“Who could list the innumerable transcendental qualities of Prahlada Maharaja? He had unflinching faith in Vasudeva, Lord Krishna [the son of Vasudeva], and unalloyed devotion to Him. His attachment to Lord Krishna was natural because of his previous devotional service. Although his good qualities cannot be enumerated, they prove that he was a great soul [mahatma].” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.4.36)
गुणैरलमसङ्ख्येयैर्माहात्म्यं तस्य सूच्यते ।
वासुदेवे भगवति यस्य नैसर्गिकी रति: ॥
guṇair alam asaṅkhyeyair
māhātmyaṁ tasya sūcyate
yasya naisargikī ratiḥ
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that the atheist is lying when they claim that there is no God. When they say that they don’t believe in a higher power, that He doesn’t exist, that He is not visible to the eyes, they are not being forthright. The occasion of Narasimha Chaturdashi gives the vivid example of the presence of God for both the atheist and the devotee, simultaneously.
The perspective of the devotee is to see God everywhere. They never think that the Supreme is absent from any space. They possess the theoretical understanding of antaryami. This refers to the all-pervading witness, how someone is always observing.
If a tree falls in a forest devoid of human oversight, it indeed makes a sound. A person may not be there to perceive. There might not be recording technology to capture the environmental changes based on time.
This does not mean that there are no witnesses. Through His feature of Supersoul, the Almighty accomplishes omnipresence. He both witnesses and remembers. He has something like the most stable solid-state storage, which requires no maintenance and is suited for both read and write operations.
The atheist for the purposes of this discussion is the one who strongly argues that there is no oversight. They are not merely on the fence or unsure of the specifics to the universe. They have decided, in an open declaration, with the willingness to discuss, to an extent, that there is no God.
The wise person understands that there is no truth to this claim. The atheist does see God, and at every moment. Time is the great devouring agent, and it causes constant change. The adult human being has already experienced the death of their childhood.
There is no way to return to that safe and secure home, under the guidance and protection of the parents. There is no way to replicate the level of innocence and curiosity. There is no way to unlearn everything from the schooling years, such that there is endless potential for the future.
This change was forced upon the individual. They did not necessarily choose to become an adult. It just happened. The same changes will occur moving forward, beyond the time of death, even.
देहिनो ऽस्मिन् यथा देहे
कौमारं यौवनं जरा
धीरस् तत्र न मुह्यति
dehino ‘smin yathā dehe
kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā
dhīras tatra na muhyati
“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)
In the case of Narasimhadeva, both the atheist and the devotee received a direct vision at the same time. The viewpoint was strikingly different, however. Prahlada already saw Vishnu everywhere. The five-year old son of a king was expert in meditation through yoga. He could summon up the factual image of the four-armed Vishnu whenever he wanted, and especially during times of difficulty.
The difficulties were many and severe, as imposed by the atheist father. Hiranyakashipu refused to allow worship of Vishnu to take place in his kingdom. Even if it was only in the thoughts and prayers of his son, the king would take to lethal measures in approaching the problem at hand, as he saw it.
This was eventually too much to tolerate for the ever-forgiving Supreme Lord. He manifested as the half-man/half-lion, who was appropriately called Narasimha. Prahlada was not afraid of this form of Vishnu, but to Hiranyakashipu it was ghastly.
This meeting was not preferred by the atheist, but it occurred nonetheless. It is in their destiny to see God. No matter the strength of their denials and their pleas against common sense, they will be forced to submit to the higher power of death. This is the face of God that they see, and it is not pretty.
Meanwhile, the devotees celebrate the appearance of Narasimha to this day. That unique vision of Vishnu is forever known as the protector of Prahlada, who in spite of interference from powerful forces never had his exercise of devotion obstructed.
Never successful obstruction,
Though intent on destruction.
Full of envy was he,
When worship Hiranya to see.
That no God vehemently claiming,
The teachers for son’s ways blaming.
But visible the entire time,
Narasimha at end to find.