“Thereafter Lord Brahma requested Prahlada Maharaja, who was standing very near him: My dear son, Lord Narasimhadeva is extremely angry at your demoniac father. Please go forward and appease the Lord.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.9.3)
As peacefulness and anger are concepts only borne of duality, they are at an equivalent level when associated with true transcendence. The living being is at peace when they think they are in a comfortable situation of life and they are in anger when their pride is hurt or when there is frustration in meeting a desired end. As these are only temporary conditions, to be washed away as quickly as the sand by the next oncoming wave from the ocean, they are not to be overly emphasized within the grander scheme. With the Supreme Lord, whether He is in wonderful peace or extreme anger, the benefit to the affected parties is there all the same. A long time back He was seen by many exalted persons in a terrifying form which had an accompanying angry mood. He looked so fierce that so many powerful personalities, innocent in their own right, dared not approach Him. Yet a young child, who was directly responsible for that form appearing, was brave enough to come forward, not fearing who He knew to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That incident which took place eons ago is still celebrated to this day on the occasion of Narasimha Chaturdashi.
Why would God ever get angry? Doesn’t that represent a defect to His nature? Anger is not something we strive after. It arises when we lose control of our emotions, so it’s usually not a welcomed feeling. Anger is due to frustration, so if the Supreme Lord exhibits this trait does this mean that He is somehow not able to get His way? Actually, the intense emotions shown by the lord of all creatures is for His own pleasure, and once He is pleased naturally those connected to Him in a bond of affection feel supreme delight as well. This fact reinforces the ultimate truth of achintya-bhedabheda-tattva, which says that the living entities are simultaneously one with and different from God.
God is spirit and so are the living entities. The quality of that spirit is the same, as the subordinate group is an expansion of the superior entity. At the same time, the quantitative aspects are vastly different; hence the distinction between the dominant and the dominated. Since the qualitative aspects are equivalent, there is an inherent link between the two groups. Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who kindly revealed achintya-bhedabheda-tattva, says that the link can be revived through loving devotion, which is best awakened and maintained through the regular chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.
When that link is reestablished, every notable action of the Supreme Lord, whether it is occurring in the present or took place many thousands of years ago, gives so much pleasure to the devotee that they feel like they can’t get enough. Think of a reservoir of water that constantly gets filled with incoming tributaries but at the same time never overflows. This is how Maharishi Valmiki describes the mood of the devotee with respect to hearing of the qualities and pastimes of their beloved Supreme Lord.
The mood of anger shown a long time ago related to the actions of a demoniac king. Named Hiranyakashipu, the ruler actually appeared in a family of demons, thereby following in the ancestral line with his behavior. Birth in a Daitya family was not considered auspicious because of the lack of potential for developing the devotional consciousness within that race. In the Vedic philosophy there are gradations assigned to birth. These are only from the perspective of potential for achieving the ultimate aim of devotion to the lotus feet of Shri Hari, for the living sparks are the same in quality regardless of the form they adopt. The trees that produce no fruits are considered sinful, while those that do are considered pious. Similarly, within the human species if you take birth in a family of transcendentalists, it is considered a boon because of the spiritual environment that you can grow up in, which in turn increases the chances of a fruitful life.
Birth in a family of demons is very unfortunate because not only is spiritual culture lacking, but the tendency is to take to sinful life – stealing, cheating, killing and the like. By following these behaviors the spirit soul actually goes backward in the chain of reincarnation, sort of like travelling in the wrong direction in a race. Hiranyakashipu lived up to his family’s reputation and then some. He developed tremendous powers as a result of asking for boons from those who can grant them. Any ability can be exercised in one of two ways: correctly or incorrectly. The ability itself is not to blame, but rather the person who invokes it incorrectly.
Hiranyakashipu took his boons received from Lord Brahma as an opportunity to take over the world. He defeated so many powerful rulers that no one dared fight him in battle. The world lived in fear of him, and he thought that he was the supreme being. In his mind, there was no God, and if the person who everyone thought was God really were, He would descend to earth and put up a challenge to the king’s authority. The king’s eventual demise was set in motion with the birth of his son Prahlada. Though born in a Daitya family, the young child heard about devotional service while within the womb of his mother. The great servant of Narayana, Narada Muni, instructed the pregnant woman on devotion, and the unborn Prahlada heard and remembered those instructions. Thus he was born a devotee.
Hiranyakashipu hated this trait in his son so much that after a while the boy’s stubbornness became too much to bear. Despite his best efforts, Hiranyakashipu couldn’t convince Prahlada to give up his devotion to Vishnu, which is the name for God that addresses His all-pervasiveness. Vishnu was the king’s enemy, so seeing this devotion in his son was like getting a dagger through the heart. Unable to accept it any longer, Hiranyakashipu ordered his assistants to kill the five-year old boy.
One slight problem though. Prahlada was unbreakable. He was thrown off a cliff, put into a pit of snakes, taken into a raging fire, and dropped to the bottom of an ocean. The successive attempts were only necessary because the previous ones didn’t work. Prahlada couldn’t be harmed because during every attack he thought of his Vishnu in a mood of love. The child had no other protection. He didn’t have fighting ability or strength. No one intervened from the outside due to fear of Hiranyakashipu. Thus it was only Vishnu who saved the boy each time.
The anger from the Supreme Lord came when He had enough of Hiranyakashipu’s attempts. Vishnu took on the form of a half-man/half-lion to respect the boons of safety previously offered to Hiranyakashipu by Lord Brahma. This ferocious and unique form appeared on the scene and quickly killed all of Hiranyakashipu’s guards. Then the demon-king himself would be snatched by Narasimhadeva and placed on His lap, just as Garuda, the king of birds, grabs a snake to eat. Hiranyakashipu would be bifurcated by Narasimhadeva’s nails, thus dying in a most gruesome way.
After the demon king was killed, Narasimhadeva was still seething with rage. Many demigods tried to pacify Him with prayers, but nothing seemed to work. Finally, Lord Brahma asked Prahlada to approach Narasimhadeva. Prahlada was a young boy after all, and Vishnu was there specifically to save him. Thus He couldn’t keep that angry mood when talking to the young, innocent child.
Prahlada did as he was asked, and he wasn’t afraid at all. Rather, he was so delighted to see the Supreme Lord come to his rescue. He knew that the angry mood was for Vishnu’s own pleasure, which in turn pleased those who are devoted to Him. Prahlada then offered a wonderful set of prayers, which pleased Narasimhadeva so much that He offered Prahlada many material benedictions in return. Prahlada only wanted devotion, being afraid of material entanglement. Hearing this pleased Narasimhadeva even more, so He guaranteed Prahlada that he would get conditions auspicious for devotional service despite remaining in material association.
That wonderful event from ancient times is celebrated annually on the occasion of Narasimha Chaturdashi. Though there was tremendous violence involved, since it related to Bhagavan and His protection of the saintly Prahlada, it is as pleasurable to hear about as a more peaceful event. Prahlada knew there was nothing to fear with that ferocious form, as its anger was directed only at the miscreant Hiranyakashipu and his supporters. In this life the real cause of fear is the continuation of a life not devoted to God, one where temporary pleasures are mistakenly taken to be permanent. Know from Prahlada that devotional service is the life’s mission and that it can be adopted by any person, from any place. Whether in an outwardly angry or peaceful mood, the Supreme Lord will accept sincere devotional offerings and be pleased to the heart by them.
In a rage after killing Prahlada’s father,
Thus no one dared Narasimhadeva to bother.
“Dear Prahlada, so that the Lord’s anger can be eased,
Please approach Him, with your prayers He’ll be pleased.”
Brahma these instructions to young boy gave,
Because knew Narasimha came for Prahlada to save.
From prayers supreme favor of God did earn,
Received material benedictions in return.
But to Prahlada material life a great fear,
Away from lotus feet of God it would steer.
Narasimha explained and dispelled any doubts,
Prahlada, never divine love to live without.