“The demon harasses the devotee, even though the latter may happen to be his kin. Although Prahlada Maharaja was the son of Hiranyakashipu, he was nonetheless persecuted by his father; although Devaki, the mother of Krishna, was the sister of Kamsa, she and her husband Vasudeva were persecuted only because Krishna was to be born of them.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 4.8)
There is the saying, “Blood is thicker than water.” However close you are with a friend, there is just something different about a close relative. Even if you haven’t talked to them in a while, you are there for them. At a moment’s notice you are ready to do whatever is necessary to help them. They are your family, after all.
Which makes the situation quite peculiar when there is devotional service involved. Bhakti-yoga is a way of life, and it is more than just blind faith or a means of avoiding punishment in the afterlife. Those who follow it swear that bhakti-yoga is the constitutional engagement, something each of us yearns for but doesn’t find unless and until made aware by an authority on the matter, the spiritual teacher.
Bhakti-yoga is so important to the people that practice it, and yet there have been instances where family members turned into strong aggressors because of it. They couldn’t stand that someone so close to them would be devoted to the sworn enemy, the Supreme Lord. These characters were demonic in nature, so preservation of the materialistic way of life took precedence over family ties.
Her brother was the king of Mathura. He followed tradition and accompanied her home on the day of her marriage to Vasudeva. Everything was going well until a voice from the sky arrived. It foretold that Devaki’s eighth child would spell doom for Kamsa.
What to do in such a situation? The sober person understands that the body is constantly changing. From boyhood to youth to old age, the only way to get a static picture is to take a snapshot, a moment frozen in time. This is because even seconds after a picture is taken the body changes.
Kamsa could have taken the news as good fortune. Not everyone knows when or what will cause their eventual demise. Upon receiving the news the king instead tried to nullify destiny. He eventually had Devaki and her husband imprisoned. After each child was born Kamsa immediately killed it. He turned violent criminal in a futile attempt to prolong life, a life that was soon to end through a swift punch delivered by Devaki’s eighth child, the Supreme Lord Krishna. For her association with God, Devaki found violent aggression close to home.
Ravana was sinful from birth. Though his father was a brahmana, Ravana took on the qualities of a Rakshasa. This is a kind of ogre-like creature who eats human beings, among other things. Ravana ruled over the kingdom of Lanka, and he was feared throughout the world.
Within that kingdom was the younger brother Vibhishana. He didn’t interfere much. He was a gentle and pious soul, a well-wisher to everyone. When he saw Ravana make a terrible mistake, Vibhishana stepped in to offer some sound words of advice. He urged Ravana to return the princess of Videha, Sita, to Shri Rama, her dear husband to whom she was wedded in all righteousness.
Ravana did not accept the advice. Nor did he appreciate it. The insults hurled Vibhishana’s way were so intense that the brother left Ravana’s side in favor of Rama’s. The incarnation of the Supreme Lord was preparing to attack Lanka to rescue Sita. Vibhishana essentially turned into a traitor, but there was no sinful reaction since he was associated with God. Indeed, material life means turning one’s back on the Divine, and spiritual life is when the bad is renounced in favor of the good.
Devaki and Vibhishana faced aggression for their devotion from their brothers. Prahlada was just a small child. He couldn’t really do much. He was firmly devoted to Shri Krishna, exercised through meditation and teaching the principles of spiritual life to anyone willing to listen.
Children are known to be chanchala, or restless. This is especially true of their interests. If parents see that their child is into a particular toy or game, they don’t mind any obsessive tendencies. They understand that the child will likely move on to a different interest fairly soon.
If the child should take to devotional service, that is a wonderful sign. After all, even adults who have succeeded in material life aren’t guaranteed the fortune of seeking the shelter of the lotus feet of God.
“Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.3)
To King Hiranyakashipu, God was the enemy. There was so much hatred that the sight of devotion practiced in the royal home could not be tolerated. Prahlada faced deadly force if he continued along the path. The boy refused to be intimidated, and so the father tried so many times to kill the son.
As is always the case, the devotion of the devotee was protected. There is no reason to fear, even if the aggression comes from powerful forces. It is tragic that family should turn against someone that way, but the favor of Krishna is the superior reward, as family bonds aren’t sure to last beyond the present lifetime.
Family a special place holding,
There when trouble unfolding.
So when turning enemy unfortunate choice,
Like Kamsa after from sky hearing voice.
Vibhishana’s words on deaf ears falling,
The son worst enemy Hiranyakashipu calling.
Krishna there with friends or with foes,
Protecting from aggressor’s blows.
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