“In any assembly where there are discourses about saints and devotees, O King Yudhishthira, even the enemies of the demons, namely the demigods, what to speak of you, would cite Prahlada Maharaja as an example of a great devotee.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.4.35)
रिपवो ’पि सुरा नृप
किम् उतान्ये भवादृशाः
ripavo ’pi surā nṛpa
kim utānye bhavādṛśāḥ
Narada Muni gives the seal of approval. He is the authority on devotional service, acting exclusively for the interests of the Supreme Lord, who is known by the name Narayana, among many others. The confirmation goes to Yudhishthira Maharaja, who is himself a saintly character.
Narada says that whenever there are discourses about saintly people, Prahlada Maharaja is cited as an ideal example. That amazing son exhibited great courage, strength, perseverance, and even forbearance at such a young age.
With so much detail provided in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, the subject of Prahlada is suitable for a lifetime of study. Varieties in living situations exist, and so from many different angles a person can relate to that persecuted son of King Hiranyakashipu.
1. A child with a horrible parent
Some people will tell you that if your child doesn’t hate you at one time or another, you are not doing your job.
“You want that fear. You need that fear. Otherwise, they will become spoiled. A weak adult is a sucker; they get taken advantage of. The future miseries of the child will be your fault, for having coddled them.”
Thus, it is natural for a child to have negative feelings towards one or both parents on occasion. Perhaps there was an unfair punishment. They said “no” to the sleepover happening next door. They refused to extend funds to purchase a new car.
To become a truly horrible parent means to descend further down the hole of improper behavior. Perhaps the father drinks too much. They strike the wife unnecessarily. Maybe the mother is promiscuous and more concerned about shopping than putting food on the table.
A child stuck in a bad situation can relate to Prahlada Maharaja, who happened to have the worst parent imaginable. Hiranyakashipu tried to kill Prahlada in so many ways. The boy’s only crime was openly professed loyalty to Lord Vishnu.
This was not mere dogmatic insistence or blind sentimentalism. Prahlada understood both Vishnu the personal God and the meaning behind that full feature. That is to say the son knew that the source of his strength was the same as in the father. The child treated every person as a friend, extending universal brotherhood, because he understood the inherent link to Vishnu.
2. A student not interested in school
What child actually likes going to school? Maybe in the early years they think it is fun to board the yellow bus every morning with the other children, but soon the novelty wears off. If not compelled to learn, they would likely choose to stay home and watch television all day.
Some subjects are more dreaded than others. A student might question the teacher as follows:
“Why are we learning this? When am I ever going to use this information? I don’t care what a bunch of old guys did a few hundred years back. That has no bearing on my life today. This is so boring.”
Prahlada was not interested in school, either. Hiranyakashipu first tried to get the boy’s mind right. Maybe if the teachers of the state force-fed the students information about material life and how to rule a kingdom, the interests would change.
3. A loving family member with compassion
Love gets tested in the difficult moments. The genuineness gets revealed rather quickly. It is easy to say that you care for someone when everything is going well. When they don’t treat you properly, when they fall into bad sorts, do you still love them as much?
If so, you can easily relate to Prahlada Maharaja. His own father was in the depths of illusion. He had a hint of affection inside him. He would shed tears from time to time when in the presence of Prahlada. Yet the hatred for Vishnu trumped everything.
Despite all that went wrong, with the many aggressions against him, Prahlada maintained a forgiving disposition. He had so much compassion for the father that when Narasimhadeva arrived and delivered the just punishment, Prahlada still sought clemency. He asked that Hiranyakashipu be forgiven.
4. A parent who wants the best for their children
You’re not actually sure what it is you want to give, but you know that the child should find the best situation. You wish that they surpass you in happiness. Maybe that means a strong educational foundation. Perhaps it is an occupation in adulthood that provides a satisfactory income.
A parent in this situation can appreciate Prahlada Maharaja since the child achieved liberation even prior to birth. The steadfast devotion to Vishnu is the model for every person to follow. If a person’s child exhibits anything close to the same, where they sing along to the maha-mantra and dance to the sound of sankirtana, then the highest goal of life has been attained.
Perhaps strong educational,
Or the best occupational.
Parent for their child hoping,
That not struggle in this life coping.
Or the child with parents horrible,
Prahlada dealing with father terrible.
How to forgive the most intense hate,
Many ways to that saint to relate.
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