“One may become as strong and puffed up as Hiranyakashipu and bring under his control all the three worlds, but there is no possibility of continuing life eternally or keeping the conquered booty forever. So many emperors have ascended to power, and they are now lost in oblivion; that is the history of the world.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.17.19 Purport)
1. To be poor
“It is the only kind of life that I know. It began from childhood. We would wait on the rations distributed by the government. There was no opportunity to hoard. Each family member had to keep a careful eye on their consumption. You were not allowed to go over the allotment, as that would immediately create a shortage.
“This was real life, not a reality television show where the participants live in isolation for a few weeks and endure similar hardships created by the producers. This has continued beyond childhood. I don’t think I am wealthy by any means. Retirement is a pipe dream; I have no savings. I do honest work for a living, and I have been able to get by with that.”
2. To be in distress
“You hear these success stories of famous individuals, wherein they overcame hardship from early on. Perhaps one of their parents passed away early. Sometimes the child was placed into the care of grandparents or other relatives.
“Then there are the debilitating illnesses. A doctor says that such and such person will never learn to walk, that their ailment is chronic. Maybe the family lost everything in a flood or fire. It is nice to see how the person eventually overcame, how they were able to turn things around.
“For me, it seems like I am always in distress. Though the externals may paint a different picture, it is the internal struggle that counts. I am always afraid of losing my job. I worry that my child will grow up in a world of madness, where no one is allowed to breathe freely and junk science rules the day.
“I am worried I won’t have enough money to retire. I hear about the painful endings caused by illness, and I desperately hope that the same won’t happen to me. It seems that my entire life has been spent this way.”
3. To be a leader
“Wherever I have gone, people turn to me for advice. If I give my approval, even implicitly, others will follow. If I don’t do something, they are more likely to avoid it. I guess I am a born leader.
“It is a difficult responsibility, but someone has to do it. If not for me, then who would people trust? There would be chaos. I don’t mind taking the arrows; people always have something to complain about. I feel comfortable being in charge, and life has rewarded me with ample opportunity to exercise my abilities.”
4. To be rich
“I was born into wealth. It is the only thing I know. Other people might think it ridiculous to be upset with how the breakfast meal was cooked by the servants, but I was taught that this is vital. The people being paid to help should be diligent. They should not slack in their responsibilities.
“In adulthood, I have continued with the same life. My bedroom has to be a certain size. I have to drive the latest model of the most expensive car. I must have a great view from the window, overlooking a lake or forest. I must have at least one tennis court nearby, with a steady playing partner.”
5. To control the three worlds
It was in Hiranyakashipu’s destiny to not only become wealthy and wield control over a kingdom, but to be feared and respected throughout the three worlds. Even the demigods were afraid of him; it is said they took on disguises so as to avoid his wrath.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that no matter the heights to which a person ascends, they must eventually come crashing down to reality. Time is a debilitating force, destroying everything in its wake. The final blow from time at the individual level is death.
This applies to every living entity. Hiranyakashipu had what would seem to be the greatest life imaginable. He could do whatever he wanted, with no one to stop him. No need to stress about taking care of tasks, since there were assistants available around the clock.
Yet that king was not happy. His senses were not under control. He felt a constant threat from a higher power, whom he outwardly denied but inwardly knew existed. His enmity with Vishnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, consumed his very being.
Hiranyakashipu was correct in his suspicion. Despite the haughty exterior, there was terror inside, which finally outwardly manifested in the avatara of Narasimha. Vishnu was there to protect Prahlada, who happened to be Hiranyakashipu’s son.
ये तु सर्वाणि कर्माणि
मयि सन्न्यस्य मत्-पराः
मां ध्यायन्त उपासते
तेषाम् अहं समुद्धर्ता
भवामि न चिरात् पार्थ
ye tu sarvāṇi karmāṇi
mayi sannyasya mat-parāḥ
māṁ dhyāyanta upāsate
teṣām ahaṁ samuddhartā
bhavāmi na cirāt pārtha
“For one who worships Me, giving up all his activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, who has fixed his mind upon Me, O son of Pritha, for him I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.6-7)
Whether we ascend to great heights or remain in the depths of despair, such is the destiny assigned to us. We are essentially powerless against this amazing force, known as daivam in Sanskrit. With the Divine way of living, there is direct assistance offered by Vishnu. He can rescue me from the material ocean, which washes away every gain and is otherwise too vast to cross.
Too far horizon to see,
Forever trapped to be.
In this ocean large and vast,
Where time any gains to blast.
But Vishnu ready to protect,
When devotional appeal to detect.
Like Prahlada his father against,
Narasimha to that place went.
Categories: the five