“Prahlada Maharaja said: 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.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.8.7)Download this episode (right click and save)
na kevalaṁ me bhavataś ca rājan
sa vai balaṁ balināṁ cāpareṣām
pare ’vare ’mī sthira-jaṅgamā ye
brahmādayo yena vaśaṁ praṇītāḥ
Hiranyakashipu was pretty strong, even by today’s standards. Not that he spent hours in the gym. Not that he consumed vast amounts of protein shakes. He received strength that was beyond comprehension. It was through the favor of the creator himself, Lord Brahma. Imagine sitting down to paint and having only three colors. You can mix them in any proportion you wish, and with any combination. You don’t need to use all three ingredients if you don’t want to. This analogy roughly explains how Lord Brahma creates the species. Just from the ingredients of goodness, passion and ignorance he can come up with 8,400,000 different kinds of bodies for the pure spirit souls to inhabit.
Hiranyakashipu was in the body of a Daitya, which is a kind of asura. Not all Daityas are necessarily strong. He took to austerities as a means of winning the favor of Brahma. The result was success, but not to the point desired. Hiranyakashipu, the king of the Daityas, wanted immortality. As Brahma does not have this himself, he could not very well offer it to anyone else. Hiranyakashipu settled for boons that would bring something like immortality.
One of those boons was tremendous strength. Yet later on he saw similar strength in his five year old son. Named Prahlada, the boy’s physical stature did not signal anything extraordinary. It was his perseverance through deadly attacks that caught the king’s attention. Hiranyakashipu wondered why his son wasn’t being killed, despite the king’s best attempts. He asked the boy where his strength came from, and the reply was something the king didn’t want to hear.
1. Shri Krishna says so in the Bhagavad-gita
To know that God is the only strength of everyone indicates the possession of great wisdom. It is not necessary to meditate for years on end to reach this conclusion. Academic qualification isn’t a determining factor, either. Just hear from the Supreme Lord Himself.
raso 'ham apsu kaunteya
śabdaḥ khe pauruṣaṁ nṛṣu
“O son of Kunti [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.8)
Since He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna is the ultimate authority on all matters of dispute. His is the final word. There is no ambiguity in this regard. From two verses in the Bhagavad-gita alone, we see that Krishna is the source of strength. He says that He is the ability in man. The Sanskrit word is paurusham, which means “human effort.” Krishna also says that He is the strength of the strong.
balaṁ balavatāṁ cāhaṁ
kāmo 'smi bharatarṣabha
“I am the strength of the strong, devoid of passion and desire. I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles, O Lord of the Bharatas [Arjuna].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.11)
2. Prahlada Maharaja says so
Krishna makes the claim, and a person can easily reject it since they have no memory of ever having associated with Him. Krishna is a person, too, which means that maybe He acquired that strength and later made the declarations out of pride.
To clear up any doubts, we can look to someone else. Prahlada Maharaja is strong based on his ability to withstand deadly attacks from his envious father. When Prahlada was questioned by Hiranyakashipu on the matter, he replied that the source of his strength was the same as for the king. In fact, it is the same for everyone. The person who was unbreakable during his time confirmed the statements made by Krishna in the Gita.
3. Human strength is not steady
Obviously, the contrary viewpoint is that strength comes from the individual. After all, Hiranyakashipu changed his situation based on work. The same goes for others. I may not be strong today, but through altering diet and following exercise I can become stronger. I can reach a point where my strength in the future increases relative to what it is today.
Yet that very same variation gives proof to the claim that someone else is the ultimate source of strength. Not everyone who works out will become just as strong. Everyone doesn’t have the same capabilities at the time of birth.
There is the famous example of Arjuna, who was the direct recipient of the words spoken by Shri Krishna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Arjuna emerged victorious in the ensuing Bharata War, and it was through Krishna’s favor. Years later, after Krishna had returned to the spiritual world, Arjuna was unable to defend queens that were under his protection. Krishna’s favor in that respect was no longer there, so even though Arjuna was previously capable, that capability was now gone.
4. Strength varies even within the same family.
You could say that genetics are responsible for strength. If a person takes birth in a certain family, then they have a better chance at being strong. Weak people bear weak offspring. Yet there is variation even within the same family.
pauṇḍraṁ dadhmau mahā-śaṅkhaṁ
“Then, Lord Krishna blew His conchshell, called Panchajanya; Arjuna blew his, the Devadatta; and Bhima, the voracious eater and performer of Herculean tasks, blew his terrific conchshell called Paundram.” (Bhagavad-gita, 1.15)
Arjuna, a member of the Pandava family, had great skill in fighting with the bow and arrow. One of his brothers was known to have tremendous physical strength. Since he was frightening to others, he was known as Bhima. Since he was a voracious eater, he was also known as Vrikodara. Thus within the same family, in the same genetic line, there was variation in strength.
5. Strength increases through the aid of material nature
Personal effort alone doesn’t increase strength. Though Hiranyakashipu was feared throughout the world, he needed the help of a demigod to reach his position. Others need to consume a lot of food on a daily basis to maintain their physique. The material nature must cooperate in order for any temporary result to manifest.
Prahlada did not have to ask anyone for his strength. He was always connected in consciousness to Shri Krishna in a mood of love and devotion. The Lord then took care of the boy’s strength. He gave Prahlada amazing ability to handle the situation created by the inimical father. Shri Krishna is the only strength for everyone, and only those who are devoted to Him know how to properly utilize that strength.
Like with Arjuna changing over time,
Someone else source of strength of mine.
Krishna in Bhagavad-gita Himself to say,
From Prahlada’s testimony another way.
Not everyone same result achieving,
Only after material nature’s favor receiving.
To use properly Lord’s strength the key,
Like with Daitya-king’s son to see.