“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
One of the reasons the conversation between Arjuna and Shri Krishna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra resonates with so many people, for audiences young and old and from time periods past and current, is that life itself is a difficult journey. The proper decision is not always clear; the path of righteousness, dharma, is not always self-manifest.
Moreover, even if a person should have every intention of doing the right thing, especially with regards to the ultimate purpose of life, there are many obstacles in their path. From the case of Prahlada Maharaja, we have an example of a pillar of strength, fortitude, and commitment. He was tolerant and forgiving at the same time, clearly indicating his connection to the Supreme Lord in a mood of love.
1. A difficult job
It sounds easy in principle. Do your duty, but don’t be attached to the results. Work as a matter of fact; almost because you have to. After all, people must eat. They need a roof over their head. Begging is not for everyone. Even in that situation there is someone on the other side going to work to produce the necessary output to share with others.
कर्मण्य् एवाधिकारस् ते
मा फलेषु कदाचन
मा कर्म-फल-हेतुर् भूर्
मा ते सङ्गो ऽस्त्व् अकर्मणि
karmaṇy evādhikāras te
mā phaleṣu kadācana
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr
mā te saṅgo ‘stv akarmaṇi
“You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.47)
The issue is that work involves activity and thought. If you are at the standard office position of the modern day, the commitment is at a minimum of ten hours a day, five days a week. There is the commute to work and back home. There is doing the actual work, with perhaps a few breaks in between.
How is a person supposed to stay detached in that environment? When they return home they are likely too fatigued to engage in devotional activities, like reading, offering formal prayers, and visiting a house of worship. Their mind might still be on office responsibilities, since they will have to return the following day.
2. A difficult home life
Compounding the problem is responsibility to the family. After you spend the entire day focusing on work, home life provides little rest. Take out the trash. Consider how the dinner will be served. Help arrange furniture and other items. Clean up the place. Spend time with the spouse and children. All the while, maintain an eye on the clock. You have to fall asleep at a reasonable hour since the entire process must be repeated the following day.
3. A horrible father
This was the obstacle thrown Prahlada’s way. The father was upset due to the child’s devotion to Lord Vishnu, who is the personal side to the Divine. Prahlada’s real crime was being open and honest about his preference. He would tell anyone who asked about the science of self-realization. He was not interested in earning money, expanding the power of the empire, or enjoying the senses. He considered accepting a material body to be an embarrassing situation that could only be addressed through proper meditation.
The father retaliated for what he considered to be a rebellious attitude. He committed unspeakable acts of violence against Prahlada, who was only five years old at the time. The child survived, though. The father was surprised to see the outcome; it was not expected.
Certainly a special case, one deserving mention in several Vedic texts, Prahlada’s story offers strength and encouragement to those who may be struggling in their own battle to maintain a link to the Supreme Lord. Yoga is not merely stretching and breathing for a few minutes a day. It is a full shift in consciousness, one that repels attacks that are forthcoming and ongoing.
Fortunately, in the modern day there is a way to stay connected through the difficulties. Simply sacrifice some time to hear. If possible, produce the sounds that are potent enough to rescue anyone drowning in the ocean of misery that is this material world. Hear and say the maha-mantra for immediate relief: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
When on bhakti path deciding,
Not in easy life residing.
Obstacles many to be thrown,
Like worst with Prahlada shown.
Still connected to stay,
In meditation a way.
Rescuing transcendental sound,
Potency in holy name found.