“Prahlada Maharaja said: My dear King, the source of my strength, of which you are asking, is also the source of yours. Indeed, the original source of all kinds of strength is one. He is not only your strength or mine, but the only strength for everyone. Without Him, no one can get any strength. Whether moving or not moving, superior or inferior, everyone, including Lord Brahma, is controlled by the strength of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.8.7)
न केवलं मे भवतश् च राजन्
स वै बलं बलिनां चापरेषाम्
परे ’वरे ’मी स्थिर-जङ्गमा ये
ब्रह्मादयो येन वशं प्रणीताः
na kevalaṁ me bhavataś ca rājan
sa vai balaṁ balināṁ cāpareṣām
pare ’vare ’mī sthira-jaṅgamā ye
brahmādayo yena vaśaṁ praṇītāḥ
“When you get passed the hellfire and brimstone message based on fear, where only faith is required and some token acknowledgment of belonging to an established institution, spirituality can be really interesting.
“Of course I am speaking of the Vedic tradition, which seems to open my eyes every day. Though in the morning I sometimes don’t feel like waking up, knowing what lies ahead of me in terms of responsibility, questioning different aspects of tattva invigorates me. I am out of the darkness and into the light.
“But then sometimes I fall back into the darkness. This is my own shortcoming. I have a difficult time understanding everything theoretically. I know, perhaps I need more field work, practice of the devotional principles in order to receive a practical understanding, which is more important.
“I am absolutely fascinated by this concept of Paramatma. Everyone is equal at the potency level. We have soul inside. Atma is our defining object. Without atma, nothing would exist. Death is the departure of atma. Birth is its arrival. No proper or fixed orientation, meaning that birth might be after death instead of the other way around.
“Paramatma is also inside of us. This is an expansion of God. He plays a unique role with this feature. He simply observes; the all-pervading witness. As antaryami He knows everything that takes place. God is never absent from a situation.
“My question relates to the episode with Prahlada Maharaja. A five-year old, the son of a Daitya king, he survived unspeakable violence inflicted against him. The father was envious. Hiranyakashipu could not stand to hear glorification of Vishnu coming from the son. Vishnu is the personal God. He is the same Paramatma, but with the full feature.
“Prahlada tried to explain to his father that the source of strength is the same in every person. That is to say Vishnu was the reason Prahlada could withstand the attacks, and Vishnu was also the reason for Hiranyakashipu’s rise to world dominance. Does this mean that Paramatma was also inside of Hiranyakashipu? I’m assuming it was, but then how does that work?”
It is an interesting perspective, for sure. The acharyas explain that in the material world God helps both the burglar and the homeowner. One is trying to illegally enter a place and take what doesn’t belong to them, i.e. steal. The other is there to protect, to repel such unwarranted intrusions.
Paramatma is neutral. He does not interfere with decisions. At the same time, no result would manifest without Paramatma’s sanction. This means that Hiranyakashipu, the best of the Daityas, could not have asserted dominance over the entire world without acceptance of the proposal by Paramatma.
Yet we see that the dominance did have a limit. The denial was in areas of such assured success that Hiranyakashipu was dumbfounded. He could not believe that throwing Prahlada off a cliff did not kill the boy. Feeding to snakes, taking in a pit of fire, releasing mad elephants to rush over the body – Prahlada kept surviving.
Prahlada was telling the truth. The source of strength was the same in both, but the key distinction was that Paramatma abandoned the position in neutrality on one side. Prahlada was a devotee of Vishnu, which is the full realization of God. Vishnu protected Prahlada, and soon after He would personally arrive to destroy Hiranyakashipu, which is an occasion still celebrated to this day.
Soul impossible to see,
But known inside of me.
Of Paramatma also to reside,
Like neutral witness standing aside.
There for Daitya king’s ascension,
And also madness descension.
But for Prahlada personally protecting,
For him out of pillar projecting.