“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)
Eating, sleeping, mating and defending. These are the four basic behaviors of the animals. The animals are advanced from the plants, which are the nonmoving species. The human beings are similar to the animals in that they have these four activities as well. Where there is advancement is in intelligence. The human being has the opportunity to rise above.
Defending is also known as fearing. It is natural to be afraid, as there is always the chance for loss. That which you worked so hard to acquire can vanish in a second. The body itself is subject to destruction. When there is life there must be death. The asura, the person who is against the Divine, typically fears death very much. That is because they discount the idea of the afterlife. If they do believe in it, they are worried what will happen because of their sinful behavior. When they don’t believe in a next life, death is their supreme deity, the great devouring enemy.
The suras transcend this fear. Even when death personified arrives before them in a ferocious form, they pay obeisance. They know that the soul will live on. They know that through devotion, bhakti-yoga, the Supreme Lord will provide circumstances ideal for the practice of that devotion. One of the more ferocious forms of death was the avatara known as Narasimha. He was God Himself, in a personal form, coming to protect the devotee Prahlada and kill the evil father Hiranyakashipu. Narasimhadeva had several interesting features, aspects to His transcendental body that would typically instill fear, even in demigods. Prahlada, however, was not scared by them.
1. His ferocious mouth and tongue
In the Bhagavad-gita, the warrior Arjuna is in doubt over how to proceed. He is the leading fighter for a side about to enter a massive conflict. His side defends righteousness, or dharma. The other side is adharma. Still, Arjuna does not want to inflict pain on people he has affection for. He is worried about what will happen if his side wins.
Arjuna’s charioteer is the same Narasimhadeva, by the warrior’s side in His original form of Krishna. The Supreme Lord decided to show Arjuna a glimpse of the future. In that amazing vision, the leading fighters for the opposing side were rushing into Krishna’s mouths; some of the warriors on Arjuna’s side as well. This was a depiction of destiny, a reminder that death was slated to occur regardless of Arjuna’s willingness to participate.
In a similar manner, Narasimhadeva showed a ferocious mouth and tongue. These were part of the lion-like vision. Hiranyakashipu terrorized the entire world; everyone was afraid of him. Yet all his strength got devoured in an instant by time Himself. Prahlada Maharaja was not afraid since he had no attachments to personal possessions or to his body. He used everything in service to God.
2. His eyes bright like the sun
In the material world there is duality. What is good for one person may not be for another. One example is the sun. On a scorching hot summer day, the sun is dreaded. The prayer is for the clouds to arrive and provide some cover. The nighttime is welcome, as the punishment ceases for a period.
But the sun is also the giver of life. Its presence is required for food to grow. Without the sun, the world would freeze over. Narasimhadeva’s eyes were bright like the sun. This light always accompanies the Supreme Lord, who is naturally effulgent. In His realm there is no need for external lighting.
“That abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by electricity. One who reaches it never returns to this material world.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.6)
The asuras are blinded by this light. They can’t wait for it to go away, as they take advantage of darkness. The light of the Divine shines from within for devotees like Prahlada. Therefore he was not afraid at all of the lotus-like eyes of his savior.
3. His sharp, pointing teeth
Hiranyakashipu became powerful through boons gifted him by Lord Brahma. Though there was worship involved, the interaction was more like a business transaction. There was payment made in the form of rigid austerities. The good or service sold was protection against almost all forms of attack. Hiranyakashipu wanted immortality. The seller didn’t have it, so the king asked for everything and anything that would come close to it.
The sharp, pointing teeth of Narasimhadeva easily penetrated that protection. The king thought he could protect everything through his strength, but the Supreme Lord’s strength is unmatched. In the vision shown to Arjuna, the rival kings were rushing into Krishna’s many mouths. With Narasimhadeva, the offender also entered his mouth, and from there he was devoured by the sharp teeth. Again, Prahlada was not afraid of this aspect, as he knows that even a weapon wielded by God becomes auspicious, something to celebrate.
4. His garland of intestines
What an image! Hiranyakashipu persecuted Prahlada for the boy’s devotion to Vishnu, which is another name for the Divine. Prahlada had no protection other than his devotional strength. That was enough to survive some of the most deadly attacks. The father ordered some unconscionable acts against his son. Much to the father’s surprise, the boy survived each time.
When God had enough, He arrived as Narasimhadeva and immediately started killing. He easily destroyed the palace guards who were foolish enough to get into the lion’s den with Him. He saved the best for last. Narasimhadeva bifurcated Hiranyakashipu. Basically, the father was torn in half. From there the intestines became a garland, almost like a sign of victory.
Prahlada was not afraid to see this. He understood that the soul of his father had moved on. He knew that intestines are merely a collection of gross material elements. The garland was an indication of God’s glory, after all. What was there to be afraid of?
5. His mane soaked with blood
This is another indication of what had just happened. There was mass carnage. In our day to day affairs, emergency responders and healthcare professionals tolerate gruesome visions. It is part of their job. They can’t slink away, otherwise who will provide the much needed help to the injured?
Prahlada has a vision that is something like a spiritual doctor’s. He sees the winding of time and the effect it has on material bodies. He sees the soul within, so even the mane soaked with blood did not frighten him. What hadn’t Prahlada faced already? Moreover, Narasimhadeva was there to protect him. From that wonderful son’s example, we see that there is no reason to fear the Divine. He is as beautiful in the form of Narasimha wearing a garland of intestines as He is in the two-handed form of Krishna wearing a garland of flowers.
Not even demigods to approach daring,
Narasimha, He of intestines’ garland wearing.
Hiranyakashipu finally death to meet,
In form of sharp, pointing teeth.
But Prahlada having picture clear,
From awesome vision no reason to fear.
Auspicious even Supreme Lord’s fighting,
Protecting innocent, generations delighting.