Acharya Prashant: So, there is a boy, small boy called Prahlad, and he is devoted to Vishnu. The father does not like that. The father is a king. The father says that, “I am a big king. And instead of respecting me and holding me as the supreme, you are worshipping somebody else!” So, father warns him, “Mend your ways. Take me to be the authority, the absolute one.” The little one says, “No, for me it’s Vishnu.”
So, ultimately the father gets so angry and desperate, he arranges a bed of wood, a kind of a funeral pyre for the boy. And he brings in his sister by the name Holika. The name of the sister gives the name to the festival. He brings in his sister Holika to hold the boy and sit on the fire. The sister was supposed to be incombustible, blessed with some great natural armour that would protect her against fire. But then magic happens.
Oh, did we talk of magic someday? When did we? When did we talk of magic?
Listener 1: Yesterday.
AP: Yesterday, yesterday, yesterday. (Smilingly)
Then, magic happens. And what happens? Who gets burnt? – The incombustible one.
The fire-proof one is up in flames. The sister dies. And Prahlad is all secure. And later on, it happens that God himself comes and kills the father also. But that’s an extension of the story. The story of Prahlad is this much.
Now, what does this story point at? What does it mean? Who is Prahlad? Who is Vishnu? Who is the father? Who is the sister? What is happening? Who will tell us?
I repeat. Who is Prahlad, the devoted kid? Who is Vishnu, the one he is devoted to? Who is the father, the large authority who does not like his son being devoted to somebody else? Who is the sister? And what is this whole process?
In the Upanishads, there comes a story. The Brahmins were all going and reciting the famous Vedic chants. So, one fellow goes to them and says that, “If you repeat one more chant, without understanding its real meaning, your head will fall down. If you recite one mantra without knowing its real meaning, your head will fall down.” What did he mean? He said: don’t do anything in the name of religion, without knowing what it really is.
So, just as he said that “If you recite one mantra without knowing its meaning, your head would fall down”, on the eve of Holi, it behooves us to say that, “If you apply even a little colour, without knowing what that colour is all about, then your skin would peel off.” (Smilingly)
What is all this colour business about? What is Holi?
I know that you know. Now, why don’t you speak up?
Okay, a little child devoted to Vishnu, what does the little child represent?
L2: The truth.
L3: The body.
AP: (Shaking his head) The mind, the mind eager to be settled in the Truth.
What does Vishnu represent? We have already answered that. What does Vishnu represent? Truth.
So, when it is said that Prahlad is devoted to Vishnu, it is not to a particular man, image, object or a particular God that he is devoted to. It suffices to say that Prahlad is devoted. It does not matter to what. Devotion hardly is towards somebody. It’s not object-specific.
So, the kid, Prahlad represent the mind. Vishnu represents the Truth.
L3: The king is the ego. The sister is fear.
AP: Yes, yes. Good, very good. What does the king Hiranya Kashyap, the father represent? He represents the entire flow of biological evolution. He is the father. He is the body. The body says, “Worship me.” The father represents the body. The father gives you the body. The father is the entire biological conditioning that you receive. The father says, “Worship me.” The body says, “Worship me. How can you worship somebody else?”
The sister? She represents the society. Ahh, the sister of the father, that is. She has been arranged to come and do things to put the mischievous one in-line.
And then, what does the miracle represent, that the fire that was arranged to burn the child, instead burns Holika? What does that mean?
L3: You can find Truth?
AP: That if you are devoted to the Truth, then the Truth takes care of you. It also means that those who oppose Truth meet the fate of Holika, both parallelly.
You are devoted to the Truth, now don’t worry.
You can go and sit on fire.
You will still be secure.
On the other hand, if you are someone, who has ranged himself against the Truth, who is showing his back to the Truth, then you will keep being barbequed. Your own cleverness will bring you to the flames. You will think that you are going there to harm somebody else, and you will not realise that you are moving towards your own grave.
That’s the significance of this story. In fact, every religious story is this story. You will never find any story other than this story. No other story is religious. Only this story is being played again and again in the universe. There exists no other story.
There is the mind, the mind’s pull towards the centre, and ‘Prakrati’, evolution, and the society that man has set, and the way they try to block the pull, the way they try to rather bring the mind towards themselves, and then there is this interplay of these forces, which we call as ‘Maya’.
The victory of Truth is celebrated as the festival of colours. So, it’s not just about all the gulal and abeer. Just remember what it really stands for.
Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity.
Advait in Everyday Life
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