Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Story 36 – Story of Prahlada – 1

Story of Prahlada – Introduction

We enter into one of the most beautiful stories of Srimad Bhagavatham. This is the story of Prahlada. This story is very peculiar in that here we find a blend of supreme devotion and knowledge in the small child of Prahlada. We also find bhagavatham pointing to us that a seeker who desires to realize the ultimate reality of Lord has to set aside anything and everything that stands as an obstacle to the path towards the Lord.

Again here we find one of the Lord’s greatest devotee who is well versed in knowledge and who is from the asura clan. We find again and again in many stories the praise of various asura kings who have realized the ultimate reality of Lord in contrast to the devas who are always immersed in sensual pleasures. This in fact drives the point that there is no limitation whatsoever to realization of the ultimate reality of Lord. It doesn’t matter what is the action that a person is doing at the empirical level. It only matters as to what is the attitude with which the action is performed. We find the Lord himself propounding the same thing directly in two beautiful slokas of Gita. Let us see what the two slokas are and as to what we can learn from them.

Api chet suduraachaaro bhajathe maam ananya bhaak
Saadhureva sa mantavyah samyak vyavasitho hi sah

He who does the worst action (that which is considered as sinful) but remembering me alone, then he is to be considered a SADHU or saint or seeker as he is ever steadfast in ME.

Api chedasi paapebhyah sarvebhyah paapakrittamah
Sarvam jnaanaplavenaivam vrijinam santharishyasi

Even if a person does the most sinful action, still he crosses over the ocean of samsaara and those sins by the log of jnaana.

Here the Lord points out that it doesn’t matter what are the actions that a person does, what is important is the attitude with which the action is performed. If a person does action remembering the ultimate reality of Lord and offering the action to the Lord, then he doesn’t get affected by either the action or the fruits of the action because he is ever steadfast in the ultimate reality of Lord. Such a person is fully established in the knowledge that there is nothing here but the Lord alone & thereby he does all actions as a witness and as an offering to the Lord. Thus such a seeker doesn’t get affected by actions even as an actor doesn’t get affected by the activities he does in the drama or film.

The world is in fact a place of drama or mega film and we are the actor so engrossed in the film that we get identified with the actions. It is but a pity that we get attached and identified with the actions and actor. An actor can enjoy a play or drama only if he is the mere witness to that play. Thus the way out of not getting attached to actions is to be a mere witness to all activities. This is possible when the seeker knows that there is no duality whatsoever here, whatever exists is the Lord alone. Thus the actions that are performed are only an illusion in the ultimate reality of Lord. Remembering this reality, if the seeker performs the action as an offering unto the ultimate reality of Lord – he gets rid of the attachment and identification with the actions. Thus he gets liberated within a short time itself.

It might be to emphasize that actions are not that important whereas attitude is important that bhagavatham gives many stories about asura kings realizing the ultimate reality of Lord.

This story of Prahlaada is so beautiful and full of imports that we can learn a lot from it and it shows us the direct path to the ultimate reality of Lord. It is in this story that we find the mention of Nava vidhi bhakthi or nine forms of devotion mentioned by Prahlaada.

We will start learning the story from tomorrow.

Parikshit put forth a very important question to Shuka after hearing the story of Chitrakethu.

“The ultimate reality of Lord is all-present and a friend to everyone. Then how is it said that he helped the devas and killed asuras???.

Even though the Lord is beyond the three gunas and unaffected by all activities, but still he seems to be differentiated into killer, killed etc. based on maya (made up of the three gunas of sattva, rajas and tamas). The Lord is by nature unborn and non-dual. The illusion of world is created by Maya which in itself is not an existent thing. Everything is just an illusion in the Lord like water seen in desert.


The doubt which Parikshit raises here is a very important one because the answer to this question gives us a very clear idea about the ultimate reality of Lord and all other illusory activities in the world.

As we all know, the scriptures proclaim that in the beginning (before creation) the Lord alone existed, one without a second. Then started the process of creation and duality came into existence. After a particular period of time, the world again vanishes into its source of Lord. This is what we call as destruction or samhaara. Thus the three activities of sristhi or creation, sthithi or protection and samhaara or destruction happen in the ultimate reality of Lord. Now let us analyze the nature of the Lord and then compare as to what is the relation between the Lord and the three activities.

The Lord is unborn because he is the one from which the world came. There cannot be any other entity from which Lord was born. Since the Lord is without birth, he has to be without death as well – wherever birth is there, death is as well there. Wherever there is no birth, there will be no death as well. Thus the Lord is without death as well. That which is born and will die undergoes changes. But since the Lord is without birth and death, there cannot be any change in the Lord. Thus the Lord is changeless or without any modifications. Since the Lord is without any changes, therefore the world that we see and that which has come from the Lord has to be an illusory one and not a real one (as the world is changing and can never come from the changeless Lord). Thus saints proclaim that the world is like a mirage or water seen in desert. It has no real existence apart from the Lord.

How is it that the world is created???
In fact, the world is never created – it just seems to be present even as water is never created in desert but just seems to be present. This “seeming existence” of the world is attributed to the illusory power of Lord called Maya. Maya is of the nature of the three gunas of sattva, rajas and tamas denoting peace, activity and sleep (inactivity). It is the Maya which is made up of the three gunas that creates the world out of the Lord. Since Maya in itself is only an illusion and not real, therefore the world created by Maya also has to be unreal only.

This Maya after creating the world creates individual beings called as jeeva or ahamkaara depending on the number of gross and subtle bodies. When there is the Ego present, then there is the doership attributed to the Self. The individual being of jeeva is in essence the ultimate reality of Lord alone. But he seems to be different from the Lord as he is deluded by Maya. Once the jeeva wakes up from this delusion, he realizes that he is not the Ego or individual but he is the ultimate reality of Lord. When doership is there, then there are activities as well. Thus the triputi of subject, object and action is created. As long as there is this triputi, there will be thoughts that “I am doing, I am enjoying” etc. This causes a person to think that “I am happy, I am sad” etc. Thus this triputi of killer, killed and action of killing is in fact a delusion created by Maya. Once the jeeva overcomes Maya, then he realizes that there is neither killer nor killed – whatever exists is the ultimate reality of Lord alone.

Why is it that Maya seems to be present and creates the seemingly appearing world???
Maya is that which cannot really be explained – it cannot be explained because it is not real but only an illusion. If Maya has to be really explained, we can just say that it is the very nature of Brahman or Lord to create the illusory Maya which in turn creates the world. It is similar to the water seen in desert. Water seen in desert can never be explained because there is no water at all. But if water is seen, we can only say that it is the very nature of desert to show seeming water in it.

Maya deludes a seeker only as long as he thinks himself as the individual. But once the seeker goes beyond Maya and the trigunas, he realizes his own very nature of Lord & that there never was any Maya at all.

How can we conquer Maya???
The Lord beautifully explains in Gita that Maya is overcome easily by that seeker who totally surrenders to the ultimate reality of Lord & constantly contemplates on the reality of Lord.

A seeker has to first understand through scriptural study and reflection that there is no duality whatsoever here – whatever exists is only the ultimate reality of Lord. Duality seen in the world is only an illusion in the reality of Lord. Once the seeker gets intellectual conviction about the non-dual reality of Lord and the reality behind the illusory world, then he will be able to constantly contemplate on the Lord or do nidhidhyaasana. This constant contemplation causes the seeker to get totally absorbed in the Lord – whatever he does, he offers to the Lord, whatever he thinks is the Lord alone, whatever he says is the Lord alone – this need not be followed at the external level. It is enough if we internally have the conviction and always remember that there is nothing here but the Lord alone. So long as we remember this, the seeker is sure to overcome the illusion of Maya and its trigunas in time.

In order to explain the ultimate reality in a clear way, Shuka explains the dialogue between Yudhisthira and Narada in which Narada expounds the beautiful story of Prahlaada. We will see that the next day.

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