Wisdom of the divine personality for whom Lord Narasimha appeared
Prahlada Maharaja was the son of Hiranyakashipu, the most powerful person of his time and an avowed atheist. Prahlada was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. When Hiranyakashipu sent his son to gurukula, he had no clue of his son’s innate devotion.
When Hiranyakashipu had gone away to perform severe austerities for gaining immortality, the demigods led by Indra had attacked his kingdom and apprehended his pregnant wife Kayadhu. Indra wanted to kill the infant as soon as he was born. The demigods wished to avert the birth of another powerful demon like Hiranyakashipu. Narada Muni intervened and informed Indra that in the womb was a Mahabhagavata – a pure devotee. Immediately the demigods circumambulated Kayadhu and left. Narada Muni brought Kayadhu to his Ashrama.
While still in the womb, Narada Muni instructed Prahlada in bhagavata-dharma or the science of God. As a result from his very birth, he was a pure devotee of Narayana. Kayadhu gave birth to Prahlada after Hiranyakashipu returned with powerful boons from Lord Brahma. Unaware of what had happened in his absence, Hiranyakashipu could not fathom that his little boy would be a great devotee of his sworn enemy.
The Valuable Human Body
At the gurukula, Prahlada took advantage of the recess and in the absence of the demonic, materialistic teachers, exhorted his classmates to take up Krishna Consciousness. His classmates wanted to play, but Prahlada convinced them that Krishna consciousness was so important that it needed to commence from the very boyhood. The human form of life, though temporary like the animals, was extremely valuable because it afforded the opportunity to advance in Krishna Consciousness. By advancing in Krishna consciousness, one can return to his eternal home in the spiritual sky.
As souls we are wandering in 84,00,000 species of life within the material universe. Among all species, the human form is ideally suited for spiritual advancement. Though all material forms are destined to perish, the human form can be utilised to prevent the transmigration of the soul to another material form. If the consciousness in the human form is trained to seek the pleasure of the Supreme Lord in pure devotion, then by such practice the soul can escape rebirth and resume his eternal existence in the Lord’s transcendental abode. Like in all great spiritual teachers, who are extremely compassionate, we can detect in Prahlada Maharaja, an urgency to rescue the soul from material suffering. Therefore he says, “Don’t wait! From the very boyhood, cultivate Krishna Consciousness!”
There is a natural intimate relationship between the souls and the Supreme Personality of Godhead. However in the material world, the souls have forgotten that eternal relationship. The goal of education should be to revive the eternal relationship of the living entity with the Supreme Lord and not anything else.
Stop the Mundane Pursuit of Happiness
Prahlada Maharaja then goes on to expose the reality of the material pursuit of happiness by economic development. He says the laws of material nature are so designed that happiness and distress are predestined from the very birth. He argues that just as distresses come without endeavouring for them, so does happiness. Hence there is no wisdom in struggling to secure material happiness. Instead the struggle should be directed at advancing in devotion to the Supreme Lord, Vishnu.
However due to complete absence of spiritual education, the modern civilisation is fully engaged in trying to increase enjoyment and eliminating distress. This is a futile endeavour for in any condition of material existence there can be no permanent happiness.
While, by practising Krishna consciousness, one can attain spiritual self-realisation, there is no such gain in endeavours of material happiness. Again evincing urgency, he entreats that the devotional endeavour should commence when the body is still strong and not embarrassed by dwindling.
Contradicting the popular notion that spiritual life begins after retirement, Prahlada states that unless the soul has practiced from young age, it is not possible to attentively engage in spiritual life in old age due to the many debilitating bodily and mental problems old age imposes. Spiritual practice needs vigour and intensity. The lack of energy in old age renders this difficult for the untrained person.
Division of Hundred Years of Life
Prahalda Maharaja, then analyses the hundred years of the human duration of life to clarify how little time is indeed available to accomplish a difficult thing- transcending mundane duality and attaining Krishna Consciousness. He says that 50 years of human life are lost to sleep. In sleep one simply goes into ignorance and therefore the whole time is a great loss. 10 years are lost in the bewilderment of childhood; another 10 years are lost in the playful pursuits of boyhood. 20 years are lost due to the invalidity of old age. That leaves only 10 years actually available for practicing Krishna Consciousness. If without realising the great need for Krishna Consciousness, those remaining ten years are utilised under the dictates of lusty desires in only for mundane family pleasures, the whole duration of human life is a complete loss.
In the present age, even the 100 years are not fully available for the soul in the human form. Duration of life has reduced with people contracting various stress related diseases due to complex work, family and social environments. Hence it is imperative that we utilise the utmost duration of life in developing Krishna Consciousness rather than pursuing material happiness.
Prahlada Maharaja, aged only 5 years impeccably dissects householder life. He says household life is one of strong ropes of affection between family members. Out of filial emotions, accumulation of money becomes such a vital endeavour that a person may risk even his life for it.
Nowadays, people take a lot of risks to make money. Building assets and businesses with heavy loans, the stress of repayment takes a toll on their physical and emotional well-being. Even the commute to work in the congested urban Indian conditions and unruly traffic is a risk.
It is virtually impossible to give up the association of family. The intimate relationship of husband and wife, the attachment for daughter and son, the concern for elderly parents, the captivating charm of a child’s broken language are all strong attractions in family life. Further, decorations, furniture, pets, and servants are comforts impossible to renounce. Prahlada Maharaja compares the attached householder to a silkworm who weaves a cocoon from which he cannot escape. He says this imprisonment is primarily due to the desire for satisfaction of two senses – the tongue and the genital.
The problem in such a life is that due to family preoccupation, the opportunity of self-realisation is imperceptibly dissipated and the real purpose of human life is not served. Giving keen attention to the details of family affairs a person cannot realise the actual painful situation of material life and develop a distaste for material existence. For family maintenance, he becomes immersed in the work of amassing wealth. So much so that he loses discrimination and does not hesitate to employ dishonest means for financial gain. Consequently, he becomes liable for punishment by the government as well as by Yamraja.
Prahlada Maharaja reveals that even those so-called learned professors, philosophers and scientists who are supposed to search for truth are bridled by family life. Constricted by a narrow idea of family, their conception of life does not go beyond those of the uneducated cats and dogs. Unable to take to spiritual knowledge, they are bewildered and overcome by ignorance.
Prahlada Maharaja then makes a profound statement. “One bereft of the knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, cannot liberate himself in any condition of time and space. Instead, he is bound by material laws. A plaything in the hands of attractive women, he surrounds himself with children and grandchildren, firmly shackled in material existence.”
Prahlada advises his friends to avoid the association of such people whom he terms to be demons. He strongly urges his friends to take shelter of Narayana, the Supreme Personality of Godhead because the ultimate goal for devotees is freedom from material bondage.
To recognise bondage and desire freedom requires one to question life contemplatively. “What am I striving for?” “Why am I not happy?” “What is the purpose of life?” “Why do I suffer?” Such questions prompt deeper inquiry into life itself. Inquisitiveness invokes interest in the teachings of a great spiritual personality like Prahlada Maharaja and becomes the foundation for ardent spiritual pursuit.
Prahlada teaches that pleasing Narayana is
- Without impediment because He is the original Supersoul of all living entities &
- Without difficulty because the relationship of every soul with Narayana is eternal
Pleasing family members may be very difficult. Often we see family members disgruntled even after earnest endeavours from the husband/father/wife/mother. However merely chanting His Holy Name can satisfy Lord Narayana. He lacks nothing. He appreciates even the tiniest expression of love towards Him. Hence it is very easy to please Narayana, who is the natural father of all living entities.
Narayana is all-pervasive, but being covered by the curtain of His external energy He appears to be non-existent to the atheists.
Prahlada advised his friends to work for the satisfaction of Lord Narayana, situated beyond material conceptions of knowledge. He advised them to shed their demonic nature and act without enmity and duality. He directed them to be kind to all living entities by enlightening them in devotional service to Narayana.
Surrender to Lord Narayana is a transcendental process. Knowledge of Lord Narayana is confidential and cannot be gained without the mercy of a great acharya like Narada who taught Prahlada. If someone wishes to serve Lord Narayana, it is only possible by following the parampara or disciplic succession, of a saintly person like Narada Muni.
Prahlada Maharaja concludes by saying that the knowledge he received from Narada Muni is called Bhagavata-Dharma. It is scientific, rational and free from all material contaminations.
It may be surprising that a boy just 5 years old could so maturely comprehend family life, Lord Narayana and the process of bhakti. It is the power of hearing submissively from a pure devotee like Narada that truth can be realised simply by accepting the words of the guru with absolute faith. There is no need to undergo actual experience to realise the truth of the Guru’s words.
The teachings of Prahlada Maharaja are of Krishna Consciousness that emphasise pure devotion to Lord Narayana or Krishna as the supreme process of self-realisation. He makes urgent appeals to those entangled in the pleasures of family life to understand the importance of Krishna Consciousness and immediately take to the scientific process of Bhagavata-Dharma or Krishna Consciousness so that the valuable human form of body may be properly utilized for the ultimate benefit of attaining the Supreme destination –the transcendental abode of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.