Fierce Lord of Love
from Back To Godhead Magazine, #37-03, 2003
by Nagaraja Dasa
Of the Avatars of Lord Krishna described in the Srimad- Bhagavatam, Lord Nrisimha, whose appearance coincides with this issue of BTG, is especially intriguing to many of us. Half man, half lion—and all God.
People encountering a picture of Nrisimhadeva ferociously ripping apart Hiranyakashipu are often taken aback. “You believe this is God?”
Why not? God is the ultimate in everything. He can light like no one else. He can tear up the mighty terrorist Hiranyakashipu with little effort.
But if you find the fierce aspect of God unappealing, know that His supreme anger is a display of His intense love for His devotee Prahlada, Hiranyakashipu’s son, who was being tortured by his atheistic father.
But Nrisimha’s actions were also motivated by love for Hiranyakashipu, His apparent victim. Hiranyakashipu is one of the Lord’s eternal servants, a gatekeeper in the spiritual world. Lord Vishnu yearned for good light, so He arranged an incident in the spiritual world that ended with His servant’s fall to the material world to spend three lives as the Lord’s greatest enemy. What to our eyes seems like the attack of a bloodthirsty creature is in fact a dance of love between the Lord and His servant.
We must always be careful to understand God’s activities under proper guidance. God’s devotees know that He can do no wrong. Everything He does springs from His love for us and His infinite desire to exchange love with each of us in a deep, personal, unique relationship. We may look at Hiranyakashipu and feel sorry for him, but that’s the wrong reaction. We should praise him for his great fortune at having been chosen to assist the Lord in His quest for a knock- down, drag-out light. If only we could be so privileged!
We learn from the Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic books that we have a unique relationship with God and should use our human life to revive it. When Krishna comes to this world in His countless forms, He shows some of the endless variety of ways we can exchange love with Him. In Lord Nrisimha’s appearance, for example, we see extreme contrast in His displays of love for Prahlada and Hiranyakashipu.
Another example of Lord Nrisimha’s unique love is His relationship with Lord Brahma, His empowered servant who creates the universe. Brahma had given Hiranyakashipu several boons—up to Brahma’s limit of power to bestow—through which Hiranyakashipu believed he had become immortal. He could not be killed by any known being in the universe, by any weapon, during the day or night, inside or outside, in the sky, in the sea, or on the land. Lord Nrisimha showed respect and love for His devotee Brahma by honoring his benedictions. Outsmarting Hiranyakashipu, He assumed a form as half man, half lion to kill Hiranyakashipu with His fingernails, at dusk, on His lap, in the doorway of the palace. The Lord could have disregarded Brahma’s benedictions, but He chose to show his affection for his servant by honoring them. When we carefully study the activities of the Lord’s incarnations, we’ll find them to be the highest expressions of love, no matter how violent they may seem at first glance.