“Hiranyakashipu could not kill his son by throwing him beneath the feet of big elephants, throwing him among huge, fearful snakes, employing destructive spells, hurling him from the top of a hill, conjuring up illusory tricks, administering poison, starving him, exposing him to severe cold, winds, fire and water, or throwing heavy stones to crush him. When Hiranyakashipu found that he could not in any way harm Prahlada, who was completely sinless, he was in great anxiety about what to do next.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.43-44)
Friend1: Devotees are pretty amazing.
Friend2: That’s for sure.
Friend1: They have as much inner strength as they do outer.
Friend2: That’s a great way to put it. In many cases, externally they appear very weak. The asuras are fooled by the external, as they base their assessments solely on that.
Friend1: Hmm, what are they assessing?
Friend2: What is important in this world. Who is enjoying and who isn’t. That is one of the reasons the Sanskrit word asura is translated as “atheist” in English. Atheist just means worshiper of the material energy.
Friend1: And we know that is illusion, or maya, since the spirit within goes ignored.
Friend2: Exactly. A classic example is Ravana, the infamous villain from the Ramayana. He thought that Rama was an ordinary man. He thought that Rama was weak since He voluntarily left the kingdom through the wishes of one of the queens, Kaikeyi.
Friend1: Boy did Ravana miscalculate. That might be one of the biggest mistakes of all time. He saw and heard about God in the form of Rama but still failed to recognize Him. To reference a recent President of the United States, that was a gross “misunderestimation.”
Friend2: There is Hiranyakashipu, too. He failed to recognize the devotional strength of his five year old son, Prahlada.
Friend1: I’m glad you brought up Prahlada. Would you say that his perseverance is the most amazing thing ever seen in devotional service?
Friend2: The most, as in exclusive of others?
Friend1: Just to play a fun game. What is the most amazing devotional act?
Friend2: You want to rank these? It might make for a mind-stimulating exercise, but we should stipulate something from the start.
Friend1: What’s that?
Friend2: In the Supreme Lord’s eyes, there is no such thing as large or small, great or ordinary, with respect to bhakti, devotion. A person who goes to the temple and makes a heartfelt offering of a flower is just as appreciated as the person who risks their life in service.
Friend1: Right, I’ve heard that before. It’s difficult to comprehend.
Friend2: Of course it is, but that is the mercy of God. He looks at the sentiment, what is on the inside.
Friend1: Okay, so placing that fact aside for now, to you, what is the most amazing devotional act? Is it Prahlada?
Friend2: Such as his perseverance? That is hard to argue against. Prahlada survived being given poison, being trampled on by elephants, and being thrown off a cliff. This was punishment for worshiping Vishnu, the personal God, in a kingdom ruled by someone who denied the very existence of God. Prahlada was young and helpless; he lacked the physical strength to fight back. He instead just surrendered to God and was protected as a result.
Friend1: What about Arjuna? I think proceeding in the Bharata War after having doubts is pretty amazing, also.
Friend2: All the Pandavas in fact. They faced so many hardships. It was like they were punished for being devoted to Krishna, their ever well-wisher.
Friend1: Hanuman has to be up there. The guy leaped across an ocean. He carried a mountain in his hands to help save Lakshmana, Rama’s younger brother.
Friend2: Again, tough to argue against. This is a difficult game to play. From more recent times there is His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who also crossed the ocean in service to the Supreme Lord.
Friend1: Lots of candidates, but what is your opinion? What is the most amazing devotional act?
Friend2: When making the assessment, I try to place myself in the situations. I ask myself the question, what would be almost impossible for me to do?
Friend1: No offense, but I can’t see you leaping across an ocean. I can’t see you leaving the comforts of Vrindavana at the age of seventy and travelling by yourself to a foreign land to teach the science of self-realization to people who are accustomed to eating meat and getting intoxicated.
Friend2: Haha, that’s for sure. That’s why these devotees are amazing. But you’re the one who wants to play the game. To me the most amazing is something that I could never see myself doing, even if I had the ability and the opportunity.
Friend1: Oh, sort of like something you wouldn’t be willing to do.
Friend2: There you go.
Friend1: Okay, so what is that?
Friend2: Referencing a legend here. Apparently Shri Hanuman once wrote his own account of the life and pastimes of Shri Rama. It is informally known as the Hanumad Ramayana.
Friend1: Oh, I’ve never heard of that.
Friend2: There is a reason why. The sage Valmiki once visited Hanuman and was shown the work. As you know, Valmiki is the author of what we know today as the Ramayana. Writing that work is itself an amazing devotional act. Anyway, Valmiki saw Hanuman’s Ramayana and was blown away. He felt defeated in writing ability.
Friend1: Oh, because Hanuman’s Ramayana was so good?
Friend2: Exactly. This is the mood of pure devotees. They always think that others are serving God better than they are. Anyway, this is where we get to the devotional act that I can’t comprehend. Seeing Valmiki’s despondency, Hanuman immediately decided to destroy the Ramayana he had created.
Friend1: What! Really?
Friend2: Yup. That is Hanuman for you. He never wants to make another devotee feel bad. Imagine doing that. You spent all this time glorifying Rama, the Supreme Lord in a famous avatara form. You had your work validated by Valmiki himself; essentially getting the highest endorsement. Then you decide to destroy it, so that no one, including you, will ever see it again. I just can’t imagine that. It really shows you just how amazing Hanuman is.
Friend1: So there is nothing left of that work?
Friend2: There is a part of one verse. Centuries ago one of the stones containing Hanuman’s writing was found. Kalidasa, the famous poet, saw the stone and was able to identify the source. He could even decipher the text, which was written in an ancient and now extinct script.
Prahlada by elephants trampled upon,
Arjuna despite doubts proceeding on.
Prabhupada crossing ocean at advanced age,
Ramayana written by Valmiki wise sage.
If put in the corner to pick one,
Then choosing what Hanuman had done.
Destroying most valuable work of his own,
So that other devotee to be popularly known.