Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Story 36 – Story of Prahlada – 3

Yudhisthira asked thus to Narada:

How come Hiranyakashipu had vidvesha towards his own son Prahlaada who was a Vishnu bhaktha? How did Prahlaada who was an asura became Vishnu bhaktha? It is the vidvesha of Hiranyakashipu towards his own son which lead to the Narasimha avatar – hence do please answer these doubts in my mind.

Narada continued thus:

Jaya Vijaya were born as Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu. Hiranyaksha who was the elder one took bhoomi and went into the ocean. The Lord took the form of Varaha and came out from the nostril of Brahma and killed Hirayaksha. Hearing the death of his brother, Hiranyakashipu was very angry. He ordered all of his soldiers to search for Vishnu and destroy all yajna shaalas, dhyaanakendras, vratha sthalaas etc. Hiranyakashipu consoled his mother and relatives telling Vedantic truth and puranas stories. Hearing her son’s words, the mother of Hiranyakashipu contemplated on the ultimate reality and was not sad anymore.


When we read above part of the story for the first time, we may be sure that there is not much to be explained over here. But each and every part of Srimad Bhagavatham is filled with deep import about the ultimate reality of Lord. The ultimate reality of Lord alone is to be achieved through sadhana of constant contemplation by the seeker. The truth behind the illusory world is the ultimate reality of non-dual Lord. Whatever is seen as the dual world is nothing but an illusion of names and forms of the Lord. If we separate out the Lord from the world, the world will cease to exist. The world is nothing but the ultimate reality of Lord alone.

Here Bhagavatham is pointing out through the question of Yudhisthira that any person in the world is entitled to be a Vishnu Bhaktha.

Who is a Vishnu Bhaktha?
He who is totally devoted to Vishnu – he who always contemplates on the ultimate reality of Vishnu is a Vishnu Bhaktha.

Who is Vishnu?
Vishnu means one who is all-pervasive. He who is all-pervasive is beyond space. The Lord alone is all-pervasive as he is the substratum of illusory world as well as space in which the world is contained. Without the Lord of the nature of Consciousness, there cannot be any existence for time, space and causation.

Thus Vishnu is the ultimate non-dual reality of Lord. A Vishnu bhaktha is one who is totally devoted to the Lord. To be devoted to the Lord doesn’t have any restrictions of caste or creed. As Narada Bhakthi Sutras says that there is no distinction of knowledge, kula, roopa etc. for the devotee as for the devotee there is only the devotion for the Lord. Whoever is devoted to the ultimate reality of Lord seeking the Lord at all times, he is a real devotee of the Lord.

Since we all are nothing but the Lord alone, therefore it is our right to be devotees of the Lord. A person who is not a devotee of the Lord is in fact ignorant about his own very nature. Such a person who considers himself as the body-mind complex is in fact a mad person who doesn’t know his own very nature of Lord beyond the body-mind complex.

Bhagavatham thus shows us that it doesn’t matter whether we have asura tendencies (meaning that we have bad vasanas and thus do bad actions), it only matters whether we seek the ultimate reality of Lord & thus are devotees of the Lord. Asura and deva are only with respect to the mind and its qualities. But “I” am something different from the mind – hence “I” am not bound by qualities or tendencies of the mind. Instead “I” am always the same as the Lord – there is no existence for “I” apart from the ultimate reality of Lord.

We also get to know about the real nature of Hiranyakashipu. It is a general notion that he was an asura and thus against the Lord. But we find Bhagavatham saying here that Hiranyakashipu instructed his mother the vedantic truths in order to console her for the death of his brother Hiranyaksha. This is where we have learn the scriptural stories properly. The asura clan of Hiranyakashipu which includes Prahlaada, his father Virochana, Mahabali etc were all great Vedantins. Hiranyakashipu was well versed in the scriptures – but he was just following his duty which was to attack good people & go against Vishnu. As Lord himself says in Gita about doing one’s own action at all times without any thirst for the fruits, Hiranyakashipu was just doing his duty in this big play of world.

That the Lord himself appeared before Hiranyakashipu and killed him (meaning that the Lord killed the ego of Hiranyakashipu) thereby making him realize the ultimate reality that the Lord is present everywhere (which was what Prahlaada said). This shows that a seeker who is totally devoted to the ultimate reality of Lord and offers all actions unto the Lord, the Lord himself will appear to the seeker and make him realize his own very nature of Lord.

This is a promise the Lord has made in the Gita:

Sarva dharmaan parityajya maam ekam sharanam vraja
Aham tvaa sarva paapebhyo mokshayishyaami ma shuchah

Renouncing all dharmas, take refuge in me alone – I will take care of all your sins & liberate you, do not worry.

The Lord again promises that he will take care of the good and bad of a devotee who is having ananya bhakthi or one-pointed contemplation of the ultimate reality of Lord.

We will see as to what Hiranyakashipu did at the empirical level as he was angry with the Lord in the next day.

Narada continued:

Hiranyakashipu after consoling his mother went to Mandhara Parvatha contemplating on Lord Brahma to get boons in order to become a chakravarthi.

Finally Brahma appeared before him and granted him a boon. Hiranyakashipu asked thus “Any person born out of your creation should not kill me. Neither inside nor outside, neither during day nor night should I be killed. I shouldn’t be killed by any weapons. I shouldn’t die in bhoomi or aakaasha. I shouldn’t be killed by humans or animals”. Brahma after saying that “whatever you have asked is granted”, left the place.

After this Hiranyakashipu started torturing everybody in the world. Thus all the devas went to Vishnu asking for solution. Vishnu said that “wait for some days, after that everything will be fine – hiranyakashipu will have a son by name Prahlaada and I will take the form of Narasimha and kill Hiranyakashipu”. After hearing this, the devas were happy and went back.


Srimad Bhagavatham here tells us that Hiranyakashipu went to do tapas for becoming a chakravarthi and rule over the entire world. In order to gain things in the world, we all have to do tapas or austerity. We all very well know that and have been experiencing it almost daily. In order to eat food, we have to do the tapas of cooking. In order to clear an exam, we need to do the tapas of learning. In order to get salary, we need to do the tapas of working for the whole month.

We do all sorts of tapas to attain worldly pleasure thinking that it will give us everlasting bliss or peace. We take all strains to attain the temporary and sorrowful worldly pleasures. As Patanjali points out in the Yoga Sutras, the worldly pleasures are fully mixed with sorrow not only while enjoying but while earning it as well. In order to earn a petty worldly pleasure, we need to struggle for the same.

Instead of seeking the ultimate reality of Lord knowing whom we will get eternal bliss, we go for temporary worldly pleasures. Seeking the Lord is very easy and simple as the Lord is the substratum of all beings & this seeking doesn’t require us to spend any money or time or energy. It just requires constant contemplation of the Lord as pervading the entire world in and out. But instead of seeking the Lord which doesn’t require much effort as well as will give us eternal bliss, we seek petty things of the world. It is very tough indeed to find out that people take so much strain as to even killing of others for the sake of worldly pleasures. Are they really happy after getting the pleasure??? No, never. Worldly pleasures can never satisfy the thirst of any being in the world. What we all are searching for is eternal ever-lasting bliss. This eternal bliss will not be got from temporary worldly objects and the pleasure derived from them will be short-lived. Thus eternal bliss alone can satisfy the seeker’s thirst and confer him contentment and satisfaction. This eternal bliss can be achieved only through realization of the ultimate reality of Lord. The Lord is realized when the seeker constantly contemplates the Lord – always thinking about the Lord and offering all actions unto the Lord.

This constant contemplation is very simple and doesn’t require much effort. Bhagavatham through the various stories of people doing tapas to get worldly pleasures shows us that we all are also doing the same thing. Hiranyakashipu thought himself to be wise & hence asked for such a boon which he thought might make him immortal. Instead he was killed by the Lord. Thus what he wanted to achieve through tapas was not achieved by him. This is the case with all our searching and acquiring of worldly objects for eternal bliss. We see worldly pleasure wanting eternal bliss but instead end up with sorrow alone.

Thus knowing the futility of all worldly pleasures, we should seek the ultimate reality of Lord through the real tapas of constant contemplation of the Lord at all times. If we follow this tapas, we will definitely realize our own very nature of Lord thereby rejoicing in the eternal bliss which we all are constantly seeking in the temporary and illusory world.

Bhagavatham also is showing us the nature of human mind. Human mind thinks itself to be intelligent and thereby tries to fool the divine or the Lord. Hiranyakashipu tried to fool the Lord by asking for a boon. But he forgot to remember that the divine can never be fooled by his limited mind. Thus whenever we try to fool the divine, the result will be ourselves getting fooled by the Lord.

How does the Lord fool us???
The Lord doesn’t fool us but we fool ourselves by going deeper into the ocean of samsaara and getting churned in the whirlpool of birth-death.

The more and more we try to outsmart the divine, the more and more we enter into problems because the divine or the Lord is our own very nature. Thus instead of trying to seek worldly pleasures, we should understand the temporary nature of the world & thereby seek the ultimate reality of Lord which is our own very nature of Consciousness.

Once we seek the ultimate reality of Lord, then we will get the eternal bliss which we are seeking each and every moment. As the scriptures point out again and again, there is no other way than constant contemplation of the ultimate reality of Lord to get liberated from the ocean of samsaara.

We will continue with the story tomorrow.

Narada continued:

Hiranyakashipu had four children. One of them was the great Prahlaada. He was a person who had realized the ultimate reality of Lord and thereby had controlled his sense organs and mind. He lived in the world as a Sthitaprajna (one who is ever established in the ultimate reality of Lord).

While eating, drinking, sleeping, walking etc. he didn’t give much emphasis to the action & instead was ever established in the ultimate reality of Lord – he saw everything as ishwaramayam (filled with the Lord). Sometimes he used to cry, sometimes laugh, sometimes sing – thus he had attained brahmaananda at all times – seeing this child who was not interested particularly in any worldly activities, people started noticing the child.


Srimad Bhagavatham in this part speaks about the activities of a realized saint in the world. It is but true that the state of realized saints is beyond explanations as the scriptures point out Brahman or Lord as that which is beyond words and thoughts. But still the activities can be explained with respect to worldly activities. This is to generate interest for the seeker to realize the ultimate reality of Lord. If we are told that this is how a realized saint lives in the world ever blissful, then will strive for that bliss knowing that eternal bliss can be achieved only through realization of the ultimate reality of Lord. Thus bhagavatham here explains the state of the realized saint of Prahlaada.

Lord has stated the state of a realized saint in many portions of the Bhagavad Gita. In the 2nd chapter, the Lord speaks of the realized saint as sthithaprajna meaning one whose mind is ever established in the ultimate reality of Lord. In the 6th chapter, the realized saint is mentioned as a yogi who sees the Lord in everything and everything in the Lord knowing that everything is but the Lord alone. In the 12th chapter, the realized saint is mentioned as a true bhaktha ever immersed in the reality of Lord & hence the Lord also says that such bhakthas are very dear to him. The 14th chapter mentions the realized saint as guna athitha (one who is beyond the trigunas which cause activities and thereby sorrows-sufferings).

Thus throughout the bhagavad gita, the Lord has mentioned very clearly and beautifully the state of a realized saint. Bhagavatham here explains the same but through the story of Prahlaada. It is true that the human mind finds it tough to apprehend the reality as such & easy through stories and analogies. Thus Narada explains about the jeevan muktha through the activities of Prahlaada.

A Jeevan muktha is one who is ever immersed in the ultimate reality of Lord. Whatever he sees is the Lord, whatever he hears is the Lord, whatever he sings is the praises of the Lord, whatever is there is the Lord alone for such a realized saint.

As Ezhuthacchan, the malayali poet, says in harinaama keerthanam

Yathonnu kaankilathu naarayana prathima
Yathonnu kelkilathu naarayana sruthikal
Yathonnu cheykilathu naarayana archanakal
Yathonnathaakilathu naarayanaaya namaha

Whatever I see is the form of the Lord.
Whatever I hear is the praises of the Lord.
Whatever I do is offering to the Lord.
Whatever is there, that is the Lord alone.

Thus Bhagavatham says that Prahlaada used to be not engrossed in any worldly activities – whatever be the activity, his mind was ever established in the ultimate reality of Lord. Thus he used to behave weirdly in the world – one moment crying and the other moment laughing. But he was ever blissful and happy all the time as he knew that whatever really exists is only the ultimate reality of Lord. Whatever be the activity a realized saint does, he always sees the Lord alone – thus his actions are all offerings to the ultimate reality of Lord.

As the famous sloka goes,
Kaayena vaacha manasaindriyairva budhyaatmana va prakritheh svabhaavaat
Karomi yad yad sakalam parasmai naaraayanaayethi samarpayami

Whatever I do through words, body or mind or through my instincts, everything is offered to the ultimate reality of Lord.

The main criteria to identify a jeevan muktha is by the bliss that emanates from his presence. As Sankara says in Bhaja Govindam, a realized saint might be doing yogic sadhana or enjoying worldly pleasures, but his mind will ever be immersed in the ultimate reality of Lord & as a result of this, he will be ever blissful. As the Lord mentions in the 5th chapter that around such a realized saint, bliss will be dancing. It is as a result of this that whenever we go to temples or meet spiritual saints, we find our mind becoming calm & getting bliss. Many people say after meeting Mahatmas that “there is some power in the Mahatma; I don’t know what but there is something”J. These are people who refuse to accept such mahatmas as God himself. This “some power” is nothing but bliss alone due to their being ever immersed in the ultimate reality of Lord.

There is yet another way of finding out a Mahatma in the world – a negative wayJ. There will be many people who will be working against such Mahatmas. If we find words and news about some Mahatma being bad or indulging in drugs or sexual activities, we can know for sure that they are realized saints. This is yet another way to find out a realized saint. Lord himself was accused of stealing syamantaka jewel among other things. Sri Rama was accused of sending sita and his children away – not looking his family and land properly.

Thus a realized saint can be recognized by his activities which will all point to his being immersed in the ultimate reality of Lord at all times, the bliss emanating from him as well as the various anti-social elements acting against him.

Prahlaada was no exception to this – thus he was ever blissful and even made his father realize the ultimate reality of Lord. He also was noticed for his odd behavior and thereby tortured physically and mentally by his father and others.

Prahlaada portrayed as a jeevan muktha in Bhagavatham is special from other jeevan mukthas because Prahlaada was a jeevan muktha when he was very young itself. Thus Bhagavatham points out that age is not a matter for realization – age is only for the body and not for the Self which is ever young and one with the ultimate reality of Lord.

As to how Prahlaada who was born of Hiranyakashipu became so devoted to the Lord and realized saint at a very young age, we will see that tomorrow.

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