The story of the brave child Prahlad and how he stood up to his abusive father, King Hiranyakashipu, is well-loved in the Bhakti canon. Rich with practical and esoteric teachings, here are a few aspects to consider:
It Starts in the Womb
An interesting part of the story is when Prahlad was in the womb of his mother. She was living in the forest, in the asrama of the sage Valmiki, listening daily to the sacred teachings discussed there. Prahlad was listening too and that is where he absorbed a deep impression of spiritual truths.
Where there is life (growth and development) there is the presence of consciousness, which we call the atma or soul. The soul is present in all life forms - plant, animal, human - and is present from the moment of conception. As the body grows in the womb it is very much influenced by the environment around it. Love, wisdom, sacred words and music, nature and the mode of goodness are powerful foundational experiences for the unborn child within.
Krishna is Clever
The King was a cunning leader. He had a desire to rule forever and wanted to secure his position by requesting immortality from Lord Brahma. Through the very patient execution of austerities he won the favor of Lord Brahma and listed all the ways that he didn’t want to be killed. It was a well-planned strategy and the list included not being killed by day or night, inside or outside, by man or animal, or by a weapon.
Krishna cleverly outwitted the nasty king and stepped around each death protection he had put in place through the avatar of Nrsimhadeva - the beloved half man, half lion form of the Lord. Devotees of Krishna especially love this incarnation, not only marveling at all the ways he checkmated Hiranyakasipu, but his divine anger, energy, and the dramatic flair of it all!
The story is ultimately about faith and who we align ourselves with. The King trusted only himself. He built a wall of protection in his attempt to avoid death - his biggest fear. Prahlad was fearless--in life and of death--as he trusted and stayed close to Krishna whom he first learned about in the womb.
For the soul in this world, for us, fear is a constant element. It can be controlled, and reduced, by holding onto Krishna as Prahlad did. It’s that simple, and that difficult! There are parts of that foolish King inside us all and we build our own walls of protection and defense. Practice stepping beyond them, into the lands of love and trust. It’s a far safer and more beautiful place to be.