“Narada Muni continued: Lord Brahma was very much satisfied by Hiranyakashipu’s austerities, which were difficult to perform. Therefore, when solicited for benedictions, he indeed granted them, although they were rarely to be achieved.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.4.1)
एवं वृतः शत-धृतिर्
प्रादात् तत्-तपसा प्रीतो
वरांस् तस्य सुदुर्लभान्
evaṁ vṛtaḥ śata-dhṛtir
prādāt tat-tapasā prīto
varāṁs tasya sudurlabhān
Man is fallible. To err is human. No one is perfect. One of the four principal defects is the vulnerability to mistakes. The error could be something as simple as eating an extra slice of pizza for dinner or as grave as leaving a wallet full of cash in a crowded public place.
Bearing the tendencies in mind, it is understandable that someone might lose their way in life, reaching the point of requiring an intervention. Well-wishing friends and family gather together in a formal meeting to better highlight the severity of the situation.
“You need to change your ways. Straighten up. You are headed in the wrong direction. We wouldn’t say these things if we didn’t care. Please, listen to us. It is for your own good.”
In the case of Hiranyakashipu, the realization arrived too late: at the time of death. He had plenty of early warnings; many moments where he could have paused to reassess the situation.
1. Others could worship Brahma for the same purpose
The beginning was euphoric. It was a rapid rise to the top. From austere meditator to king of the world. From going without food and water to controlling the air supply. From staying in a remote place with no one to bother him to having your influence so well-known that prominent figures go into hiding out of fear.
Hiranyakashipu rose to power on the strength of boons provided by the creator, Lord Brahma. If you had general assurance that no one could defeat you in battle, that you were safe from attack in ninety-nine percent of situations, how would you react?
Peace of mind would be an appropriate response, but with Hiranyakashipu greed took over. He wanted to rule the world, essentially taking up a post equivalent with the concept of God. He did not believe in a higher authority, though he had just worshiped one in order to achieve success.
It never dawned on the leader of the Daityas that someone else could easily have won the same favor. That is to say the worship of Brahma is not exclusive to one person. The devas respond to the level of worship and sacrifice. Another person could have gone down the same route, received the same perfections, and essentially clashed on even terms with the best of the demon race, asura-varya.
2. If I have to rise to power, an accompanying fall is likely
There is the saying, “What goes up must come down.” It is commonly pointed out that the lone exception is age. I am forty years old today, and that number will only increase. Of course, the rule gets invalidated through the transmigration process, wherein the individual eventually travels to a different body, essentially resetting the number.
Hiranyaksha met death at the hands of Vishnu, who is the person worshiped by the demigods. The claim is that Vishnu is God. Hiranyakashipu did not like to hear this, but he should have at least stopped to think of the fate of his brother. Hiranyaksha did not live forever, and so neither would Hiranyakashipu.
The rapid rise to the top would one day be paired with a fall. Understanding this undeniable reality of life, a wise person considers the proper way to spend the time in between. What will yield the best result moving forward? Is not paramartha more important than svartha? Should not the long-term interest take precedence over flickering satisfaction in the immediate term?
3. How can a five-year old beat me at both peace and survivability
The story famously described in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, one of Hiranyakashipu’s sons defied the asura way and instead chose the side of Vishnu. Much to the chagrin of his father, Prahlada could not be dissuaded, even by force.
Hiranyakashipu should have considered how a young child could be just as powerful as an elder supported by Brahma. The son did not yet have enough time to practice intense worship of the demigods. The father eventually reached such questions, but he did not take them seriously enough. The thought was that Prahlada might have been a powerful mystic who used his abilities to defy the laws of nature.
The truth was that Vishnu supported Prahlada the entire time. The side of good would eventually win. The saintly people of the world simply had to wait out the storm that was the rise of the Daityas. It would eventually pass for better weather. In the process the power of devotion would be on full display, bringing down the most formidable atheist without the need of extraordinary weapons.
Narasimha with nails proceeding,
Powerful weapons not needing.
Those boons anyone could get,
Not exclusively for Daitya set.
Similar potency in five year old seen,
Surviving attacks wicked and mean.
Hiranyakashipu not stopping to pause,
That behind each failure a cause.
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