Two People Whose Character Did Not Change Through Major Life Events

[Narasimha-Prahlada]“Atheists like Ravana and Hiranyakashipu had to undergo severe penances before they could flout the authority of the Lord, but ultimately they were so helpless that they could not save themselves when the Lord appeared before them as cruel death.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Teachings Of Lord Chaitanya, Ch 23)

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A new life. An addition to the family. Increased responsibility for the members. In the immediate term there is the need for providing food, clothing and shelter. The infant can barely do anything on its own. It requires attention even during times of sleep.

In the bigger picture there is maturity to keep an eye on. What will they do when they grow up? Will they be able to support themselves? Will they avoid pain and heartache? Can they steer clear of the most damaging activities in life?

It is understandable to wish for wealth and fortune acquired through honest means, but in the traditional Vedic culture there is more to be concerned over. Wealth can indeed be a great hindrance on achieving the more important goals, paramartha. These are the interests met in the future life. The future is a reality, since the present is merely the afterlife from a previous time.

Two people, of very different natures and circumstances, show that character can remain the same in spite of major life events. Just because someone is poor doesn’t mean they are of bad character, and just because someone has come into money doesn’t mean they have fully matured.

1. Ravana

He had a mixed lineage. His father was a brahmana, which is the highest class in the varnashrama system. His mother was a Rakshasa, which is a kind of man-eater. Ravana took on the qualities of the mother, so much so that he viewed the brahmana class as his enemy. They worshiped God, after all, and Ravana was trying to become God-like himself.

He had a bad character in the beginning, though he was engaged in austerities. It was something like a business transaction. This is religion in the mode of passion. You’re following to meet some benefit. Consider the case where a business gives a large donation to a charity, with the intent of winning the favor of other businesses. The donation is recognized through a plaque, which then hangs on the office wall, for visitors to see.

Ravana started off without much. A parent thinking solely of material wellbeing would likely want Ravana to have sufficient wealth in adulthood. What if he could become the king of a city filled with gold? Would that please the parents? Would that mean they did a good job?

[Rama fighting Ravana]That was indeed the future for Ravana. Yet he remained of bad character. He ordered his assistants to go and harass the innocent sages living in the forest. The idea was to disrupt any worship of God. Ravana was regularly intoxicated, kept many wives, and had little morals. He was a bad person on both sides, before and after wealth.

2. Prahlada Maharaja

This child was born in a Daitya family. Daityas are similar to Rakshasas; they generally go against God. In English they are referred to as demons. Prahlada appeared in that family, but was saintly in nature. He had the best character right from the start. The father wanted Prahlada to one day become ruler. Hiranyakashipu was feared throughout the world. He hoped the son would follow in his footsteps.

Prahlada would one day become king, but not after great persecution. The child stayed in the best character despite living with the worst enemy. The father tried to kill the boy for his devotion to Vishnu, who is one manifestation of God the person. Eventually, the Supreme descended to earth in the special form of Narasimha to do away with the king. Prahlada took over after, and he was the same in character. Newfound opulence did not change him.

[Narasimha-Prahlada]Human life is meant for purification. Through clearing the consciousness of desires rooted in forgetfulness of God, there is the chance for liberation, which is the end of the cycle of birth and death. Whoever can deliver such liberation for their dependents has done their job satisfactorily.

In Closing:

New child to the family coming,

What hopes for future becoming?

Rich with great power should be,

Or with equal vision in character to see?

Ravana the worst on sides both,

When child and when of wealth the most.

Prahlada as innocent prince the same,

As when rise through Narasimha came.

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