“My Lord, who are never conquered by anyone, I am certainly not afraid of Your ferocious mouth and tongue, Your eyes bright like the sun or Your frowning eyebrows. I do not fear Your sharp, pinching teeth, Your garland of intestines, Your mane soaked with blood, or Your high, wedgelike ears. Nor do I fear Your tumultuous roaring, which makes elephants flee to distant places, or Your nails, which are meant to kill Your enemies.” (Prahlada Maharaja, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.9.15)
नाहं बिभेम्य् अजित ते ’तिभयानकास्य-
nāhaṁ bibhemy ajita te ’tibhayānakāsya-
“I am sure you are familiar with the concept of bloodlust. In the joking sense, we come across it quite often amongst fans of professional sports teams. If the local team is perpetually a bottom-dweller, with no hopes in sight for a winning season, fans may irrationally wish for the controlling authorities to perish. They want the coach fired, the star player traded, and everyone in the front-office to go away.
“In the more serious cases, there is the genuine desire to see someone terminally injured. It might be an issue of revenge. Perhaps the hate is directed towards political opponents, those who hold different points of view on certain issues of public policy.
“At the very least, we would expect bloodlust to be absent amongst spiritual circles. If people are developing saintly qualities, compassion would be foremost. The Vedas describe the minimum baseline for religious life: compassion, austerity, cleanliness and honesty.
“You can imagine the surprise people feel when seeing the image of Narasimha killing Hiranyakashipu, especially when it is worshiped on the altar. From an artistic point of view, the image is terrifying. A half-man/half-lion figure tearing through an adult human being. There is a small child off to the side, preparing to offer a garland of flowers to the victor in the struggle.
“How do we square the contradiction? How is it compassionate to constantly remember an incident involving gruesome death? Should not a saintly person see the bigger picture, noticing the spirit inside of the temporary body? Should not there be a feeling of forgiveness against mistakes previously committed?”
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that every person eventually sees God. The devoted souls notice His presence all around. From the beautiful raincloud in the sky, to the blossoming tree by the lake, they cannot imagine a place absent His presence. They hold this view from the time of enlightenment through to the unforeseeable future.
The asura class, on the other hand, staunchly denies such a presence. They think the devotees are foolish for believing in some invisible man in the sky. No matter how much they are counselled to the contrary, appealing to logic, reasoning and a general sense of doubt over man’s superiority, the asuras refuse to acknowledge that any supreme being could hold authority over the entire universe.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, such a person eventually meets God. The distinction is that the image for the asura is gruesome. It is fearful. The asura must finally submit. They leave the body against their will. They are forcefully dragged away to the court of the god of justice.
The image of Narasimha killing Hiranyakashipu is one such instance of a final meeting. The devotees celebrate the incident for many reasons. For what Hiranyakashipu put others through, he was now receiving. Payback in an unexpected way, though guaranteed. No one is above the laws of nature. Karma is entirely fair.
Prahlada offered a garland of flowers because Narasimha had been protecting him the entire time. Not everyone is so lucky. The asura class can string victories together, in succession, for decades. They may rise to the top in terms of influence and power. They may think that no one will ever stop them.
Except that Narasimha always arrives, either as cruel death through the feature of time, or in special cases in the personal form. Hiranyakashipu deserved no mercy, and none was given. Prahlada, the saintly character that he was, still asked for forgiveness for his sinful father. He did not hold a grudge, but he was not foolish enough to interfere in Narasimha’s justified work.
At first glance mortified,
But that action justified.
Prahlada standing back,
While father attacked.
Despite refusing to believe,
Visual confirmation to receive.
Hiranyakashipu at last to see,
That everywhere Vishnu is He.