Prahlada is a unique devotee, and Narada accords him pride of place in his list of devotees. Prahlada did not perform penance to gain jnana or practise various forms of worship to cultivate bhakti. Nor did he take his cue from sastras that extol vairagya and viveka as sure means of liberation. Yet Prahlada is effulgent with jnana, bhakti and vairagya from his birth. It is said that as a foetus in Kayadhu’s womb, Prahlada had imbibed the essence of spiritual wisdom from Narada’s teachings to his mother. That is why his reply to the Lord’s offer to fulfil his desires, whatever they may be, is a classic definition of true devotion and a lesson in renunciation, pointed out Nochur Sri Venkataraman in a lecture.

Prahlada says that offering boons to the devout does not become the compassionate nature of the Lord. Neither does a true devotee seek boons from Him. Drawing from the analogy of a servant and master, he says that ideally, a true servant does not seek favours and a true master does not bestow favours on the servant to get more service. Prahlada seeks God with no ulterior motive except the privilege of remaining a true servant and devotee to the Lord who is Supreme and does not need anyone’s service to fulfil any objective of His. Bhakti is an end in itself characterised by selfless love and devotion to God and is unlike the relationship between a king and his servants.

Prahlada also pinpoints the genetic problem in the form of deep-rooted desire that afflicts human nature. Born and brought up in this world of attractions, human beings become victims of desire and end up in the cycle of birth. Deluded into believing that the ephemeral worldly gains are the cause of happiness, they seek only these from God in the name of devotion. Is this not making bhakti a business, asks Prahlada. He prays to the Lord to grant him that “boon” by which all worldly desires will be uprooted from his consciousness.

Such is the child’s discernment which perceives no impediment such as caste, creed, etc for the practice of bhakti since the Lord is accessible to all if only one has true devotion and selfless love for Him.

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