“Prahlada Maharaja said: O Supreme Lord, because You are so merciful to the fallen souls, I ask You for only one benediction. I know that my father, at the time of his death, had already been purified by Your glance upon him, but because of his ignorance of Your beautiful power and supremacy, he was unnecessarily angry at You, falsely thinking that You were the killer of his brother. Thus he directly blasphemed Your Lordship, the spiritual master of all living beings, and committed heavily sinful activities directed against me, Your devotee. I wish that he be excused for these sinful activities.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.10.15-17)Download this episode (right click and save)
varaṁ varaya etat te
yad anindat pitā me
tvām avidvāṁs teja aiśvaram
tvad-bhakte mayi cāghavān
tasmāt pitā me pūyeta
durantād dustarād aghāt
pūtas te ’pāṅga-saṁdṛṣṭas
It’s the way to satisfy one of the three debts assumed at the time of birth. Contrary to what we might think, we don’t create the circumstances present when we exit the womb. Our karma, or fruitive action that has corresponding reactions, certainly was responsible for landing us in that particular area, but other living entities did things to make everything come together. The three debts are to the forefathers, the saints, and the controllers of the material nature. The debt to the forefathers is paid through begetting a son.
These debts relate to the material sphere. The spirit soul is sanatana, or eternal. According to Ramanujacharya, the word sanatana means that which has no beginning and no end. The essential characteristic of something is its dharma, so in the Vedic tradition the best corresponding term for religion is “sanatana-dharma.” This is not a faith. It is not an option to check off on a government form. Saying that you believe in sanatana-dharma is like saying that you believe in the law of gravity. Sanatana-dharma exists irrespective of anyone’s belief in it, the same as it is with the laws of material science.
For the soul in the material world, to become reacquainted with the original engagement for the soul is not so easy. It typically requires a gradual elevation, and so we encounter things like the three debts. By repaying these debts, one learns to give respect to others, to not be solely focused on sense gratification. It is a means of gradual detachment from the body, i.e. what is not the soul.
Begetting a son is beneficial in other ways also. If you repeatedly violated the laws of material nature and didn’t become perfectly God conscious by the time of death, you’re likely to suffer in the afterlife. The good son can alleviate that suffering through their deeds. The Sanskrit word for son, putra, literally means one who delivers a person from hell.
When speaking of the spiritual side, one should only have children in order to release them from the cycle of birth and death. Never mind elevation to heaven and hell, which represent temporarily manifest places. Bring your dependents to the highest point of pure devotion to God. This is also known as Krishna consciousness. That is the real meaning to sanatana-dharma: meeting the soul’s true nature of service to God that continues without impediment and without interruption. An example of a son who satisfies both the material and spiritual aspects is Prahlada Maharaja. He can be considered the perfect son.
1. He listens well.
The father and mother are wiser than the child. This is the way of nature brought about through experience. So if you beget a son, you want them to listen to wise instruction. If they fail to follow good counsel, they will be on the wrong path in life. Just imagine Prahlada’s greatness, then. He listened to the science of self-realization while within the womb. He heard everything essential about life from Narada Muni, the great traveler of the three-worlds. After birth, Prahlada retained the knowledge. We forget things of consequence so quickly, but Prahlada remembered the most important information.
ṛṣiḥ kāruṇikas tasyāḥ
prādād ubhayam īśvaraḥ
dharmasya tattvaṁ jñānaṁ ca
mām apy uddiśya nirmalam
“Narada Muni delivered his instructions both to me, who was within the womb, and to my mother, who was engaged in rendering him service. Because he is naturally extremely kind to the fallen souls, being in a transcendental position, he gave instructions on religion and transcendental knowledge. These instructions were free from all material contamination.” (Prahlada Maharaja, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.7.15)
2. He is good to his friends.
Another worry for the parent is association. If their son ends up hanging out with the wrong crowd, it could spell trouble. The good parent tries to shield their son from bad influences. At the same time, they want their child to be a good influence on others. In this regard, Prahlada was the best friend. During lunch breaks at school, he would discuss the most important topics with his friends. Even most mature adults never receive this vital information, what to speak of children. In this way Prahlada was the best friend to his peers.
3. He does not force the father to accept his way of life.
Though Prahlada took the instruction of Narada well, he had issues with his teachers and his father. At the command of the father, King Hiranyakashipu, the teachers taught Prahlada only about matters pertaining to state. Being a manager is difficult. All the problems, both large and small, arrive at your desk. Just imagine, then, what the manager of the entire state must deal with. The Vedas give four styles of diplomacy, of which the venerable Shri Hanuman showed himself to be a master many times.
tata enaṁ gurur jñātvā
daityendraṁ darśayām āsa
“After some time, the teachers Shanda and Amarka thought that Prahlada Maharaja was sufficiently educated in the diplomatic affairs of pacifying public leaders, appeasing them by giving them lucrative posts, dividing and ruling over them, and punishing them in cases of disobedience. Then, one day, after Prahlada's mother had personally washed the boy and dressed him nicely with sufficient ornaments, they presented him before his father.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.19)
Hiranyakashipu wanted Prahlada to learn these ways, but the boy was not interested. He was focused on devotion to God, bhakti-yoga. The father tried every which way to force the boy to change, but the boy never forced the father. Prahlada counseled in a mild and compassionate way, showing his gentle nature. This was a sign of great respect, as through his devotion Prahlada could have gotten anything he wanted, including force against his belligerent father.
4. He brings God to the family.
Hiranyakashipu was a devout atheist; he considered God to be his enemy. When he saw Prahlada worshiping that enemy, he could not tolerate it. He tried every which way to kill Prahlada, but no attempt worked. It was the boy’s unflinching devotion that finally brought the Supreme Lord to the scene. Though it spelled the end of life for Hiranyakashipu, it was a actually a great boon. The son was perfectly God conscious, and the father had the same consciousness at the time of death. Due to Prahlada, the Supreme Lord in His form of Narasimhadeva came to the family and purified it.
5. He is very forgiving.
Despite every offense committed against him, Prahlada did not hold a grudge against his father. When everyone else was afraid of the ferocious form of the half-man/half-lion that had just torn the powerful Hiranyakashipu in half, Prahlada approached nicely. He asked for forgiveness for his father, despite all he had done. The Supreme Lord stated that not only was Hiranyakashipu liberated, but so were twenty-one previous generations in the family. This was all due to Prahlada, the best son a person could ask for.
To forefathers one of debts three,
By begetting a son of it to be free.
The best of them all, which one?
Look at Prahlada, like him none.
Benefit to his friends and family giving,
And his father’s obstructions forgiving.
Through him God to the family came,
Blessed with vision of Narasimha the name.