“Although Prahlada is only five years old, even at this young age he has given up his affectionate relationship with his father and mother. Therefore, he is certainly untrustworthy. Indeed, it is not at all believable that he will behave well toward Vishnu.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.36)
विष्णोर् वा साध्व् असौ किं नु
सौहृदं दुस्त्यजं पित्रोर्
अहाद् यः पञ्च-हायनः
viṣṇor vā sādhv asau kiṁ nu
sauhṛdaṁ dustyajaṁ pitror
ahād yaḥ pañca-hāyanaḥ
Friend1: Let me ask you this. Say that you ask your child a specific question.
Friend2: About what?
Friend1: Anything. Something where the answer is simple and straightforward.
Friend2: Like, “What is your name?” “Who is this?” Or are we talking about an older child, who might be able to answer questions on geography?
Friend1: Someone five years old. They will surely know their name. You can ask something more advanced, like what did you learn in school today.
Friend2: Oh, just like with Prahlada Maharaja.
Friend1: I’m getting there. In this hypothetical situation, you and the child both know the answer. There aren’t any real surprises.
Friend2: Then why am I asking?
Friend1: Because that’s how interactions go between parents and their children. Anyway, let’s say that the child continues to answer with unrelated content.
Friend2: Unrelated to the question?
Friend1: Better still, not within the realm of expected answers.
Friend1: Essentially, they are doing it on purpose. They know that the answer is not what the father is looking for.
Friend2: A wise guy.
Friend1: Wouldn’t you consider the child at fault in that situation?
Friend2: I mean, I guess. They are still only a kid, though. Where are you going with this?
Friend1: Couldn’t you say Prahlada was a bad child for the way he kept replying to Hiranyakashipu, the father? I get it that the answers were about devotional service, bhakti-yoga, and the like. Every person should choose the spiritual path, as that is in their actual self-interest, svartha. Nevertheless, an obedient and respectful child should not try to anger the father in that way.
Friend2: There was no intent to ignite rage; trust me.
Friend1: Okay, but if Prahlada was wise enough to speak on true Vedanta philosophy, he surely had to know that the father, being of the Daitya clan, would not take the words too well. He had to know that devotion to Vishnu would raise the ire of Hiranyakashipu.
Friend2: Let’s assume that Prahlada did know. Then what? You want him punished? You think it was appropriate action that the father then took?
Friend1: No, but I can understand why Hiranyakashipu thought that Prahlada was untrustworthy. It is very difficult for kids to give up hope and allegiance to their parents at such a young age.
Friend2: That’s fine, but supposedly disobedient behavior in that circumstance did not warrant lethal punishment. I can tell you that much. Judging by the father’s reaction, it’s a good thing Prahlada wasn’t timid. Thank goodness he had the courage to stand up and speak the truth. Better to go down fighting than to be afraid and let others walk all over you.
Friend1: Well, wasn’t one of the punishments being trampled by elephants?
Friend2: Yes, and that did not work. Prahlada not only taught the power of devotion, but he showed real-life examples of its validity. The father refused to see. He opposed to the point of having to witness the devastating and awe-inspiring form of Vishnu as Narasimha.
Since with wrong answer to play,
A bad child couldn’t you say?
The ire of father raising,
Through Vishnu bhakti praising.
But still an affectionate one,
To Hiranyakashipu that son.
Who to be appreciated ought,
Timeless wisdom to father brought.