by Gauranga Darshan Das
Does God become angry? Can He be fearsome? – Why not! The simple answer to these questions is that – “God becomes angry when His dear devotees are troubled by demoniac people, towards whom He becomes very fearsome.”
A devotee cannot tolerate blasphemy of the Lord or other devotees and becomes angry towards those who offend the Lord or His devotees. Similarly, the Lord who is deeply affectionate towards His devotees cannot tolerate any mistreatment of His devotees done by atheists or materialists. He can even tolerate offenses done towards Him, but not towards His devotees.
Hiraṇyakaśipu, the king of the demons, received several boons from Lord Brahmā and started terrorizing the universe. Even the devatas who control various affairs of the universe became fearful of him. While Hiraṇyakaśipu was a cruel and arrogant tyrant, his little son Prahlāda was a virtuous and gentle devotee of Lord Hari. Atheistic Hiraṇyakaśipu could not tolerate Prahlāda’s devotion to Lord Viṣṇu and chastised him several times. Prahlāda remained respectful to his father, but he didn’t agree with Hiraṇyakaśipu’s atheistic philosophy. Giving up his fatherly affection, Hiraṇyakaśipu tried to kill the boy in various ways.
A demon exhibits undue anger and intolerance towards any person or situation that challenges his sense of false ego. A humble devotee remains fearless and peaceful in provoking situations, and tolerant while facing personal difficulties. However, the Lord protects His devotee in all circumstances, punishes or even kills the offenders, and teaches a grave lesson to the world about how serious vaiṣṇavāparādha (offense to a devotee) is.
After failing in several attempts to kill Prahlāda, Hiraṇyakaśipu challenged Prahlāda to show the God to whom he was so devoted to. Prahlāda said that the Lord resides everywhere, all-pervading in every nook and corner of the universe. Then Hiraṇyakaśipu angrily struck a pillar in his assembly hall and the Supreme Lord appeared from the broken pillar in an unprecedented form of Nṛsiṁha, the half-man, and half-lion incarnation. Nṛsiṁhadeva’s anger knew no bounds and He ripped apart the bodies of all the demons who dared to attack Him. He fought with haughty Hiraṇyakaśipu and killed him by ripping apart his abdomen and pulling out his intestines merely with His nails. No amount of power, wealth, boons, and influence can protect a demoniac person from the anger of God. No calamity can come upon a sincere devotee who is always protected by God.
Even His Wife Is Fearful!
Even after killing the demon, Nṛsiṁhadeva wasn’t pacified. His fierce form and angry mood made Him fearsome even to the devatās and sages who offered fervent prayers to pacify Him. Even Lakṣmī, His eternal consort could not approach Him, saying that she had never seen such an astonishing form of her husband. Of course, it was not the first time that the Lord exhibited the fierce form of Nṛsiṁhadeva. The unlimited forms of the Lord are always situated in the eternal spiritual sky and Lakṣmī had certainly seen the form of Nṛsiṁha earlier. But her impression of not seeing or hearing of this form was inspired by the līlā-śakti or the pastime potency of the Lord to make everyone taste adbhutarasa or the mood of astonishment.
Although several devotees including Lakṣmī were fearful to approach Nṛsiṁhadeva, Prahlāda remained silent and unafraid because of a special favor bestowed upon him. In this context, the Lord wanted to glorify Prahlāda amongst all the devotees. Prahlāda’s behavior demonstrated the quality of fearlessness in a pure devotee. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, “For common people, Nṛsiṁhadeva’s form is very fearsome but for the devotees like Prahlāda this form is the source of all fearlessness. Just as a dog can recognize the master in any attire similarly a devotee can recognize the Lord in any form.” (SB 7.9.2 Purport)
Fear in the Heart of Fear
Noticing the exalted nature of Prahlāda’s bhakti, Lord Brahmā requested him to go forward and appease the angry Lord. Not being proud of the special distinction received, Prahlāda proceeded and bowed down at Nṛsiṁhadeva’s lotus feet. The Lord became ecstatic, overwhelmed with affection for His devotee and placed on the boy’s head, His lotus hand that creates fearlessness from the serpent of time (kālāhi-vitrastadhiyāṁ kṛtābhayam, SB 7.9.5).
Prahlāda prayed, “O Lord, how can I, born as a demon, appease You when great devatas and sages failed to do so? Only bhakti satisfies You and not any material qualifications. A devotee who is born in a family of dog eaters is better than a non-devotee who is born in a brahminical family. The devatās are Your servants and are not fearful like us the demons. Your appearance is Your pastime for Your pleasure, and the protection and prosperity of this universe. Since You have already protected the universe by killing the snakelike demon, please give up your anger. Since even saints take pleasure in the killing of a scorpion or a snake (modeta sādhur api vṛścika-sarpa-hatyā), all the worlds are satisfied by the death of my father. Now everyone will remember You to be free from fear (rūpaṁ nṛsiṁha vibhayāya janāḥ smaranti).” Nṛsiṁhadeva’s pastimes are certainly not meant to create a fearful situation for devotees, but the devotees, being very simple and faithful, were afraid of the fierce incarnation.
In this world, everyone is fearful (sadā samudvigna-dhiyām) due to ignorance of the next problems, and the only means to make everyone fearless is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva makes all the devotees fearless. The devotees become fearless by chanting His holy names. Yato yato yāmi tato nṛsiṁhaḥ: wherever we go, we must always think of Lord Nṛsiṁhadeva. Then, no fear can overcome us. The holy name of the Lord creates fear in the heart of fear personified (yad bibheti svayaṁ bhayam, SB 1.1.14; bhīr api yad bibheti, SB 1.8.31).
The Real Fear of a Devotee
Nṛsiṁhadeva’s fierce appearance causes fear in nondevotees, but not in devotees like Prahlāda. Prahlāda declared that the fearsome features of Nṛsiṁhadeva did not cause any fear in him. He said:
nāhaṁ bibhemy ajita te ‘tibhayānakāsya-
“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 our enemies.” (SB 7.9.15)
Although devotees are not fearful of the Lord’s fearsome forms, they are fearful of māyā, His illusory energy that allures the conditioned souls with sense enjoyment and distracts even practicing devotees form bhakti. So, a devotee has a healthy fear of māyā. Therefore, Prahlāda said:
trasto ‘smy ahaṁ kṛpaṇa-vatsala duḥsahogra-
saṁsāra-cakra-kadanād grasatāṁ praṇītaḥ
baddhaḥ sva-karmabhir uśattama te ‘ṅghri-mūlaṁ
prīto ‘pavarga-śaraṇaṁ hvayase kadā nu
“O most powerful, insurmountable Lord, who are kind to the fallen souls, I have been put into the association of demons as a result of my activities, and therefore I am very much afraid of my condition of life within this material world. When will that moment come when You will call me to the shelter of Your lotus feet, which are the ultimate goal for liberation from conditional life?”
In fact, pure devotees like Prahlāda have no fear of māyā also, because they are constantly absorbed in bhakti of the Lord by hearing about Him, chanting His glories, serving Him, and so on. Yet Prahlāda humbly said that he was afraid of māyā, and thus taught all of us that we should have a healthy fear of māyā, and should never be overconfident and negligent in our bhakti. We are protected from the fear of māyā, only by the grace of the Lord, who destroys all fears of His devotees.