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Nrisimha Chaturdashi – Appearance of Lord Nrisimhadeva (part 1)

Today is a very super excellent auspicious day as we celebrate Lord Nrisimhadeva’s appearance or avirbhava-tithi. Yesterday we discussed Lord Nrisimhadeva and Prahlada Maharaja’s katha, and we ended the class with the pastime of the four Kumaras. So, we discussed the four Kumaras abandoning their meditation of Lord Brahma, instead they went to Vaikuntha-dhama. And once there, they cursed the gatekeepers Jaya and Vijaya to take three births as demons. So in Satya-yuga, Jaya and Vijaya had to appear in this material world as Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu. During Treta-yuga, they appeared in the form of the demons Ravana and Kumbhakarna. And in Dvapara-yuga, they came as Shishupala and Dantavakra.

The katha about Prahlada Maharaja and Nrishimha Bhagavan is very important; Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu would repeatedly ask Gadadhara Pandita, “I want to listen to nrisimha-prahlada-katha.”

So, when Hiranyaksha appeared he disturbed everybody, and he conquered the three planetary systems. Afterwards, he even tried to conquer the heavenly planet, Svargaloka. However, Indra, who was very tricky, told him, “First, you must conquer Lord Vishnu,” and he even explained how this could be done, “You have to kidnap Lord Vishnu's consort, Mother Earth (Prithivi-devi).” So, Hiranyaksha kidnapped Prithivi-devi and sank her in the waters of the Garbhodaka Ocean. Then, Lord Varahadeva manifested from the nostril of Brahmaji and jumped in the waters of the Ocean, and He placed Prithivi-devi on His tusks and returned Earth to where she belonged.

Hiranyakashipu Seeks Revenge For Brother’s Death

Upon seeing this, Hiranyaksha began shouting and using harsh words. Minutes later, Lord Varahadeva engaged in a battle against Hiranyaksha, killing the demon in the process. After, his brother Hiranyakashipu became very angry and took this vow, “I must have revenge against the killer of my brother, Hiranyaksha.” He began performing hard austerities to Lord Brahma to attain immortality (amaravara). He performed these hard austerities for thousands and thousands of years.

Different Puranas, like the Nrisimha Purana, also explain that Hiranyakashipu left his house and entered the forest to perform these austerities to Brahmaji. In the meantime, Narada Rishi and Parvata Rishi manifested in the form of two birds. And when Hiranyakashipu was chanting this mantra to Brahmaji, “Om namo brahmane namaha,” the two birds started chanting, “Sri narayanaya namaha.” And the birds continued chanting, “Om narayanaya namaha.”

You see, Nrisimha Purana gives this specific explanation. However, different Puranas state that the birds chanted, “Om vishnave namaha.” But actually, as explained by the Nrisimha Purana, Narada Rishi and Parvata Rishi, in the form of two birds, chanted this mantra, “Om narayanaya namaha”.

After hearing this mantra, Hiranyakashipu’s mind became very disturbed as sometimes he also chanted, “Om narayanaya namaha” and he asked himself, “Why am I chanting my enemy's name?”

He decided that it was not an auspicious time to continue with ascetic practice, so he left the place where he was performing his austerities for thousands of years and returned to his home to meet with his wife, Kayadhu. Kayadhu then became pregnant. Hiranyakashipu again left his house and went to that place to continue performing hard austerities to Brahmaji. Then, Brahmaji appeared and asked Hiranyakashipu, “What benediction do you want?” Hiranyakashipu answered, “I want to become immortal, amaravara.”

Brahmaji replied, “This is impossible for me to grant as one who takes birth in this material world must die.”

jātasya hi dhruvo mṛtyur dhruvaṁ janma mṛtasya ca

Bhagavad-gita (2.27)

[One who has taken his birth is sure to die, and after death one is sure to take birth again.]

Brahmaji continued, “This is the law of nature, for this regard, I cannot give this benediction of immortality to you.”

Then, Hiranyakashipu asked, “Give me this benediction: I will not die in the daytime and I will not die at night. I will not die on Earth, I will not die in the water and I will not even die in the sky. I will also not die in any month nor any year. I will not die by any sword nor any kind of weapon. And I will not die by any human being nor animal.”

When he asked in this way, Brahmaji granted his benedictions, “Okay, I will give these benedictions to you.” Hiranyakashipu laughed, “Ha ha ha! O Brahmaji, you are foolish! Actually, I have just indirectly received the benediction of immortality, аmaravara, from you!”

Prahlada Listens to Lord’s Pastimes from Narada Rishi

Now, this katha Shukadeva Gosvami told to Pariksit Maharaja, that after Hiranyakashipu left his house to perform hard austerities, his wife, Kayadhu was pregnant. While he was away, the king of heaven, Indra, arrived in the palace of Hiranyakashipu. He thought, “Oh, now Kayadhu is pregnant, maybe there is another demon in her womb, so, I will have to kill Kayadhu.” Na rahega baans, na bajegi bansuri—If there is no bamboo, the flute cannot be played. ”If I kill Kayadhu, then the baby in her womb will also die and therefore another demon will not be born.” For this regard, Indra disguised himself in the form of Hiranyakashipu and met with Kayadhu. By speaking sweet, sweet words, he was able to kidnap Kayadhu, like Ravana kidnapped Sita-devi. He placed her on his chariot and proceeded towards the heavenly planet, Svargaloka. On the way, Narada Rishi appeared and said, “O Indra, why are you doing this? Do you know that a great devotee is in the womb of Kayadhu? This great devotee is a high class exalted devotee, actually he is uttama-bhagavata, and if you kill Kayadhu, this great devotee will die and you will have committed a serious offence. And because of this vaishnava-aparadha,you will lose your position and also your authority over the heavenly planets.” Then Indra very humbly asked, “O Gurudeva, Narada Rishi, what should I do now?” “Keep Kayadhu in my ashrama,” answered Narada Rishi. So now, Kayadhu was staying in the ashrama of Narada Rishi, and there, Narada Rishi would every day give sweet hari-katha, narrations on the sweet pastimes of the Lord, bhagavat hari-katha; speaking on all the relishable pastimes of Krishna.

For this regard, Prahlada Maharaja would later tell all of his friends how he received the association of Narada Rishi while he was staying in the womb of his mother Kayadhu, mahat-sanga. And due to this association, he learned all shastra and tattva. This katha is also mentioned in the Nrisimha Purana.

Prahlada’s Past Life

Once, a desire arose in Prahlada Maharaja to ask Lord Nrisimhadeva how he developed devotion towards His lotus feet in his heart. Lord Nrisimhadeva replied, “Prahlada listen! In ancient times there was one brahmana and his name was Vasu Sharma who resided in the city of Avanti nagar, and was well versed in the Vedas, Puranas and Upanishads. His chaste wife Sushila, gave him five sons. The first four sons were very good and had proper conduct. And you were his fifth and youngest son. However, you became attracted to prostitutes and completely lost your character. Your name was Vasudeva, because you are the son of Vasu Sharma.”

Lord Nrisimhadeva continued, “For this reason, everyone knew about Vasudeva. You were very attached to one prostitute. Once, you were quarrelling with her, and you quarrelled so much that you both spent the entire day and night without eating. So, you accidentally completed a full fast on what happened to be My appearance day which is called Nrisimha-chaturdashi. Unknowingly, you and your wife, who was the prostitute, observed Nrisimha-chaturdashi. For this regard, you have become a great devotee, and after your wife’s death, she entered the heavenly planets and she enjoyed all kinds of sense gratification there, like apsara.

“Then, after so many years of enjoying all kinds of sense gratification in the heavenly planets, she also became My great devotee. And you have become My pure devotee too.” Our shastra, like the Nrisimha Purana, explains that if anyone observes Nrisimha-chaturdashi, whether knowingly or unknowingly, they become a pure devotee of Lord Nrisimhadeva.

Nrisimhadeva gives His mercy to everyone. For this regard, the Nrisimha Purana glorifies how, in his previous life, Prahlada Maharaja performed many sinful activities. Yet, just by unknowingly observing Nrisimha-chaturdashi, he became a pure devotee of the Lord. Actually, Prahlada Maharaja is an eternal associate of Lord Krishna, and he just performed this lila with the help of Yogamaya.

Hiranyakashipu's Order to Attack Sadhus

So, returning to our subject matter. Hiranyakashipu returned to his palace after receiving his benediction from Brahmaji. Then, Hiranyakashipu declared, “Now I am immortal! No one will worship Vishnu. Instead everybody will worship my vigraha. Bolo Hiranyakashipu ki jaya!” Now everybody had to offer glory to Hiranyakashipu, no one could give jaya to Lord Vishnu anymore. If anyone worshipped Lord Vishnu, Hiranyakashipu would give them a heavy punishment.

He sent his entire army out, and the soldiers would travel from village to village to kill those who were worshipping Lord Vishnu. He destroyed all the temples of Lord Vishnu and built new temples of Lord Hiranyakashipu in their place. Everyone, everywhere had to worship Lord Hiranyakashipu. And during that time, all of Hiranyakashipu's soldiers began bitterly beating and jailing sadhus and sannyasis.

Kayadhu gave birth to Prahlada, and when Prahlada Maharaja was just five years old, he returned to Hiranyakashipu's palace with his mother. And when Hiranyakashipu saw that his five year old son Prahlada was very beautiful and attractive, he became very happy and said, “My son Prahlada will be my heir. After my death, Prahlada will become king of this palace.”

For this reason, Hiranyakashipu said, “Prahlada, you have to learn all kinds of politics and all sorts of knowledge.” Then Hiranyakashipu admitted him into the school of asura-guru (guru of the demons), Shukracharya. However, at that time, Shukracharya was not at that school. So, Prahlada was admitted to the college of Shukracharya's two disciples, Shanda and Amarka. Here, Shanda means bull and Amarka means monkey. After Prahlada’s enrollment in Shanda and Amarka’s college, Hiranyakashipu said, “O, Shanda and Amarka, you must give perfect lessons to my son Prahlada.” And they responded, “Yes Your Highness, yes of course! We will give the best lessons to your son.”

Prahlada’s Teachings

After three months, when Prahlada returned from the school of Shanda and Amarka, Hiranyakashipu asked his son, “What did you learn from the ashrama of your gurus?” Then, Prahlada Maharaja very boldly, and with sweet words, answered,

tat sādhu manye ’sura-varya dehināṁ sadā samudvigna-dhiyām asad-grahāt hitvātma-pātaṁ gṛham andha-kūpaṁ vanaṁ gato yad dharim āśrayeta

Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.5.5)

[Prahlada Maharaja replied, “O best of the asuras, king of the demons, as far as I have learned from my spiritual master, any person who has accepted a temporary body and temporary household life is certainly embarrassed by anxiety because of having fallen in a dark well where there is no water but only suffering. One should give up this position and go to the forest (vana). More clearly, one should go to Vrindavana, where only Krishna consciousness is prevalent, and should thus take shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”]

Prahlada Maharaja answered, “O my father, you are the best among the best of demons, asura-varya. Father, listen to the lesson which I have learned from my spiritual father.”

tat sādhu manye ’sura-varya dehināṁ sadā samudvigna-dhiyām asad-grahāt

“This household life is like a deep, dark, waterless well which gives so much distress. One who enters household life completely spoils his life. Just as one who has jumped in a deep, dark, waterless well.” ‘Gṛham andha-kūpaṁ’—Household life is like andha-kūpaṁ, a dark well. Our Srila Vishvanatha Chakravarti very nicely and very elaborately explained that household life is like a deep and dark waterless well.

Once, a person entered the forest and a tiger began chasing him. As he was running away, he saw a well which was completely dry. Above the well were overhanging branches of a tree. He quickly jumped and caught hold of one of the branches and began dangling over the well. The tiger quickly came and began roaring. Then, he noticed there was a cobra in the well and the snake raised its hood and began hissing.

Now that person saw an elephant rubbing his body on the tree, to the point where the whole tree was shaking. And then on the top branch of that tree, there was one beehive, and honey bees were humming. They began stinging his body, but he could not do anything as he needed to hold on to the branch with both hands.

Then, he noticed two rats, one black and one white. And with their teeth, the rats began cutting the branch from which he was dangling. Now he was thinking, “What will I do now?” He turned his eyes towards the top of the tree and noticed some drops of honey dripping. He thought, “I have to taste the sweetness of this honey.” The man raised his tongue, yet the first drop fell on his tip of nose so he could not taste the honey. Then, he was waiting for the next drop, and the next drop fell a little bit far from him, still not allowing him to taste. Now, a third drop finally fell on his tongue, and when he tasted it, he thought, “Ah, how good is this.” In the meantime, the black and white rats cut through the branches causing him to fall to the bottom of the well. Finally, the cobra bit him and in this way, he left his body.

Srila Vishvanatha Chakravartipada explains the significance of this story. The tiger and the snake signify death: mṛtyur dhruvaṁ. ‘Today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow or after 100 years,—we all have to die.’ Another significance here are the white and black rats, they denote day and night respectively. And both are cutting away at our age; with every day, and every night that passes, we lose one day of our lifespan— meaning, we are all headed towards the ocean of death. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakurа sang this song:

cañcala-jīvana-srota pravāhiyā,

kālera sāgare dhāya

gelo je divasa, nā āsibe āra,

ebe kṛṣṇa ki upāya

Sri Radha Krishna Pada Kamale Mana (6)

[“This restless current of life flows, running into the ocean of time [death]. The days that have gone will not come again. Alas, Krishna, what am I to do now to get You?”]

All of us are going to the ocean of death.

The elephant rubbing the tree represents our many desires towards enjoying sense gratifications. Also, the honey bees signify our family members who are always stinging us by asking, “Give money, money, money,” and also creating so many problems for us. Lastly, honey represents the love and affection from our family members.

Prahlada Maharaja nicely summarised the significance of this story:

tat sādhu manye ’sura-varya dehināṁ sadā samudvigna-dhiyām asad-grahāt hitvātma-pātaṁ gṛham andha-kūpaṁ vanaṁ gato yad dharim āśrayeta

“O my father, I think I will give up this household life, and go to Vrindavana to take shelter of the lotus feet of a bona fide sadhu who is completely dedicated to the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu, a Vishnu bhakta, then my life will be successful.”

Dharim āśrayeta— taking shelter of the lotus feet of Sri Hari. When Hiranyakashipu heard this word, Sri Hari, he became very angry and shouted, “Hey! Stupid nonsense! Why are you taking the name of my enemy who killed my brother Hiranyaksha? I have already taken a vow that I have to kill Vishnu.” Then, Hiranyakashipu threw Prahlada off his lap as he shouted very harsh words. Afterwards, all his subjects attempted to pacify Hiranyakashipu, “O King, he is only a small boy, merely five years old. He does not yet understand what is good and what is bad. So, don't worry. Just put him back into the school of Shanda and Amarka. Perhaps this time, they will teach him perfect lessons.”

After doing so, a few months passed, and when Hiranyakashipu reunited with his son Prahlada, he asked him, “What did you learn? What was the best lesson from your teachers?” This time, Prahlada Maharaja answered:

śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ smaraṇaṁ pāda-sevanam arcanaṁ vandanaṁ dāsyaṁ sakhyam ātma-nivedanam

iti puṁsārpitā viṣṇau bhaktiś cen nava-lakṣaṇā kriyeta bhagavaty addhā tan manye ’dhītam uttamam

Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.5.23-24)

[Prahlada Maharaja said, “Hearing and chanting about the transcendental holy name, form, qualities, paraphernalia and pastimes of Lord Vishnu, remembering them, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, offering the Lord respectful worship with sixteen types of paraphernalia, offering prayers to the Lord, becoming His servant, considering the Lord one’s best friend, and surrendering everything unto Him (in other words, serving Him with the body, mind and words) — these nine processes are accepted as pure devotional service. One who has dedicated his life to the service of Krishna through these nine methods should be understood to be the most learned person, for he has acquired complete knowledge.”]

Prahlada Maharaja continued, “O my father, I learned the best lesson. What was this? That I must listen to vishnu-katha.” Now, Hiranyakashipu became very angry and he asked, “Did your teachers Shanda and Amarka give you this lesson?”

Prahlada Maharaja responded, “How can these stupid nonsense gurus possibly give these types of lessons? They do not have any idea of Vishnu.” Then, Prahlada Maharaja spoke these very nice shlokas:

matir na kṛṣṇe parataḥ svato vā mitho ’bhipadyeta gṛha-vratānām adānta-gobhir viśatāṁ tamisraṁ punaḥ punaś carvita-carvaṇānām

Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.5.30)

[Because of their uncontrolled senses, persons too addicted to materialistic life make progress toward hellish conditions and repeatedly chew that which has already been chewed. Their inclinations toward Krishna are never aroused, either by the instructions of others, by their own efforts, or by a combination of both.]

na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇuṁ durāśayā ye bahir-artha-māninaḥ andhā yathāndhair upanīyamānās te ’pīśa-tantryām uru-dāmni baddhāḥ

Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.5.31)

[Persons who are strongly entrapped by the consciousness of enjoying material life, and who have therefore accepted as their leader or guru a similar blind man attached to external sense objects, cannot understand that the goal of life is to return home, back to Godhead, and engage in the service of Lord Vishnu. As blind men guided by another blind man miss the right path and fall into a ditch, materially attached men led by another materially attached man are bound by the ropes of fruitive labour, which are made of very strong cords, and they continue again and again in materialistic life, suffering the threefold miseries.]

Prahlada continued, “O my father listen. How can these stupid nonsense teachers possibly give this best lesson to us? They have no idea what vishnu-bhakti is or what is vishnu-bhajana.”

na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇuṁ durāśayā ye bahir-artha-māninaḥ

“This is because they are completely absorbed in enjoying material sense gratifications. Meaning, those gurus who completely enjoy material sense gratification without controlling their lust or anger— how can they possibly teach me this perfect lesson of vishnu-bhakti? This would be like one blind man leading another. If a blind man leads another blind man, they will both fall down in a ditch.”

In this way, Prahlada Maharaja explained why he could not learn shastra from such sad-gurus. Of course, after hearing this, Hiranyakashipu again became very angry and thought, “I have to kill him! Prahlada is now like the axe and Vishnu is the handle of the axe. So in this way, Vishnu is invisibly trying to destroy my dynasty!”

Date: 6 May 2020 Location: Zoom


Transcriber: Radha-sundari dasi (UK) Editor: Damodara dasa (UK), Sanatana dasa (USA) Proofreader: Chandrika dasi (UK) Integrity check: Divya-premamayi dasi (Slovakia) Image: Navina-krishna dasa (Holland)


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Jaya Srila Gurudeva ki jaya! Jaya Nrisimha Bhagavan ki jaya!

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