“The demons [Rakshasas], the servants of Hiranyakashipu, thus began striking the tender parts of Prahlada Maharaja’s body with their tridents. The demons all had fearful faces, sharp teeth and reddish, coppery beards and hair, and they appeared extremely threatening. Making a tumultuous sound, shouting, ‘Chop him up! Pierce him!’ they began striking Prahlada Maharaja, who sat silently, meditating upon the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.39-40)
नैरृतास् ते समादिष्टा
भर्त्रा वै शूल-पाणयः
नदन्तो भैरवं नादं
छिन्धि भिन्धीति वादिनः
आसीनं चाहनञ् शूलैः
nairṛtās te samādiṣṭā
bhartrā vai śūla-pāṇayaḥ
nadanto bhairavaṁ nādaṁ
chindhi bhindhīti vādinaḥ
āsīnaṁ cāhanañ śūlaiḥ
Friend1: I am going to get right into my question today.
Friend2: Thank you.
Friend1: There is this verse from the Shrimad Bhagavatam that describes the type of people who initially attacked Prahlada Maharaja, the son of Hiranyakashipu.
Friend2: You mean like when the king ordered them to? When he got fed up of hearing about devotional service from the son?
Friend1: Yes. The servants were like Rakshasas, man-eating ogres. They had fearful faces and sharp teeth. Long beards to fill out the characteristic image of a villain.
Friend2: That would certainly do it.
Friend1: They attacked with tridents. They went after the tender parts of Prahlada’s body.
Friend2: Why mess around? Assure success. Never mind that the target is only five years old. He is not fighting back, either.
Friend1: That is at the heart of my question today. Prahlada sat silently and meditated on the Supreme Lord. We both know the outcome.
Friend2: The attackers failed. Prahlada succeeded. Well, he wasn’t necessarily trying to win anything. He got to continue in his meditation. This is the mercy of Vishnu, the all-pervading personal aspect of the Divine.
Friend1: My question is that might not someone get the wrong idea about meditation.
Friend2: What idea would that be? That you should meditate starting at five years of age and forego schooling?
Friend1: Not quite. Someone might be led to believe that by meditating on Vishnu you can survive attacks to the body.
Friend2: You can’t? How did Prahlada do it, then?
Friend1: You know what I mean. They will think that it is some kind of magic trick. A way to show others the powers of mysticism.
Friend2: Actually, you are on to something there, but you might not know it.
Friend1: What is that?
Friend2: There are exhibitions with the purpose of fooling people. Expert yogis can do amazing things. They can appear and disappear at will. They can produce an object, like an apple, out of thin air. People can easily get fooled into thinking that mystic yoga is the way towards transcendence. They may even mistake the yogi for God Himself.
Friend1: I see what you are saying, but stay with my original premise for a moment. By studying the Prahlada story, would not someone conclude that bhakti-yoga will make them immune from attack?
Friend2: Well, let me ask you something. Is Prahlada Maharaja still king today?
Friend2: Where is he?
Friend1: He must have returned to the spiritual world.
Friend2: Then? He survived the attacks from the Rakshasas, but he still left this world at some point. I understand your concern, but there is actually no harm from getting the mistaken idea.
Friend1: How so?
Friend2: Even if I take up bhakti-yoga with ulterior motives, such as gaining power over the material elements, the key component must be there. The devotion to Vishnu, or God the person, is what brings the potency. Actually, there isn’t even an advanced ability. The idea is that Bhagavan Himself protects. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Goswami Tulsidas have remarked similarly, that a person who takes up bhakti acquires all siddhis, or perfections, of yoga without effort.
पय अहार फल खाइ जपु राम नाम षट मास|
सकल सुमण्गल सिद्धि सब करतल तुलसीदास ||
paya ahāra phala khāi japu rāma nāma ṣaṭa māsa|
sakala sumaṇgala siddhi saba karatala tulasīdāsa ||
“Subsisting on fruits and milk, chant Shri Rama’s holy name for six months. Tulsidas says that by following this formula all auspiciousness and every perfection will arrive in the palm of your hand.” (Dohavali, 5)
Extra endeavor is not required. You or I may not be able to withstand the attacks that Prahlada did, but if our devotion is sincere then no one will be able to remove it.
Whichever avenue to choose,
No one able to remove.
Since by Vishnu protected,
Like against weapons projected.
Towards Prahlada proceeded,
But the Rakshasas defeated.
By meditation not breaking,
Bhakti power unshaking.