A devotee of the Lord who even as a child exhibited the highest levels of pure spiritual love.
By Purushottama Nitai Dasa
Even as a child, Prahlada was revealed to be one of the great devotees extolled in the pages of Srimad-Bhagavatam.

In Srimad-Bhagavatam the sage Narada describes to King Yudhishthira many devotional qualities of Prahlada Maharaja. Prahlada was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. He spent every moment of his life meditating on the beautiful form and transcendental qualities of the Supreme Lord. From childhood, he desired only to enthrone the Supreme Lord Vasudeva, Lord Krishna, in his heart.

We ordinary souls contemplate mundane things and engage mentally and physically in worldly activities. But pure souls like Prahlada never waste their time contemplating mundane subjects; rather, they engage their mind and senses in activities which are sanctioned by the scriptures and which take one closer to the lotus feet of the Lord.

Prahlada has numerous good qualities, and it is not possible to discuss all of them here. But let us discuss and meditate upon a few of them.

A Great Devotee

In Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.4.33) the sage Narada says that although born in a family of demons, Prahlada was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. In fact, it was because of Narada’s spiritual instructions that Prahlada became a devotee. Narada enlightened Prahlada in Krishna consciousness when Prahlada was in the womb of his mother, Kayadhu. Prahlada then constantly meditated on the lotus feet of the Lord and experienced great happiness.

Prahlada’s devotional ecstasy as a five-year-old boy is described by Narada: “Because of advancement in Krishna consciousness, he sometimes cried, sometimes laughed, sometimes expressed jubilation and sometimes sang loudly.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.4.39)

Srimad-Bhagavatam (6.3.20–21) lists twelve mahajanas, great devotees of the Lord recognized as leading authorities on dharma, and Prahlada Maharaja is one of them.

Fearless Prahlada

Prahlada’s father, King Hiranyakashipu, repeatedly tried to kill him. But little Prahlada remained unperturbed. Because of ignorance and ego, Hiranyakashipu considered Lord Vishnu his enemy. So he was seething with anger when he discovered that his own son was a devotee of his enemy. Maddened by anger, he decided to torture and eliminate Prahlada, an innocent five-year-old boy. Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.5.39–40) explains how Prahlada was tortured: “The demons [Rakshasas], the servants of Hiranyakashipu, thus began striking the tender parts of Prahlada Maharaja’s body with their tridents. The demons all had fearful faces, sharp teeth and reddish, coppery beards and hair, and they appeared extremely threatening. Making a tumultuous sound, shouting, ‘Chop him up! Pierce him!’ they began striking Prahlada Maharaja, who sat silently, meditating upon the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”

Prahlada did not even try to protect himself. He was fearless in front of the mighty demons. This infuriated the bloodthirsty demons, who couldn’t understand why Prahlada was always fearless and jubilant in spite of threats to his life. Hiranyakashipu, the mighty tyrant who had brought the entire universe to its knees, would surely have considered Prahlada’s responses as well. Hiranyakashipu devised many means to torture and eventually kill his five-year-old son. But Prahlada was always peaceful and blissful. How was that possible? To understand, let us reflect on the next quality of Prahlada.

Faith in the Lord

Prahlada had complete faith in the Lord’s protection, and so he was not worried about anything in this world. He was never agitated when put in danger. He only thought how he could best utilize every moment of his life in remembering and serving the Lord. Just as a child knows very well that his father is always there for him when he is in danger, similarly Prahlada was fully aware that the supreme father was always there for him. So we see that when Prahlada’s material father, Hiranyakashipu, began torturing him, he was not mentally or emotionally disturbed, because he was under the shelter of his spiritual father, Lord Vishnu. In spite of all his power, the mighty demon Hiranyakashipu was not able to do even a little harm to great Prahlada. Finally, Lord Vishnu appeared as Lord Narasimhadeva to please Prahlada and kill the demon.

Expressing his complete faith in the mercy of the Lord, Prahlada said, “Nothing is unobtainable for devotees who have satisfied the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is the cause of all causes, the original source of everything.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.6.25)

Compassion for All

After killing Hiranyakashipu, Lord Narasimhadeva asked Prahlada to request a benediction from Him. Prahlada could have asked for anything, and the Lord would have immediately fulfilled his desire. However, Prahlada was not concerned about his own well-being. He did not fear this world, because he was always taking shelter of the Lord. But he felt sorry for the souls suffering in this world and also for those who, although suffering, are imagining that they are enjoying. “O best of the great personalities, I am not at all afraid of material existence, for wherever I stay I am fully absorbed in thoughts of Your glories and activities. My concern is only for the fools and rascals who are making elaborate plans for material happiness and maintaining their families, societies and countries. I am simply concerned with love for them.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.9.43)

Just as without sun there cannot be light, similarly without Krishna there cannot be happiness. So Prahlada had a great desire that everyone should take shelter of the Supreme Lord. He again and again prayed to Narasimhadeva to free everyone from their suffering. Just as the Supreme Lord is equal toward everyone and does not have any friend or enemy, similarly Prahlada did not consider anyone his enemy. He was everyone’s best well-wisher and had compassion for all living entities. He even begged the Lord to forgive his father of all his sins. Prahlada did not have a revengeful mind. And the sinful demon got purified just by the touch of Lord Narasimhadeva.

No Interest in Childish Playthings

One of the qualities of Prahlada I like the most is that as a child he was not interested in childish playthings but used all his time in practicing devotion to the Supreme Lord. When there would be leisure time, Prahlada’s friends would invite him to play with them. But as a true friend, Prahlada would persuade his friends not to waste time in worldly activities but use the given time in chanting and singing the glories of the Supreme Lord. And Prahlada’s friends were so moved by his kind and loving words that they followed his advice.

Now let us reflect on our own life. Forget the time when we were children, now also when we are grown up we may be interested in playing sports or watching sports. We may get so immersed in sports that we forget everything else. Such absorption may give some flickering enjoyment, but it is never going to satisfy our heart and give us endless happiness.

As souls, we are pleasure seekers by nature. So we always look for pleasure everywhere. And not just from sports – we also try to enjoy life by watching movies, listening to songs, watching online videos, talking about politics, engaging in idle gossip, and so on. These activities may help us escape from our boring routine life, but they cannot bring joy to our heart. We all have experienced this. But we see that Prahlada was always in bliss because he was always absorbed in Krishna consciousness. Pure devotees of the Lord enjoy every moment of their life to the fullest because they find joy in spiritual activities like chanting the names of Krishna, hearing about Krishna, and worshiping the deity of Krishna. In Srimad-Bhagavatam the lives of great devotees like Prahlada have been described so that we can learn from their lives and apply that knowledge in our own life.

Free from Pride

Prahlada had no tinge of pride. He was the son of the emperor of the universe and had immense wealth at his disposal, but he lived like an ordinary child. He never considered himself superior to others. Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.4.31–32) says, “To respectable persons he acted exactly like a menial servant, to the poor he was like a father, to his equals he was attached like a sympathetic brother, and he considered his teachers, spiritual masters and older Godbrothers to be as good as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” Prahlada was even always respectful toward his father, who insulted and tortured him.

Heroic Preacher

Practicing and teaching Krishna consciousness were banned during the reign of Hiranyakashipu, but Prahlada took it upon himself to propagate Krishna consciousness. He was a fearless preacher. Even the king of heaven, Indra, feared Hiranyakashipu, but Prahlada fearlessly spoke truth to the powerful demon. He risked his life for that.

When Prahlada was preaching to his classmates, he explained how much people are wasting their time. Assuming that a human being lives for 100 years, one wastes half of one’s life in sleeping. So one has just 50 active years. In childhood one passes 10 years in ignorance, and in boyhood another 10 years are wasted in playful activities. In old age one becomes invalid and is not able to perform many material activities, so how will he perform spiritual activities? In this way another 20 years are wasted. So one has only 10 active years. But unfortunately these are also lost in earning money and taking care of household activities.

So Prahlada asked his friends not to waste their lives in sense gratification. Instead, they should immediately start practicing devotion to God, and they were convinced.

But he did not stop there. To the surprise of all and the horror of some, he began preaching Krishna consciousness to Hiranyakashipu. The demon would have never expected that a five-year-old child would try to make him a devotee of Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu had great pride in his strength, and he thought that with this strength he would succeed in killing Lord Vishnu. Prahlada tried his best to make the ignorant demon understand that he would never be able to kill the Lord. He would tell him that all his strength came from the Supreme Lord. “My dear King, the source of my strength, of which you are asking, is also the source of yours. Indeed, the original source of all kinds of strength is one. He is not only your strength or mine, but the only strength for everyone. Without Him, no one can get any strength. Whether moving or not moving, superior or inferior, everyone, including Lord Brahma, is controlled by the strength of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.8.7)

Hiranyakashipu tried his best to kill Prahlada, and Prahlada tried his best to make Hiranyakashipu a devotee of the Lord.

Glorious Prahlada

Glorifying Prahlada, sage Narada says, “In any assembly where there are discourses about saints and devotees, O King Yudhishthira, even the enemies of the demons, namely the demigods, what to speak of you, would cite Prahlada Maharaja as an example of a great devotee.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.4.35) Prahlada had many spiritual qualities, and so he is celebrated as one of the great devotees of the Lord. He shunned all material desires and took complete shelter of Lord Vishnu, who appeared as Lord Narasimhadeva, the protector of all sincere devotees, who are rare in this world.

Purushottama Nitai Dasa is a member of the congregation at ISKCON Kolkata. He writes at https://discoverursupersoul.com.