“Hiranyakashipu had four wonderful, well-qualified sons, of whom the one named Prahlada was the best. Indeed, Prahlada was a reservoir of all transcendental qualities because he was an unalloyed devotee of the Personality of Godhead.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.4.30)
तस्य दैत्य-पतेः पुत्राश्
प्रह्रादो ’भून् महांस् तेषां
tasya daitya-pateḥ putrāś
prahrādo ’bhūn mahāṁs teṣāṁ
One challenge often presented to those who openly speak of the virtues of devotional service, bhakti-yoga, and the urgent need to make the human birth saphala, successful, through an overall cultural shift, a change in consciousness from material to spiritual, is that not everyone will be receptive to the message.
“You spend all of this time preaching and yet how many followers do you attract? Maybe one in a thousand? Probably not that successful even. I don’t see the benefit to your efforts, though I am not necessarily disagreeing with the need for people to be more spiritually inclined.”
A retort often given by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is that it takes only one moon to provide light during the nighttime. As witnessed by telescopic lenses, the night sky is filled with many luminous objects. These are varying distances from the earth, and there is perpetual positioning. That is to say the nighttime only helps us to see more clearly what is always in outer space.
Yet it is the moon which provides the most light. The full moon is also known to have a different effect on the earth, such as with tides and the growth of plant life. Shri Krishna explains in the Bhagavad-gita that He is the foundation of that light, which is necessary for vegetables to emerge.
गाम् आविश्य च भूतानि
धारयाम्य् अहम् ओजसा
पुष्णामि चौषधीः सर्वाः
सोमो भूत्वा रसात्मकः
gām āviśya ca bhūtāni
dhārayāmy aham ojasā
puṣṇāmi cauṣadhīḥ sarvāḥ
somo bhūtvā rasātmakaḥ
“I enter into each planet, and by My energy they stay in orbit. I become the moon and thereby supply the juice of life to all vegetables.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.13)
Just as the moon becomes the most important celestial object at night, a single person taking up devotional service in earnest can shine the light of the Divine to a broader section of the population. One example is the large attendance at a Bhagavata-katha gathering.
Here the speaker may sit in the same place for upwards of four hours. They go through the story of the Bhagavata Purana, an ancient Vedic work which is complete in its presentation of life and death. The setting for the historical account is itself a person on the precipice of death. Upon learning that they have seven days left to live, they have chosen to spend the remaining time immersed in the sounds of a particular subject matter.
In a Bhagavata-katha discourse, the speaker is just one, but the message gets distributed to so many. This may mean that the original teacher, the guru, was only effective in their prachara [popularizing] to a small degree. The effect of a successful message transmission to a single individual, however, can be great.
Further evidence comes from the Bhagavata Purana itself. In a Bhagavata-katha event, the speaker usually covers the story of Prahlada in their discourse spanning several days. He is the famous son to the king of the world for a period of time.
Hiranyakashipu actually had four sons, and they were all considered well-qualified. This means that the king was blessed not only at the personal level, receiving enough power to assume control over the world, but the future generation was well set up to continue the reign.
It is said that among the four, Prahlada was the best, due specifically to being a great upasaka. This is a devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The interesting thing is that the father was not trying for this. He was not engaged in preaching the glories of Bhagavan, the Supreme Lord, to his sons. It is not that Hiranyakashipu was a preacher whose success rate to the next generation was twenty-five percent.
Prahlada learned everything from Narada Muni. The message transmission occurred while Prahlada was within the womb of his mother. The exchange took place without Hiranyakashipu’s knowledge. The one moon-like personality would end up doing the work of the entire world. That is to say what powerful divine figures could not accomplish on their own or combined into a larger force, a five-year old child would take care of without much effort. This was due entirely to the connection with Bhagavan.
Though lack of success coming soon,
World benefitted from a single moon.
Meaning worth still to preaching,
Message even to womb reaching.
Like with Prahlada’s appearance,
For world’s woes disappearance.
Father not this kind expecting,
Who ways of maya rejecting.
Categories: the story of prahlada