“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
Vedic literature is for lifting up every type of person. Wherever they may be in life, however much money they have, whatever they are longing for, to whichever depths they have fallen or heights to where they have reached, every historical account presented in the spotless Sanskrit language serves multiple purposes in education.
The Hiranyakashipu affair is no different, as he made a significant impact through his ascent to world domination and subsequent persecution of the saintly son named Prahlada. There are aspects to which every kind of person can relate, whether young or old, rich or poor, famous or barely known to the outside world.
1. Humiliate a person who rose to the top on the strength of gifts provided by others
Who isn’t interested in rising to the top? There is the adage in business that if you are not growing, you are not going. A steady profit is insufficient for analysis. How does this past quarter’s performance compare with last year at the same time? What are the trends?
You can be successful in business, with a popular product line, when suddenly things take a dive. Technology renders your industry obsolete. Tastes change. The newer generation does not hold steady to the patterns of their parents.
With Hiranyakashipu, we see that a person is vulnerable to humiliation even after they have reached the highest mountain, so to speak. No one was above the leader of the Daityas; at least in the material sense.
Yet the king forgot from where his powers came. He had won the favor of Lord Brahma, the creator. On the strength of boons provided in exchange for worship, Hiranyakashipu became almost invincible. He had no reason to feel excessive pride, yet that could not be curbed. He could have easily remembered the past, the time when he wasn’t as powerful.
The humiliation came in the form of a quick descent, all the way to the bottom. He lost everything, and it was entirely his fault. There was vulnerability from the beginning, and the pious son named Prahlada tried his best to guide the father in the right direction.
2. Highlight the glories of a perseverant, obstinate and completely sinless child
It is etiquette to respect the elders. Especially within a household, the children should be obedient and submissive to the parents. There is the obvious angle of vision which sees into the future, that the children will one day be parents of their own and hope for the same kind of respect.
There is also the knowledge-aspect, wherein the child realizes that the parents are completely responsible for safety and wellbeing. The child does not know about deadlines at the office or searching desperately for a better material condition, to have enough money to meet life’s necessities. Everything is in the care of the elders, who are thus essential for life to continue.
Prahlada was respectful, but obstinate in some ways. In Hiranyakashipu’s kingdom, worship of Vishnu was forbidden. No exceptions, not even for one of the sons of the king. Prahlada could not be dissuaded, however.
The story of his exchange with the Daitya father highlights the glories of the saints of the Vaishnava tradition, who have truly abandoned every other interest in life in favor of bhakti. That devotion is pure, and it cannot be squashed, regardless of how much force an opponent may apply.
3. Relive a period in time when once again the Daitya class failed at their objective of eternal world domination
The gods and the demons. The good guys and the bad guys. Saintly versus sinful. The struggle dates back to the beginning of the creation, and as much as it may seem that the nonbelievers advance more often than not, they actually fail in their objective.
They wish to become immortal, in the way they define it. Remain in their present situation, tied to the exact same body. They fail due to the existence of time, but somehow they feel they can evade the undefeated force of nature on the next attempt around.
In Hiranyakashipu’s case, the failure was remarkable due to the size of the opponent. At five years old, the weaponless Prahlada could not do anything to alter the life of the Daityas. He was not a threat, and yet through his devotion he took down the most powerful ruler.
The same attempt will be made countless times in the future, yielding an identical result. The devotion of the devotees is never destroyed, and so it is not surprising that Prahlada succeeded, supported as he was by Narasimha.
Saints in Prahlada’s triumph delighting,
Story failure of Daityas highlighting.
Where since the beginning of time,
The same end result to find.
That impossible in body to stay,
Caught in time’s destructive way.
Whereas devotees by Narasimha supported,
Many cases by Vedas reported.