The Reign of Prahlada in the Gurukula

In the demon priests Shanda and Amarka's school, the demon children were engrossed in games and studies in the front garden. Prahlada, adhering to his father's command, joined the school holding an idol of Narayana in his hand. The demon children welcomed him.

Prahlada, smiling, asked, 'Friends, have the teachers arrived?' A student named Vichakshana replied, 'Kumar, the teachers said they might be a bit late today. Prince, what shall we do until the teachers arrive?'

Prahlada responded, 'Friends, today I have composed a poem. I'll recite it, and you can join me in singing.' Holding cymbals in his hand, he began to sing.

ರಾಗ : ಸರಸ್ವತಿ

ತಾಳ : ಆದಿ

ನಾರಾಯಣ ಎನ್ನಿರೋ ನೀವೆಲ್ಲರು |

ನಾರದನುತನಂಪ್ರಿಯ ಸ್ಮರಣೆ ಮಾಡಿರೋ || ಪ ||

ವರ ಶ್ರೀರಮಣನ ಭಜಿಸುವ ಮನುಜಗೆ |

ನರಕವು ಬಹುದೂರ, ಶುಭಕರ || ಅ.ಪ. ||

ಕರುಣಾಕರ ಕರಿವರದ ದನುಜಹರ |

ಹರವಿರಿಂಚನುತ ಮಹಿಮಾಸಾಗರ ||

ಸರುವ ದೇವರದೇವ! ಜಗದಾಧಾರ |

ಸ್ಮರಿಸುವ ಭಕುತರ ಕಾವ ಗುಣಾಕರ || cha ||

Raga: Saraswati

Tala: Adi

All of you chant the name of Narayana, Remember the beloved of Narada, the beloved of the gods. || P ||

For humans who worship the blessed Sri Ramana, Hell is far away, and auspiciousness prevails. || AP ||

The compassionate one, the elephant-faced lord, the slayer of demons, Praised by Shiva and Brahma, the ocean of glory,

The moving god of gods, the support of the world, The repository of virtues, protecting devotees who remember him. || Chorus ||

All the demon children surrounded Prahlada and began chanting "Narayana" in devotion. Prahlada, absorbed in meditation, was oblivious to his surroundings.

At that moment, their teacher, Acharya Shanda, arrived and stood in amazement at the scene. Seeing the teacher, the students stood silently in fear. Shanda, noting Prahlada's deep concentration, grabbed his shoulders and said, "Prahlada, what is this absorption? Wake up!"

Prahlada, coming to his senses, said, "Ah, who is this? Where am I? Oh, what a beautiful dream!" To this, Shanda replied, "Prahlada, it was no dream! Why are you standing lost in thought?"

Seeing his teachers, Prahlada joined his hands and greeted them, "Oh, teachers, I pay my respects."

Shanda responded, "May you live long, prince! Come, let's go to the school."

The teacher, with all the students, then went to the school. Once seated, he asked Prahlada, "You were talking about a dream, weren't you? What was the dream about?

Prahlada: "Gurus, while I was chanting the name of Hari, I fell into a sleep-like state and had a dream."

Shanda: (with dissatisfaction) "What was your dream?"

Prahlada: "As I was engrossed in the worship of Hari, and observing this, my father tried to make me forget Hari. Then Lord Hari, holding the conch and discus, appeared in a captivating form, protected me, placed his hand on my head, and smiled gently. When I opened my eyes... I saw you!"

Shanda: (mockingly) "Prahlada, you must be delusional. You always think about the same thing and have the same dream! Let it be. Look, prince! You are destined to be the future emperor of the demon clan! You must behave according to our traditional customs. The emperor plans to visit the Gurukula today. Everyone must recite the lessons I taught before the emperor, and you too must learn and please your father with what I teach."

Prahlada: (sitting near the gurus) "Gurudev, what will you teach today?"

Then Shanda enthusiastically told Prahlada and the other demon children, "Hari is powerless, formless, and void; the world too is void. The philosophy of Jiva-Brahma and the falseness of the world is the correct doctrine." He taught them the Advaita philosophy, saying, "Prahlada and demon children, this is what you must recite before the demon emperor."

Prahlada, a devotee of Hari, did not agree with the teachings. He neither listened attentively nor accepted them as they contradicted Vaishnava philosophy and believed that such a doctrine was not beneficial.

Observing that Prahlada was ignoring his intentions, Acharya Shanda decided to bring Prahlada back on track in a different way to please the emperor. He said, "Prahlada! You are not learning what I am teaching you. This will anger your father. Forget it, now repeat after me what I am about to say to please the emperor."

Prahlada: "Alright, Guru."

Shanda: "Then say this: 'I salute Hiranyakashipu, the lord of the three worlds.'"

Prahlada: (with a gentle smile) "I salute Sri Narayana, the Lord of the Universe!"

Hearing what Prahlada said, Shanda became angry and said, "Prahlada, repeat after me: 'Salutations to Hiranyakashipu, the conqueror of the three worlds, the universally revered, the great and glorious.'"

Prahlada: "I salute the Lord of the World, the cause of the universe, the one worshipped by the unborn, the Lord of All, the one known through all scriptures, the ocean of compassion, the divine form of supreme Brahman, Sri Narayana!"

Shanda: (angrily) "Is that all, or is there more? (despairingly) Oh, Prahlada, why are you so obstinate? (mockingly) If you continue like this, not only will you incur the emperor's wrath, but I, a poor Brahmin, will also become a target! What do you gain by troubling me? Prahlada, you worship him, that Narayana! Do you even know who he is?"

Prahlada: (smiling) "Why do you ask that, Guru? He is the supreme Brahman himself!"

Shanda: (anxiously) "No - I mean, do you know who that Hari is? He killed your uncle! Can you worship him?"

Prahlada: "Isn't it natural for the Lord to punish those who commit crimes and become a menace to the world, Guru?"

Shanda: "You are out of your mind! That Hari is the sworn enemy of your family!"

Prahlada: "To that noble being, there are no friends or enemies!"

Shanda: "Isn't he the enemy who killed your uncle?"

Prahlada: (with a smile) "Isn't he also a friend who protects me?"

Shanda: (angrily) "He's a deceiver, your father's archenemy."

Prahlada: (humbly) "That's my father's delusion! It's not beneficial to harbor hatred towards the Lord of the Universe."

Shanda: "You shouldn't talk like that, boy. Your father is not ordinary; he is the lord of the universe, and you should worship him."

Prahlada: (smiling) "Guru, how can you say such things, knowing everything? Can you fill the minds of pure-hearted children with ideas far from the truth and lead them astray? I'm sorry, master, but it saddens me to hear you speak untruths."

Shanda: (speechless) "Am I speaking untruths? Truly, your father is the lord of the universe!"

Prahlada: "Master, how can my father be the lord of the universe?"

Shanda: "Don't you understand, Prahlada?"

Prahlada: (smiling) "Did my father create this animate and inanimate world? The great mountains, flowing rivers, vast oceans, the beautiful blue sky, twinkling stars, towering trees, beautiful animals and birds, did he create all these? Did he create these gardens that radiate the beauty of nature, the sun that illuminates the world, and the moon that brings peace and joy? Is my father the creator of all these?"

"When did he create all this? Weren't all these things present even before my father was born? Who provides sustenance to all living beings in their respective times? Who is the cause of the moon, the sun, and the constellations – is my father responsible? If so, let him stop the course of the sun and the moon, and change the laws of nature! Can my father halt the cycle of birth and death that has been ongoing since time immemorial?"

Bewildered by Prahlada's line of reasoning, Acharya Shanda, unable to respond and filled with anger, exclaimed, "Who can answer your queries, oh Prahlada?" To this, Prahlada replied, "How then can my father be the lord of the universe? How can I accept him as the supreme lord, who survives merely by the grace of that universal lord? Please tell me, Guru."

Shanda (pleadingly): "Child, just once, say as I tell you! 'Om Hiranyakashipu.'"

Prahlada: "Om Namo Narayanaya!"

Hearing the name Narayana and filled with rage, Hiranyakashipu stormed in and roared, "Who dares to remember my archenemy in my realm, the conqueror of the three worlds? Who is praising my enemy?" Everyone stood trembling with fear. Prahlada stepped forward and respectfully greeted, "Father, I salute you."

Seeing his son, the face of the demon king Hiranyakashipu softened. He joyfully asked, "Son, how is your learning progressing?" and placed Prahlada on his lap, saying, "Prahlada, what have you learned? Tell me."

Prahlada: "What shall I say, father?"

Hiranyakashipu: "Tell me what you think is the best lesson."

Prahlada replied: "O lord of the Asuras, the best practice for those who are always troubled in mind and caught in the cycle of suffering due to attachment to transient pleasures is to renounce the illusory comforts of worldly life, like a dark well, and take refuge in the forest, seeking Hari, the Lord."

Hearing Prahlada's words, Hiranyakashipu became extremely angry but masked it with a forced smile. He said, "Teachers, the minds of children get corrupted by the company of enemies. Ensure that my son is not influenced by those Brahmins who support my enemy Hari. Teach him our traditional knowledge at home."

After saying this, Hiranyakashipu returned to his palace.

After Hiranyakashipu left, Shanda said, 'We've managed to escape the immediate danger! Prahlada, you heard your father's command, didn't you? Come, let's go to our home. I'll teach you there.' Saying this, he took Prahlada to his house.

Shanda and Amarka taught Prahlada the Arthashastra, which explains the principles of Dharma (righteousness), Artha (wealth), and Kama (desire). After some days, realizing Prahlada had mastered the Neetishastra, which teaches the four methods of Sama (conciliation), Dana (gift), Bheda (division), and Danda (punishment) (he also became proficient in Dharma, Artha, Kama, and ultimately in Moksha Shastra), they decided to show their teaching skills and wisdom to the Demon King and gain his special favor and trust. So, they took Prahlada to Hiranyakashipu.