Conflict of Devotion and Cruelty

Kaliyuga - Kalpataru

The Second Chapter Sri Prahlada Rajaru, the Foremost Devotee of Sri Hari

Authored by Raja, S. Gururajacharya

13. Prahlada's Teachings to the Demon Children

One day, Shanda and Amarka went to their house to perform their household duties like the fire sacrifice. Then, seeing an opportunity to play, the demon children excitedly came to Prahlada and said, 'Prince! The teachers have gone home. Now we have some free time easily available. Come, let's play some game,' inviting him.

Then, the great soul Prahlada, wishing to inspire devotion to Hari among the demon children who preferred to waste time on trivial games, with kindness and sweet words said, 'Friends, for your well-being, I will tell you some beneficial words, please listen.' Moved by the respect and wisdom in Prahlada, the demon children gathered around him and said, 'Alright, friend, we are ready to listen to what you have to say for our benefit.'

Though born in a demon clan, Prahlada was a devotee of the Lord and lived in the essence of the supreme spirit, thus he compassionately instructed the demon children as follows:

Beloved demon children! Always heed my auspicious words. Do not waste your time merely on games and studies. Death lurks closely behind us, its mouth agape, and we cannot predict when we will succumb to it. You see many children of your own age dying young. Life is not under our control. Therefore, do not ruin yourselves by indulging solely in play.

Even in the past, those who truly seek the welfare of their soul should not accept teachings from a guru that lead to misfortune. | Anything that conjures harm is not to be accepted, even from a guru. || Bhagavata-7-6-2

In the past, sages like Markandeya attained the highest bliss from a young age by acquiring divine knowledge. Our teachers are imparting knowledge to us; wouldn’t it benefit us? You might ask. True, the teachers are teaching, but what? The three pursuits of virtue, wealth, and pleasure! Since these lead to material enjoyment, they will plunge you into the whirlpool of samsara (worldly life), causing harm. Therefore, the grace of Sri Hari and the happiness of liberation cannot be obtained by such teachings that only entangle you in worldly life. Hence, teachings that make you wallow only in the worldly life are unacceptable.'

If one is not awakened from the deep sleep of ignorance, | Then one's faith and meditation do not develop, just as a blind person cannot lead others. || Bhagavata-7-6-3

Even if the teachings of your gurus lead to material pleasures, those pleasures are inherently accompanied by sorrow. Following their guidance is like one blind person leading another, eventually leading both to fall into a pit, resulting in misfortune. Thus, their words should not be heeded. You might question whether Shanda and Amarka are not gurus and if their teachings should not be followed. Consider this for a moment. The scholars have defined the term 'guru' as 'gu' meaning darkness and 'ru' meaning remover. A guru is someone who dispels the darkness of ignorance and illuminates knowledge. Do our gurus not possess this quality? If so, gurus themselves should not be ignorant. They should awaken their disciples from the sleep of ignorance and assist in their upliftment by imparting knowledge that helps in liberation. Such are true gurus. Even if our gurus are knowledgeable in scriptures, if they do not teach the knowledge that leads to eternal bliss and instead focus on teachings that indulge us further in worldly pleasures, following them will certainly not lead to your welfare. Therefore, do not pay attention to their teachings.

One of the demon children said: 'Prahlada! You are saying we should not listen to our teachers. Since the teachers are instructing us in moral science, which helps us distinguish between friends, foes, and the indifferent, and it contributes to our wealth increase, how can it be considered contemptible?'

Prahlada said: 'Who here is an enemy, who is neutral, and who is a friend to oneself? What significance do wealth and adversity hold when it's all directed by Him? The Supreme being, who guides our fortunes according to our actions, alone decides our fate. How then can we consider prosperity and misfortune without His will?' - Bhagavata-7-6-4

Who are the enemies, who are the friends, and who are the indifferent? It is the Supreme Lord who inspires these according to each one's karma. The Supreme Soul, the instigator of destiny, is the independent master who bestows both fortune and misfortune! Without His motivation, what can the science of morality accomplish?

Vichakshana: (Another boy) "Let that be, friend. Since the dharma of action (pravritti dharma) causes heavenly fortunes, shouldn’t we learn it from our teachers?

Prahlada: By following the path of action, a person becomes enslaved to their senses, caught in the cycle of birth and death, harming their own soul. If, however, one performs all actions as offerings to Lord Hari, with devotion, such actions do not lead to the bonds of worldly existence. Those who act with such awareness gain wealth in this life and attain a superior state hereafter. Such individuals are rare. Temporal heavens are attained through the performance of pravritti (worldly actions), while nivritti (renunciation) leads to wisdom and, ultimately, to the eternal abode of Vaikuntha.

Another boy: That’s right, Prahlada! You said that following the path of renunciation leads to the ultimate good, and there’s plenty of time for that. 'In childhood, engage in education; in youth, gather wealth and marry; in old age, seek liberation; always practice righteousness (dharma).' This is what the Smriti teaches us. Can't we practice the dharma of renunciation, which leads to liberation, when we are older?

Prahlada: (With a smile) Friends, listen to my words. 'From childhood, one should practice the duties devoted to the Lord (Bhagavata dharma). Human life is rare and precious, and its purpose is to realize this truth.' - Bhagavata-7-6

We should not wait until we are older to practice the dharma that leads to liberation. Since it is said, 'Always practice dharma,' a wise person should begin to practice Bhagavata dharma from childhood. Human life is a means to achieve the highest good. It is then that one acquires the intellect to discern, to understand the essence of Lord Hari, and to attain liberation, the ultimate human goal. Human life is rare, and thus, while we have this opportunity, we must engage in righteous conduct from childhood. Lord Hari is dear to all living beings, the inner controller, and the giver of true happiness and benevolence. While worshipping other deities might yield temporary results, it does not lead to eternal bliss. Therefore, to escape the cycle of birth and death and achieve moksha, the supreme goal for all souls, one must devoutly serve the feet of Lord Sriman Narayana.

Demon Children: Prahlada! Humans are allotted a lifespan of a hundred years, aren’t they? Then, within this period, can’t one accumulate many pleasures? Why then the rule 'From childhood, one should practice Bhagavata dharma'?

Prahlada: Friends, how can we claim the body is eternal even if it lasts a hundred years? Half of those years are lost in sleep at night. Twenty years go by in childhood and youth, lost in play without any discernment of what’s essential or trivial. Another twenty years are lost in old age, sickness, and suffering, leaving nothing possible. That leaves only ten years, which, in youth, are spent indulging in sensual pleasures. Then, where is the opportunity for spiritual practice?

Friends, even a knowledgeable person immersed in worldly life, without realizing that Sri Hari is the supreme controller, gets entangled in the illusion of independence, thinking 'this is mine.' Despite knowing the world to be transient and essenceless, seduced by a wife's words or fleeting glances, acting like a toy in a woman's play, one becomes incapable of escaping the cycle of birth and death. Therefore, you must abandon the company of those greedy for sensual pleasures and seek refuge in Narayana. Without the intention of offering one's actions to the divine, merely serving the goals of righteousness, wealth, and desire will not lead to liberation. Thus, realizing that sensual pleasures are worthless and believing in Sri Hari as the liberator, those who take refuge in Him and live a life of detachment become free from the bonds of samsara. We must follow their path.

Therefore, pleasing the Lord with devotion is our primary duty.

Vichakshana: Friend, you're teaching us such important concepts like a great sage! How did you acquire this knowledge?" Prahlada smiled and replied, "Friends, I gained this knowledge from the teachings of the great sage Devarshi Narada. Such profound knowledge is taught by Lord Hari to His devoted and detached devotees. Narada, who had directly received teachings from Lord Narayana, imparted to me these pure Bhagavata dharma and the essence of Bhagavat tattva.

Demon Children: Prahlada! We study under the same teachers as you, how did you meet Narada while confined in the palace? When did he teach you? Please clear our doubts." Prahlada then explained how he received teachings from the sages.

Prahlada: When my father was away performing penance, Indra defeated the demons and was taking my mother away captive. She was pregnant with me at that time. When Indra tried to destroy me, being still in the womb, Narada, who arrived by divine providence, advised him, 'The child in the womb is a great devotee of the Lord. It is impossible for anyone to harm him.' Indra then released my mother and departed with respect. Narada took my mother to his ashram, provided shelter, taught her the principles of truth and dharma, and blessed her with a wish-fulfilling childbirth as per her prayers. Through my mother, Narada taught me about Sri Hari's principles and the practices of Bhagavata dharma. While my mother naturally forgot those teachings over time, I did not, thanks to Narada's grace. Now, I am teaching you these truths, hoping they will be beneficial to you, my dear friends. Listen with faith and devotion, and you will attain the highest benefit," he explained, elaborating extensively on various aspects of Sri Hari's nature, greatness, and the essence of ultimate reality to the demon children, emphasizing that pure devotion to the Lord ensures His grace.

Demon Children: Prahlada! You've told us to devote ourselves to the Lord. Please kindly explain how we should practice this devotion.

Prahlada then detailed the nine forms of devotion and the characteristics of true devotees to the demon children.

Demon Children: Friend, you said that Sri Hari uplifts those who worship Him with devotion. We are but ignorant children and moreover, demons. Will Sri Hari protect us too?

Prahlada: Friends, Sri Hari looks only at our devotion, not our caste, age, knowledge, or qualifications. Listen -

Being born as a brahmana, a deity, a sage, or the child of a demigod does not please Lord Mukunda, nor does extensive knowledge, charity, austerity, sacrifices, purity, or observance of vows. Lord Hari is pleased unconditionally by pure devotion alone. - Bhagavata-7-7-53

To please Lord Mukunda, who is the master of everything, one's birth as a Brahmana, god, sage, etc., or possessing immense knowledge, performing charity, austerities, sacrifices, cleanliness, fasting, etc., are not the causes. However, pure devotion towards the Lord indeed makes the Supreme Soul happy.

Therefore, let the demons cultivate devotion towards Hari, the Lord of all souls and the supreme controller present everywhere. Similarly, the Yaksas, Rakshasas, women, Sudras, the outcasts, birds, beasts, and sinners have attained salvation. In this world, the highest goal for men is considered to be exclusive devotion to Govinda, which is the means to cross over all obstacles.

Therefore, O children of demons, do not doubt whether Sri Hari will shelter you or not. You must worship Sri Hari, who is the inner controller of all beings, endowed with the six divine qualities and is the great Lord. Even if born in different castes, all beings who devote themselves to the Supreme Soul attain eternal bliss. The stories of demons like Shishupala, Yakshas like Nalakuvara, demons such as Putana (in whom Urvashi was incarnate), Hidimba, Ghatotkacha, the women of the Gopas, the cowherds of Vraja, birds perished in the Khandava fire, animals, and sinful beings like King Nrga who devoted themselves to Govinda have attained liberation, as revealed in the Puranas and other scriptures. Supreme devotion to Sri Hari, the supremely magnificent, the cause of the universe's creation, maintenance, and dissolution, who is unknowable by the Vedas alone, is considered the ultimate pursuit of life.

Therefore, O children of demons, Sri Hari is the supreme deity, the cause of the universe as extolled by all scriptures, including the Vedas and Upanishads. Lord Narayana is Purushottama, endowed with infinite auspicious qualities, flawless, blissful, omnipresent, the only independent entity; from Goddess Lakshmi to Lord Brahma, all are His servants. There exists a fundamental difference between the soul and God, yet all souls are dependent on Sri Hari.

Liberty that emerges from the manifestation of bliss inherent in one's true nature, preceded by the complete cessation of all suffering, is the ultimate goal for all beings. 'By whose grace one is liberated from this cycle of existence into the supreme form and not by any other; Narayana alone is to be meditated upon by those desiring liberation from the bonds of actions in this world,' and 'I do not grant liberation, O child, the giver of liberation is Janardana'—according to the authority of the Shruti, Puranas, and other scriptures, liberation is attainable only through the grace of Sri Hari. Sri Hari is pleased solely by devotion.

Friends! My father deludes himself into believing that he is the lord of the universe, the supreme one. Such knowledge is not useful for liberation; it is the cause of darkness. Do not become earthbound like him. How can my father, a demon, be independent when there exists Sri Hari, the Lord of the universe, the independent one, the supreme beyond all? Even deities like Rudra, who are devotees of Sri Hari, experience delusion regarding Him. What then can be said of others?

The special grace of Sri Hari is the ultimate grace. Since it resides in Sri Vayudeva, who is among the greatest of devotees and the supreme among souls, we must follow the righteous path endorsed by Sri Vayudeva, who is free from faults such as ignorance. We must abandon the misguided beliefs of my father, who is full of false pride.

Do not trust in the misguided beliefs of him,

Always seek refuge in the righteous path of Vayu,

By taking shelter in the teachings of Sri Vayudeva, one will be uplifted. Knowing that Sri Hari is omnipresent and the giver of existence, pure devotion towards that Supreme Soul arises. Therefore, my dear friends, the demon children, devote yourselves exclusively to Sri Hari, and according to your merits, by the grace of Sri Hari, attain liberation and rise to greatness.

After Prahlada, with a deeply compassionate heart, imparted such profound and infallible teachings of truth to his friends, the demon children, they realized that Prahlada had blessed them with these teachings for their welfare. They decided to act according to his instructions and from that day onwards, they disregarded the lessons taught by Shanda and Amarka. Becoming disciples of Prahlada, they rejected moralistic teachings that were not aligned with devotion and became devotees, engaging in pure devotion to the Supreme Soul and following the path to liberation.

Seeing all these unconventional activities, Shanda and Amarka, who had returned from home, became frightened and thought that leaving things as they were would lead to disaster. Thus, they hurried back to the palace to report all these matters to the king of the demons.