Monday, July 26, 2010

Contract of Immortality-Part 2

continued from here.....


 While Hiranyakashipu had been away performing austerities, his wife, who was pregnant, had gone to stay with Narad Muni in his ashram. Out there, the divine sage had glorified Lord Vishnu and described in detail the method of worshiping him. More than the mother, the little child within her womb, heard the sage attentively. He began to meditate on Lord Vishnu before birth itself.
         Eventually, Hiranyakashipu returned, and the queen, too, came back with the little boy. His father sent him to school, where his teachers- Kshand and Amarak, attempted to train him in demoniac politics and economics. They spoke about  back-stabbing, taking others' wealth by force and controlling  subordinates.
            But all of their words were wasted on Prahlad. He always remained silent, meditating on Vishnu. During his playtime, Prahlad taught the other little boys the importance of Vishnu worship. So influential was he, that his classmates, the children of the demoniac ministers of Hiranyakashipu, also began to join him in his prayer.
         Initially, Hiranyakashipu was blissfully unaware of all this. One day, he called little Prahlad and made him sit on his lap. He kissed him affectionately on the forehead and inquired, "How is school, my child. Are they treating you well there? What did you learn today, my boy?"
         Prahlad smiled innocently. Hiranyakashipu's heart was melting with affection. Prahlad replied, "I learned today, father, that Lord Vishnu is the greatest of all beings in the universe."
        Hiranyakashipu froze. He could not believe his ears. Who had dared to poison the mind of his own son in this way? "Kshand! Amarak!", he screamed. "What have you been teaching my boy?"
        The teachers came there trembling. They fell at the feet of the King. "Forgive us. Forgive us." They implored. They then proceeded to narrate, how Prahlad seemed to know all this from before and how he was poisoning the minds of other students too.
         Hiranyakashipu became more and more surprised. Surely some messanger of Vishnu was sneaking into the school and corrupting his son. He ordered the security around the school to be tightened and sternly instructed his son, "Look Prahlad, I am Supreme. Vishnu is a fraudster, the murderer of your uncle! You must forget all this nonsense and concentrate on real education. Go now! Get out of my sight! Learn the right things and then come back!"
             Prahlad was calm throughout this outburst. His faith was unshaken. He went back to school but continued with his activities. He refused to even talk about anything other than Vishnu, what to speak of forgetting him. Infact, he even advised his tyrannical father, "Give up your enemity with Lord Vishnu and approach him with love. He will accept you with open arms!"
              Hiranyakashipu became more and more frustrated. The whole universe quaked in his presence, but this little five year old boy, continued to defy him. Finally, his demoniac ministers advised the king, "If there is an infection in the arm, it is better to cut off the arm, then let the illness spread to the whole body. It would be best if you destroyed your son right now, before he grows up and destroys your entire kingdom!"
              Hiranyakashipu relented. This was the only way. He ordered his warriors to throw the boy of the nearest cliff. Prahlad was undisturbed. He meditated on Lord Vishnu as he was thrown, and surely, the kind God stood at the bottom to catch him. Prahlad was unharmed.
             Hiranyakashipu tried various other methods to kill him. He immersed him in boiling oil, but the oil turned into soft flowers at Prahlad's touch. He threw him in front of mad elephants, hungry lions and poisonous snakes.But all these creatures simply bowed down in front of the boy. Demons attempted to cut Prahlad to little bits. But their weapons refused to touch the boy. Prahlad remained steady and calm, like an island amidst the raging sea.
            Finally, Hiranyakashipu handed Prahlad over to his aunt, the king's demon sister Holika. She had a special cloth, it prevented its wearer from being burnt by fire. Holika covered herself with the cloth and entered into blazing fire with the child. A mystical wind flew that lifted up the cloth and covered little Prahlad. Holika burnt to ashes, while not even a hair on Prahlad's body was harmed.
           Now Hiranyakashipu was really angry. He grabbed his son and threw him on the palace floor. "You Insolent boy! From where do you get your strength? Answer me!", he raved.
           "The source of my strength and yours is the same father," answered Prahlad. "The Supreme Lord Vishnu."
         Hiranyakashipu roared. "How dare you! Where is your Vishnu? Where is he? Let him come here to save you if he can. I shall kill you today with my own hands."
         "Vishnu is everywhere  father. He is in you, as he is in me. You only need the eyes to see him", replied Prahlad, unpertrubed.
"Is he in this pillar? Is he in this Pillar?" screamed the King, insane with rage, pointing at one of the palace pillars.
"Of course father"
"Then now he shall die!", thundered the demon and struck the pillar a powerful blow with his mace.
There was a loud explosion. The pillar shattered.

To be continued......


Friday, July 23, 2010

Contract of Immortality-Part 1

I have been wanting to write this post for some time now, but never seem to have got the time. Anyway, here goes....

Basically, what I am going to do is narrate the story of Lord Narsimhadev in 3 parts. Part of ancient Hindu Lore, this is essentially a tale of faith and the wonderful relationship between God and his devotee. Like all good tales, it has a hero and a villain (but sadly, no heroine :) )This part focuses on the villain, from whom the story began and on whom the story ends :)


Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu were the sons of the sage Kashyap and his wife Diti. They were not ordinary mortals. Originally, they were Jay and Vijay, the door-keepers of Lord Vishnu's immortal planet Vaikuntha. Once the four kumaras, four sages who look like 5 year old boys, came to Vaikuntha to meet the Lord. But Jay and Vijay, arrogant of their position of authority, refused the Kumaras entry, mocking their child-like appearance. To teach the brothers a lesson, the sages cursed them,
"Three times you shall be born as demons in the mortal word, and three times Lord Vishnu will Himself have to appear to destroy you!"
           Jay and Vijay realized their folly and begged for forgiveness. No one in the immortal land, ever wishes to come to the mortal realm. But a curse is a curse. The sages were the epitome of virtue, and their words must come true. Jay and Vijay appeared as Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu in their first birth as demons.
            "But they were the sons of a sage?" you may ask. "How  could they be demons." Ah well, this story simply reiterates the fact that it is your deeds and not your birth, that determines who you are. Hiranyaksha, the eldest, began to wreak havoc on the masses. So intoxicated was he by his strength, that he lifted up mother earth(the earth planet) and carried her to the lowest regions of the universe. Lord Vishnu, then incarnated as a wild boar, killed Hiranyaksha, and restored the planet to its correct position.(This is a story in itself and must be reserved for another blog)
          Angered by his brother's death, Hiranyakashipu swore enmity with Vishnu, and began rigorous austerity. He retreated into the forest, stood on one leg and controlled his breathing, meditating on Lord Brahma, the creator of this universe. 36,000 years passed, Hiranyakashipu's body was covered with anthills, and the power of his austerities generated great heat that began to burn up the universe. The other Gods approached Lord Brahma and begged him to appease Hiranyakashipu and restore the balance of the universe.
         Brahma finally appeared before the demon and sprinkled him with sacred water. His body, which had decayed to mere bones, was restored. Hiranyakashipu regained his youth and vitality. Falling at Brahma's feet, he prayed, "Great God, if I have pleased you with my worship, please grant me immortality."
           Brahma frowned, "Anything but that, my child. I cannot grant you immortality, for I, too, am mortal. All beings, within this mortal universe must die. That is the law."
           Hiranyakashipu thought for a moment. Then he spelled out, what he thought was the contract for immortality. "O Brahma," he said, "Then grant me that I should not be killed at the hands of any creature created by you. No god in heaven, no man, no animal, no serpent,no demon should be able to kill me. I should not be killed by any weapon that can be thrown or any weapon that can be wielded. I should not be killed during the day, nor at night. I should not be killed on land or in the sky. Death should not come to me inside my house or outside it. Grant me invincibility in battle and undisputed lordship over all beings. Let me have unfailing powers and the same glory as you." 
           "So be it!" smiled Brahma and vanished.
          Hiranyakashipu returned to his kingdom. He wasted no time in launching a battle on the heavens and capturing all the Gods. Defeating them, he assumed total control of the universe. There was only one law in his land. "No one should worship Vishnu. Anyone found even chanting the name of that God shall be immediately killed!"
          Hiranyakashipu, the original tyrant, began to persecute all the brahmins and vaishnavas engaged in worshiping Vishnu. He falsely believed, that sacrifices(yajnas) done in the name of  Vishnu increase the Lord's strength. He destroyed such sacrifices and brutally destroyed devotees, cows and all object dear to the Lord.
          So complete was his power that if he demanded, "Let there be rain on my garden, but let the sun shine on my porch" it would be done. He had total control on nature. He could enjoy whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. He had strength, beauty, wealth, fame, everything that most of us aspire. You would expect him to be happy.
          Was he happy? Nope. He wasn't even the 'I have had an average day-not too bad, not too good' happy. He was miserable. He was frustrated. He had one thorn in his side. His son, a little 5 year old boy, Prahlad.

(To be continued...)