Srila Prabhupada explains that although the pure devotees of the Lord are in the most exalted position, they are never proud.
By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, lecture given on July 2, 1968, in Montreal
Though specially favored by Lord Nrisimha, Prahlada feels unqualified in the presence of the higher beings of the universe.
“Prahlada Maharaja prayed: How is it possible for me, who have been born in a family of asuras, to offer suitable prayers to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead? Even until now, all the demigods, headed by Lord Brahma, and all the saintly persons could not satisfy the Lord by streams of excellent words, although such persons are very qualified, being in the mode of goodness. Then what is to be said of me? I am not at all qualified.” – Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.9.8
This is Prahlada Maharaja praying. The prayers of Prahlada Maharaja are very important, most glorious. This is after the death of his father, Hiranyakashipu. When Lord Nrisimha appeared as half lion, half man, with terrible sounds, in a very gigantic form, within a second He finished the great demon Hiranyakashipu. The whole world became afraid on seeing Lord Nrisimha. Even Lakshmiji, the constant companion of Lord Vishnu, became afraid. All the demigods assembled there – Lord Shiva, Lord Brahma, Indra, and many other denizens of higher planets – to see why the Lord was so angry, and they tried to pacify Him. But He was still roaring just like a lion.
He was roaring because He could not tolerate Hiranyakashipu’s treatment of Prahlada: “My devotee – this little boy, five years old – has been tortured so much simply for being Krishna conscious. For this fault only, this rascal has tortured him so much.”
Everyone was afraid. Nobody could pacify Him. At that time Brahma, the supreme living entity of this universe, intelligently pushed forward Prahlada Maharaja. “My dear boy, just try to pacify your Lord, because the Lord has appeared to protect you – for you only. We could not pacify Him. I think if you go forward and pray and pacify the Lord, He may agree.”
Prahlada Maharaja was not afraid. That will be explained in these verses. When the Lord asked him, “My dear Prahlada, are you afraid by seeing these features of Mine?” he replied, “My dear Lord, I am not at all afraid, but I am afraid of this material existence.”
That is a very nice explanation. We shall come to it later.
Prahlada is speaking humbly. A Vaishnava is always humble. Prahlada did not think, “Oh, all other demigods failed to pacify the Lord. Now it is my turn. How great I am that I am superseding all these great demigods!”
The Vaishnava devotee’s temperament is humble and meek. Although he is always in the exalted position, he never advertises “I am in an exalted position.” He is never puffed up. An example of a humble devotee is the author of Chaitanya-charitamrita, Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami. He was such a great devotee, one who could produce in his ripe old age such nice transcendental literature, which is certified by my Guru Maharaja as the postgraduate study for the devotees.
Levels of Scriptural Study
Bhagavad-gita is the study for the neophytes, those who are inquiring, who are trying to understand the science of God. That means it is the primary study. In ordinary schooling, after passing the school’s final examination, students are allowed to enter the degree college. Similarly, one who has understood Bhagavad-gita very nicely and taken up the instruction sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam sharanam vraja – “Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me” – is eligible to enter into the study of Srimad-Bhagavatam. He accepts Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is a preliminary qualification.
The beginning of devotional service is to accept Krishna as the Supreme. The Chaitanya-charitamrita also explains that the beginning of devotional life is shraddha. The Sanskrit word shraddha means devotion, affection, affinity, attachment. Or faith. It is generally understood to mean faith. What sort of faith? There are different kinds of faith. Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami says that shraddha means strong faith, not ordinary faith. ‘Sraddha’-shabde—vishvasa kahe sudridha nishchaya: “That faith is unflinching faith without any deviation, with full understanding.” (Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya 22.62) What is that understanding? Krishne bhakti kaile sarva-karma krita haya: “One who engages in the devotional service of the Supreme Lord, Krishna, is to be understood to have seen all activities of auspiciousness.” That means he has already finished or passed the examination of pious activities. This is the beginning. One must have the faith that if anyone is engaged in the transcendental loving service of Krishna, then it is to be understood that he has done all pious activities. This kind of unflinching faith is required. When we have got this unflinching faith, that is the beginning of Bhagavata life. Bhagavata life means devotional life, direct connection with the Supreme God. That is Bhagavata life.
This unflinching faith that “Simply by serving Lord Krishna, all religious activities or all pious activities are done” is the last word of Bhagavad-gita. Lord Krishna explained Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna in so many ways. But ultimately He comes to the point of Himself. When He nicely explains the yoga system, He explains the process – how to execute yoga performances, the sitting posture, the breathing method, the place, eating, sitting. Everything is explained nicely. But at the end He says,
“Of all the yogis, one who is always thinking of Me, Krishna, within his heart is the first-class yogi.” (Gita 6.47) Similarly, when He explains the jnana system, or the system of philosophical speculation, He summarizes at the end:
“After many, many births of philosophical speculation, when one actually becomes a scholar or wise, he surrenders unto Vasudeva, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Gita 7.19) Why does he surrender? Vasudeva sarvam iti: “Because He is everything.” This is the end of knowledge – when one understands that Vasudeva, Krishna, is everything.
Similarly, Krishna summarized the process of karma, fruitive activity, in the Bhagavad-gita (9.27):
“Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer or give away, and whatever austerities you perform – do that, O son of Kunti, as an offering to Me.” There are different kinds of activities. Krishna says, “Whatever you do, it doesn’t matter.”
Somebody says, “I am a businessman.”
“That’s all right.”
“What is to be done?”
“Now, do business to your best capacity, but give the profit to Me. The profit is Mine.”
If you agree, then simply by doing business you become a great devotee. Arjuna was a fighter. How did he become such a great devotee? By fighting. By fighting for whom? For Krishna.
“No. He fought for getting the kingdom.”
No, he did not fight for getting the kingdom. He said, “Better I shall forgo the kingdom. I don’t want this kingdom by fighting with my relatives.” He was a very good man. But he agreed to fight for Krishna. He changed his decision.
Similarly, any work, if you do it for Krishna, is bhakti. Don’t think that bhakti means simply chanting Hare Krishna and sitting down in one place. No. Bhakti means all kinds of activities. God is all-pervading; therefore bhakti is also all-pervading. From all spheres of life, devotional service can be done.
Bhakti Is for Everyone
These things Krishna has taught. For those who are attached to work, bhakti is for them; for those who are attached to philosophy, bhakti is for them; for those who are attached to the yoga system, bhakti is for them; and for those who are devotees, bhakti is certainly for them. From all angles of vision, when one comes to the point of krishne bhakti kaile sarva-karma krita haya, if one is engaged in the transcendental loving service of Krishna then everything is perfect.
That is the conclusion of the Bhagavatam. How can you test whether or not the particular engagement in which you are occupied is successful? The Bhagavatam (1.2.13) gives you the formula. Samsiddhir hari-toshanam: Just try to see whether by your work Krishna, the Supreme Lord, has become satisfied. If you see that He is satisfied, then whatever work you are doing is successful, whether you are a philosopher or a businessman or a scientist or a politician or anything. There are so many occupational duties. But you have to test whether your occupation is giving you real perfection. The test is that you have to see whether by your activity the Supreme Lord is satisfied.
This is a great science. This is Krishna consciousness science. Therefore we have to take shelter of an expert. A student goes to school, and if he works on exercises and puts them before the teacher and the teacher says, “Yes, it is good,” then he is successful. Similarly, tad-vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigachchet: you have to approach a guru, a representative of Krishna, and if he says, “It is all right,” then you know that Krishna is satisfied. You have to approach a person whose certification of your activity will ensure that Krishna will be satisfied. You have to find such a person. Then your life is successful. You will get success according to your sincerity of purpose, because Krishna is within you.
After understanding Bhagavad-gita, if one becomes faithful that “I shall devote my life for the service of Krishna,” then he is eligible to enter into the study of Srimad-Bhagavatam. That means Srimad-Bhagavatam begins from the point where Bhagavad-gita ends. Bhagavad-gita ends at the point of sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam sharanam vraja (18.66). One has to surrender fully unto Krishna, giving up all other engagements.
No Need to Give Everything Up
Always remember, “all other engagements” doesn’t mean that you have to give everything up. Try to understand. Krishna said, “Give up everything and surrender unto Me.” That does not mean that Arjuna gave up his fighting capacity. Rather, he took to fighting more vigorously. So “Give up all other engagements” means “Don’t take the fruit of your engagement; just sacrifice the fruit of the engagement.” That fruit is to be given to Krishna. This is surrender. A good boy’s surrender to his father means that whatever he earns, at the end of the month he puts into his father’s hand: “This is my month’s earnings.” Similarly, we have to sacrifice the fruits of our labor to Krishna. This is the beginning of Krishna consciousness.
And to develop that Krishna consciousness, if you are convinced about Krishna then study the Bhagavatam, where the beginning is om namo bhagavate vasudevaya: “I offer my obeisances unto Lord Krishna, the son of Vasudeva.” It is like when you have passed the preliminary examination in school, then you pursue further enlightenment, further advancement of education, by entering college. Vyasadeva begins the Bhagavatam by surrendering himself to Bhagavan, Krishna. Om namo bhagavate vasudevaya janmady asya yatah. Krishna is the origin of everything. And one who has understood the Bhagavatam, or has made his relationship well established with Krishna and is functioning in that relationship, then he is passed on the subject matter of the Bhagavatam and begins the Chaitanya-charitamrita. That is postgraduate study. After getting your degree, you may try for your PhD or MA. Chaitanya-charitamrita is like that – postgraduate study.
And the author of the Chaitanya-charitamrita says of himself, “I am lower than the worm in the stool.” Just see how humble he is. This is the nature of a Vaishnava. It is not artificial. Every Vaishnava thinks himself very insignificant. Actually every one of us is very insignificant in comparison to the Supreme Lord. What are we? Nothing. But if we establish our loving relationship with Him, which is already there, then we will become the greatest. By relationship with the greatest, we become the greatest.
Artificially, if we become puffed up, thinking, “I am God,” we shall always remain in the position of a dog. We shall never be God. But if we actually feel ourselves humble and meek servants of God, then we become more than God. Krishna is so kind that He keeps His devotees more honorable than Himself. Mad-bhakta-pujabhyadhika: “Take it for granted that if you worship My devotees, that is more than My devotional service.” (Bhagavatam 11.19.21) Krishna is more pleased if you worship His devotees than if you worship Him. It is very natural. If a gentleman has got a little child and you try to please that little child, that gentleman automatically becomes pleased. You can please the child with a two-cent lozenge, and if the child is laughing and very pleased, his father immediately becomes pleased. But if you want to please the father, you will require at least two hundred dollars. So you can finish two-hundred-dollars’ business with two cents.
Krishna is so nice that He will be pleased if anything is offered to Him. You can offer a little water, a flower. And devotees are still higher. If you simply offer a devotee a few sweet words, oh, he is very pleased. You see? That is the nature of a devotee. The devotee does not want anything from you. Bhaktivinoda Thakura says in a nice song, “If you simply chant Hare Krishna, oh, I become sold to you.” Nityananda Prabhu also says that. So to please a devotee is very nice.
Therefore our process is to take shelter of a devotee. We don’t directly approach Krishna. In Vrindavan you will see that everyone is praising Radharani because Radharani is very quickly pleased. And as soon as Radharani is pleased, Krishna is automatically pleased. This is the process.
Born of a Demon Father
Prahlada Maharaja, although he is such a great devotee, says ugra-jateh: “Oh, I am born of a demon father.” Naturally everyone presents himself in relationship with his father. If your father is American, then you say, “I am American.” If my father is Indian, I will say, “I am Indian.” Similarly, Prahlada is born of a demon father, so he is presenting himself – “I am a demon. I am born of a demon father.”
Ugra-jateh. Ugra means violent. Demons are always violent. “I am born of a violent father. How can I please the Lord? Brahma, Lord Shiva, and so many other demigods have failed to pacify the Lord in His angry mood, and I am born a demon, born of a demon father, so my position is so much lower.” Kim toshtum arhati: “How can I please the Lord?”
Among the higher beings Prahlada mentions are the Siddhas, the citizens of the planet called Siddhaloka. There is a description of Siddhaloka in the Second Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. It is a planet where the inhabitants can fly in the air without any machine, without any airplane. Just as a bird can fly in the air without any machine, so the denizens of Siddhaloka can also fly in the air without any machine, without any airplane, and they can go from one planet to another.
They are called Siddha, which means they have got eight kinds of perfection. The ultimate goal of those who are practicing the yoga system is to achieve eight kinds of perfection. They are not simply exercising. Through the actual yoga system one attains eight kinds of perfection. One perfection is that the yogi can become smaller than the smallest. I have several times explained this. If you put a perfect yogi in lockup, he will come out. He will become smaller than the smallest and come out from the lockup. I have seen it reported in the newspaper in India. And the yogi can become greater than the greatest. And he can get anything he likes immediately. There are so many kinds of yogic perfection.
The Siddhas can transport themselves from one place to another. Even ordinary yogis who have perfected their practice can do this. They take bath in the morning in four different pilgrimage places in India. These places are thousands of miles apart, and the yogis visit them all within one hour. They go and take bath and come back. These are yogic perfections. Those who have attained them are called siddhas.
Praised by Learned Prayers
All the denizens of Siddhaloka are siddhas. They have got all the perfections of yoga practice. They were present, offering prayers to Lord Nrisimha. Brahma was present, Lord Shiva was present, and great sages were present. All of them tried to pacify Lord Nrisimha. And how were they trying to pacify Him? Sattvaikatana-gatayo vachasam pravahaih: They were very great, learned men, and they immediately began to compose nice prayers of Sanskrit verses. And these personalities were all full of the mode of goodness. Pravahaih means they prayed in a fluent way, just as a river flows down without any check. That is a qualification of a learned man. A learned man will speak fluently for hours together; similarly, these personalities were such learned scholars that they nicely composed prayers in Sanskrit and began to speak just like the flow of water. Naradhitum: “Still they could not satisfy the Lord.” Puru-gunair adhunapi pipruh: “Still the Lord is not pacified.” Kim toshtum arhati: “Then what can I do?”
There is an English saying, “Where angels fail, the fools rush in.” So Prahlada is saying, “I am so much lower than these great personalities. I am born of an atheistic father, a demon. How can I please the Lord?” This is the position Prahlada is taking.
Thank you very much.