Lord Narasingha Dev and His devotee Prahalad Maharaj. For the benefit of those who didn’t, let’s have a short description of the event.
The evil king, Hiraṇyakasipu asked his Vaishnava child, Prahalad, if his God existed within the pillars of the palace. To this Prahalad Maharaja promptly acknowledged that since the Lord is present everywhere, He was likewise present within the pillars. When Hiraṇyakasipu heard this statement from his son, he criticized him and forcefully struck the pillar with his fist. Immediately there was a tumultuous sound. At first, Hiraṇyakasipu, could not see anything but the pillar, but to prove Prahalad’s statements, the Lord came out of the pillar in His brilliant manifestation as Lord Narasingha, half lion and half man. The Lord killed him by piercing his abdomen with His nails. The entire universe was thus relieved and everyone was jubilant in transcendental bliss.
Throughout the community of devotees, Prahalad is extremely respected and he is also one amongst the 12 Mahajans. The messages we get and lessons we can learn from Lord Narasingha and His pure devotee like Prahalad is limitless. Let us see 11 such absolutely remarkable messages of Prahalad Maharaj and Narasingha Dev, which can help us in becoming a better devotee.
Message I. When to start spirituality?
Prahalad Maharaj said: One who is sufficiently intelligent should use the human form of body from the very beginning of life — in other words, from the tender age of childhood — to practice the activities of devotional service, giving up all other engagements. The human body is most rarely achieved, and although temporary like other bodies, it is meaningful because in human life one can perform devotional service. Even a slight amount of sincere devotional service can give one complete perfection.- Srimad Bhagavatam 7.6.1
It is stated in scriptures and confirmed by Prahalad Maharaj that human birth is extremely rare and one who is intelligent must not waste even a single moment. Thus early childhood is the right time to start the devotional services. Every parent must encourage their children to Krishna Consciousness along with their mundane education. It is said in Srimad Bhagavatam that it is the responsibility of every parent to see that their children get delivered from the repeated cycle of birth and death. If not then one should not take up this responsibility of begetting children. Therefore every couple must learn the true art of Parenting.
Message II. Life in sense gratification is simply a waste of time.
Prahalad Maharaj says if we consider the maximum life span of a human is 100 years, he wastes 50 years in sleeping, 10 years in childhood, 10 years in boyhood, 20 years in old age. So effectively one is left with only 10 years [100 – (50 + 10 + 10 + 20) = 10]. But for a man whose mind and senses are not controlled, he easily gets attached to various material factors and wastes this 10 years also.
Every human being has a maximum duration of life of one hundred years, but for one who cannot control his senses, half of those years are completely lost because at night he sleeps twelve hours, being covered by ignorance. Therefore such a person has a lifetime of only fifty years.In the tender age of childhood, when everyone is bewildered, one passes ten years. Similarly, in boyhood, engaged in sporting and playing, one passes another ten years. In this way, twenty years are wasted. Similarly, in old age, when one is an invalid, unable to perform even material activities, one passes another twenty years wastefully.One whose mind and senses are uncontrolled becomes increasingly attached to family life because of insatiable lusty desires and very strong illusion. In such a madman’s life, the remaining years are also wasted because even during those years he cannot engage himself in devotional service.- Srimad Bhagavatam 7.6.6 – 8
An interesting point to understand is, these were spoken during the age of Satya Yuga - an age of purity. In today’s age, thanks for modernizations and so-called advancement, our life span is extremely doubtful to reach 100 years, young people at the age of 30s are leaving their bodies due to heart diseases. And to add toppings, we are compelled to work like a slave for a minimum 12 hours a day in office, thanks to traffic jam our transportation from home to office takes 2 hours (on an average), and how can we forget the allurements like TV, innumerable channels, movies, youtube, sports, news, newspapers, fictional books, mobile, internet, social media… the list goes on. Statistically, the average person has no time left for self-discovery and deveopment shown below,
However, the fact remains that even a devotee in the age of Kaliyuga is managing his 24 hours in a similar tightly packed timetable. The only difference is he knows how to manage his time.
Effective time management is when we can manage time for our highest priority tasks - Regular Sadhana, keeping the social responsibility as it is. It is only possible when we are attentively making sure of not wasting any moment of our life. Before we came into Krishna Consciousness, after having a stressful day at the office, we used to get along with friends, at theater or cafe or restaurants or malls to waste our precious time in doing something that is known as “Time Pass”. Fools invented the term called “Time Pass” for they don’t realize that the time is anyways passing away and very soon in a matter of a few days or years we will be left with no time.
Message III. When the family becomes bondage.
Prahalad Maharaj compares an entangled householder is like a silkworm, which weaves a cocoon in which it becomes imprisoned, unable to get out.
Point to realize is that nothing in this temporary world belongs to us, not even our body, what to speak about our family and relatives. As long as we are in the current body, we will be illusioned with these bodily concepts and relations. The moment we leave this body and accept a new body, we will all forget everything. Just like most of us do not remember anything about anyone from our previous life.
The way a devotee looks at his family members is that they belong to Krishna and he is a mere honest caretaker. So even though they have a sense of care and concern and emotion for others, they aren’t entangled in the illusion of "I and My".
In one of the verses, Prahalad Maharaj compares this material household life, where the householder is entangled badly, as dark well. Srila Prabhupada suggests the only solution that a householder has in order to free himself from such a deep entanglement.
... Thus the household becomes gṛham andha-kūpam, a dark well into which the man has fallen. For such a man to get out is extremely difficult unless he is helped by a strong person, the spiritual master, who helps the fallen person with the strong rope of spiritual instructions. A fallen person should take advantage of this rope, and then the spiritual master, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, will take him out of the dark well.Srimad Bhagavatam – 7.6.11-13 Purport
Message IV. Position of a Devotee.
If a brāhmaṇa has all twelve of the brahminical qualifications [as they are stated in the book called Sanat-sujāta] but is not a devotee and is averse to the lotus feet of the Lord, he is certainly lower than a devotee who is a dog-eater but who has dedicated everything — mind, words, activities, wealth and life — to the Supreme Lord. Such a devotee is better than such a brāhmaṇa because the devotee can purify his whole family, whereas the so-called brāhmaṇa in a position of false prestige cannot purify even himself.Srimad Bhagavatam 7.9.10
From this verse, we understand the position of a Vaishnava or a devotee of the lord is even higher than caste brahmin who possess all the qualities but is not a devotee.
Krishna also confirms the position of a devotee in Srimad Bhagavad Gita 6.47. It is also stated in the Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya:
If one is born in a high family like that of a brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya or vaiśya but is not a devotee of the Lord, all his good qualifications as a brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya or vaiśya are null and void. Indeed, they are considered decorations of a dead body.
True spiritual progress is beyond the caste by birth. Having understood the position of a devotee, we all must aspire to be a devotee of Lord by heart and soul, as guided by proper disciplic succession, and not get trapped in rituals, like caste brahmans.
Message V. Importance of Prayers to Lord.
Therefore, although I was born in a demoniac family, I may without a doubt offer prayers to the Lord with the full endeavor, as far as my intelligence allows. Anyone who has been forced by ignorance to enter the material world may be purified of material life if he offers prayers to the Lord and hears the Lord’s glories.Srimad Bhagavatam 7.9.12
This is the reason why every religion across the world and universes recommends everyone to pray. It is only by sincere prayers that we can elevate ourselves.
Message VI. The desire of a pure devotee.
O most powerful, insurmountable Lord, who are kind to the fallen souls, I have been put into the association of demons as a result of my activities, and therefore I am very much afraid of my condition of life within this material world. When will that moment come when You will call me to the shelter of Your lotus feet, which are the ultimate goal for liberation from conditional life?Srimad Bhagavatam 7.9.16
Staying in the material world is absolutely hopeless and painful, however, when one is put into the relationship of asuras, or atheistic men, it gets even tougher. In today's world, 8 out of 10 are like Terrorists or Mafia of God Consciousness. An aspiring devotee must safeguard himself and his devotion from such people. Therefore everyone should be eager to return to their eternal home, back to Godhead, by taking to proper Krishna Consciousness and thus taking shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord.
My dear Lord, people, in general, want to be elevated to the higher planetary systems for a long duration of life, opulence and enjoyment, but I have seen all of these through the activities of my father. When my father was angry and he laughed sarcastically at the demigods, they were immediately vanquished simply by seeing the movements of his eyebrows. Yet my father, who was so powerful, has now been vanquished by You within a moment. My dear Lord, now I have complete experience concerning the worldly opulence, mystic power, longevity and other material pleasures enjoyed by all living entities, from Lord Brahmā down to the ant. As powerful time, You destroy them all. Therefore, because of my experience, I do not wish to possess them. My dear Lord, I request You to place me in touch with Your pure devotee and let me serve him as a sincere servant.Srimad Bhagavatam 7.9.23 - 24
Within this material world, one should understand that the value of material opulence, longevity and influence is temporary. Therefore Prahalad Maharaj did not give any importance to anything in this material world. Just like in a slaughterhouse, goats are busy chewing green leaves while in front of their eyes one by one a goat is pulled inside and slaughtered. This foolish goat is so much engrossed in the enjoyment that he doesn’t realize that all the goats are vanishing one by one. And very soon he will also be dragged in. This syndrome is called as goat syndrome. We too see that one by one our grandfather, our relatives, our parents all are leaving this world and unable to carry the material opulence but rather, has to leave them back. We must not be like the foolish goat who is busy eating leaves. Materialistic parents who are strongly bewildered by the illusion doesn’t learn from their forefather's examples, they themselves try to lead a life of goat striving hard to gather/accumulate everything possible. When they grow old, still ignorant of reality, inspire their children to follow the same path. And this trend keeps on continuing. While on the other hand, an intelligent person, who is a devotee, always seeks to associate with devotees of Lord and always desires to serve them. When such an intelligent class of people accepts the responsibility of parenthood, they pass down the same message to their son/daughter and they in turn pass down the same culture and the chain continues.
Message VII. Importance of Devotee Association
O my Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva, by engaging in Your transcendental loving service in the association of devotees who are liberated souls [haṁsas], I shall become completely uncontaminated by the association of the three modes of material nature and be able to chant the glories of Your Lordship, who are so dear to me. I shall chant Your glories, following exactly in the footsteps of Lord Brahmā and his disciplic succession. In this way I shall undoubtedly be able to cross the ocean of nescience.Srimad Bhagavatam 7.9.18
A true devotee’s mood is shown here. A devotee always seeks for an association of devotees where he can sing and hear the songs glorifying Lord. It is only in this association that one can become free from the material world. As soon as a devotee recites the name and wonders of the Supreme Lord, he unquestionably gets freedom from material entanglement. One should recite the true bonafide songs that are received from a bonafide sampradaya.
Message VIII. What not to ask from the Lord?
The saint Narad Muni continued: Although Prahalad Maharaj was only a boy, when he heard the benedictions offered by Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva he considered them impediments on the path of devotional service. Thus he smiled very mildly and spoke as follows. Prahalad Maharaj said: My dear Lord, O Supreme Personality of Godhead, because I was born in an atheistic family I am naturally attached to material enjoyment. Therefore, kindly do not tempt me with these illusions. I am very much afraid of material conditions, and I desire to be liberated from materialistic life. It is for this reason that I have taken shelter of Your lotus feet.Srimad Bhagavatam 7.10.1 – 2
This is one of the most important lessons we get to learn from Prahalad Maharaj. Here he clearly says that material achievements and advancements are not an objective of devotional service. The only objective is attaining love of Godhead. Hence in our glorious Vedic history, we may see numerous examples of great emperors who were also great devotees, they accepted their material extravagant life in the service of the Lord, not for their own enjoyment. Unlike a materialist, whatever such a devotee has, he uses them completely in the service of the Lord. When one is charmed by material opulence, they are viewed as given by Maya, however, when one uses material belongings completely for devotional service, they are viewed as God's blessings.
Materialistic life implies a connection to the body and everything in relationship to the body. As expressed in Bhagavad-Gita, the individuals who are entangled to material happiness are generally worshiping demigods like Durga and Lord Siva. But devotees like Prahalad, who are least interested in material opulence, take shelter of the lotus feet of Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva, and not the feet of any demigods.
Message IX. What to ask from the Lord?
O my Lord, best of the givers of benediction, if You at all want to bestow a desirable benediction upon me, then I pray from Your Lordship that within the core of my heart there be no material desires. O my Lord, because of lusty desires from the very beginning of one’s birth, the functions of one’s senses, mind, life, body, religion, patience, intelligence, shyness, opulence, strength, memory and truthfulness are vanquished. O my Lord, when a human being is able to give up all the material desires in his mind, he becomes eligible to possess wealth and opulence like Yours.Srimad Bhagavatam 7.10.7 – 9
This is the mood of a devotee. In the purport, Srila Prabhupada has referred to the teachings of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, where Mahaprabhu rejects wealth, followers, beautiful wife and all kind of materialistic desires but instead desires only the causeless mercy of Krishna's devotional service in His life, birth after birth.
Message X. How to live in this material world?
It does not matter that you are in the material world. You should always, continuously, hear the instructions and messages given by Me and always be absorbed in thought of Me, for I am the Supersoul existing in the core of everyone’s heart. Therefore, give up fruitive activities and worship Me. My dear Prahalad, while you are in this material world you will exhaust all the reactions of pious activity by feeling happiness, and by acting piously you will neutralize impious activity. Because of the powerful time factor, you will give up your body, but the glories of your activities will be sung in the upper planetary systems and being fully freed from all bondage, you will return home, back to Godhead.Srimad Bhagvatam 7.10.12 – 13
We must understand that Karma-Kanda is meant for the less intelligent class of people. It is mentioned in scriptures and by acharyas that, people who entangle themselves in the Karma Kanda and Gyana Kanda are actually wasting their life. Thus as suggested by Lord, a devotee is only interested in performing devotional service for the pleasure of the lord. A devotee must try to give up the material desires and should try to focus on the Lord and worship Him. Doing so in a perfect way, he gains every opulence that one can think of. Generally, materialistic people get a little envious to see material opulence in a devotee’s life. Somehow people have this notion that temple and devotees should be bereft of material opulence, if not then “they are doing business in the name of devotion”. However as Srila Prabhupada mentions in the purport, by seeing material opulence in the life of devotee we shouldn’t misunderstand that they are doing sense gratification, rather we must realize that they are utilizing this opulence in the service of the lord. As Narasingha Dev says, we must understand, that the happy moments in our life are simply the quota of our previous pious activities, and similarly, the sorrow time indicates the quota of our previous impious activities. To leave this world and return back to the Spiritual World, we must be free of all the pious and impious reactions. Therefore understanding this a devotee is equipoised in both the state of happiness and distress for he knows in both ways his burden of reactions are getting reduced. He also makes sure he doesn't recreate any more impious reactions. The process of Krishna Consciousness with the following of four regulations and regular sadhana makes it possible to reduce the karmic reactions (both pious and impious) in one's life.
Message XI. Importance of devotee in human society
The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: My dear Prahalad, O most pure, O great saintly person, your father has been purified, along with twenty-one forefathers in your family. Because you were born in this family, the entire dynasty has been purified. Whenever and wherever there are peaceful, equipoised devotees who are well-behaved and decorated with all good qualities, that place and the dynasties there, even if condemned, are purified.Srimad Bhagvatam 7.10.18 – 19
Many people raise a question, what contribution are the devotees making to society. So when we look at the world using the vision of scriptures, we get answers to many such doubts and questions. We need to understand a very important point in the benediction of Lord Narasingha.
… The Lord mentions twenty-one forefathers, this indicates that the benediction expands to other families also. Before the present family in which one has taken birth, one must have been born in other families. Thus when a Vaiṣṇava takes birth in a family, by the grace of the Lord he purifies not only that family but also the families of his previous births.
Also, we can learn from the words of Lord Narasingha that how fortunate it is to be a devotee. Among entire mankind, the most intelligent one is the one who takes up Krishna Consciousness.
My dear Prahalad, you are very fortunate. Please know from Me that those who are very wise and highly elevated try to please Me in all different modes of mellows, for I am the only person who can fulfill all the desires of everyone.Srimad Bhagavatam 7.9.54
To summarize the 11 important messages of Prahlad Maharaj and Narasingha Dev:
- One must start spirituality at a very early stage.
- The goal of life must not be forgotten for sense gratification
- Nothing in this world is ours, not even our family. It belongs to Krishna and we are just their caretaker. We will execute our duties towards them but not get entangled.
- A Vaishnava or a devotee is much higher than a caste brahmana who is entangled in rituals and karma kanda
- Sincere prayers to lord can purify one's material existence
- A devotee or a Vaishnava does not desire for material opulence
- Associate with devotees and chant glories of the lord as received in bonafide disciplic succession
- Material benediction is an impediment in devotional service.
- All that a devotee desires, is an opportunity to serve lord birth after birth
- Live in this world very expertly and utilize the material opulence for the service of the lord
- To become a devotee is an extremely rare chance that a soul gets and a devotee purifies the existence
Hence everyone must take up devotional service towards the Supreme Personality of Godhead seriously will full enthusiasm.
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