“Hiranyakashipu thought: I have used many ill names in chastising this boy Prahlada and have devised many means of killing him, but despite all my endeavors, he could not be killed. Indeed, he saved himself by his own powers, without being affected in the least by these treacherous and abominable actions.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.45)
एष मे बह्व्-असाधूक्तो
वधोपायाश् च निर्मिताः
तैस् तैर् द्रोहैर् असद्-धर्मैर्
मुक्तः स्वेनैव तेजसा
eṣa me bahv-asādhūkto
vadhopāyāś ca nirmitāḥ
tais tair drohair asad-dharmair
muktaḥ svenaiva tejasā
When first hearing the story of Prahlada and the torture he endured, a person may be skeptical of the validity due to the horrible nature of the crimes. Not that a father has never before been so angry at a son. Not that there hasn’t been mild punishment regretted later on. But the severity seems too much to believe:
“I can’t imagine a father doing that to their son. How could they sit there and watch as Prahlada was being trampled by elephants? Throwing him off a cliff? That is unspeakable. You would hardly want to do that to the worst offender in society, let alone someone in your own family.”
From the verses in the Shrimad Bhagavatam describing the story, we see that Hiranyakashipu was indeed aware of the vile nature of the punishment. It was treacherous and against dharma, the standard codes of conduct.
Instead of being remorseful over what was done, Hiranyakashipu was somewhat impressed by Prahlada. The child survived the wicked deeds perpetrated against him. He was victim to the worst kind of hate, and yet he was still standing there, along with the father.
We can apply the acknowledgment in the father to society at large. Every individual has some idea that the path of material life is not proper. Deep down they know something is wrong with various aspects of modern life, as common as they may be.
1. Meat eating
The same kind of violence against the beloved cat or dog would not be allowed. The offender would be scorned in public. They would likely face punishment from the state. Yet the equivalent, or even worse, continues on a daily basis against innocent cows in the slaughterhouse. The scene is so ghastly that it isn’t shown to children. Living within close proximity to where the killing takes place is also not preferred.
2. Chasing after sense gratification
Wake up early in the morning. Get prepared to head out to the office. Sit in front of a computer, working for upwards of eight hours. Indulge in stimulants to keep you awake, as who actually enjoys being there? Reach home exhausted. Rest for a little bit. Eat something. Then go to sleep early, knowing that the same has to be repeated the next day. Follow the routine for year after year until enough money is saved to retire.
Deep down a person understands that there is something wrong with the picture. There has to be more to life. Increased sense gratification has come with a significant cost. Moreover, it seems like the more money a person earns in this fashion, the less happy they are.
3. Denying the existence of God
Perhaps there is a bad experience within the family. Religion forced upon the future generations. Dogmatic insistence. Irrational allegiance. Blind faith. Applying logic and reasoning, you deny the entire thing. Go your own way. To you, the concept of God might just be a myth.
Hiranyakashipu took this attitude to the extreme. He hated the person everyone acknowledged to be God: Vishnu. He was so against dharma that he made sure to stamp out any sign of allegiance to the Supreme Lord visible in his kingdom. Yet beneath the surface Hiranyakashipu understood that there was something more. The great ability shown by Prahlada had to come from somewhere.
The science of self-realization taught by saintly people of the Vedic tradition explains that every person already has an inclination towards the Divine. This is because the dharma of the individual, who is spirit soul, is to serve that original being. Not merely the shadow copy known as the material world or inverting the tendency through ignorance, but actual association with the personal side to that which is before everything and which will continue beyond the end of existence. A taste of that association can be experienced immediately through the potency of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Religion outright rejecting,
Pleasure from work expecting.
Killing animals to taste,
That worship time to waste.
But deep down knowing,
Like Prahlada ability showing.
To father a heavenly sign,
That Vishnu beyond to find.