“My Lord, who are never conquered by anyone, I am certainly not afraid of Your ferocious mouth and tongue, Your eyes bright like the sun or Your frowning eyebrows. I do not fear Your sharp, pinching teeth, Your garland of intestines, Your mane soaked with blood, or Your high, wedgelike ears. Nor do I fear Your tumultuous roaring, which makes elephants flee to distant places, or Your nails, which are meant to kill Your enemies.” (Prahlada Maharaja, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.9.15)Download this episode (right click and save)
“I am a God-fearing person.” This statement is there to distinguish from the person who acts cavalierly, not having regard for future consequences. More specifically, it is the consequences in the unseen afterlife which are disregarded. The person who fears God understands the power of the Almighty. They try to stay on the virtuous path as a way to avoid His wrath. Though this position is advanced compared to the atheist, from Vedic philosophy we see that even “God-fearing” is not something really worth striving for.
1. The threefold miseries are already there
Who is God? What does He look like? Where does He live? Is He a He? The Vedas say that originally God is a person. Since He possesses so many attributes, or gunas, He has many names of address. The original personality is sort of a neutral observer when it comes to this world, which is part of the material energy.
How to explain things such as untimely death, loss of association, destruction and the like which lead to sadness? These occur through the administration of the superintendent of the material creation. She is known as Durga since the material world is like a high fort that is difficult to overcome. Within that fort there is something known as the threefold miseries of life, symbolized in the trident wielded by Durga Devi.
These miseries come from the heavens, other living entities, and within. With this knowledge in hand, we see that there is no reason to fear God directly. Just from taking birth, the living entity becomes subject to these three kinds of miseries. The favor of Durga Devi helps to lessen the blow, so to speak, but the miseries will always be there. It is part and parcel of accepting a material body.
2. Punishment arrives from the law of karma
The Supreme Lord is present in every single space, though He may not always be manifest. In the material world He accomplishes omnipresence through something known as Paramatma, which is the Supersoul. Without the sanction of the Supersoul, no result could come to be. Nevertheless, Paramatma does not interfere with desire. He is more the overseer and the permitter.
“Yet in this body there is another, a transcendental enjoyer who is the Lord, the supreme proprietor, who exists as the overseer and permitter, and who is known as the Supersoul.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.23)
Due to His neutrality, there is no need to fear Paramatma. The punishment from sinful acts arrives through the law of karma. The arrival is compared to the blossoming of flowers on trees. The flowers don’t come right away; the proper season must arrive first. In the same way, the doer of sinful acts thinking that since no punishment has arrived they have escaped is in for a rude awakening.
3. The fearful form of death guaranteed to arrive, at the proper time
The atheist may not be afraid of God, but they subtly acknowledge Him anyway. They meet Him at the time of death. Thus they only see His guna of the great devourer. The Sanskrit word for death is kala, and this is also the word for time. Nothing can subdue like time, as it acts on everyone and everything. There is no need to fear God directly, since He will arrive at the time of death regardless of a person’s belief or lack thereof.
4. The incident with Bhrigu Muni
The real reason God is not someone to be feared comes from His natural disposition. He is compassion personified. He is more forgiving than we can ever imagine. One incident described in the Puranas beautifully illustrates this. One time Bhrigu Muni wanted to test to see which of the three principal deities of the material creation was superior: Brahma, Shiva, or Vishnu.
Bhrigu committed an offense with the mind to Brahma, who is his father. He committed an offense with words to Shiva. Both got angry as a result. Bhrigu then offended Vishnu with deeds. He kicked the Lord while He was lying down in rest. To Bhrigu’s surprise, Vishnu was not angry at all. He was worried that perhaps the sage’s foot had gotten hurt from touching the hard chest of the husband of Lakshmi Devi. The results to the test complete, Bhrigu judged that Vishnu is Supreme.
5. Prahlada Maharaja pacifying Narasimhadeva
Of course the kindness was shown by Vishnu due to Bhrigu being a devotee. Bhrigu could not be classified as God-fearing, since he was not afraid to offend Vishnu by kicking Him. The best of the asuras, or atheists, also was not God-fearing. He was not a devotee, though. He committed terrible atrocities against his five year old son named Prahlada. For this special occasion, Vishnu gave the punishment Himself, and it was swift. He arrived in a ferocious form that was half-man/half-lion.
Brahma and Shiva were afraid of this form. It killed the asura Hiranyakashipu very easily, essentially tearing him in half. Afterwards the form was still showing signs of amazing anger. Yet Prahlada was not afraid. He saw the wrath of God firsthand, and yet he knew there was nothing to worry about. The demigods asked Prahlada to pacify Narasimhadeva’s anger. From that incident we see that the highest position to reach is God-loving. This can only be accomplished through knowledge of God’s attributes, which the Vedas describe on and on, through the ages and beyond.
Without thoughts of future to go,
Atheists God only as death to know.
Better if inside some fear,
Having idea of afterlife clear.
Still from there something higher in to reside,
To have love for Lord, fear of Him cast aside.
Like Prahlada by demigods sent,
With love towards angry Narasimha went.