Prahlad was born to a demon named Hiranyakashipu. Hiranyakashipu had prayed to Vishnu and had obtained a boon. He wanted immortality but Vishnu said, that cannot be given but ask for anything else. Hiranyakashipu then got the boon that he could not be destroyed indoors or outdoors, in daytime or nighttime, by anything living or dead, or by man or beast. Vishnu said, so be it. Thus, after this boon, Hiranyakashipu, now no longer afraid of death, went on a rampage of tyrant behaviour.
In time Hiranyakashipu had a son whose name was Prahlad. Unlike his father, Prahlad on the other hand was solely devoted to Vishnu right from his birth. When he would take the name of Vishnu, it is said, that it was so powerful and infectious that anyone around him became immediately pious and took immense pleasure in chanting the name of God.
Expectedly, this displeased his father immensely. In spite of repeated warnings to Prahalad, he continued to chant Gods name and affect everyone else around him. Hiranyakashipu then made multiple attempts to kill Prahlad. One of the attempts involved using Holika, his sister. His siter Holika was given a boon that fire will not destroy her. So, she sat on a pyre with Prahlad on her lap. Prahlad, was solely immersed in taking Gods name and was saved from the fire but Holika got burnt in the fire.
Finally, Hiranyakashipu heated up a pillar and asked Prahlad, “Where is god?” Prahlad replied, “Everywhere”. Hiranyakashipu asked, “If he is everwhere, is he in that pillar?” Prahlad replied, “Yes”. Then Hiranyakashipu told him to embrace the heated up pillar. Prahald was a little nervous and saw some ants crawling on the heated up pillar. He embraced the pillar. There was a tremendous sound and out of the pillar Narsinh appeared. He had the face of a lion and the body of a man. He took Hiranyakashipu in his lap and took him to the “umbro” – the junction of indoor and outdoor – the doorway. There he used his nails and ripped apart the body of Hiranyakashipu. Even after that, the rage of Narsinh did not subside. Prahlad prayed to Narsinh and asked him repeatedly for his forgiveness and his everlasting love.
I confess, I thought I knew what the story meant but I went to “Yogamruta” and read it there. “Yogamruta” is a book that Gurudev wrote. It is a book in the form of a poem (written in Valmiki Ramayan style). He wrote it during 6 months of intense meditation – where he would close his eyes, see the words and write it down. All words, all paragraphs in Yogamruta have come from God. I can only imagine the lofty heights and the greatness Gurudev had to be able to go that level repeatedly at will!
It will be very difficult for everyone to follow what the symbolic meaning is. So before I embark on the symbolic interpretation, allow me to explain some of the terms.
1) Brahma Gyana : This is the highest knowledge, the supreme, the unmanifest God. 2) Atma : This is the consciousness of God that is present. In the bible this is represented by the Father.
2) Atma : This is the consciousness of God present in every part of Gods creation. This, in the bible is represented by the son of God. In hinduism, this represents Kutastha Chaitanya.
3) Soul : This is the individual representation of the Atma.
4) Antarkarana : This is often represented by Mana, Buddhi, Chitta and Ahamkara. In its impure form, it deludes the soul with bodily identification and identification with thoughts, emotions, ego etc.
For liberation, the process has to be reversed. First the antarkarana has to be purified. When the antarkarana is purified, the lower four chakras anahata, manipur, swadhisthana and muladhar are cleaned and once cleaned, there is a clear perception of the soul at Vishudha chakra. This is the step at which Chang deva had achieved and he could not understand a word of the Gyaneshwar Panchasi – the highest treatise on Brahma gyana written by Gyaneshwar Maharaj.
The second step is to merge the soul consciousness with the Atma consciousness. There is a very amusing anecdote as told by Gautamkaka where he used Tejal auntie, his wife, as an example. But in reality he could have used my name or almost anyone elses name for that purpose. This is at the end of the 12th tape by Gautamkaka (refer to gautamkaka.wordpress.com). Gurudev had come to USA. He asked “Tejal auntie” (In reality he probably had asked someone else), who are you? Prompt came the reply, “I am the atma” Gurudev said “Ok fine. Where is the Atma located?” The reply came “Everywhere” Gurudev said, “Good. Now tell me what is happening next door right now” Everyone present was speechless. Gurudev continued, “That is all theory There is no practical proof” In Gautamkakas words (and he was present), Gurudev did not even close his eyes and continued to describe in great detail about an accident that was happening as he spoke near La Guardia airport. He even told about someone who had died at the accident. This information was then confirmed the next day by reading in the news paper.
About 2 weeks later, Gurudev, met Gautamkaka again on August 14th. This time he said, “Being established in the Atma consciousness, is a childs play. There is much more to be achieved”
The much more to be achieved is the third step and that is merging of the Atma into Brahma. This goes through the 12th door which is a secret gateway known only to the highest Yogi.
To be established and remain in the atma consciousness was something that Yogananda did also. There is an interesting story which Gurudev told me about Yogananda (or was it Vivekananda?). Yogananda was in LA. He was at a conference where hundreds of people had gathered. He was praising Yoga and then he sent an open challenge and said, “Ask me anything about this world and I will answer you” One reporter started to ask Yogananda, “Tell me what is present in LA beyond a certain hill” Yogananda took his hands and pretended he was wearing “glasses” and said,”I can see everything. Do you want me to tell you what is present in hills above the ground or below the ground?” He then proceeded to tell them both – things present above the ground and below the ground. This story was narrated to me by Gurudev. Gurudev could see all events of the past and future and it is indeed a great pleasure to hear him tell stories about other saints, Rama, Krishna etc.
So back to the story. I will refer the enthusiast of Yoga to Yogamruta for more details.
Hiranyakashipu represents Ignorance or Agyana.
Narsinh represents Brahma gyana.
Prahlad represents Atma consciousness
The door way is represented by the 12 secret door which takes us from Atma to God or Son to father. This is between Agna chakra and Sahastrar
The pillar is Brahma nadi
Heating of the pillar is Kumbhaka.
The ants represent prana climbing through Brahma nadi.
The nails represent the slow growth of Atma consciousness going into Brahma consciousness.
Now if you read back, the story is a symbolic representation of slaying of the ignorance leading from Atma consciousness to God. Yoga is the way. Prana has to ascend through the brahma nadi – with the aide of Kumbhaka leading through the secret doorway to God. (more on the secret doorway as described by Yogananda later). But first in order to slay Ignorance, you have to go to the Atma consciousness first. Not in theory, in practice as Gurudev and Yogananda and all great saints had accomplished. As stated in the bible, “No man can go to my father without going through me first” Meaning you cant reach God without having Atma consciousness.