“Material benedictions are not always exactly worthy of being called benedictions. If one possesses more and more, a benediction itself may become a curse, for just as achieving material opulence in this material world requires great strength and endeavor, maintaining it also requires great endeavor. Lord Brahma informed Hiranyakashipu that although he was ready to offer him whatever he had asked, the result of the benedictions would be very difficult for Hiranyakashipu to maintain.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.4.2 Purport)
Though birth in the material world is likened to a fall for the jiva soul, all hope is not lost. There are ups and downs which are bound to occur. They arrive almost automatically, on a schedule like the winter and summer seasons.
मात्रा-स्पर्शास् तु कौन्तेय
तांस् तितिक्षस्व भारत
mātrā-sparśās tu kaunteya
tāṁs titikṣasva bhārata
“O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.14)
Though no extra endeavor is required for receiving happiness, there is the option of working for such. In this regard there are two factors to consider: human effort and benedictions from higher authorities. The living entity is not themselves the doer, as even with paurusham the three modes of nature, gunas, must cooperate for the arrival of a successful outcome.
In the case of receiving benedictions or blessings from a person equipped to provide them, the result may not exactly be auspicious. That is to say a wise person can question whether or not the reward is actually a benediction. This is because of the maintenance factor.
1. A house
The in-laws are moving. The father has retired and he has decided to shift to a new location. The family is leaving behind the house, donated to you as a sign of affection. No more having to rent. No intense search for a new dwelling. A place with which you are already familiar is available, and at no cost.
Yet this benediction is not without its headaches. There are the annual property taxes, which are quite steep. It seems like every week there is a new issue that warrants attention. Call the landscaping people to cut the grass. Contact the roofing guy to patch the hole in the ceiling. Figure out why the heating decided to fail on the coldest day of the year. In many ways life was a lot simpler when there were only one or two rooms that someone else had the responsibility to maintain.
2. An expensive car
This time you put in long hours at the office. Overtime, they call it, and the purpose was to save up enough money to purchase the car of your dreams. This is a benediction that makes you so happy at first, since it fulfills a personal desire.
The problem is that you have to park far away when arriving at work in the morning. There is a weekly trip to get a car wash. If the slightest blemish appears on the exterior, you feel grief. Another issue is that a few years later the model becomes outdated. People who buy automobiles of the economically affordable class have more features than you. State of the art, they have a rearview camera, integration with the smartphone, and keyless entry.
There are certain ways to enhance through personal effort, such as better diet and proper exercise, but in most cases the gift arrives at the time of birth. A beautiful person has the features gifted to them by nature, and others are appreciative.
The problem here is that increased attention may not always be preferred. The beautiful woman has men hounding her constantly. Not until she gets married will people finally back off, and only then a little.
There is also the competition factor. Others are beautiful, as well, and a person’s false ego, ahankara, may have them assessing the differences. If another person happens to be more beautiful, something needs to be done to change the situation. Chase after a temporary victory in the hopes of maintaining a feature over which the human being has little control and only gets to keep until the time of death.
4. Immunity from death in a variety of situations
This was the benediction King Hiranyakashipu received from Lord Brahma, the creator. The person who takes the three modes of nature as raw materials to create the different vessels in which the fallen spirit souls can reside personally gave the boon of protection against death.
It wasn’t a one hundred percent guarantee. There are always chinks in the armor of protection, but Hiranyakashipu was satisfied enough. Immunity against man and beasts. Weapons could not kill him, and even the paired time periods of day and night were covered.
Brahma warned that the benedictions were difficult to obtain. This wasn’t necessarily a reflection of its value. Hiranyakashipu had to work very hard to gain Brahma’s favor. He could have asked for practically anything, but the greatest fear on his mind was quitting the body and having to leave behind the opportunity for power and authority.
Despite the protections, the king was still paranoid. He had an inherent understanding that Vishnu, the Supreme Lord, would find a way to break through and successfully attack. The justification came after Hiranyakashipu had gone too far in harassing his devotee son named Prahlada.
That boy had the greatest benediction: hearing the glories of Vishnu. The connection took place while in the womb, but the sound was so powerful that the knowledge was retained after birth. Prahlada was not worried, since he knew that God the person was taking care of him. Not even the lethal antagonism of the crown could sway him, as he was unflinching in his devotion.
Terror raining down,
From father the crown.
But Prahlada not phased,
Since as bhakta raised.
Not concerned over body to maintain,
Like Hiranyakashipu from Brahma to gain.
Why chase after difficult so?
Wise favor of Vishnu know.