“As a snake captures a mouse or Garuda captures a very venomous snake, Lord Narasimhadeva captured Hiranyakashipu, who could not be pierced even by the thunderbolt of King Indra. As Hiranyakashipu moved his limbs here, there and all around, very much afflicted at being captured, Lord Narasimhadeva placed the demon on His lap, supporting him with His thighs, and in the doorway of the assembly hall the Lord very easily tore the demon to pieces with the nails of His hand.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.8.29)Download this episode (right click and save)
It’s an aspect of Olympic competition. Skating, gymnastics, diving, snowboarding - for so many sports the basis of assessment is subjective. Therefore the governing bodies try their best to lock down as much of the scoring based on raw performance, with the point system determined beforehand.
Under this system as an athlete one way to increase your score is to perform unique moves, which others can’t replicate. The term is “degree of difficulty.” If you can land a jump that no one else can, you’ll get rewarded for it. The reason is that the likelihood of successful completion is low.
In the 1990s there was a television commercial featuring basketball legends Larry Bird and Michael Jordan. They were playing a game where one person took a shot at the basket. If the shot was made the other person would have to make the same shot. To highlight the exceptional caliber of the two players the commercial goes on to show shots of increasing difficulty, to the point of ridiculous, with the tag line for each proposal, “Nothing but net.”
As the increasing degree of difficulty is one way to measure greatness, there is a smooth transition to the area of spirituality. The Vedas say that God is a person, purusha. The key distinction is that He is an amazing person, the topmost. One way to see is through His victories achieved through astonishingly difficult circumstances.
1. Monkeys and bears against night-rangers
These were Rakshasas, which are like man-eaters. They could change their shapes at will. That is one of the perfections available in mystic yoga. To the normal person this seems like mythology, something created by an imaginative author. The wise know that even such an ability isn’t so wonderful. It can be defeated.
And by whom? Monkeys and bears. They hurled rocks and trees, while the Rakshasas fired arrows, coming and going from the vision. The Rakshasas were also known as nishacharas, which means “night-rangers.” They liked to fight in the dark, so the other side couldn’t see them. They really had no standards that they followed.
The underdogs won because they had God on their side. Shri Rama was a mere human being, or so it appeared. An incarnation of the Divine, Rama routed the formidable enemy using His arrows, aided by the most dedicated servants.
2. One man against fourteen thousand
The war involving the monkeys and bears was necessary because the king of Lanka, the leader of the Rakshasas, had taken Rama’s wife away in secret. This only happened after a tragic lesson was taught to Ravana and his men. They attacked Rama, fourteen thousand strong, in the forest of Dandaka.
“Neither the demigods nor any exalted personalities were there helping Rama, for He acted alone. You should not entertain any doubt on this matter. Indeed, Rama shot feathered arrows, plated with gold, which turned into five-headed serpents that devoured all the Rakshasas. The Rakshasas were oppressed with fear, and wherever they went and wherever they turned, they saw Rama in front of them. In this way, O spotless one, have your Rakshasas been destroyed in the forest of Janasthana by Rama.” (Akampana speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.18-19)
Rama had His equally capable younger brother Lakshmana with Him, but He took this fight on Himself. He easily defeated the host, who fled in fear. But wherever they turned they saw Rama’s face, as the arrows were like heat-seeking missiles.
3. Nails against the most feared king in the world
Hiranyakashipu was so feared that even the celestials hid from him. When playing a videogame sometimes there is a “power-up” or reward available that grants invincibility for a certain period of time. After getting this reward you can fight the enemy with calm, knowing that they can’t harm you.
Hiranyakashipu had something similar, in that there was protection against death for around ninety-nine percent of the circumstances a person would potentially face in life. But God only needs one percent vulnerability to gain the upper hand. He did so in the amazing form of a half-man/half-lion. He kept the king’s protection intact, using only nails to rip the body apart. The king who was feared by everyone succumbed to the person he insisted didn’t exist.
In game of horse placing a bet,
To make this shot with nothing but net.
With top players difficult and far,
Proving how great they are.
God to understand in way the same,
Like Rama against Rakshasas who came.
His servants winning with rocks and trees,
With nails upper hand Narasimha to seize.