“Although the teachers Shanda and Amarka were instructing all the boys in the materialistic life of religion, economic development and sense gratification, the boys were not much polluted. Therefore, with great attention they wanted to hear from Prahlada Maharaja about Krishna consciousness.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.56-57 Purport)
Friend1: In reading the story of Prahlada Maharaja, in one section we see the description of the other children in school.
Friend2: This is in the kingdom of Hiranyakashipu? We’re talking about the time period where Prahlada is five years of age, sent to get his mind right by the teachers, Shanda and Amarka?
Friend1: Yes. Killing the child didn’t work. He outlasted every attempt made on his life. The demoniac father, Hiranyakashipu, was frustrated beyond belief. There was no other choice but to hope for the best in school.
Friend2: These were other Daitya children, but they had a fondness for Prahlada.
Friend1: That is what I was getting to. The description is that they were not yet polluted by material life. Though the teachers focused on perfunctory religion, advancing self-interest, and pleasing the senses, the boys really weren’t converted to that way of life.
Friend2: Makes sense. You can try to pass along your life experiences to children, but what do they really have to compare? What frame of reference is there to accurately assess? That is why children sometimes think the elders are crazy.
“They have lost their way. They are stuck in the past. They don’t realize that the world is different today.”
Friend1: It helped Prahlada make his case for the transcendental path, the Divine way of life. I immediately think of the people who don’t listen to any opposing opinions. Have you ever encountered such a situation?
Friend2: Provide some more clarity first. What are we talking about here? Trying to convert someone to a different religion?
Friend1: Let’s say that politics comes up. You are in a room with someone else. They mention that so and so is a bad person. You ask them what about that person is bad. This person then immediately gets defensive. They won’t accept your challenges. They don’t want to hear anything from you. Meanwhile, you asked a basic question. You weren’t challenging anything. Some clarity would be nice, yet they will not provide.
Friend2: I see. Something like sentimentalism. “I already know everything; don’t try to teach me.”
Friend1: Yes, and so how would someone of the Vaishnava tradition handle that situation. You run into challenges all the time.
Friend2: Look to the same example of Prahlada. He was able to instruct the students. They didn’t retaliate in a negative way. They did not tell on Prahlada to the elders. They were genuinely receptive to the idea. It was new information; something which the teachers certainly weren’t sharing.
Friend1: Are you saying that Hiranyakashipu could be compared to the closed-minded person?
Friend2: Absolutely. Prahlada did not discourse nearly as long to the father. The king did not want to hear a single word of praise of Vishnu, the Supreme Lord. Are you looking for some secret strategy here?
Friend1: Not really, but just thinking of the difficulties involved with spreading the science of self-realization.
Friend2: Do your best. Make the most out of advantageous opportunities. Chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Distribute prasadam, the sanctified food blessed by the transcendental glance of the Supreme Lord. Know that even such blindness to the truth is a form of praise of Vishnu.
Friend1: Oh? How so?
Friend2: The closed-minded are illustrating the potency of the illusory energy known as maya. Fortunately, the saints can break the dream, destroy the false reality. What awaits on the other side is a lifetime and more of happiness, the likes of which Prahlada experienced since birth.
King suffering beyond belief,
Feeling morose with grief.
That Prahlada standing still,
After many efforts to kill.
To the students then teaching,
Their minds with wisdom reaching.
Even if with opposition mounting,
Saints steady when encountering.