“Narada Muni continued: Lord Brahma was very much satisfied by Hiranyakashipu’s austerities, which were difficult to perform. Therefore, when solicited for benedictions, he indeed granted them, although they were rarely to be achieved.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.4.1)
एवं वृतः शत-धृतिर्
प्रादात् तत्-तपसा प्रीतो
वरांस् तस्य सुदुर्लभान्
evaṁ vṛtaḥ śata-dhṛtir
prādāt tat-tapasā prīto
varāṁs tasya sudurlabhān
Friend1: We all know the story of Hiranyakashipu.
Friend2: Do we?
Friend1: Yeah. The bad guy who tried to kill his son Prahlada because of the boy’s devotion to Vishnu.
Friend2: And who is Vishnu?
Friend1: The Supreme Lord in the personal form. The detail behind the abstract. The person whose shelter means everything. If you approach Him, then you are set.
Friend2: Define “set”?
Friend1: Taken care of.
Friend2: What does that mean? Approaching Vishnu means you will get what you want?
Friend1: Not necessarily. Sometimes He denies requests. The worshiper is better off, regardless, since Vishnu looks out for their welfare. Something like the child asking to climb onto the sofa when the parents know better. The increased height poses danger of falling, so even though the child asks nicely, they are denied.
Friend2: That sounds like a pretty good deal to me. Why wouldn’t everyone take it?
Friend1: Perhaps they are unaware. With Hiranyakashipu there was hatred and envy of Vishnu. That’s why he approached Lord Brahma instead.
Friend2: Who is that?
Friend1: The creator. The architect of the population. He is behind its diversity. He is invested with potency from Vishnu, from whose navel he emerges. Brahma then has the ability to create.
Friend2: He lets the creativity of the mind take over, using the three base ingredients of goodness, passion and ignorance. Combined in different ways you get up to 8,400,000 different species.
Friend1: Hiranyakashipu approached Brahma for receiving benedictions.
Friend2: What kinds?
Friend1: Immortality, more or less. Safety from death, in the many forms that it can arrive. To safeguard against natural causes, he wanted immunity while inside the home and out. For the issue of outside attackers he listed the different kinds of species.
Friend2: Don’t forget weapons, too. The king who terrorized the world considered the instruments of death, along with their operators.
Friend1: I know we’ve discussed this many times, but it’s still a head-scratcher to me.
Friend2: That Hiranyakashipu couldn’t realize that even one percent mortality is enough for death to strike?
Friend1: No. That Lord Brahma would agree to these requests. He is so close to Vishnu, after all. Being a deva, he is in the mode of goodness. Lord Brahma shouldn’t be helping out someone so wicked, having ill-intent.
Friend2: He shouldn’t? Who should he be helping?
Friend1: Devotees. Demigods. Suras. Those in the mode of goodness.
Friend2: But Brahma is in charge of the mode of passion. Hiranyakashipu’s drive to live forever was to remain in rajo-guna for as long as possible.
Friend1: He’s still a bad guy, though. Why does Brahma have to help him?
Friend2: It’s the way nature works. The sun gives light to good and bad people alike. No one gets mad at the rain for providing drinking water to criminals. You’re also forgetting that good and bad are relative.
Friend1: How so? You don’t think trying to kill your own son is bad?
Friend2: Good brings you closer to the heavenly realm. Bad behavior is regressive; moving away from the higher destination. Nevertheless, you are still in a perishable place, within a perishable body, subject to the changes brought on by time. Beginning, middle and end. You still remain unaware that a higher authority controls time.
सर्गाणाम् आदिर् अन्तश् च
मध्यं चैवाहम् अर्जुन
वादः प्रवदताम् अहम्
sargāṇām ādir antaś ca
madhyaṁ caivāham arjuna
vādaḥ pravadatām aham
“Of all creations I am the beginning and the end and also the middle, O Arjuna. Of all sciences I am the spiritual science of the Self, and among logicians I am the conclusive truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.32)
Friend1: If it’s all the same thing, what is so special about the story?
Friend2: Prahlada was neither good nor bad. He was in pure goodness, shuddha-sattva. This is transcendental to the material qualities. I would argue that Brahma’s benedictions to the king help to highlight the folly of material pursuits. The lack of immortality, the protection that went to the Vishnu-devotee instead – that is more important to take away.
Asking that forever to live,
Brahma something close to give.
But known right from the start,
That from dharma soon to depart.
Of bad character could easily see,
Why creator then had to agree?
Idea that relative the positions aligning,
Also on Prahlada spotlight shining.