Hiranya-kashipu’s Disappearance Day (Lord Nrisimhadeva’s Appearance)
I am only half kidding with today’s blog title, yet I am trying to make a point, as you will see. Specifically, this is the day we celebrate the devotion of Prahlad, his constant remembrance of Krishna, and Krishna’s assuming the fearsome, though ecstatic, form of Lord Nrisimhadeva to protect and glorify His pure devotee. However, we can also feel a kind of gratitude to Hiranya-kashipu, for without his demoniac nature, and trying to kill his son, we would have never heard of Prahlad, or seen the practical demonstration of the Lord’s love for his devotees. Great souls are glorified by their struggles and victory over adversity. In every great life story there must be an antagonist which allows the hero to shine. Although unimaginably powerful, Hiranya-kashipu also represents our tiny selves, or our personal rebellion against God, and—to put it nicely—those less than ideal qualities in our heart that we as devotees, or sadhakas, struggle with. Thus, in our material conditioned state, we can think of our dark side like a mini-Hiranya-kashipu, and pray that the Lord slay our “anarthas” or our unwanted conditioning, such as lust, anger, greed, enviousness, etc. We are fortune to have both good and bad examples in the scriptures, so we will know our ideal, and what we want to rise above. Everyone can be our teacher!
With regard to praying to Lord Nrisimhadeva to help us in our spiritual life, I daily recite many prayers to this special form of Krishna so dear to the devotees of Shri Chaitanya. Here are a few:
oḿ namo bhagavate narasiḿhāya
namas tejas-tejase āvir-āvirbhava vajra-nakha vajra-daḿṣṭra karmāśayān
randhaya randhaya tamo grasa grasa oḿ svāhā;
abhayam abhayam ātmani bhūyiṣṭhā oḿ kṣraum
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto Lord Nṛsiḿhadeva, the source of all power. O my Lord who possesses nails and teeth just like thunderbolts, kindly vanquish our demon-like desires for fruitive activity in this material world. Please appear in our hearts and drive away our ignorance so that by Your mercy we may become fearless in the struggle for existence in this material world.” [SB 5.18.8]
tvam prapanashmi sharanam deva deva janardana
it yah sharanam praptastam klesa duddharamyaham
“Anyone who prays to Me and takes shelter from Me becomes My ward, and I protect him always from all sorts of calamities.” [Nrshimha Purana]
Lord Nrishimhadeva is a very special incarnation of Krishna and I have a special affinity for His worship, as do many devotees. Shrila Rupa Goswami has mentioned in his Laghu-bhagavatamrita, that of all the principle incarnations of Krishna, two are prominent: Lord Rama and Lord Nrisimdadeva. He refers to both of them as “sad aishvarya purna" avatars or complete in all six opulences, as given by Parasara Muni in his definition of the Supreme Personality of Godhead (full strength, full fame, wealth, knowledge, beauty and renunciation). In the narration about Nrisimhadeva’s appearance we find the teachings of the Krishna conscious philosophy come to life in a most practical way. We are all recommended to carefully study the Shrimad Bhagavatam to find divine philosophical and inspiring gems to nourish our spiritual lives, and help us gain faith and strength to persevere on the path of bhakti, despite apparent difficulties and reverses.
For people in general, this manifestation of God, may appear ghastly when He is seen garlanded with intestines, or when they see that Prahlad seems to celebrating the death of his father, by offering his killer a garland! As is often the case, things are not what they seem on the surface. Therefore, we have much education to do, if uninformed, or even religious people, will be able see the wisdom and beauty in this lila (pastime), and the devotee’s celebration at what appears to be a ghastly scene. While distributing my guru, Shrila Prabhupada’s books, I used to wear a Nrishimadeva medallion with the Lord roaring in this fierce half man, half lion form, and some people were fearful, thinking it was something demoniac! How astonishing it would be for them to learn that we see this form as one of extreme love, mercy, and kindness!
“All glories to Nṛsiḿhadeva! All glories to Nṛsiḿhadeva, who is the Lord of Prahlāda Mahārāja and, like a honeybee, is always engaged in beholding the lotuslike face of the goddess of fortune.” [as recited by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Shri Chaitanya Charitamrita Madhya 8.5]
The following verse was composed by Śrīdhara Svāmī in his commentary on the Tenth Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.87.1):
vāg-īśā yasya vadane lakṣmīr yasya ca vakṣasi
yasyāste hṛdaye samvit taḿ nṛsiḿham ahaḿ bhaje
"Lord Nṛsiḿhadeva is always assisted by Sarasvatī, the goddess of learning, and He is always embracing the goddess of fortune to His chest. The Lord is always complete in knowledge within Himself. Let us offer obeisances unto Nṛsiḿhadeva."
Similarly, in his commentary on the First Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.1.1), Śrīdhara Svāmī describes Lord Nṛsiḿhadeva in this way:
śarad-indu-ruciḿ vande pārīndra-vadanaḿ harim
"Let me offer my obeisances unto Lord Nṛsiḿhadeva, who is always enlightening Prahlāda Mahārāja within his heart and who always kills the nescience that attacks the devotees. His mercy is distributed like moonshine, and His face is like that of a lion. Let me offer my obeisances unto Him again and again."
Therefore, we have a great deal to learn from the Shrimad Bhagavatam about the nature of God, his love for those who are devoted to serving Him, and our tendency to be suffering from demoniac tendencies--so wide spread in this age. Because we are trying our best to become devotees of Krishna through the medium of Shri Chaitanya (considered mercy personified, and the combined form of Radha and Krishna—the male and female supreme manifestations of God) we can expect Krishna's mercy and His protection. Protection may or may not pertain to our material body, but most importantly it pertains to our devotion—which will never be vanquished and will gradually lead us toward the spiritual kingdom.
Here is a purport from Prabhupada to sum up our good fortune of taking up the path of bhakti, or to encourage us to do so: “As confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā (2.40), svalpam apy asya dharmasya trāyate mahato bhayāt: 'Even a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.' The Supreme Personality of Godhead is known as bhāva-grāhī janārdana because He takes only the essence of a devotee's attitude. If a devotee sincerely surrenders, the Lord, as the Supersoul in everyone's heart, immediately understands this. Thus even though, externally, a devotee may not render full service, if he is internally sincere and serious the Lord welcomes his service nonetheless. Thus the Lord is known as bhāva-grāhī janārdana because He takes the essence of one's devotional mentality.” [in reference to the Lord’s mercy to Bali Maharaja in SB 8.23.2]
In the Lord’s glorious activities throughout the Universe and in the spiritual world, all the players or participants are not only important, but essential to create the mood, necessity, and as a background. Thus we can appreciation not only the devotion of Prahlad, and the love of Shri Nrisimhadeva for his devotees, but also understand the importance of Hiranya-kashipu—or the demoniac nature—which glorifies Prahlad by contrast, and over which he is successful in overcoming. Of course we shouldn’t think that Lord Nrisimhadeva came because of the demoniac qualities of Mr. Hiranya-kashipu, but only to protect His devotee.
“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion -- at that time I descend Myself. To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear, millennium after millennium. One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” [Bg 4.7-9] Thus by understanding all the intricacies of this pastime, our own and the Lord’s spiritual nature, and developing attraction and love for Krishna, we will be elevated to the spiritual plane—the real solution to all problems of material life. This knowledge is thus very powerful and sublime!