“Lord Brahma said: O son of Kashyapa Muni, please get up, please get up. All good fortune unto you. You are now perfect in the performance of your austerities, and therefore I may give you a benediction. You may now ask from me whatever you desire, and I shall try to fulfill your wish.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.3.17)
उत्तिष्ठोत्तिष्ठ भद्रं ते
तपः-सिद्धो ’सि काश्यप
वरदो ’हम् अनुप्राप्तो
व्रियताम् ईप्सितो वरः
uttiṣṭhottiṣṭha bhadraṁ te
tapaḥ-siddho ’si kāśyapa
varado ’ham anuprāpto
vriyatām īpsito varaḥ
One teaching particularly emphasized by the acharyas of the Vaishnava tradition is that man should not over-endeavor in terms of enjoyment or achievement. For example, if you own one hundred stores as part of your business empire, be satisfied with what you have. If you work the extra mile, burn the candle at both ends, lose sleep for consecutive days, for the hope of opening ten more stores, the effort is most likely not worth it.
The recommendation is not for simply sitting back and doing nothing. This is one of the principal complaints of the communists. They accuse the believers of being foolhardy in relying on faith alone, in hoping and praying their way to happiness. They incorrectly use the example of a potted plant, wherein simply praying for the proper growth does not work. There has to be some kind of human intervention, involving strategic placement in the sunlight and periodic feeding.
The wise person knows that they must work, as they have been given vibrancy for a reason. At the same time, not everything is under their control. They can work as hard as they want, giving up to one hundred percent effort, but sometimes there is no chance for success.
If I am playing a game where the objective is to cross the other side of a hallway and ring a bell, if the opponent running in the opposite direction collides with me in the middle, I will need more than effort alone to emerge victorious. If they are more than one hundred pounds heavier than I am, and also stronger, then I don’t stand a chance. Neither effort nor prayer will work.
गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः
कर्ताहम् इति मन्यते
guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
kartāham iti manyate
“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)
The explanation from shastra is that the living entity, the jiva inside of the material covering known as body, is not the doer. For every kind of consequence, small to large, the three modes of nature must first cooperate. Even in the case of watering the plant, I need the help of the actual sunlight appearing. I require enough water nearby, which is not always guaranteed.
The worst of the worst, the top of the demon class, think they can bypass these stringent rules of nature. Case in point the Daitya leader named Hiranyakashipu. He put in the effort. He did not simply sit back and pray. He went through the severest austerities, though there was Divinity involved in the process.
Hiranyakashipu wanted to and succeeded in getting the attention of Lord Brahma, the creator. The intention was to ask for immortality. This way, the evil Vishnu, as viewed by the demon, would not be able to strike. Vishnu had killed Hiranyakashipu’s brother in the past. Never mind that Hiranyaksha deserved the punishment he received. Never mind that Vishnu only acts in such a way when the cause is just.
Brahma could not offer immortality, so Hiranyakashipu thought he would work around the restriction. Create the same through individual components. Ask for safety in a variety of situations and conditions. In essence, Hiranyakashipu thought he baffled Brahma. He outsmarted the creator. The poor guy, even with his four heads he could not understand how the Daitya leader was playing him for a fool.
An amazing thing occurred in the future. Hiranyakashipu’s boons remained intact. He rose to the top of stature and power. Everyone was afraid of him. Yet a five-year old boy happened to come along and spoil everything. Prahlada Maharaja baffled the baffler.
In this case, there wasn’t the same level of austerity. Prahlada hadn’t supplicated Brahma. He hadn’t even asked for the protection he was to receive, which included surviving through various lethal attempts made against him.
Prahlada was a devotee of Vishnu from birth and Hiranyakashipu could not stand this. The father went to the severe extent of trying to kill his own son, but he failed every time. Prahlada survived being thrown off a cliff, lying under walking elephants, sitting in a pit of snakes, and being taken into a raging fire. Nothing worked and Hiranyakashipu couldn’t understand it.
Prahlada did not over-endeavor, and yet he managed to be just as powerful as the father. The level of devotion was so strong that Vishnu eventually arrived on the scene, emerging from a pillar as the half-man/half-lion named Narasimha. Maintaining Brahma’s honor, Vishnu proved that immortality was not possible, and the Daitya king was baffled one last time.
Not relying on winning a raffle,
Hiranya the creator to baffle.
Through austerity long,
Became powerful and strong.
But to immortality not the same,
Shown when son to him came.
Who even that leader could not tame,
Evil visions finally put to shame.
Categories: devotional service