“Until the return of our spiritual master, Shukracharya, arrest this child with the ropes of Varuna so that he will not flee in fear. In any case, by the time he is somewhat grown up and has assimilated our instructions or served our spiritual master, he will change in his intelligence. Thus there need be no cause for anxiety.” (Shanda and Amarka speaking to Hiranyakashipu, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.50)
इमं तु पाशैर् वरुणस्य बद्ध्वा
निधेहि भीतो न पलायते यथा
बुद्धिश् च पुंसो वयसार्य-सेवया
यावद् गुरुर् भार्गव आगमिष्यति
imaṁ tu pāśair varuṇasya baddhvā
nidhehi bhīto na palāyate yathā
buddhiś ca puṁso vayasārya-sevayā
yāvad gurur bhārgava āgamiṣyati
The historical account is included in Vedic literature for a reason. It is not simply to humiliate a person who once rose to the top on the strength of boons provided by the creator. It is not only to highlight the glories of a perseverant, obstinate, and completely sinless child. It is not just to relive a period in history when the Daitya class once again failed at their objective of eternal world domination.
There are so many lessons to learn from the rise and fall of Hiranyakashipu, the individual who originally played the role of gatekeeper in Vaikuntha and then descended to the material world to live as a bad guy due to a curse placed on him.
One of the areas of instruction relates to anxiety. The name of that spiritual land references the relaxed nature. It is free of anxieties, Vaikuntha, whereas the material existence is completely the opposite. One would assume that with the life of Hiranyakashipu, there would be no reason to feel any kind of grief.
1. King of the world
There was no higher post to reach. In the limited vision of the conditioned soul, to be in charge of the three worlds brings the ultimate power; though in truth a person will always find people in three positions relative to them. There is always someone lower, a peer, and a superior.
Hiranyakashipu didn’t think that anyone was above him. He took over the post of the demigods, by force. He intimidated others into submission. They knew his strength, so they thought better of challenging him. The leader of the Daityas could simply ask for something and it would happen.
2. Everyone living in fear of him
There were boons of protection. The person at the top takes all of the arrows. They are the target of the competitors. Hiranyakashipu shared the same vulnerability, but there was a notable exception. Brahma, the creator, promised that the king would not perish at the hands of any animal or human being. No weapon could do him in, and death would occur neither during the day nor at night.
As it was ninety-nine percent immortality, a wise person would use that knowledge to remain calm and peaceful. After all, one of the basic animal activities is defense. This is due to fear. Eating, sleeping, mating and defending. Hiranyakashipu had every base covered.
3. A saintly and forgiving son
Griha, kshetra, suta. In material life a person naturally desires some good land. On that land let there be a nice home. This is through family. Within the family hopefully there will be children. That is the standard view of enjoyment for a human being.
Hiranyakashipu had all three. One of the sons happened to be the most saintly. Named Prahlada, he was always joyful in contemplating Brahman, which is the spiritual energy. He was also extremely forgiving.
The agitated Hiranyakashipu could not tolerate Prahlada’s devotion to Vishnu, of which he was not afraid to speak. The king became so enraged that he ordered the death penalty to the child. To everyone’s surprise and dismay, Prahlada survived the many attempts made against his life.
It reached a point that the king became morose. He needed a pep talk from the royal teachers, who asked him to remain calm and patient. A child cannot do much harm, regardless. Let him mature a little. Give it some time, for when the family guru of the demons arrives, Shukracharya, he will be able to get the child’s mind right.
And yet Hiranyakashipu was still agitated. This clearly reveals that material life is not everything. Who isn’t after success? A person attends a four-year university and amasses tremendous student loan debt in order to get a good job afterwards. They jump from position to position in order to steadily increase the amount of money earned. The thinking is, “If I’m going to sit in an office for forty hours a week, I might as well make as much money as I can.”
We see that Hiranyakashipu was at the pinnacle of success in material life. Nothing was lacking, and at the same time he became morose. He felt anxiety, and the cause was lack of control over the senses. Juxtaposing with the son, Prahlada had no fear, despite the clear and present danger before him. There was a connection to Vishnu, technically known as yoga. With that achievement, a person’s material existence naturally becomes easier. They may or may not succeed in this venture and that, but through the holy names they are always joyful: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Naturally beautifully arranged,
Nothing needed to be changed.
But king morose still feeling,
Flaw in material life revealing.
Despite over the world domination,
Failed in son’s termination.
Who to Supreme Vishnu connected,
Father left sad and dejected.