“In the tender age of childhood, when everyone is bewildered, one passes ten years. Similarly, in boyhood, engaged in sporting and playing, one passes another ten years. In this way, twenty years are wasted. Similarly, in old age, when one is an invalid, unable to perform even material activities, one passes another twenty years wastefully.” (Prahlada Maharaja, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.6.7)
मुग्धस्य बाल्ये कैशोरे
क्रीडतो याति विंशतिः
यात्य् अकल्पस्य विंशतिः
mugdhasya bālye kaiśore
krīḍato yāti viṁśatiḥ
yāty akalpasya viṁśatiḥ
“I know you don’t like to criticize other Vaishnavas. You consider them saintly because they chant the maha-mantra with others. They put themselves out in public, giving a face to the devotional culture. They sacrifice so much for the benefit of others. They risk being ostracized by community and family.
“I get all that, but at the same time there are the prominent leaders who have turned into life coaches. That is not my term; they openly promote themselves in this light. They can help others to deal with issues. They are equipped to counsel others, for they have received assistance themselves.
“The big problem I have is that they never mention Krishna. They mostly don’t wear the symbol of the lotus footprint of Vishnu on the forehead, also known as tilaka, but even when they do they speak nonsense that would only benefit a child of kindergarten age.
“How to view the situation? Is it proper to criticize? One of the justifications they make is that they are trying to attract more people. If they speak directly about the science of self-realization, the audience won’t be very receptive. I don’t know if I buy that. To me it seems like a kind of cheating. The bhakti way of life provides so much jnana that even material life becomes easier. But I don’t think we should be helping others to advance in material life; there are plenty of coaches for that already.”
An appropriate juxtaposition is to Prahlada Maharaja, the famous son of the Daitya king named Hiranyakashipu. Well-known for what he taught to others in a specific setting, equally as significant is what Prahlada did not teach.
1. Find your passion in life
The instruction was offered specifically in two places. The first was in the royal palace, directly to the father. The stimulus was a question to the boy, inquiring as to the most important topic learned in school.
The second setting was the tiffin hour in school. It would be the equivalent of the modern-day recess period. The father was not very receptive to the message; he was asking more out of politeness. There was affection, as well, at least in the beginning.
The students were ready to hear from Prahlada. Since they were young, their minds had yet to be polluted. Prahlada had a saintly character, and so the children were all ears. The child of five years of age easily could have went in the following direction:
“Life is about finding what you love to do. Once you reach success in that area, never let go. They say that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. Obviously, you will be working, but the engagement will be something like leisure. There won’t be as much pressure, and you will be excited to wake up in the morning. So many people struggle because they haven’t found this passion, so make the attempt as soon as possible in life. Try to get a head start.”
2. God is love
“The purpose of life is love. Love is everything. Always love everyone, no matter what. Never criticize. Before you speak ill of others, consider your own faults. If you see someone heading in the wrong direction, stop and ask yourself if you actually know what the right direction is. Would you like it if others were always criticizing you?
“If you want to know what God is, where He lives, what He is doing – know that God is love. Wherever you see love, there is God. Whenever you love someone else, that is also God. God always loves and so we must always be loving of others.”
3. Learn to listen to others
The saintly student could have dumbed down the message even further:
“My dear friends, before we get on our high-horse and criticize others, let us first learn to listen. In adulthood we might have to manage projects and work collaboratively. In such an environment it is critical to be able to listen. Try to empathize with others. Take into consideration their viewpoints. Only then will you learn something, and the key to life is to always be willing to learn more.”
Of course Prahlada did not go down any of these paths. Instead, he went straight into the embarrassment that is accepting a material body. He warned his friends that so much of the experience in life is wasted due to useless activities and sleeping. A child is bewildered, a boy plays the day away, and in old age a person is too crippled to be able to do anything significant.
What remains is the period of vitality, but even that gets squandered due to excessive sleep. Therefore, the waking hours should be spent in self-realization. Ask yourself why you are here. Why is the human birth significant? Sense enjoyment automatically arrives in any form of body, so this human one should be treated differently.
Prahlada faced the most hostile audience in his father. There was no convincing the leader of the Daityas, who could retaliate with lethal force if he so desired. That would indeed be the outcome, as he was sick of hearing tattva from the son. The children in school were also offspring of Daityas, which is a body type that typically leans towards sin.
Sin is nothing more than turning further away from the Supreme Lord, and so Prahlada had the most difficult task in front of him. He did not mask his beliefs or present arguments rooted in duality that could be easily nullified through the opposing view. He shared what Narada Muni previously passed on to him, and that wisdom can save any person, at any stage of life.
Why not life coach becoming?
Where message to wide audience coming.
That for personal purpose to strive,
Live each day happy to be alive.
Always love and towards others forgive,
But Prahlada something different to give.
That much time in valuable form squandered,
Better if on Vishnu topics pondered.