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na dadarsa praticchannam
tapantam tapasa lokan
vilaksya vismitah praha
hasams tam hamsa-vahanah
Translation by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
Lord Brahma, who is carried by a swan airplane, at first could not see where Hiranyakasipu was, for Hiranyakasipu’s body was covered by an anthill and by grass and bamboo sticks. Because Hiranyakasipu had been there for a long time, the ants had devoured his skin, fat, flesh and blood. Then Lord Brahma and the demigods spotted him, resembling a cloud-covered sun, heating all the world by his austerity. Struck with wonder, Lord Brahma began to smile and then addressed him as follows.
Purport by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
The living entity can live merely by his own power, without the help of skin, marrow, bone, blood and so on, because it is said, asango hy ayam purusah — the living entity has nothing to do with the material covering. Hiranyakasipu performed a severe type of tapasya, austerity, for many long years. Indeed, it is said that he performed the tapasya for one hundred heavenly years. Since one day of the demigods equals six of our months, certainly this was a very long time. By nature’s own way, his body had been almost consumed by earthworms, ants and other parasites, and therefore even Brahma was at first unable to see him. Later, however, Brahma could ascertain where Hiranyakasipu was, and Brahma was struck with wonder to see Hiranyakasipu’s extraordinary power to execute tapasya. Anyone would conclude that Hiranyakasipu was dead because his body was covered in so many ways, but Lord Brahma, the supreme living being in this universe, could understand that Hiranyakasipu was alive but covered by material elements.
It is also to be noted that although Hiranyakasipu performed this austerity for a long, long time, he was nonetheless known as a Daitya and Raksasa. It will be seen from verses to follow that even great saintly persons could not perform such a severe type of austerity. Why then was he called a Raksasa and Daitya? It is because whatever he did was for his own sense gratification. His son Prahlada Maharaja was only five years old, and so what could Prahlada do? Yet simply by performing a little devotional service according to the instructions of Narada Muni, Prahlada became so dear to the Lord that the Lord came to save him, whereas Hiranyakasipu, in spite of all his austerities, was killed. This is the difference between devotional service and all other methods of perfection. One who performs severe austerities for sense gratification is fearful to the entire world, whereas a devotee who performs even a slight amount of devotional service is a friend to everyone (suhrdam sarva-bhutanam). Since the Lord is the well-wisher of every living entity and since a devotee assumes the qualities of the Lord, a devotee also acts for everyone’s good fortune by performing devotional service. Thus although Hiranyakasipu performed such a severe austerity, he remained a Daitya and a Raksasa, whereas Prahlada Maharaja, although born of the same Daitya father, became the most exalted devotee and was personally protected by the Supreme Lord. Bhakti is therefore called sarvopadhi-vinirmuktam, indicating that a devotee is freed from all material designations, and anyabhilasita-sunyam, situated in a transcendental position, free from all material desires.