“My Lord, who are never conquered by anyone, I am certainly not afraid of Your ferocious mouth and tongue, Your eyes bright like the sun or Your frowning eyebrows. I do not fear Your sharp, pinching teeth, Your garland of intestines, Your mane soaked with blood, or Your high, wedgelike ears. Nor do I fear Your tumultuous roaring, which makes elephants flee to distant places, or Your nails, which are meant to kill Your enemies.” (Prahlada Maharaja, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.9.15)
नाहं बिभेम्य् अजित ते ’तिभयानकास्य-
nāhaṁ bibhemy ajita te ’tibhayānakāsya-
“You probably get this question a lot. I am new to bhakti-yoga. I was drawn in by the sound of the chanting of the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
“I enjoy visiting the temple, taking offerings known as prasadam, and reading authorized translations of sacred texts like Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam. One thing is that the image of Narasimha seems a little out of place to me.
“We are here to learn about the difference between matter and spirit. I am not the body and neither are you. The temple is supposed to be a peaceful atmosphere. I am wondering why we celebrate and honor such a ghastly image. It instills fear, and I thought bhakti is supposed to be about love.”
The true force to fear in this world is maya, which is illusion. The person who does not have a healthy respect for this energy sourced in the Supreme Lord will be overcome by dualities such as attraction and aversion.
इच्छाद्वेषसमुत्थेन द्वन्द्वमोहेन भारत।
सर्वभूतानि संमोहं सर्गे यान्ति परन्तप।।
icchādveṣasamutthena dvandvamohena bhārata।
sarvabhūtāni saṃmohaṃ sarge yānti parantapa।।
“O scion of Bharata [Arjuna], O conqueror of the foe, all living entities are born into delusion, overcome by the dualities of desire and hate.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.27)
From the exemplary behavior of Prahlada Maharaja, we see that there is nothing to fear from the image of Narasimha, who is a special manifestation [avatara] of Bhagavan descending for the destruction of the Daitya leader named Hiranyakashipu.
1. The big jaw and nails
Though God never takes a material form, the images He shows are not accidental. There is a purpose to the amazing visual that is Narasimha, the half-man/half-lion. Hiranyakashipu previously received special boons offering him protection against fatal attack. It was not an ironclad promise, but more with respect to specific situations and sources.
The jaw and nails were outside of the scope. Hiranyakashipu never thought to ask protection from these, since what can nails really do? They are typically not used as weapons, especially against a powerful king.
The jaw was ready to devour that great offender to the saintly class. Kala, a word that means both time and death, applies to every person, but here Bhagavan arranged a special kind of departure for Prahlada’s father.
2. The fiery tongue
As His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada says, this did not create any “fierceful havoc” before Prahlada. The tongue would enjoy digging into the stomach of the slain leader. While this kind of death is certainly gruesome, it was befitting punishment for having tortured Prahlada for so long. Hiranyakashipu was merciless in his attempts to kill his five year-old son, and so Narasimha would only repay the favor.
3. The gigantic lion head
It is not every day that I run into a lion. If I should spot one, noticing first its head, I will try my best to escape the situation. Without special weapons, I am no match for that king of the jungle.
Prahlada was not afraid, since he knew this was Vishnu. The child was not much interested in the destruction of his father, either, but he understood the work that the Supreme Lord has to do from time to time.
Hiranyakashipu should have been afraid of maya, but he wasn’t. He should have respected Prahlada, but he didn’t. He should have changed his ways, as advised by the son, but he had no plans to. Instead, he had to face the most fearful image while quitting the body. Yet that image was auspicious for everyone involved, and it continues to be for those who meditate on it today.
To Hiranya God never detected,
And thought always protected.
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