The Useless Austerities Of Hiranyakashipu

[Lakshmana]“O Lakshmana, do you rule this earth with Me. You are like My second self, so this glorious opportunity has been presented to you as well. O Saumitra, do you enjoy all the pleasures you desire and the fruits of the regal life. My life and this kingdom I covet for your sake alone.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 4.43-44)

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लक्ष्मणेमां मया सार्धं प्रशाधि त्वं वसुन्धराम्।
द्वितीयं मेऽन्तरात्मानं त्वामियं श्रीरुपस्थिता।।
सौमित्रे भुङ्क्ष्व भोगांत्स्वमिष्टान्राज्यफलानि च।
जीवितं च हि राज्यं च त्वदर्थमभिकामये।।

lakṣmaṇemāṃ mayā sārdhaṃ praśādhi tvaṃ vasundharām।
dvitīyaṃ me’ntarātmānaṃ tvāmiyaṃ śrīrupasthitā।।
saumitre bhuṅkṣva bhogāṃtsvamiṣṭānrājyaphalāni ca।
jīvitaṃ ca hi rājyaṃ ca tvadarthamabhikāmaye।।

According to Vedic instruction, the human life is meant for tapasya. Austerity and penance, where both are voluntarily imposed. The chance is not there in the other species. The animals are at the mercy of nature. They eat until they are satisfied, but they do not fast on specific days as a way to better concentrate the mind on the source of all things.

Restrictions on eating and sex life find their way into sacred texts for the sole purpose of restriction and regulation. Otherwise, there is no objective to institutions such as marriage. Eat whatever you want, whenever you want. Kill indiscriminately, because there is no difference between matter and spirit, types of birth, the past and the future.

At the same time, the tapasya should be authorized. It should be directed towards the proper objective. A student purchases a laptop computer to deal with the suddenly imposed need to learn remotely. A hacker purchases the exact same model of computer, but for a different purpose. They wish to bring down the world’s banking system, to steal money and hide someplace thereafter.

The seed activity is similar, yet the consequences are different. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada says that the austerities of someone like Hiranyakashipu are useless. A total waste of time. That infamous Daitya king described in Shrimad Bhagavatam performed austerities to a level unimaginable. The less intelligent will relegate the historical accounts to fiction or mythology. They think that it could never happen, that it must be imagination at play.

श्री-नारद उवाच
एवं वृतः शत-धृतिर्
हिरण्यकशिपोर् अथ
प्रादात् तत्-तपसा प्रीतो
वरांस् तस्य सुदुर्लभान्

śrī-nārada uvāca
evaṁ vṛtaḥ śata-dhṛtir
hiraṇyakaśipor atha
prādāt tat-tapasā prīto
varāṁs tasya sudurlabhān

“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)

Even with an attitude of skepticism, a person can at least play along, conducting a mock experiment. If someone did perform severe austerities for the purpose of world domination, would that be a worthwhile endeavor? Would they become happier as a result?

We see from the dealings in the kingdom of Ayodhya many thousands of years ago that royal life is not without its problems. There can be heartbreak to the point of prematurely ending life, as occurred with King Dasharatha.

[Lakshmana]In that kingdom the prince named Lakshmana accepted the austerity of always following his elder brother, Shri Rama, no matter the situation. Whether living in a royal palace or a recently built hut in the forest, Lakshmana would always be there.

Such austerity is the height of sacrifice and the ideal way to live. Other sacrifices do not yield a lasting benefit. Despite achieving world domination, Hiranyakashipu was always on edge. He was constantly worried that the enemy he denied existed, the Supreme Lord, would attack and take away everything. He was paranoid to the point of harassing his innocent five-year old son named Prahlada.

[Narasimhadeva]Tapasya for Shri Rama is worthwhile because He returns the favor. He tells Lakshmana that everything is done for the pleasure of His brothers. Rama has three younger brothers in Ayodhya and there is no rivalry between them. That avatara of the Supreme Lord appreciates every sacrifice made in His honor, and so the comparatively mild austerity in Kali-yuga that is the chanting of the holy names earns His favor immediately: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Possible even for a child,
Austerity by comparison mild.

Where effort not to go to waste,
Quickly arriving the transcendental taste.

Chanting names of Krishna and Rama,
Not like tapasya for kama.

Where useless in the end,
Since pain of samsara to extend.

Categories: for his brothers

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