“O lord, we know that when you simply move your eyebrows, all the commanders of the various planets are most afraid. Without the help of any assistant, you have conquered all the three worlds. Therefore, we do not find any reason for you to be morose and full of anxiety. As for Prahlada, he is nothing but a child and cannot be a cause of anxiety. After all, his bad or good qualities have no value.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.49)
जितं त्वयैकेन जगत्-त्रयं भ्रुवोर्
न तस्य चिन्त्यं तव नाथ चक्ष्वहे
न वै शिशूनां गुण-दोषयोः पदम्
jitaṁ tvayaikena jagat-trayaṁ bhruvor
na tasya cintyaṁ tava nātha cakṣvahe
na vai śiśūnāṁ guṇa-doṣayoḥ padam
Whether the teachers were intentionally overlooking certain facts to prop up their despondent leader or they were actually unaware of the true history behind his ascent, the truth remained that Hiranyakashipu did not achieve his position by himself. It appeared to be ekena, or the work of a single person, but there were supporting forces in the background.
1. Taking over the three worlds
He just had to move his eyebrows. A single glance and anyone taking notice would become alert. Trouble was on the way. This is what the teachers in the royal family observed. Their leader had risen so high that the suras, the demigods in heaven, were assuming disguises in order to avoid punishment. They no longer received oblations in yajna, sacrifice.
In truth, Hiranyakashipu only rose to power after receiving assistance from Lord Brahma, the creator. There were already the gifts of nature in the form of a body. No one can say that they ordered their specific set of hands and legs. The eyes, the nose, the mouth – these are products of nature. Both gross and subtle elements cover the individual spirit soul for a period of time.
भूमिर् आपो ऽनलो वायुः
खं मनो बुद्धिर् एव च
अहङ्कार इतीयं मे
भिन्ना प्रकृतिर् अष्टधा
bhūmir āpo ‘nalo vāyuḥ
khaṁ mano buddhir eva ca
ahaṅkāra itīyaṁ me
bhinnā prakṛtir aṣṭadhā
“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego-altogether these eight comprise My separated material energies.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.4)
One person is particularly talented in sports. Another in music. They have no memory of requesting specific features prior to the time of birth. There was an existence during that time since others can validate. They say that the world continued on, that such and such happened on such and such date.
The lack of input into the conditions of birth is one indication of the helpless nature of the individual. Knowledge of the fact should bring humility and curb pride. Hiranyakashipu had even more reason to be thankful. He conducted severe austerities, enough to catch the attention of the creator, who works with the basic ingredients of the material world to craft the different body types.
2. Teaching the children of the family
He did not act alone in taking over the three worlds on the power of Brahma’s boons, and he did not engage in teaching the children in his family, either. Hiranyakashipu’s son Prahlada was under the care of the family gurus. They were sons to Shukracharya, who is the preceptor of the demon clan, the Daityas. His name indicates that the qualifications are based on ancestry.
If Hiranyakashipu were as powerful as Shanda and Amarka made him out to be, he would have been able to get Prahlada’s mind right. The five-year old son was interested only in Vishnu-bhakti. He understood that the Supreme Lord is the strength of the strong and the overall ability in man.
Armed with this knowledge, Prahlada was never morose. The father, on the other hand, was a different story. He was particularly upset over failure in an area important to him. He could not understand the lack of success over something that should have been straightforward.
3. Trying to take out an enemy
This was a menace to society. He would not listen to anyone. Left unchecked, he could change the way everyone thought. The hard-fought victories over the enemies of the world, the suras, would go for naught. Everything would be erased if the problem was not taken care of.
This was how Hiranyakashipu viewed Prahlada. The father reached the decision to kill the son, to have him eliminated. In this task the king received help from the attendants under his charge. They tried various means of lethal punishment, and each one failed.
The king received help in his successful ventures, like taking over the world, and also in the ones that failed. This is the way of the world, as no one is guaranteed to have every desire fulfilled. Better to be an akama devotee of the Supreme Lord, where the lone desire is considered spiritual since it relates to serving the one who is above this world of duality. He alone exists before the creation, at the start of time, in the middle, and also beyond the end.
Gurus the king praising,
But contradictions raising.
Hiranyakashipu not acting alone,
Potency not entirely his own.
Help in wayward son teaching,
But success not even reaching.
Meaning for strength an underlying force,
Who of son and everyone’s source.