“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 newborn exhibits amazing behavior almost daily. In one instance, you lose your temper. You should know better, but the stress was mounting. Something critical to work on for the office. On your laptop in the living room, the child decides to randomly scream very loudly. Not a steady cry, where they need something, just intermittent screams with apparently no cause. You snap and chastise them verbally.
Afterwards, you are, of course, remorseful. What did the child know? There is no reason to yell at them like that. On the other side, they are totally forgiving. It is as if nothing happened. They are eager for your association, giving a big smile as soon as they see you.
Unfortunately, not much of the innocence of childhood remains when the shift to adulthood takes place. Someone didn’t return your call? They had a party and didn’t invite you? They scold you for sending text messages too late into the night? The result is a feud, a rivalry, a lasting disagreement. There is the chance that you will never speak to them again.
Imagine, then, if someone made one or many attempts on your life. Intentional, with a desire to inflict lethal harm. Could you forgive and forget? In recent times it is seen that churchgoers who were eyewitness to such a horrendous crime quickly forgave the culprit. This is the way of the godly person, who is connected in consciousness to the Supreme Lord. Vedic literature describes many such amazing personalities, who have appeared in this world throughout the ages.
1. The Pandavas
As His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains, with the demoniac mentality there is no satisfaction. A person could receive every opulence possible in a material existence and still be envious of the Supreme Lord. That fact should be contemplated upon.
If I have everything, what need is there to be envious of anyone? If I am so much against God, it means that I don’t like the concept of a supreme controller other than me. If I should be blessed with benedictions that make me something like a god on earth, what need is there to be threatened by anyone else?
Duryodhana unjustly usurped control over the kingdom of Hastinapura, supported by his blind, both in the literal and the moral sense, father named Dhritarashtra. The rightful heirs to the throne, the Pandavas, did not object strongly to the crime. They were saintly characters, so they could tolerate.
The problem was that Duryodhana could not leave them alone. He was still envious, despite essentially winning. He tried to kill them several times, including once sending them to a house made of lac. The plan was to burn the house down, arson made to look like an accident so no one would suspect. The well-wishing uncle named Vidura got wind of the plan and gave a coded warning to the Pandavas, which eventually saved them.
“He (Vidura) indirectly hinted, ‘A weapon not made of steel or any other material element can be more than sharp to kill an enemy, and he who knows this is never killed.’ That is to say, he hinted that the party of the Pandavas was being sent to Varanavata to be killed, and thus he warned Yudhishthira to be very careful in their new residential palace.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.13.8 Purport)
At last, war was the only way to settle the dispute. The Pandavas were still reluctant. Their leading fighter, Arjuna, was so inclined towards the side of forgiveness that he was ready to quit while on the battlefield, just prior to the commencement of hostilities. His bewilderment set the stage for the wonderful conversation between he and Krishna that became known as the Bhagavad-gita.
2. Sita Devi
The goddess of fortune appearing on earth as the daughter of King Janaka, Sita was literally sinless throughout her whole time in the manifest world. As is sometimes known to happen, the good people get picked on the most. The greatest harassment she received was from the wicked king of Lanka, Ravana.
Her crime? Being too beautiful. She was also already married, but Ravana did not pay respect to dharma and its traditions. He took her away by force to Lanka, and when she would not give in to his advances, he had his attendants harass her day and night.
In the horrible incidents known as school shootings seen in recent times, often the case is that the perpetrator was previously bullied by their classmates. They held on to the offense for a long time and waited to get revenge. With Sita Devi, the bullying was to the extreme level, as the ogre-like women threatened to kill and eat her.
The side of good eventually prevailed. Sita’s husband Rama arrived in Lanka and defeated Ravana in a fair fight. The trusted servant named Hanuman went to the princess of Videha to reunite her with her husband. Hanuman remembered the previous harassment by Ravana’s attendants. He had witnessed the bullying and so he was prepared to kill the culprits as punishment. Sita said that it wasn’t necessary. Any enmity that remained ended with the defeat of Ravana.
3. Prahlada Maharaja
His father Hiranyakashipu was literally the controller of the world. He took over the position of the demigods and therefore had authority over the different material elements. The skeptic may take the descriptions to be mythology, but then at least the theoretical exercise should be engaged. What if a person really did have control over the elements? What would that mean?
Hiranyakashipu shows us. He was still envious of God. He was not happy. He had to try to kill his son because of basic devotion shown. Prahlada could not do anything to stop the father’s wicked ways. The boy was not a threat to Hiranyakashipu, and yet so many lethal attacks followed.
With the Pandavas the Supreme Lord helped through the advice to Arjuna. With Sita Devi, Bhagavan was there to fight in the supposedly human form of Shri Rama. For Prahlada, Vishnu took the amazing avatara of a half-man/half-lion, literally tearing Hiranyakashipu apart.
Prahlada was neither ecstatic nor remorseful at the outcome. He was pleased to see God before him, but he also felt regretful over the actions of the father. Prahlada sought clemency for him, as the saintly devotees of God have a forgiving nature, which extends beyond the boundaries any reasonable person would expect.
Limits even to person reasonable,
For forgiveness of crimes actionable.
Despite land of Pandavas to take,
Brothers gunas not to forsake.
Sita Devi after harassment received,
Need not for revenge believed.
Prahlada by father’s envy plagued,
Still as saintly son behaved.