|'What Have You
Learnt, Dear Child?
"Who is a friend and who is a foe?" - this was the question that troubled the
mind of little Prahlada. That peaceful boy of beautiful curls was walking to and fro
before the house of his teacher. He was absentminded. The house belonged to Chanda and
Amarka, the sons of Sukra- charya, the great teacher of theRakshasas, evil beings.
Prahlada together with other Rakshasa boys was taught there. Prahlada was earnest,
dignified and modest. So the teachers were very much pleased. Besides, he was the
son of Hiranyakasipu, the most powerful king of the demons. Eight gods guard eight points
of the universe. Hiranyakasipu had crushed them. He had pleased Brahma Himself and got
boons from Him. Gods trembled with fear at his name. Prahlada was the son of that'
glorious king. Sukracharya had greater pride in him for this reason. The teachers used to
teach how he should treat friends and how he should treat enemies.Prahlada listened to the
lessons. But all the while
he thought, 'What is R these teachers say? Hari is present everywhere in the world. We are
all sparks of that glowing fire. Who, then, is an enemy and who a friend? Why have any
Just then the king's servants came to take him to the palace. His father loved the son
very dearly. He was eager to know what the child had learnt. Prahlada went up to the
throne. Hiranyakasipu called his son with tender love. He took him on his knee and pressed
soft and loving kisses on his cheek. He said, "Well child, tell me what you have
learnt from your teachers." Prahlada said: "Father, they teach me that one
person is my friend and another my enemy. I do not like this. I want to leave all this and
go to the forest. I want to meditate on. Lord Srihari." At these words the father
felt as if hot lead was poured into his heart. God Srihari was his enemy; and his own son
was speaking about him! That son
wanted to meditate on him!
But still he sent away the boy with a smiling face. Then he sent for his teachers. He
said, "Sirs, some enemy has crept into your school; he has been poisoning the tender
mind of my son with devotion to Vishnu. Pray be careful and correct him." Then he
took leave of them.
The teachers Chanda and Amarka were filled with fear when they learnt that Srihari was the
beloved Lord of Prahlada. They palled him near and spoke very tenderly: "Child! Don't
tell a lie; speak the truth. No other boy has such thoughts here. How did these thoughts
come to you? Did anyone teach them? Or, are they your own thoughts?" Then Prahlada
told them, "Sirs, I do not understand what you say. That I am different from others
is a false belief. By the grace of Narayana I am free from such false beliefs. I have
myself learnt this; nobody taught me."
When they heard these words, they lost all hope. "Oh, you cursed being! You are a
shame to the race of the Rakshasas. Don't you know that the same Hari is the deadly axe at
the very root of the race of Rakshasas? It is he who killed your uncle." So they
tried to frighten him, They also hoped he would forget Srihari if they taught him new
subjects. They taught him the principles of the art of ruling; they taught him the ways of
defeating enemies by peaceful persuasion, giving gifts to win over others, creating
quarrels among enemies and, finally, the use of force. They hoped that these studies would
turn Prahlada's mind away from Vishnu.
Still there was some fear in their minds. So before they sent him to the king of the
Rakshasas, they took him to his mother Kayadhu. She gave him a holy bath and dressed him
in new and lovely clothes. The boy looked charming. With love and obedience the boy
touched his father's
Hiranyakasipu asked him tenderly,
"Child, what is the highest thing you have learnt?"
Prahlada expressed his innermost thoughts: "Dear father, to hear with my ears the
holy names of Srihari, to have a song to Him on my lips, a thought of Him in my mind, to
worship only Him and to bow to Him, to be His servant and His friend, to offer myself to
Him in devotion - this is the
It was as if liquid fire raced through Hiranyakashipu's body. He called his teachers and
thundered at them: "You wicked Brahmins, you have taught my son bad things and ruined
him! You seem to have joined my enemies and to have no fear of meat at all!"
The poor teachers! Their heart was heavy with grief and fear.
Trembling in fear they
prayed to him thus: "Great King, we beg of you, be not angry with us. This is not
what we have taught. The prince himself says that he learnt it by himself. Do not say we
have secretly worked against you."
The anger of the King of the Rakshasas now turned on his son. He said, "Wretched
fellow, how did you learn such evil?"
Prahlada had no fear whatever. "Father, this I have said is not evil. No one taught
this to me. It is wrong to think that I am different from others this wisdom came to me by
the grace of Vishnu."