funeral ceremonies.
Hiranyakashipu then concluded his discourse by saying, “None of you should be aggrieved at the loss of the material body- whether your own, or that of others. Only out of ignorance does one consider that the body is the self, and that which is in relationship with the body to be his possessions.”
After hearing Hiranyakashipu’s instructions, Diti and Rushabhanu gave up their grief and began engaging their minds in understanding the real philosophy of life.
Thereafter, Hiranyakashipu went to a valley of Mount Mandara, with the desire to become immortal, unconqerable, the master of all mystic powers, and the sole ruler of the universe. To perform severe austerities, Hiranyakashipu stood motionless upon his tiptoes with his arms extended upwards and his eyes directed toward the sky. Although it was extremely difficult to maintain such a position, Hiranyakashipu did so as a means for attaining perfection.
When the demigods, who had been wandering over the earth, saw that Hiranyakashipu had gone away to perform austerities, they became somewhat relieved and so returned to their heavenly abodes. However, after some time, a light that was as effulgent as the sun at the time of dissolution began emanating from Hiranyakashipu’s head. This fire and its smoke spread out in all directions, and thus gradually encompassed the lower and higher planetary systems, so that everywhere it became extremely hot. The rivers and oceans became agitated as a result of Hiranyakashipu’s austerities, and the entire surface of the earth trembled.
All directions appeared to be ablaze, and so the demigods left their residences. After approaching Lord Brahma, they informed him of the situation: “O master of the universe, because of the fire emanating from Hiranyakashipu’s head, we have become so disturbed that we can no longer reside in our planets.”
“O lord of the demigods, if you think it proper, then kindly stop Hiranyakashipu’s austerities before all of your obedient subjects are annihilated. Hiranyakashipu has undertaken a most severe type of austerity, and although his plan is not unknown to you, kindly hear about it from us.”
“The great demon is thinking like this: ‘Lord Brahma has attained his exalted post as a result of severe austerities. I am eternal, and time is also eternal. Therefore, I shall endeavor to perform austerities for many, many births, until I am able to occupy his seat. Then, by the strength of my acquired prowess, I will reverse the results of pious and impious activities, and thus overturn all of the established practices in this world.’ ”
The demigods concluded by saying, “O lord, you are the master of the three worlds. Please, without delay, take whatever steps are necessary to save the situation, for if Hiranyakashipu occupies your post, everything will be spoiled.”
After hearing this, Lord Brahma immediately set out, riding upon his swan airplane, and accompanied by the demigods- as well as Bhrigu, Daksha, and other great sages. At first, Lord Brahma could not locate Hiranyakashipu because his body had become covered by an anthill, as well as a thicket of grass and bamboo. Because Hiranyakashipu had remained there for a long time, the ants had devoured his skin, fat, flesh and blood, so that only a skeleton remained. Finally, however, Lord Brahma saw the son of Diti, appearing like a cloud-covered sun, heating the entire universe.
Being struck with wonder at the sight, Lord Brahma smiled and then said, “O son of Kashyapa, please get up. Let there be all good fortune, for you have become perfect in the performance of your austerities. I want to offer you a benediction, and so you may ask from me whatever it is that you desire.”
“I am very astonished to see your endurance. It is a marvel that you have tolerated being eaten by all kinds of worms and ants, and have kept your life air circulating within your bones. Even great sages like Bhrigu could not perform such severe austerities, nor in the future, will anyone be able to do so. Who else could sustain his life for one hundred celestial years, without even drinking water? Because you have accomplished what is impossible for even great rishis, I have been conquered by you, and thus am prepared to reward you with all benedictions.”
After saying this, Lord Brahma sprinkled spiritual water from his kamandalu upon Hiranyakashipu’s body, so that immediately his form became rejuvenated. Indeed, Hiranyakashipu’s complexion now resembled molten gold, and his limbs were so strong that they could bear the striking of a thunderbolt. As fire springs out from wood, when Hiranyakashipu emerged from the anthill and saw Lord Brahma stationed before him in the sky, seated upon his swan airplane, he became extremely pleased. After falling flat onto the ground to offer his obeisances, Hiranyakashipu stood up, and due to excessive jubilation, tears flowed from his eyes and his entire body trembled.
Then, for the satisfaction of Lord Brahma, Hiranyakashipu offered the following prayers, in a faltering voice, as he stood before him very humbly with folded hands: “Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto the supreme lord of this universe. You are the original personality within the creation and you are the controller of all living entities, both moving and stationary. Being the supreme soul of all living entities, you are beginningless, endless and omniscient, beyond the limits of time and space.”
“O my lord, O best of all givers of benedictions, if you wish to fulfill my desire, then please let me become immortal.”
Hiranyakashipu adored Lord Brahma as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in expectation of receiving his cherished benediction. However, when Brahma explained that he did not have the capacity to award immortality, since even he had to eventually die, Hiranyakashipu tried to make the best use of a bad bargain by requesting benedictions as follows.
Hiranyakashipu asked, “O my lord, please let me not meet with death at the hands of any of the living entities that were created by you. Grant that I may not die within any residence or outside any residence, during the daytime or at night, or while on the ground or in the sky. Let me not be killed by any being created by someone other than you, and let me not be killed by any weapon. Furthermore, let me have sole lordship over all of the living entities and presiding deities, and give me all of the mystic powers that are attained by the practice of yoga and austerities.”
Being very satisfied with Hiranyakashipu because of his wonderful performance of austerities, Lord Brahma replied, “O son of Diti, the benedictions that you have requested are very difficult to obtain, but I shall nonetheless grant them.”
Thereafter, Lord Brahma departed, while being praised by the great rishis and demigods and worshiped by the best of the demons, Hiranyakashipu. In spite of having achieved such great success by the performance of austerities, Hiranyakashipu never forgot his enmity toward Lord Vishnu.
Gradually, Hiranyakashipu conquered the entire three worlds by defeating the rulers of all the planets within the universe. After bringing the upper, middle and lower planetary systems under his control, Hiranyakashipu began residing within Indra’s palace, which had been constructed by the celestial architect, Vishvakarma. The steps of Indra’s residence were made of coral, and the floor was inlaid with emeralds. The walls were made of crystal, the columns were made of Vaidurya stone, and the seats were adorned with rubies.
The ladies of the palace, who were blessed with the most wonderfully beautiful faces, were always seen walking here and there, their ankle-bells tinkling melodiously. Being very oppressed, however, the demigods had to bow down and offer obeisances at the feet of Hiranyakashipu, who would chastise them very severely, even for no reason at all.
Hiranyakashipu was continually intoxicated with strong-smelling wines and liquors, and thus his copper-colored eyes were always rolling. Nonetheless, due to the power of his austerities, everyone in the universe, except Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu, had to personally worship him and please him with presentations offered with their own hands. Even great sages like Bhrigu could not burn Hiranyakashipu to ashes with their anger, because his prowess excelled theirs.
While seated upon Indra’s throne, Hiranyakashipu controlled the inhabitants of all the other planets. Thus, the Gandharvas, Vidyadharas, Apsaras, and even Narada, as well as the other great sages had to offer prayers, again and again, just to glorify him. Whatever offerings were made in sacrifice by the strict followers of the varnashram-dharma, Hiranyakashipu accepted for himself, without sharing them with the demigods. Due to fear of Hiranyakashipu, the earth delivered grains without even being plowed, the cows delivered abundant milk, and outer space remained beautifully decorated with wonderful phenomena. The oceans and rivers supplied all kinds of jewels for Hiranyakashipu’s use, and the valleys between the mountains served as his pleasure grounds.
Without taking help from any of the demigods, such as Indra, Vayu and Agni- Hiranyakashipu single-handedly directed all of the universal departments, such as the pouring of water, drying and burning. And yet, in spite of his having achieved the power to control all directions, and enjoy sense gratification as much as possible, Hiranyakashipu was dissatisfied. The reason for this was that, instead of controlling his senses, Hiranyakashipu remained their servant.
In this way, being extremely proud of his opulence, Hiranyakashipu passed a very long time transgressing the principles of religion, and as a result, he was cursed by the four Kumaras. Everyone within the universe, especially the planetary rulers, felt extremely afflicted due to Hiranyakashipu’s severe rule, and thus they were always fearful and disturbed. At last, being unable to find any other shelter, they surrendered unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Vishnu.
Forgoing sleep, living only on air, and carefully controlling their minds- the predominating deities of the various planets began worshiping the Lord while reciting this prayer: “Let us offer our respectful obeisances to that direction toward where the Supreme Personality of Godhead is situated- from which the pure devotees having once gone, never return to this world.”
In response, while remaining invisible, the Supreme Lord spoke to the demigods with a voice that was as grave as thunder, but very encouraging as well, driving away all anxiety.
The Supreme Lord said, “O best of learned persons, do not fear. I wish you all good fortune and thus advise you to become My devotees by always hearing and chanting My glories. I know all about Hiranyakashipu’s activities, and I shall surely stop them very soon. Therefore, please wait for that time.”
“When one is envious of the demigods, the Vedas, the cows, the brahmanas, Vaishnavas, religious principles, and ultimately of Me, he will surely be vanquished without delay. When Hiranyakashipu torments his son, the great devotee Prahlada, who has no enemy, I shall immediately kill him, despite the benedictions of Brahma.”
When the Lord ceased speaking, the demigods offered their respectful obeisances unto Him and then returned home, confident that the great demon, Hiranyakashipu was as good as dead.
Hiranyakashipu had four very wonderful and well-qualified sons, the best of who was Prahlada, because he was an unalloyed devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Prahlada had the exemplary character of a perfectly qualified brahmana, and he fully controlled his mind and senses. Like the Paramatma, he was very kind and the best friend of everyone. To respectable persons, he acted just like a menial servant- to the poor, he was just like a father- to his equals, he was like a sympathetic brother- and he considered his teachers, spiritual masters and older Godbrothers to be as good as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Prahlada Maharaja was completely devoid of the unnatural pride that might have arisen from his good education, wealth, beauty, and aristocratic birth. Although born in the family of asuras, Prahlada was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu, and he was never envious of the Vaishnavas. He was never agitated when put into danger, and not at all interested in the fruitive activities that are described in the Vedas, for he considered everything material to be useless.
From the very beginning of his childhood, Prahlada Maharaja was uninterested in childish play- for he simply remained silent, due to being fully absorbed in Krishna consciousness. Indeed, Prahlada was so engrossed in thought of Krishna, and thus fully under the Lord’s spell, which was like some strong planetary influence, that he could not understand how the world was going on with its activities of sense gratification.
Being always embraced by the Lord, Prahlada did not even know how his bodily necessities, such as eating, walking, lying down, sitting, drinking and talking were being automatically performed. Just as a small baby on the lap of his mother does not know how the needs of his body are being fulfilled, Prahlada was being cared for by Govinda.
If a mother leaves her small baby so that she can attend to other household affairs, the child will begin to cry in her absence. But, as soon as the mother returns to care for the child, he becomes jubilant and laughs. Similarly, Prahlada sometimes felt separation from the Lord- thinking Him to be far, far away- and so he would cry or loudly call out for Him. Then, when he would see the Lord coming from a great distance to pacify him, like a mother who responds to her baby by saying, “My dear child, do not cry. I am coming” Prahlada would laugh; or sometimes, without being ashamed of his surroundings, dance in ecstasy.
Sometimes, being fully absorbed in thoughts of Krishna, Prahlada would feel oneness and imitate the Lord’s pastimes. Sometimes, upon feeling the touch of the Lord’s lotus hands, Prahlada would become thrilled with ecstasy and simply remain silent- with his hair standing on end and tears of love falling from his half-closed eyes. Simply by seeing Prahlada when he was absorbed in such perfect transcendental ecstasy, even persons who were very poor in terms of spiritual understanding became purified and blissful.
Sukracharya was the ritualistic priest of the demons; and his two sons, Shanda and Amarka resided near Hiranyakashipu’s palace. Prahlada was already fully educated in terms of devotional life, but his father sent him to Sukracharya’s sons, so that he could be taught material subjects, along with the other sons of the demons. Prahlada certainly heard the topics of political science that were expounded by his teachers, but because such philosophy involved considering someone as a friend and someone else as an enemy- he did not like it.
One day, Hiranyakashipu took his small son, Prahlada onto his lap with great affection. He asked his son a question, expecting him to reply with something childish and pleasing, but not actually practical. Hiranyakashipu said, “My dear boy, please tell me what it is that you have found to be the best of all the things that you have studied in school.”
Prahlada Maharaja replied, “O chief of the asuras, the best thing that I have learned is this. A person who has accepted a temporary material body, for enjoying a household life of sense gratification is certainly embarrassed by anxieties, due to having fallen into a dark well where there is no water, but only misery. One should give up such an ignorant life, which is blind to self-realization, and go to the forest and take shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari.”
Upon hearing these words, which disclosed Prahlada’s faithfulness to the camp of his enemies, Hiranyakashipu laughingly said, “Such is the intelligence of an innocent child, who has been spoiled by the words of my adversaries.”
Hiranyakashipu then advised his assistants, “My dear demons, you must carefully protect my son at the guru-kula, so that his intelligence may not become further influenced by an Vaishnavas who might be going there in disguise.”
When Prahlada was brought back to the guru-kula, Shanda and Amarka learned of what had happened from Hiranyakashipu’s servants. Taking the boy aside, the two teachers inquired from him, with very mild and affectionate voices, “Dear Prahlada, kindly tell us the truth, and do not speak lies. None of the other boys here are like you and speak in such a deviant way. How has your intelligence come to be polluted? Who has given you such instructions regarding the Vaishnava philosophy?”
Since Prahlada was just a little boy, the teachers thought that if they spoke to him very sweetly, then he would divulge the names of the devotees who were stealthily coming to instruct him. It was their hope that these Vaishnavas could be arrested and brought before Hiranyakashipu for necessary punishment.
In response to Shanda and Amarka’s inquiries, Prahlada replied, “Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whose external energy has created the distinctions of ‘my friend’ and ‘my enemy’, by deluding the intelligence of men. Although previously I had heard about this phenomena from authoritative sources, I am now experiencing it for myself.”
“When the Supreme Lord is pleased to enlighten one who is engaged in His devotional service, such a devotee no longer makes a distinction between himself, friends and enemies. Instead, he thinks, ‘Everyone of us is an eternal servant of God, and therefore we are not different from one another.’ In other words, the same Supreme Lord who has bewildered persons into thinking in terms of ‘enemy’ and ‘friend’ has given me the intelligence to take the side of your so-called enemy.”
“O teachers, just as iron is attracted by a magnet and thus automatically moves toward it, my consciousness is attracted to Lord Vishnu.”
Prahlada wanted to explain how, instead of being polluted, his intelligence had been purified by the grace of his spiritual master and Krishna. Although Hiranyakashipu considered Lord Vishnu to be his enemy, Prahlada wanted to point out that the Supreme Lord is never the enemy of anyone, but is the well-wishing friend of all. In addition, Prahlada explained that his liking for Lord Vishnu was not deviant, but rather, the natural position of all living beings.
After hearing Prahlada’s speech, Shanda and Amarka became very angry and chastised him: “Bring me a stick! This Prahlada is ruining our reputation and thus needs to be treated by the fourth means of diplomacy. This rascal Prahlada has appeared just like a thorn tree in a forest of Sandalwood. An axe is needed to cut down Sandalwood trees, and the hard wood of a thorn tree is very suitable for making the handle. Lord Vishnu is the axe for cutting down the Sandalwood forest of Daityas and this Prahlada is the proper handle.”
After chastising and threatening Prahlada in various ways, Shanda and Amarka continued teaching him about the paths of dharma, artha and kama. Then, after some time, when they felt that Prahlada was sufficiently educated in the science of politics and diplomacy, the two teachers presented him before Hiranyakashipu, after having him nicely bathed and dressed by his mother.
When Hiranyakashipu saw that his son had fallen at his feet to offer obeisances, he affectionately blessed the child, while picking him up with both arms. After happily embracing Prahlada, Hiranyakashipu seated him upon his lap and smelled his head with great affection. Indeed, the tears from Hiranyakashipu’s eyes moistened the child’s smiling face.
Hiranyakashipu then said, “My dear Prahlada, you have been hearing from your teachers for a long time now. Please tell me what you think is the best of all that you have learned.”
Prahlada Maharaja replied, “Hearing and chanting about the transcendental name, form, qualities and pastimes of Lord Vishnu- remembering them- serving the lotus feet of the Lord- offering the Lord respectful worship- offering prayers to the Lord- becoming His servant- considering the Lord to be one’s best friend- and surrendering everything unto Him- these nine processes of pure devotional service are considered by me to be the topmost education. Anyone who has dedicated himself to their execution should be understood as the most learned person.”
Hearing this, Hiranyakashipu became extremely angry. His lips trembling, he chastised Shanda, who was standing before him, “You unqualified, most abominable son of a brahmana! You have disregarded my orders and sided with the enemy. What kind of nonsense have you been teaching this boy? In due course of time various diseases become manifest in the bodies of sinful persons. Similarly, one may have many deceptive so-called friends, but eventually, due to their false behavior, their real nature becomes evident.”
Shanda replied, “O King, whatever your son Prahlada has said was not taught by me or anyone else. His devotion to Lord Vishnu is spontaneous, and has naturally developed in him. Please give up your anger and do not accuse us unnecessarily, for it is not good to insult a brahmana in this way.”
Hiranyakashipu then turned to Prahlada and said, “You rascal! You are the most fallen member of our family! If you did not receive this education from your teachers, then from where have you gotten it?”
Prahlada replied, “Because of their uncontrolled senses, persons who are too addicted to materialistic life glide down to hell, while repeatedly chewing that which has already been chewed. Their inclination toward Krishna can never be aroused by the instructions of others, by their own efforts, or by a combination of the two. Persons who are overly engrossed in the consciousness of material enjoyment cannot understand that the goal of life is to engage in the devotional service of Lord Vishnu, to return home, back to Godhead.”
“As blind men who are guided by another blind man stray from the right path and fall into a ditch- materially attached persons who are led by another materially attached man become bound by the strong ropes of fruitive activities, and thus continue to suffer the threefold miseries. Unless they smear upon their bodies the dust from the lotus feet of a pure Vaishnava, persons who are very materialistically inclined cannot gain attraction for the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord. And, only by becoming Krishna conscious and taking shelter at the lotus feet of the Lord in this way can one gain release from material bondage.”
While listening to Prahlada, Hiranyakashipu became practically blind with rage, and he violently threw his son off from his lap, onto the floor. His eyes glowing like molten copper, Hiranyakashipu ordered his servants, “Take this boy away from me, and kill him as soon as possible! This Prahlada is the killer of my brother, for he has given up his own family to engage himself as the menial servant of the enemy, Lord Vishnu. Because even at the tender age of five, he has given up his affection for his own father and mother, he cannot be trusted. Indeed, how can it be assured that he will behave well toward Lord Vishnu?”
“Although a medicinal herb is not of the same species as a man, still, because it is beneficial, it should be kept very carefully. Similarly, if someone is outside one’s family, but is favorable, he should be protected just like a son. On the other hand, if a limb of the body is severely infected, it may have to be amputated so that the rest of the body can remain healthy. In the same way, even if one’s own son is unfavorable, he must be rejected. Just as the uncontrolled senses are the enemies of a yogi who is aspiring to advance in spiritual life, this Prahlada is my enemy because I cannot control him. Therefore, he must be killed by all means.”
The Rakshasa servants of Hiranyakashipu all had fearful faces, sharp teeth, and copper-colored hair and beards. Under their master’s direction, they took Prahlada, and while striking the tender parts of his body with their tridents, they made a tumultuous sound, shouting, “Chop him up! Pierce him!”
Even though a person who has no assets in pious acts may perform some good deed, it will have no result. Similarly, the weapons of the demons had no tangible effect upon Prahlada, who simply sat silently and undisturbed, fully absorbed in meditating upon the Supreme Personality of Godhead. When the attempts of the demons thus proved futile, Hiranyakashipu became somewhat fearful, and he began contriving other methods for killing his son, Prahlada.
Next, Hiranyakashipu tried to crush Prahlada to death, by throwing him under the feet of huge elephants. Then, he put Prahlada into a pit full of large, poisonous snakes. He threw Prahlada down from the top of a very high hill, he gave Prahlada poison, and he tried starving him to death, drowning him, freezing him, burning him and crushing him with heavy stones. Hiranyakashipu even tried to use conjuring tricks and magic spells, but no matter what he did, he could not even slightly harm his sinless son.
Becoming very anxious about what to do next, Hiranyakashipu thought, “In spite of chastising Prahlada with so many harsh words, and in spite of devising so many ways to finish him off, I have not been able to kill him. Somehow he is able to save himself by his own prowess and because of this, he remains completely fearless. He resembles the crooked tail of a dog, which can never be straightened, for he always remembers my misbehavior and his connection with his master, Lord Vishnu. This boy seems to be immortal, and to possess unlimited prowess, for he is not at all afraid of my punishments. Perhaps, because of my enmity towards Prahlada, it is I who will end up being killed.”
While thinking like this, Hiranyakashipu remained silent and morose, bereft of his bodily luster, and his head bowed low. Seeing this, Shanda and Amarka approached him in private and gave him the following advice: “O lord, simply by the movement of your eyebrows, all of the planetary rulers become terrified. Without any assistance, you have conquered the entire three worlds, and so we cannot find any reason for you to become so anxious and morose.”
“Prahlada is nothing but a child, and so whatever good or bad qualities he may have are not very significant. Until the return of Sukracharya, you should keep the boy locked up. Then, in due course of time, when he becomes a little grown up and has assimilated our instructions, his intelligence will surely change. There is no need for you to worry so much.”
Hiranyakashipu agreed to this proposal. Thereafter, Shanda and Amarka systematically and unceasingly taught Prahlada Maharaja, who was very humble and submissive, about dharma, artha, and kama. However, because such instructions were based upon the dualities of this material world, Prahlada, being transcendentally situated, did not like them.
When the two teachers would go home to attend to some household affairs, Prahlada’s school mates would call him to come out and play. Prahlada would smile and then reply to them with very sweetly, just to instruct them about the uselessness of materialistic life. All of the children respected Prahlada Maharaja very much, and were highly affectionate toward him. Because they were all just five-year-old boys, they were not yet so polluted by their materialistic education. For this reason, they would innocently give up their playing and surround Prahlada, so that they could hear from him.
As the boys fixed their hearts and eyes upon him in great earnestness, Prahlada instructed them for their welfare as follows: “One who is sufficiently intelligent should begin the practice of devotional service from the tender age of childhood. This human form of life is very rarely achieved, and although it is temporary like other bodies, it is very important because one can use it to perform devotional service and thus attain complete perfection. Devotional service is natural because Lord Vishnu is the most beloved, the master of the soul, and the well-wisher of all living entities.”
“My dear friends, born in demoniac families, the happiness derived from the contact of the senses with their objects can be obtained in any form of life, according to one’s past fruitive activities. Just as distress is obtained without endeavor, so happiness is also achieved automatically. For this reason, endeavors for economic development and sense gratification are a waste of time. Instead, as long as the body is still stout and strong, one should try to become Krishna conscious in order to come to the spiritual platform of eternity and bliss.”
“Everyone has a maximum duration of life of one hundred years. However, for one who cannot control his senses, half of this time is lost due to sleeping twelve hours at night. In childhood, one first of all passes ten years in complete bewilderment. Then, as a boy, he spends another ten years playing and engaging in sports. In old age, when one is invalid, he passes another twenty years being hardly able to perform any activities. One whose mind and senses are uncontrolled becomes increasingly attached to family life. Due to insatiable lusty desires and very strong illusion, one wastes his remaining years and thus cannot engage in the devotional service of the Lord.”
“How can a person who is too attached to household life, due to uncontrolled senses, liberate himself from material bondage? Materialistic persons think that money is sweeter than honey. Therefore, who can give up the desire to accumulate money, especially in household life? Thieves, professional soldiers and merchants try to acquire money even by risking their very lives. How can a person who is very affectionate towards his family members, the core of his heart being filled with their pictures, give up their association?”
“The wife is always very kind and sympathetic and she gratifies her husband in a solitary place. The small children speak in broken sentences that are very pleasing to hear. In addition, one’s parents, household furniture, servants and animals are all objects of attachment. Who could give up such comforts? The attached householder is like the silkworm that weaves a cocoon in which it becomes imprisoned and cannot come out. Simply for the satisfaction of the tongue and the genitals, one is bound up by material conditions, and thus cannot escape. Such an attached person cannot understand that he is wasting his valuable life. And yet, although he fails to understand that human life is meant for self-realization, he very cleverly makes sure that not a single rupee is lost due to mismanagement.”
“My dear friends, those who are bereft of knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are addicted to sense gratification, and thus they become playthings in the hands of attractive women. Such persons are called demons, and due to being victimized by such a conception of life, they become surrounded by home and relatives and in this way, they are shackled to material life.”
“Although you are all sons of demons, you should stay aloof from such persons and take shelter of the Supreme Lord, Narayana, Who awards his devotees liberation from the bondage of material existence. Lord Narayana is the Supreme Soul and the father of all living beings. Because every living being’s relationship with Lord Narayana is an eternal fact, there is no impediment or difficulty in pleasing Him.”
Therefore, my dear young friends, please act in such a way that the Supreme Lord will become satisfied with you. Give up your demoniac nature and act without enmity or duality. Show mercy to all living entities and become their well-wishing friend by enlightening them in devotional service. There is nothing that is unattainable for the devotees who have satisfied the Supreme Lord. And yet, because the Lord is the reservoir of all spiritual bliss, the devotees have no use for dharma, artha, kama and moksha, since they are satisfied simply by glorifying His lotus feet.”
“This transcendental knowledge was formerly explained by Lord Narayana Himself to the great saint Narada. Although it is extremely difficult to comprehend without the mercy of a pure devotee, anyone who takes shelter of Narada’s disciplic succession can attain this confidential understanding. I received this knowledge, which is called bhagavata-dharma, from Narada Muni, and it is based on logic and philosophy, and is free from all material contamination.”
The sons of the demons inquired, “Dear Prahlada, neither you nor ourselves know of any teacher other than the sons of Sukracharya. Since we remain within the palace and do not have any chance to associate with a saintly personality, how were you able to hear all this from Narada? Dear friend, kindly dispel our doubts in this regard.”
Prahlada Maharaja then explained, “When my father went to the Mandarachala Mountain to execute severe austerities, the demigods made an all-out attempt to subdue the demons in his absence. When the demons saw the unprecedented fighting spirit of the demigods, they began fleeing in all directions, leaving aside their homes and family members. The victorious demigods then plundered Hiranyakashipu’s palace, and at that time King Indra arrested my mother.”
“As she was being led away, crying like a kurari bird that is captured by a vulture, the great sage Narada appeared upon the scene and ordered Indra, ‘O King of the demigods, this woman is faultless and so you should not drag her off in this merciless way. This chaste woman is the wife of another, and so you must immediately release her.’ ”
“Indra replied, ‘The seed of the great demon, Hiranyakashipu is within this woman’s womb, and so let her remain in our custody until the child is born.” ’
“Narada then said, ‘The child within this woman’s womb is sinless, and he is a powerful servant of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Because of this, you will not be able to kill him.’ ”
Prahlada continued, “Indra respected Narada’s words and immediately released by mother. Knowing me to be a devotee of the Lord, all of the demigods circumambulated her, and then returned to their heavenly abodes. Thereafter, Narada brought my mother to his ashram and assured her of all protection, saying, ‘My dear child, please remain here until the return of your husband.’ ”
“My mother then asked Narada for the benediction that I would remain within her womb until the time when she would once again be united with her husband. Narada consented, and thus she began fearlessly residing in the great sage’s ashram where she rendered service unto him with great devotion. Narada Muni delivered instructions to both me, who was within the womb, and my mother. However, since she was more concerned about my welfare, and longed for the return of her husband, and also due to being less intelligent, my mother has forgotten all that Narada taught. On the other hand, by the blessings of Narada, I have not forgotten his instructions.”
“Therefore, my dear friends, if you can place your faith in my words, you can also receive this transcendental knowledge.”
Prahlada continued to instruct his school friends, saying, “Although the fruit and flowers of a tree undergo six transformations- birth, growth, maturity, the production of by-products, dwindling, and death- the tree itself remains unchanging, standing for many, many years. Similarly, the material body that the living entity obtains under different circumstances undergoes the same transformations- but there is no such change for the spirit soul.”
“Because both the individual soul and the Supreme Lord are spiritual, eternal, unchanging and non-material, a wise person gives up the illusory conception of life in which one thinks, “I am this body and everything in relation to the body is mine”. As an expert geologist can extract gold from rock, so an advanced transcendentalist can understand how the spirit soul exists within the body and then extricate it from material entanglement. Since the eternal self is situated within the eight separated material energies, the three modes of material nature, and the eleven senses- as an observer- all the great acharyas have concluded that he becomes conditioned by these elements.”
“By the process of ‘neti’ ‘neti’ (‘this is not it’ ‘this is not it’), one must separate the spirit soul from its gross and subtle coverings. Of all the different processes that are expounded for disentangling oneself from matter, the one that is personally recommended by the Supreme Personality of Godhead should be considered as perfect. To execute this process, one must accept a bona-fide spiritual master and render service unto him with great faith and devotion. Whatever one possesses should be offered to the guru, and in the association of devotees, one should worship the Supreme Lord, hear and chant of His glories, meditate upon His lotus feet, and worship His Deity form- strictly according to the injunctions of shastra.”
“By executing these activities, one can cut down the influence of his enemies- namely lust, anger, greed, illusion, madness and envy- and then attain the platform of loving service unto the Supreme Lord. When such a liberated devotee hears the glories of the Lord, his bodily hair stands up on end, tears fall from his eyes, and his voice falters. Sometimes he openly dances and loudly sings, and sometimes he cries. In this way, the devotee appears to be haunted by a ghost, because he forgets all social etiquette while chanting and dancing like a madman.”
“Due to constantly thinking of the Lord’s pastimes, a pure devotee’s mind and body become spiritualized. Being thus converted, the devotee’s mind and body no longer act materially. Because of the intensity of his devotional service, all of the devotee’s material desires become completely burnt to ashes. This is the exalted stage at which one can achieve the shelter of the Supreme Lord’s lotus feet.”
“Therefore, my dear friends, begin immediately to meditate upon the Supreme Lord and worship Him, Who is situated within everyone’s heart. The Supreme Lord is the well-wishing friend of all living beings, and thus there is no difficulty in worshiping Him. For what reason should people not engage in His devotional service, and instead become addicted to producing so much artificial paraphernalia for sense gratification? One’s wealth, beautiful wife and children, his residence, and all other possessions, are all temporary and flickering. What benefit can these material assets give to a sensible man who has understood himself to be eternal?”
“Even heavenly elevation is temporary, and therefore not the real goal of life. In this world, everyone is striving to increase happiness and diminish distress. The truth is, however, that one is happy only so long as he does not endeavor for happiness. As soon as one commences his activities to achieve happiness, his condition of distress begins. The living entity receives different types of bodies according to his previous fruitive work, and thus he suffers in various ways. Therefore, please tell me, after due consideration, what is the living entity’s actual interest in fruitive activities?
“My dear friends, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the soul of all souls, and every living being is His eternal part and parcel. Therefore, He is the dearest person and should be worshiped without motive, following in the footsteps of the pure devotees. Anyone who takes to the devotional service of the Lord, be he a demigod, demon, human being, Yaksha, Rakshasa, Gandharva or anyone else- he will become situated in the most auspicious condition of life, just like ourselves. The Supreme Lord cannot be pleased simply by one’s becoming a perfect brahmana, vastly learned, and well behaved, nor can He be pleased merely by the performance of austerity, sacrifice, the giving of charity, or by any other means. Only unalloyed devotional service can satisfy the Supreme Lord.”
“Therefore, my dear friends, just as one favorably sees himself and takes care of himself, you should all take to devotional service so that you can satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This much alone is the ultimate goal of life, as explained by all the revealed scriptures and confirmed by the great acharyas.”
All of the demons’ sons appreciated Prahlada’s transcendental instructions and took them very seriously. As a result, they rejected Shanda and Amarka’s materialistic teachings. When the two teachers saw how their students were becoming advanced in Krishna consciousness, due to Prahlada’s association, they became very afraid.
After taking Prahlada to his father, Shanda and Amarka explained everything. After understanding the situation, Hiranyakashipu became so angry that his entire body began to tremble. Being very cruel by nature, Hiranyakashipu felt insulted. While hissing like a snake that had been trampled upon, Hiranyakashipu decided to kill Prahlada with his own hands. Prahlada was very peaceful, mild and gentle, and he stood before his father with folded hands- but the great demon was not to be pacified.
With harsh words, Hiranyakashipu chastised Prahlada, saying, “O most impudent disruptor of our family, you have violated my authority and so I will send you this very day to the abode of Yamaraja. When I become angry, all of the planets within the three worlds tremble, along with their respective rulers. You rascal, by whose power have you become so impudent that you fearlessly overstep my authority to control you?”
Prahlada Maharaja replied, “My dear father, the source of my strength is also the source of yours. Indeed, the original source of everyone’s strength is One, and without Him, no one can have any prowess. Everyone, including Lord Brahma, is controlled by the strength of the Supreme Lord, for He controls the time factor, and the power of the mind and senses. By His unlimited prowess, the Lord creates this cosmic manifestation, maintains it for some time, and then annihilates it.”
“My dear father, please give up your demoniac mentality and make your mind equipoised toward everyone. Except for the uncontrolled and misguided mind, there is no real enemy in this world. In former days there were many fools like you who did not conquer the six enemies that steal away the wealth of the body, although they were very proud of having conquered the universe.”
Hiranyakashipu said, “You rascal! You are trying to minimize my value, as if you are better at controlling the senses than I am. Therefore, I can understand that you wish to be killed by me, for such nonsensical talk is indulged in by those who are about to die.”
“O most unfortunate Prahlada, you always describe a Supreme Person other than me, who is the controller of everyone, and is all-pervading. Where is He now? If He is everywhere, then why isn’t He present in this pillar before me? Because you are speaking so much nonsense, I shall now sever your head from your body. Let me see your most worshipful God come and protect you!”
While Hiranyakashipu was threatening to kill him, Prahlada saw the Lord present in the pillar before him, encouraging him not to be afraid of his demoniac father. Hiranyakashipu could see that Prahlada was looking intently at the pillar, and it is for this reason he had challenged whether the Lord was present there. Actually, Hiranyakashipu, being a typical demon, was convinced that there was no God who could save Prahlada, and so he challenged the idea that the devotee is always protected by the Supreme Lord.
Being obsessed with anger, Hiranyakashipu took out his sword, after chastising and cursing Prahlada, again and again. Getting up from his throne, Hiranyakashipu went and violently struck his fist against the column with great rage. Miraculously, from within the shattered pillar came a fearful and tumultuous sound that reached even the abode of Lord Brahma, and seemed to crack the coverings of the universe.
When the demigods heard that wonderful, never-heard-before sound, they thought, “Now, our planets are going to be destroyed!” Hiranyakashipu and the other leaders of the demons also became extremely afraid, for they could realize the supreme ruling power of the Lord, in the form of that sound, although they could not trace out its origin.
Then, to prove Prahlada’s statement that He is present everywhere, the Supreme Personality of Godhead exhibited a wonderful form that had never been seen before. As Hiranyakashipu looked around to find out the source of the tumultuous sound, that wonderful form of the Lord emerged from the broken pillar. Being stunned with amazement, Hiranyakashipu studied the form of Lord Nrisinghadeva and wondered, “What kind of creature is this, that is half man and half lion?”
This form of the Lord was extremely fearsome because of His angry eyes, His shining mane that expanded the dimensions of His face, His deadly teeth, and His razor-sharp tongue that moved like a dueling sword. The Lord’s ears were erect and motionless, and His nostrils and gaping mouth appeared like mountain caves. His neck was short and thick, His chest broad, His waist thin, and His huge body reached up to the sky.
While picking up his club, Hiranyakashipu murmured to himself, “Lord Vishnu has made this plan to kill me, by utilizing His mystic power- but what is the use of such an attempt? Who is there that can fight with me?”
Appearing just like a small insect that becomes invisible while falling into a flame, Hiranyakashipu attacked the greatly effulgent Lord, and thus he could no longer be seen. Although Hiranyakashipu beat Him repeatedly with his club, Lord Nrisinghadeva captured him, just as Garuda seizes a great snake. Then, just as Garuda sometimes plays with a snake by letting it slip out of his mouth, Lord Nrisinghadeva gave Hiranyakashipu a chance to escape from His grip.
The demigods had been watching the fight from behind the clouds, due to their fear of Hiranyakashipu. When they saw the great demon escape, they became very perturbed, thinking that he might see how they were eagerly looking forward to his death, and thus take revenge later on.
After getting free from Lord Nrisinghadeva’s grip, Hiranyakashipu falsely thought that the Lord was afraid of him, due to his prowess. After taking a moment’s rest, Hiranyakashipu picked up his sword and shield and once again attacked the Lord with great determination. As Hiranyakashipu moved, sometimes in the sky, and sometimes on the earth, he protected himself with his sword and shield, leaving no gaps- but his eyes were closed, out of fear of Lord Nrisinghadeva’s loud, shrill laughter.
Then, as a snake pounces upon a mouse, Lord Nrisinghadeva once again caught hold of Hiranyakashipu. Very afflicted at being held captive, Hiranyakashipu wildly swung his arms all around, here and there, while the Lord placed him lengthwise upon His lap. Lord Nrisinghadeva sat down in the doorway of the assembly hall, pressing Hiranyakashipu on his thighs, and very easily tore him to pieces with his fingernails.
The Lord’s face and mane were sprinkled with drops of blood, and His fierce eyes, which were filled with anger, were impossible to look at. While licking the edge of His mouth with His tongue, Lord Nrisinghadeva pierced Hiranyakashipu’s abdomen with His nails, pulled out his intestines and put them on as a garland, thus enhancing His transcendental beauty. The Lord then uprooted Hiranyakashipu’s heart and threw his body aside, so that He could confront the thousands of demon soldiers who were rushing toward Him with upraised weapons. Lord Nrisinghadeva very easily killed these faithful followers of Hiranyakashipu, with the nails of His many, many hands. Thereafter, when He found that there was no one else opposing Him, the Lord sat down on the royal throne within the assembly hall.
The hair on Lord Nrisinghadeva’s head had scattered the clouds in the sky, and His glaring eyes had stolen the effulgence of the luminaries. The Lord’s breathing had agitated the oceans, and because of his loud roaring, all of the elephants in the world had cried out in fear. Airplanes were thrown upwards into outer space by the hair on Lord Nrisinghadeva’s head, and because of the pressure of His feet, the earth seemed to slip from its position and all the hills and mountains sprang upward.
Hiranyakashipu had been benedicted by Lord Brahma so that he could not die on the land or in the sky. Therefore, to keep that benediction intact, Lord Nrisinghadeva had placed Hiranyakashipu’s body upon His lap. Hiranyakashipu had received the benediction that he would not die during the day or at night, and so the Lord killed him during the evening twilight time. Hiranyakashipu had been benedicted so that he would not be killed by any weapon, or by anything that was dead or alive. Therefore, Lord Nrisinghadeva pierced his body with His nails, which were not weapons- nor were they exactly living or dead. In this way, the Lord kept all of Lord Brahma’s promises intact, and yet easily killed the great demon.
Hiranyakashipu had been like a fever of meningitis in the head of the three worlds. Thus, when the wives of the demigods saw how he had been killed by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, their faces blossomed with joy. Again and again, they showered flowers upon Lord Nrisinghadeva, while the demigods, who crowded the sky with their airplanes, beat upon celestial drums. The Apsaras danced in jubilation and the Gandharvas sang very sweetly.
All of the classes of demigods, headed by Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva and King Indra approached Lord Nrisinghadeva, to individually offer their obeisances and prayers. The demigods were very relieved and happy to be freed from the fear of Hiranyakashipu, and restored to their original positions. So they expressed their deep gratitude that the Lord had killed the king of the demons on their behalf.
Still, because of Lord Nrisinghadeva’s very ferocious expression and glaring effulgence, even the great demigods, headed by Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva were too afraid to come and serve Him directly. The Lord cannot tolerate blasphemy of His devotee and thus His great anger was not pacified, even after hearing so many prayers in glorification. The demigods then requested Lakshmi, who is the Lord’s constant companion, to approach Him. But even Lakshmi had never seen such an extraordinary form of her Lord, and so she was also afraid to go near Him.
Finally, Lord Brahma addressed Prahlada Maharaja, who was standing close by: “My dear son, Lord Nrisinghadeva is extremely angry at your demoniac father. Therefore, please go now and appease the Lord.”
Although Prahlada was just a small boy, he accepted Lord Brahma’s request and gradually approached Lord Nrisinghadeva with folded hands. When the Lord saw the small boy, Prahlada, fallen at His lotus feet to offer his obeisances, He became ecstatically affectionate towards him. After picking Prahlada up, Lord Nrisinghadeva placed His lotus hand upon the boy’s head, just to benedict him with fearlessness. By the transcendental touch of the Lord’s hand, Prahlada became completely freed from all material desires and contamination.
Having thus been thoroughly cleansed, Prahlada became transcendentally situated, so that all of the symptoms of ecstasy became manifest in his body. His heart became filled with love and his eyes with tears, and thus Prahlada was able to completely capture the lotus feet of the Lord within the core of his heart.
With his mind and sight fixed upon Lord Nrisinghadeva in complete trance, Prahlada offered his prayers as follows, in a voice that faltered due to transcendental emotion: “How is it possible for me, who was born in a family of asuras, to offer suitable prayers that will satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead? Even the demigods, headed by Lord Brahma, who are all very highly qualified, could not pacify the Lord by their excellent words, and so what can be said by me?”
“It appears that one cannot please the Lord simply by the possession of great wealth, aristocracy, education, prowess, intelligence, mystic yoga perfection, or any other such expertise. However, one can satisfy the Supreme Lord simply by a little devotional service, as Gajendra formerly did. If one possesses all twelve brahminical qualifications, but is averse to the lotus feet of the Lord, he is certainly inferior to a devotee who has taken birth in a family of dog-eaters but has dedicated everything for the service of the Lord. The so-called brahmana, being falsely proud, cannot even purify himself, whereas a devotee can deliver his whole family.”
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead is fully satisfied in Himself. Therefore, when something is offered to Him, it is actually for the benefit of the devotee. For example, when one decorates his face, then its reflection in a mirror is also seen to be decorated. Although I have been born in a demoniac family, I should offer prayers unto the Lord, as far as my intelligence allows, because glorification of the Lord is always purifying.”
“O my Lord, Your appearance in this world is meant for the benefit of Your devotees. Now that my demoniac father, Hiranyakashipu has been killed, please give up your anger. Even saintly persons take pleasure in the killing of a scorpion or a snake, and so all within the three worlds have achieved great satisfaction because of this demon’s death. In the future, people will remember Your auspicious incarnation as Lord Nrisinghadeva, to become free from fear.”
“My Lord, I am certainly not afraid of Your ferocious mouth and tongue, Your eyes as bright as the sun, or Your frowning eyebrows. I do not fear Your sharp teeth, Your garland of intestines, Your blood-soaked mane, or Your high wedge-like ears. Nor do I fear Your tumultuous roaring or Your sharp nails, which are meant for killing Your enemies. But because I have been put into the association of demons, as a result of my past activities, I am very much afraid of my condition of life within this material world. When will the time come when You will call me to the shelter of Your lotus feet, which is the ultimate goal of liberation from conditional life?”
“O my Lord, due to combination with and separation from various pleasing and displeasing circumstances, one is placed in a most regrettable position, as if burning in a fire of lamentation. Whatever remedies are conceived of to get out of such a miserable life turn out to be more miserable than the miseries themselves. Therefore, I think that the only ultimate solution to all problems is engagement in Your devotional service. Because the living entity is put into bondage by Your external energy, who can get free from this entanglement, unless he takes shelter at Your lotus feet?”
“My dear Lord, people in general want to become elevated to the higher planetary systems, for enjoying a long duration of life and great opulence. However, I have personally seen that when my father was angry with the demigods, they were immediately vanquished, simply by the movements of his eyebrows. And yet, You vanquished my father, who was so powerful, in just a moment. In Your form as powerful time, You destroy the worldly opulence, mystic powers, and longevity enjoyed by all living beings, from Lord Brahma down to the insignificant ant, and so I do not wish to possess such things. Instead, I request You to place me in contact with Your pure devotee, and let me serve him as a sincere servant.”
“O Supreme Personality of Godhead, because of my association with material desires, one after another, I was gradually falling into a blind well full of snakes, following the general populace. Your servant, Narada Muni kindly accepted me as his disciple, however, and instructed me how to achieve this transcendental position. Therefore, my first duty is to serve him. How could I even think of leaving his service?”
“O best of the great personalities, I am not at all afraid of this material existence, for wherever I am I can remain fully absorbed in thoughts of Your glories and activities. My only concern is for the fools and rascals who are making elaborate plans for material happiness by maintaining their families, societies and countries. I see that there are many saintly persons, but they are generally interested only in their personal salvation. They remain alone in the Himalayas or in the forest, engaging in meditation with a vow of silence. Although they are not interested in delivering others, I do not wish to be liberated alone, leaving aside all these poor fools and rascals. I know that without taking to Krishna consciousness, no one can become happy, and therefore I wish to bring all of the conditioned souls back to the shelter of Your lotus feet.”
After hearing Prahlada Maharaja’s prayers, Lord Nrisinghadeva became pacified and gave up his anger. With great kindness, the Lord said to Prahlada, “O best in the family of asuras, may there be all good fortune for you. I am very pleased with you, and because it is My pastime to fulfill the desires of all living beings, I request you to ask from Me any benediction that you may desire. One cannot appreciate or understand Me without having pleased Me, and one who has seen or satisfied Me has nothing more to lament for. Therefore, those who are very wise and elevated, simply try to please Me in various ways, for I am the only person who can fulfill all the desires of everyone.”
In spite of being allured like this, Prahlada, being a pure devotee of the Lord, did not want any material benediction, for he considered them to be impediments.
While smiling very mildly, Prahlada replied, “My dear Lord, because of being born in an atheistic family, I am naturally inclined to material enjoyment. Therefore, please do not tempt me with these illusions, for I am very much afraid of materialistic life and desire liberation from it. It is for this reason that I have taken shelter at Your lotus feet. Within this world, the seed of lusty desire is within the core of everyone’s heart, and so I can guess that You have sent me here to exhibit the symptoms of a pure devotee. Otherwise, O Lord, You are so kind to Your devotee, that You would never induce him to do something that was not for his well-being.”
“My dear Lord, one who desires some material benefit in exchange for devotional service, cannot be a pure devotee. Indeed, he is no better than a merchant who wants some profit in exchange for his service. A servant who desires profit from his master is not a qualified servant. Similarly, a master who bestows benedictions upon his servant, just to maintain his prestigious position as master, is not a pure master.”
“O my Lord, I am Your unmotivated servant and You are My eternal master, for that is our natural relationship. If You at all want to bestow a desirable benediction upon me, then I pray that no material desires may ever enter the core of my heart. O Supreme Person in the form of a wonderful lion and man, let me offer my respectful obeisances unto You.”
The Supreme Personality of Godhead then said, “My dear Prahlada, a pure devotee like you never desires any kind of material opulence, either in this life or in the next. Nonetheless, I order you to enjoy the opulence of the demons by acting as their king, until the end of the present manvantara. It will not be an impediment for you to stay within the material world, provided that you always remain absorbed in thought of Me by rendering devotional service.”
“While remaining within the material world you will exhaust the reactions of pious activities by feeling happiness, and by acting piously you will neutralize the reactions of impious activity. Then, eventually, you will give up your body and return home, back to Godhead, and your glorious activities will be sung about in the higher planetary systems. One who always remembers our pastimes and chants the prayers that you have offered will become free from the reactions of all his material activities, in due course of time.”
Prahlada Maharaja said, “O Supreme Lord, because You are so merciful to the fallen souls, I wish to ask for only one benediction. I know that my father has already been purified, due to your having glanced upon him at the time of his death. However, being ignorant of Your supremacy, my father blasphemed You, considering You to be the killer of his brother, and he also committed greatly sinful acts against me, Your devotee. I wish that my father may be excused for all these offenses.”
Lord Nrisinghadeva replied, “My dear Prahlada, not only has your father become purified, but altogether twenty-one of your forefathers as well, as a result of your having taken birth in this dynasty. Indeed, wherever there are peaceful, equipoised devotees like yourself, who are decorated with all good qualities, that place and the persons who reside there become purified. You are the best example of My pure devotee, and so others should follow in your footsteps,”
“My dear son, your father has already been purified by the touch of My body at the time of his death. Still, it is the duty of a son to perform the shraddha ceremony after his father’s death, so that he will be promoted to a higher planetary system, where he may gradually become converted into a devotee. After performing the shraddha ceremony, sit down on the royal throne and take charge of your father’s kingdom.”
Lord Brahma was very pleased now that Lord Nrisinghadeva’s anger was pacified, and so he prayed, “O Supreme Lord of all lords, it is our great fortune that You have killed this sinful demon who was giving trouble to the entire universe. On the strength of the benedictions that he had received from me, this demon, Hiranyakashipu became excessively proud and transgressed all of the Vedic injunctions.”
“My dear Lord, if one meditates upon Your transcendental body, You naturally protect him from all sources of fear, even the imminent danger of death.”
The Supreme Personality of Godhead replied, “My dear Brahma, just as it is dangerous to feed milk to a snake, it is dangerous to give benedictions to demons, for they are by nature ferocious and envious. I warn you- do not give such benedictions to any demon again.”
After being worshiped by Lord Brahma, Lord Nrisinghadeva, Who is not visible to an ordinary human being, disappeared from that place. Prahlada then worshiped and offered prayers to all of the demigods, headed by Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva. Thereafter, with the assistance of Sukracharya and other brahmanas, Lord Brahma enthroned Prahlada as the king of all the Daityas and Danavas within the universe. Finally, after offering Prahlada Maharaja their benedictions, the satisfied demigods returned to their respective abodes.