Monday, October 16, 2006

Story 36 – Story of Prahlada – 11

Hearing the praise from Prahlaada, the Lord became calm & his anger ended. The Lord requested Prahlaada to ask for any boon that he wanted. The devotee-child replied that he doesn’t anything apart from Ekantha Bhakthi (one-pointed devotion). Then he spoke thus to the Lord:
“O Lord! Worldly desires shouldn’t touch me. It is fear of the worldly desires that made me seek you as the ultimate reality. He who seeks worldly pleasures is not a devotee. If you wish to grant me any boon, grant me the boon that worldly pleasures and desires don’t affect me. I also request you that my father attains the ultimate reality through poorna shuddhi (completely purity).

Hearing the words of bhaktha-prahlaada, the Lord with the permission of Brahma and other gods as well as the asura guru Shukracharya crowned prahlaada as a chakravarthi. The Lord knew that no chakravarthi position can harm the boy in any way (as those things will not touch the boy at all). The Lord vanished after abhisheka of prahlaada and all the devas also left the place.


We thus come to the end of this beautiful story of bhaktha-prahlaada. In the last part, we see the request of the real devotee of prahlaada towards the ultimate reality of Lord. Bhagavatham here makes a strong statement that he who seeks worldly pleasures in not a devotee. A devotee is one who is filled with supreme devotion to the ultimate reality of Lord. Such a devotee will not want anything apart from the ultimate reality of Lord. Whatever he requires is the Lord alone. Any person who doesn’t seek the ultimate reality of Lord is not a devotee instead is just a worldly person in guise of a devotee. It may be possible to fool people in the world but the ultimate reality of Lord who knows anything & everything cannot be fooled. The Lord pierces through each and every person’s mind. If there is any small desire left in the mind, then the Lord will not reveal himself to the devotee. It may happen that whoever is praying the Lord but for worldly pleasures will be attaining those worldly pleasures. Such a person who goes to the Lord and seeks mere temporary worldly pleasure is but a fool as he doesn’t see the eternal bliss which is the very nature of Lord. Instead of asking for eternal bliss, he seeks worldly temporary bliss.

We all shouldn’t be such people who seek petty worldly things from the Lord whether they be related to money, power, fame, occupation etc. We should seek the Lord alone – whatever else is required for us will be given by the Lord himself as the Lord knows what is required for the devotee.

Sankara bhagavatpada in his Sanatsujaatheeya bhashya mentions that a person whose sense organs are diverted towards worldly sense objects cannot contemplate on the Self or Atman & a person who is introverted by contemplation on the ultimate reality of Lord cannot seek worldly pleasures. Spirituality is introverted nature of the mind wherein the mind is taken away from worldly pleasures & it seeks the substratum of worldly objects whereas materialistic approach is extroverted nature of the mind where the mind instead of seeking the inner Lord seeks the external worldly pleasures.

Thus Prahlaada asks the boon of not getting distracted by worldly desires and passions. It is but very easy to get distracted and attracted to the worldly pleasures as they seem to be appealing. Yama in Katha Upanishad speaks about two paths (almost similar to what Sankara propounded above) – one is the sreyo margam which will lead to sreyas or liberation – the other is preyo margam or that which is appealing. Those who take to the sreyo marga get liberated from the bondage of samsaara wherein those who follow the preyo marga they fall again and again into the ocean of samsaara. Thus the wise follow the sreyo marga whereas the ignorant follows the preyo marga. He who doesn’t get distracted by the worldly pleasures will follow the sreyo marga and thereby attain the ultimate reality of Lord.

Thus we find Prahlaada here asking the Lord of the boon that he may not be distracted by the worldly desires and instead will always remember the ultimate reality of Lord. As we all know, pure love is that in which there is no expectation at all. We see such love being portrayed in films as well as in our lives itself but all those love are not pure instead are propelled by one or the other desire. Pure love is only that in which there is no distinction between the person who is loving and the thing that he loves. This total merging is possible only in the case of devotion or knowledge through the spiritual path. As long as we are in the world perceiving sense objects, there will be duality & hence there cannot be any cessation of the duality. But for the devotee, duality totally vanishes & there is nothing apart from the ultimate reality of Lord. Thus there is no duality and hence it is pure unlimited and unconditional love.

We find Bhagavatham here pointing out such pure love wherein the devotee requires nothing but contemplation of the ultimate reality of Lord alone – nothing else.

For a devotee who has realized the ultimate reality of Lord, nothing else can affect him as he has realized the ultimate reality behind all illusions. Even as a person who has known that there is no water in desert is never deluded into running behind mirage, similarly a person who has realized the ultimate reality of Lord can never be deluded into worldly pleasures. Thus the Lord crowned Prahlaada and left him to rule the asura vamsa as Prahlaada had realized the ultimate reality of Lord knowing which there remains nothing else to be known & there remains nothing apart from the ultimate reality of Lord.

We will see the summary of the story the next day and then start with the next story in Srimad Bhagavatham.


We thus come to the conclusion of the story of bhaktha prahlaada. This story in important in many aspects but the two important things that we learn from this story is the nava vidha bhakthi and the dvadasha lakshana of the Self. Let us in short try to recap the same.

Nava vidha bhakthi
Bhagavatham speaks about nine modes in which pure devotion towards the ultimate reality of Lord can be achieved. These are:
1. Sravana – listening to the glories of the Lord
2. Keerthanam – singing the glories of the Lord
3. Vishnoh smaranam – thinking or contemplating on the Lord
4. Paada sevanam – worship of the feet of the Lord and his devotees
5. Archanam – chanting of the names of the Lord like Vishnu Sahasranaama, Lalitha Sahasranaama etc.
6. Vandanam – prostrating the Lord as present in all the beings in the world
7. Daasyam – being a servant to the Lord through service of his devotees
8. Sakhyam – being a friend to the Lord through disclosing everything to the Lord even as a normal person would reveal all secrets to his friend
9. Atma nivedanam – offering oneself to the Lord thereby merging into the non-dual Lord.

These are the various modes through which devotion towards the Lord can be developed. Through any of these, we will end up with atma nivedanam wherein we will cease to exist & the Lord alone would exist, one without a second.

This description of Bhakthi by Bhagavatham is special in that we can’t find any scripture other than this which would give so clear a definition. It can be doubted that if the Lord is one alone & the path to realization is constant contemplation of the Lord alone, then why these nine modes? These modes are mentioned so that they suite people having similar nature. Each and every person in the world is different from one another. This difference in the character requires different modes through which the all-pervasive Lord can be continuously contemplated. For people who cannot apprehend doing service or paada puja of the Lord, the sakhya bhaava is mentioned. This bhaava is easy as the devotee considers the Lord as his close friend even as Arjuna considered Krishna as his friend & Sundarar (one of the 63 nayanmaars or saivite saints) consider Lord Siva as his friend. Through all these modes, the devotee is able to contemplate on the Lord which is what is to be achieved through these modes. It is only constant contemplation of the Lord as the ultimate reality behind the dual world that can lead a person out of this ocean of samsaara thereby liberating him from the bondages of samsaara.

The next important thing that we discussed in this story is the explanation of the atman through the dvadasha lakshana by Prahlada to his co-students. Atman or Self is nothing but the ultimate reality of Lord of the nature of Existence, Consciousness and Bliss absolute. We have already discussed the twelve characteristics of the Atman in depth & hence we will not delve it here.

We find in this story two contrasting characters of Hiranyakashipu and Prahlada. Hiranyakashipu was a Vedantin as is seen in the Yoga Vasistha but still doing his duty which is going against the Lord & his devotees. On the other hand, his very son Prahlaada was a devotee of the Lord even from his birth. We saw that this was due to Narada teaching Prahlaada’s mother when she was pregnant – the knowledge being totally grasped by Prahlaada. This brings the importance of the various ritualistic activities associated in our lives wherein a garbhini stree (pregnant lady) is made to always hear about the glories of the Lord so that when the baby comes out itself, its mind is fixed on the ultimate reality of Lord. We all as followers of this spiritual should make it a point to not just hear stories but try to implement the import of the stories in our lives. Thus whoever is pregnant (the wife) as well as young children should be made to hear about the glories of the Lord (not forcing but young children would be interested in these if we let the interest develop in them) at least a few times in day or at least once a week.

It is but interesting and good that even in the US, temples are filled with people & children coming during the weekends for arathi and other things. All these are not to be disregarded as religious activities. All these activities develop the interest towards the ultimate reality of Lord knowing which alone we will get eternal bliss – that which we all are seeking in the external world.

Thus Hiranyakashipu was against Vishnu whereas his son Prahlaada was a Vishnu Bhaktha. We also find in this story that whenever a devotee requires something whether it is help or material, the Lord is there to protect and save him. Thus Hiranyakashipu tried to kill Prahlaada in all ways but couldn’t do that as the Lord was there to protect his devotee. The Lord is so compassionate that he doesn’t ignore the nirishwaravadis (people who don’t believe in God) but he makes sure that these people also are shown the ultimate reality. Thus Hiranyakashipu was shown the ultimate reality that the Lord is present everywhere through his own son. We have to remember that even though the Lord helps his devotees, he is not against people who don’t believe him. We shouldn’t consider the Lord as having a mind like ours --- going against people who don’t trust us etc. The Lord proclaims in gita that “everybody is same to me whether it is a bhaktha or a abhaktha – but a bhaktha is close to me because he is in me and I am in him”.

Even though the Lord considers everybody as the same, the grace of the Lord who is in the heart of all beings is felt when we open our heart to perceive the all-pervasive Lord as pervading the objects of the world. Those systems or theories which propagate that the Lord will punish those who don’t follow him are to be renounced as the Lord sees everybody as his child & hence there is no difference in the attitude of the Lord towards anyone. This is quite clear from the Lord showing Hiranyakashipu the ultimate reality of Lord. Even though Hiranyakashipu had known the reality that everything is the Lord but still it takes time and practice to completely realize the Lord so that there remains no moment when the Lord is not contemplated upon which is merging unto the Lord. Hence Hiranyakashipu as Jaya-vijaya had to take a couple of more births to merge unto the ultimate reality of Lord.

A devotee need not bother about having to take a few more births to realize the Lord but for the devotee liberation is not required – what the devotee requires is constant contemplation of the ultimate reality of Lord at all times without the distractions of worldly pleasures and desires. This is what Prahlaada asked of the Lord – this is what we all have to learn and implement through this beautiful story.

Let us all try to imbibe the nava vidha bhakthi in our lives with the knowledge of the Lord as possessing the twelve characteristics so that we may realize our own very nature of Lord thereby merging unto the non-dual reality of Lord.
We will start with the next story after a brief look again into the ultimate reality of Lord in the next day.

The Ultimate Reality of Lord

After coming to the end of the story of Prahlaada and before entering into the next story, let us once again try to recap about the ultimate reality of Lord which is the import of all scriptures. Scriptural knowledge as well as puranic stories becomes mere myths if the import of the ultimate reality of Lord is forgotten. It is very easy to get deluded into either the stories or the glories of the Lord mentioned in the stories.

We should constantly remember that we are not trying to achieve the various siddhis of the Lord but our goal is the Lord himself of the nature of eternal bliss. We find many saints achieving different siddhis but still unable to apprehend eternal bliss & peace. Thus even they search for bliss through fame, money etc. We find mention of many such siddhis in the “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramahamsa Yogananda. The siddhis have been mentioned in depth by none other than Patanjali in the Vibhuthi Yoga (3rd chapter) of the yoga sutras. But Patanjali himself at the end of explanation of those siddhis proclaims that siddhis are obstacles to Samadhi.

As long as there is dual perception, there cannot be absorption of the ultimate reality of Lord which is termed as Samadhi in Vedanta. Samadhi is total merging unto the ultimate reality of Lord through the direct path of constant contemplation often termed as nidhidhyaasana by jnaanis and bhakthi by bhakthas. This is mentioned in the Upanishads as “seeing the Lord in all beings and all beings in the Lord” termed as samatva by the Lord.

Following of sama bhaavana is possible only when a person sees the underlying reality behind the dualistic world. Thus in this case, there cannot be any dual perception. So long as dual perception is there, moksha is thus not possible. Since siddhis include dual perception as something which is created or something which is shown to others, therefore so long as siddhis are sought or exhibited, there cannot be moksha.

Since a person seeks siddhis also for the sake of eternal bliss, peace & contentment, therefore it is but true that siddhis have to be renounced for the sake of contemplation of the ultimate reality of Lord. For the devotee, the world is a great siddhi of the Lord. The world is a place which is full of mysterious and inexplicable things. Science might try to explain things but science has a limit beyond which it cannot proceed whereas Vedanta reaches the ultimate state from where everything starts. The entire galaxy of stars, many many solar systems all roam around in space. Can science answer the question of where is space situated, from where space came, who is controlling space??? No, there can be absolutely no answer from so-called great scientists. On the other hand, the vedantic seers (who are beautifully termed by Chinmaya as vedantic scientists) sought this question and found the answer from time immemorial. The answers were found at a time when there were no equipments which we are endowed with for peace and happiness & which only lead to more and more wars among other things. The answers of the saints were not kept for themselves along but it was passed on from generations to generations. Space as we see is situated in the ultimate reality of Consciousness. Remove Consciousness and there is no space at all. This Consciousness is the very nature of the Lord. Thus space is present in the substratum of the Lord who created space (as the various sruthi statements like ATMANAH AAKASAH SAMBHOOTAM puts forth). The scriptures as well say that it is due to fear of the ultimate reality of Lord that the sun moves, the moon moves & the stars function. Thus everything in the world is controlled by the Lord who is the cause of the world.

Any entity has two causes – one is the material cause and the other is efficient cause. In the case of the pot that is created, mud is the material cause whereas potter is the efficient cause. In the case of the world that we see, the Lord is abhinna nimitta upaadaana kaaranam – the same material and efficient cause. The Lord is the material cause as the world has been created out of him. The Lord is also the efficient cause because he is the person controlling the creation. Since the Lord is the material and efficient cause of the temporary and changing world, therefore the world is only an illusion in the ultimate reality of Lord even as the dream world is only an illusion in the dreamer.

Thus the vedantic seers answer all questions relating to the temporary world as well as to the ultimate reality of Lord. As to how to realize the Lord & who is the Lord, the scriptures proclaim that the Lord is the very nature of each and every being because there is nothing apart from the Lord. Thus realization of the Lord is realization of our own very nature distinct from the ego, body and mind. Realization of the Lord is possible only through constant contemplation of the Lord as pervading the illusory objects of the world. Thus this is possible through seeing everything as the Lord because everything is in essence the substratum of the Lord. The objects of the world are mere names and forms of Consciousness which is the Lord. Without the Lord, the objects have no existence at all.

Thus it is constant contemplation alone which can lead a person to moksha through realization of his own very nature of Lord. It is in order to develop constant contemplation of the ultimate reality of Lord that Veda Vyaasa wrote the puranic stories wherein the Lord has been explained as the import of the stories. Thus the stories are not to be merely heard and forgotten but the stories are to be known to point towards the ultimate reality of Lord as their import. If we forget the import, then we are into the illusory dualities of the stories. Dual perception can lead only to sorrow as it is not a real vision but vision of illusory entities. Thus while learning each and every story of any puranas, we should remember the ultimate reality of Lord who is the import of the stories. The glory of the Lord propounded in the stories is to instill devotion towards the Lord so that it is easy to contemplate on the Lord. If a person is told that the Lord protects his devotees through taking forms, the devotee will consider all help in the world as done by the Lord. Thus he will be seeing all forms as the ultimate reality of Lord alone. This leads to nidhidhyaasana of the ultimate reality of Lord which is the direct means to moksha or eternal bliss through realization of one’s own very nature of Lord.
Let us try to remember this reality while learning the stories of the Bhagavatham so that are not deluded into the world and are able to contemplate constantly on the ultimate reality of Lord. We will start with the next story from the next day.

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