“A baby gives pleasure by speaking sweet words in broken language, and when the sons and daughters are grown up one becomes involved in their education and marriage. Then there are one’s own father and mother to be taken care of, and one also becomes concerned with the social atmosphere and with pleasing his brothers and sisters. A man becomes increasingly entangled in household affairs, so much so that leaving them becomes almost impossible.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.6.11-13 Purport)
Friend1: I’m struck by how much Prahlada knew about life’s patterns at such a young age. Particularly about family life, considering that he was only five years old.
Friend2: You get these kinds of counterarguments sometimes. If a person has never been married but offers up advice on the subject, someone will object:
“What do you know, pal? What experience do you have? Who are you to tell me anything?”
Friend1: You could use that line of reasoning with everything Prahlada taught, especially to the children in school. During recess hour, these other sons of Daityas, which tend to lean towards the side of atheism, were a receptive audience.
Friend2: That is the power of the message of the Divine, which in this case was passed down through Narada, the exalted travelling saint.
Friend1: Prahlada knew exactly how someone gets attached to family life. The children are so dear, especially when they speak in broken language at a young age. The wife who whispers sweet words and cooks palatable dishes becomes so endearing. It is only natural. How can you not be appreciative of people who are kind to you?
Friend2: Absolutely. You would have to be heartless to ignore direct service for your benefit.
Friend1: Then there are the parents to maintain. Brothers and sisters. When the children get older and married, you can’t help but miss their association. I don’t disagree with anything Prahlada teaches, but I’m wondering if he was a victim of the same.
Friend2: What do you mean?
Friend1: Was not he attached to the father, Hiranyakashipu?
Friend2: In what way?
Friend1: This was the worst father in the world, under any scale of analysis. Hiranyakashipu tried to kill Prahlada in so many ways, for the crime of practicing devotional service to Vishnu within the confines of the kingdom.
Friend2: Sure. Even speaking to the other students was a challenge to authority. The royal teachers enlisted for the task of raising sense enjoyers certainly never covered such topics.
Friend1: Yet when everything was said and done, when Vishnu arrived as Narasimha and took care of the demoniac father, Prahlada still could not let go.
Friend2: You mean in consciousness?
Friend1: The child was still thinking about the father. He asked Narasimha for pardon. Prahlada was concerned about the fate of someone who had mercilessly tried to kill him. To me that is the height of attachment. Doesn’t that go exactly against what he taught his classmates previously?
Friend2: This attachment issue is a difficult one to understand. You are not supposed to become this cold-hearted person who ignores everyone. The recommendation is not to abruptly walk out on the family in the name of vairagya, detachment.
Friend1: It’s not? If I stay, don’t I run the risk of further entanglement? Have I not wasted the valuable time in the human form in fruitless endeavors?
Friend2: The idea is to not let the relationships get in the way of the highest objective. Prahlada covers the common attachments to show the potential areas of distraction. Instead of cultivating spiritual life, I am worried about what college my children will get into. Instead of presenting gifts to the deity of the Supreme Lord and remembering His transcendental features, my primary concern is pleasing the wife in the home. I don’t have time to read Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam because I am worried about accumulating enough money, which is sweeter than honey, in order to take care of others.
Friend1: Those are legitimate concerns. It is indeed difficult to maintain a family, especially in the modern day. Rent prices steadily increases. Taxes go up, not down. You need insurance to breathe, practically. Where is the time for contemplating the Absolute Truth?
Friend2: Prahlada was not harmfully attached to his father. The Vaishnava is automatically compassionate towards everyone. They extract the good out of people, even in someone like the greatest atheist. Prahlada was concerned over the spiritual wellbeing of the father. This attachment was not harmful since it did not distract from devotional service.
Friend2: You can remain in family life and maintain a constant connection in yoga. There is the example of King Janaka, who held affection for his daughter Sita from the moment he met her. He never forgot her, even after arranging her marriage to Shri Rama, the Supreme Lord. Again, it’s a delicate balance, but the real message is to not get distracted in life, and through family you will find many areas over which to place concern.
Family life from the start,
With opportunities to depart.
From the spiritual way,
Bound by wife’s words to say.
And what college child to attend,
Towards grandchildren to extend.
Better focus Supreme Lord toward,
Prahlada indeed for family reward.