“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
“Are there no independent thinkers left? Is everyone bought and paid for, kept within the back pocket of one or more controlling entities? Is open and honest dialogue and debate completely prohibited? How are people supposed to learn? If my views from childhood and youth were never challenged, I would not have matured as a person. My intelligence would have remained in an immature state.
“I ask these questions out of frustration. I see one public figure after another forced to repudiate their previous comments on a particular issue. Their original statements were harmless. If they happened to offend someone, so what? Deal with it. Stick to your guns. Don’t give in to the mob.
“The saddest part is that the spiritual leaders are not immune to the controversy. I see them on television saying things that I know they don’t believe. They want to maintain their reputation. Don’t risk giving up the comfortable lifestyle supported by well-wishers and followers. It is like they are making a hostage video. Shouldn’t a brahmana be independent?”
As shastra and the acharya teach, the material world is a dangerous place. At every step, which equates to every moment, there is the potential for complete destruction. The force of change does not have to be an obvious one, such as disease or physical violence.
The means can be ostracization. Shame. Disrepute. The entire society turning their back on you. Everything you worked for cast aside in a moment. Yet from history we get strength from those who didn’t back down. They knew the truth, and they were not about to be convinced otherwise out of fear or threat of lethal force.
1. Haridasa Thakura
His crime to society was chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. These names are not sectarian. They are beautiful words of Sanskrit origin that describe the person who is the origin of everyone and everything. The more people that chant these names with the proper sentiment, with a loving service attitude, the higher the benefit to society at large.
Haridasa Thakura was born in a Muslim family, and so to deviate from the inherited plan in any way was sacrilege. In his case there was the utmost pressure from the government. Change your ways or have the love for Krishna literally beaten out of you.
Haridasa did not make a hostage statement. He did not renounce the devotional practices. He accepted the punishment, but since his devotion was so pure nothing could hurt him. The Supreme Lord protected, in the way He has done for so many others. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has declared Haridasa to be the foremost leader in chanting the holy names, nama-acharya.
Another incompatibility due to birth, Vibhishana stood out in the community of Rakshasas in Lanka. He was not like the others. He was on the path of dharma since entering the world. He understood virtue and pious behavior. He could spot right and wrong, and he was not afraid to speak up if someone dear to him had gone astray.
Ravana was the king of Lanka, and he had committed the worst crime in stealing someone else’s wife, all in secret. He then held that woman in Lanka against her will, trying to force her to join his side, when she vehemently protested and wanted only one thing: to reunite with her husband.
Vibhishana advised to change course. Return Sita Devi to her husband Rama. The prince of Ayodhya would forgive the mistake. No one else would suffer. No penalty. Vibhishana knew the kind and forgiving nature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Unfortunately, such compassion was not within his own brother. Ravana soundly rejected the idea. Any sort of favoritism towards Rama would not be tolerated in the kingdom. Vibhishana had no choice but to leave. He would not bow to the pressure. He would not change his outlook simply because everyone else was following a path destined for destruction.
3. Prahlada Maharaja
His is one of the most amazing stories. Prahlada was only five-years old when he noticed that he wasn’t like the other Daityas in the community. He leaned towards the side of the suras, who were considered the mortal enemies to the Daityas. Hiranyakashipu was the leader of the bad guys, so to speak, and he happened to be Prahlada’s father.
The son would not change his ways, so in addition to the peer pressure already applied there would be lethal force. Prahlada was a bad disease that needed to be eliminated right away. He was a helpless child, so there shouldn’t have been much resistance; so thought the father.
The mob of royal attendants could not succeed in the work assigned to them. Neither could they change Prahlada’s mind nor could they kill him. Prahlada informed the father that they both shared the same source of strength. Vishnu was the reason Hiranyakashipu could rise to power, and it was the same Vishnu protecting Prahlada.
Hiranyakashipu refused to believe, never to acknowledge the supremacy of a higher force. Vishnu then kindly illustrated the theoretical principle Prahlada had just presented. Vishnu showed a physical form, one that was so powerful that it effortlessly tore Hiranyakashipu in half.
Despite with lethal force to warn,
Haridasa not to conform,
Neither for Vibhishana the brother,
Siding with leader another.
Teachers trying Prahlada to sway,
But budging not from Vishnu’s way.
Mob their best attempt attacking,
But Supreme the devotion backing.