“Hiranyakashipu thought that Prahlada, being nothing but a small boy with no actual experience, might reply with something pleasing but nothing practical. Prahlada Maharaja, however, being an exalted devotee, had acquired all the qualities of education.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.5 Purport)
Friend1: I know of the important verse from the Shrimad Bhagavatam where it says that a devotee doesn’t have to acquire good qualities on their own. They come automatically, as a result of the devotion.
Friend2: Specifically, they acquire gunas up to the point of the suras, the demigods residing in heaven. Think about that for a second. The automatically derived principle is that bhakti accounts for behavior in sattva-guna. Everything that a person might do to win elevation to the heavenly planets, which is not easy, already arrives when they simply engage in repeatable and consistent worshipable acts like chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Friend1: Isn’t the inverse condition covered, too?
Friend2: Such as if you are not devoted to Bhagavan, what do your qualities mean?
Friend2: The entire verse is as follows:
यस्यास्ति भक्तिर् भगवत्य् अकिञ्चना
सर्वैर् गुणैस् तत्र समासते सुराः
हराव् अभक्तस्य कुतो महद्-गुणा
मनोरथेनासति धावतो बहिः
yasyāsti bhaktir bhagavaty akiñcanā
sarvair guṇais tatra samāsate surāḥ
harāv abhaktasya kuto mahad-guṇā
manorathenāsati dhāvato bahiḥ
“One who has unflinching devotional faith in Krishna consistently manifests all the good qualities of Krishna and the demigods. However, he who has no devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead has no good qualifications because he is engaged by mental concoction in material existence, which is the external feature of the Lord.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 5.18.12)
Friend1: There you go. Thanks. Let’s talk about Prahlada Maharaja for a moment, as I believe that verse matches his situation perfectly.
Friend2: Oh, for sure. On both sides. You had Prahlada with every appropriate guna without the explicit pursuit. You had Hiranyakashipu, who thought he had everything, but in fact was worthless in the spiritual estimation.
Friend1: Here is an obvious question, at least to me. It stands out from the juxtaposition of father and son. We know that Prahlada was very young during the time of his encounters with the envious father.
Friend2: Five years old. The time you or I were likely into watching television cartoons and singing nursery rhymes, Prahlada was self-realized and not afraid to give discourses on the science of self-realization.
Friend1: To me, so many qualities that we would consider “good” are tied to life experience. One of the first things they teach young children is sharing.
“Don’t play with that toy the entire day. Let others in the class have a chance. If you want them to share toys with you, you have to do the same for them.”
Friend2: Absolutely. There are so many life lessons. One that stands out from my personal experience is not boasting about accomplishments. Every time I have done so, somebody else was there to put me down. It is better to praise others for their hard work and achievement, especially when you have personal experience of the effort and perseverance required.
Friend1: Here’s the thing. At only five years of age, Prahlada lacked such life experience.
Friend1: So then how did he have all good qualities? How could he be like a demigod without vijnana, which is practical realization?
Friend2: Your questions give further praise to the bhakti path. Devotion to God the person is so strong that no external factors are required. That is the meaning to “unmotivated and uninterrupted.”
अहम् अज्ञान-जं तमः
aham ajñāna-jaṁ tamaḥ
“Out of compassion for them, I, dwelling in their hearts, destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.11)
We know of no one who became so smart just through reading and hearing, but with Prahlada that was the case. The hearing had the effect of stimulating the outpouring of affection. The meaning is that there was genuine yoga, a link to the Supreme Lord. With His favor, it is easy to bypass the standard route towards knowledge.
Standard route not required,
By bhakti itself inspired.
That which from experience needed,
Where lesson upon lesson proceeded.
For the devotee easily to come,
Equality with demigods won.
Worthless traits on the other side,
Like Hiranya with enmity to reside.