“For a demon there is no substance in the process of devotional service, but to a devotee devotional service is the only essential factor in life. Since Hiranyakashipu did not like devotional service, the essence of life, he chastised Prahlada Maharaja’s teachers with harsh words.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.26 Purport)
You and your sister are watching television at home in the living room. Though sometimes a struggle to reach agreement on a channel and program, today you are both pleased by staying on music videos. One song that you particularly like is up next on the rotation.
Synchronized to the music, you clap your hands. Everything is going well until suddenly the television turns off. Neither of you can seem to find the remote control. No issue, as you simply walk up to the device and turn it back on.
The music playing again, you start clapping your hands. Again, the television turns off. Your sister looks at you angrily and makes an accusation:
“Is this some trick you are playing? I want to watch that song. Stop being silly. Turn the television back on.”
Yet you are not doing anything. Just as an experiment you decide to clap your hands. Suddenly the television turns back on. This can’t be real. There is no extra device plugged in that would monitor for such signals. You keep going and notice that sometimes there is a delayed response. Certain clapping sounds don’t trigger a power on/off and others do.
His mission accomplished your brother finally emerges from the hallway behind the sofa in the living room. He was playing a trick on both of you. He had the remote control the entire time. He tried to synchronize the power button pressing with the clapping. Upset at first you must later give him his due. That was a pretty good prank.
King Hiranyakashipu had a similar suspicion one time, but he did not see anything funny about the situation. The teachers presented Prahlada before the king. Father once again meeting son. Prior enmity now forgotten, Hiranyakashipu showed every sign of an affectionate family member.
Everything changed once Prahlada began to speak. The boy responded to the question from the father about the most preferred topic heard from the teachers. The answer was devotional service, bhakti-yoga. There was one problem. The teachers didn’t touch on this subject, at all. If they were to bring up Vishnu, the personal God, it would be to warn against coming near Him. The gopis of Vrindavana give a similar warning, since they know that a person will end up relinquishing everything else in life in favor of devotion to Him.
Hiranyakashipu and his assistants were of the demoniac mentality, so they could not tolerate any hint of devotion in the kingdom. The father was so angry at the teachers that he immediately accused them. They were referred to as brahma-bandhu, which is someone who is merely a relative or friend of a priestly person. The teachers certainly thought they were qualified in every respect, but the king indirectly revealed that the post of brahmana they occupied was not legitimate; it was due to ancestral links only.
The only genuine brahmana in the picture was Prahlada. He heard from another qualified brahmana, with the instruction in a setting no one would suspect. Prahlada received the lessons on bhakti-yoga from Narada Muni, the travelling saint who sings the glories of Narayana wherever he goes. Prahlada was still in the womb at the time.
The teachers were not playing tricks. They were just as flabbergasted at Prahlada’s response as the father. They were about to see even more amazing things from that son soon to be celebrated across the three worlds.
As opportunity for Vishnu used,
Father then the teachers accused.
That secretly with the other side,
Though in asura kingdom to reside.
To brahmanas only by relation known,
Not with qualifications shown.
Truth that Prahlada already heard,
From Narada’s authoritative word.
Categories: the story of prahlada