“A demoniac person, in spite of acquiring all the opulences possible to obtain in this universe, continues to be envious of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.4.4 Purport)
A key lesson to take away from Hiranyakashipu’s interaction with Lord Brahma is that life is not about acquiring stuff. It may often become the central focus, but there is actually no long term benefit. A striking blemish remains, which can eat away at a person like a disease.
It’s only natural to think that I just need a little bit more. A bigger house. Right now the one bedroom apartment is not cutting it. Friends tell me that I’m throwing money away every month on rent. Owning is better. The mortgage payment goes towards a hard asset, which can be sold at a later date. Moreover, the general trend is towards appreciation, i.e. the house will be worth more in the future.
I am quite content with where I am. Lots of time freed up to focus on other things. No worries pertaining to maintenance. Didn’t lose a fortune on a down payment. The savings is still at a sufficient amount and a hardship in terms of loss of income will not bankrupt me.
Yet even if I were gifted a palatial residence, my happiness is not automatic. There is not a linear relationship, since the ways of the mode of passion are such that one desire only feeds more. The joy of satisfaction is not permanent and soon another issue will arise.
सत्त्वात् सञ्जायते ज्ञानं
रजसो लोभ एव च
भवतो ऽज्ञानम् एव च
sattvāt sañjāyate jñānaṁ
rajaso lobha eva ca
bhavato ‘jñānam eva ca
“The mode of passion is born of unlimited desires and longings, O son of Kunti, and because of this one is bound to material fruitive activities.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.7)
Hiranyakashipu earned the favor of Lord Brahma, the creator. This was not easy and the boons subsequently received are rarely, if ever, handed out. There was protection against death in a variety of situations. For a king this meant ruling over a kingdom in peace. No need to worry about foreign invaders. No need to build a wall to repel a large group trying to live off your wealth without working.
The problem for Hiranyakashipu was that he maintained envy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. No amount of opulence could change that. The king had a lustrous golden body. His name is the combination of words meaning “gold” and “soft cushion.” There is great symbolism to the name of that historical personality.
On the other side, if a person is a devotee at heart, then even the smallest benediction seems too much. This is because they don’t require anything to continue in their service. This would be evident in the future arrival of a son. The five-year old boy named Prahlada was not given the same blessings from Narada Muni.
Prahlada was Hiranyakashipu’s son, so there was a good material situation in living in a kingdom. Yet Prahlada had no interest in enjoying the riches. He had a spirit of renunciation from birth. More importantly, he was fearless, so much so that he shared the wisdom of the ages to his friends during the recess period in school.
The foundation of the teachings was love of Vishnu, i.e. the same person for whom the father maintained envy. This means that Prahlada was risking lethal punishment through his teachings, but there was no fear.
Meanwhile, Hiranyakashipu had every protection the human mind can think of and he was still afraid of the work of a small child. The “stuff” from the creator made no difference, and the same principle applies across all situations of living. It is not that only in an ancient time period the connection to the Divine in love brings steadiness of mind and contentment. The same can be realized today through something as simple as chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Despite abundance of stuff to get,
Still more desires in future to bet.
Since satisfaction none,
Only on how more to be won.
Like Hiranyakashipu demonstrating,
After the creator supplicating.
Meanwhile Prahlada peaceful still,
Not agitated by attempts to kill.
Categories: the story of prahlada