The king of demons, Hiranyakashipu and his son Prahalad are a contrasting case. The father practised strict austerities, but with an intention to become immortal and he was also motivated by his desire to kill his enemy, Lord Vishnu. Prahalad, on the other hand, advocated sense control so that one could engage the senses positively in the Lord’s service. The result: The demon, on acquiring strong powers as a result of austerities, went berserk in his enjoyment. He remained always disturbed. The scriptures reveal a universal principle through Hiranyakashipu’s licentious lifestyle- terrible dissatisfaction is a painful fall out of not controlling one’s senses.
“In spite of achieving the power to control in all directions and in spite of enjoying all types of dear sense gratification as much as possible, Hiranyakashipu was dissatisfied because instead of controlling his senses he remained their servant.” (Srimad Bhagavatam: 7.4.19)
While Hiranyakashipu preferred pleasures- that depend on external objects to bring happiness, little Prahalad chose to pursue happiness- driven by our inner relationship with the divine. Prahalad compared his father’s anguish to scratching an itch- it provides relief but worsens the ache. The remedy is to tolerate the impulse. Hiranyakashipu couldn’t tolerate his son’s devotion to God and even threatened to kill him. Undaunted, little Prahalad continued his pure devotional service. Eventually the king of demons attacked his own son and the Lord appeared from a pillar to protect His devotee and slayed the evil king.
Humans have a more evolved intelligence as compared to other species. Therefore it’s our collective responsibility and service to this planet, to not merely engage in sense gratifications like the birds and animals. Instead, let’s follow austerities and discipline to purify our hearts. The Srimad Bhagavatam assures us that happiness that is transcendental to material pleasures is not only more virtuous, but it also continues forever (5.51). When we voluntarily embrace healthy rules- both socially and in our personal lives- we can ensure peace and harmony in this world.