(Click to enlarge painting of Prahlad and his classmates chanting Hare Krishna)
(kaumāra) ācaret prājño
dharmān bhāgavatān iha
durlabhaṁ mānuṣaṁ janma
tad apy adhruvam arthadam
Prahlāda Mahārāja, advising his class friends, "My dear friend, if you want success in your life..." People do not know what is the success of life. Na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇum (SB 7.5.31). They... Everyone is supposed to be interested in his self, what is called self-interested. Everyone, beginning from the animal up to the highest living entity, Brahmā, everyone is interested for his self-satisfaction. But Prahlāda Mahārāja says—not exactly here; in other place he has said—na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇum.
When he was talking with his father, father was instructing him that "You foolish boy. You are simply chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. You do not know your self-interest. You should be politician. You should be technician. You should be bluffer. (laughter) So, so many things are there. Unless you become quite alert in this world, how you can live?"
The child said, "My dear father, perhaps you do not know what is your self-interest." Yes. He was always challenging his father. Five-years-old boy, and his father, the most powerful atheist king, and he was talking very freely. At last, when the boy was challenging always the father, the father inquired, "You rascal, under whose strength you talk with me so freely?" The boy replied, "My dear father, by whose power you are talking so freely, I am also talking by His power." (laughter)
Devotees: Haribol. Haribol.
So that is the difference between atheist and theist. The child knew, "My dear father, you are so proud of your strength, of your material assets, but you do not know by whose grace you have all got all these things. But I know. I know. Therefore, by whose power you are so puffed up, by His power I am so humble." That is the difference. That is the difference. "The power is acting equally within you and within me, but you want to be puffed up, so He is helping you how you become more and more puffed up and go to hell." (laughter)
Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā, ye yathā māṁ prapadyante tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham (BG 4.11): "Anyone who worships Me in a particular way, I give him chance to be successful in that particular way." If you want to be a first-class atheist, Kṛṣṇa will give you chance to become a first-class atheist. He will give you intelligence. He will give you ways and means how you can become a first-class atheist. And if you want to become a first-class devotee, Kṛṣṇa will give you intelligence how you can become a first-class devotee.
Therefore He says, ye yathā māṁ prapadyante. If you think that Kṛṣṇa here, "Here is a statue of Kṛṣṇa. He is an idol. And these foolish people are chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa with an idol," so Kṛṣṇa will remain to such person an idol forever. And one who knows, "Oh, these people are chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead," for him, Kṛṣṇa will reveal, "Yes. I am the Supreme Personality of Godhead." This is the difference.
In the Bhagavad-gītā you'll find, sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo (BG 15.15). Kṛṣṇa says that "I am living in everyone's heart." Sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca: "And through Me one is forgetting and one is remembering." So why Kṛṣṇa is doing like that? He is helping somebody to forget, and He is helping somebody to remember. Why? The same answer: ye yathā māṁ prapadyante. If you want to forget Kṛṣṇa, or God, He will give you intelligence in such a way that you will forget forever. There will be no chance to come to the precincts of God.
But it is the devotees of Kṛṣṇa. They are very compassionate. Kṛṣṇa is very strict. If anyone wants to forget Him, He will give him so many chances that he will never be able to understand what is Kṛṣṇa. But Kṛṣṇa's devotee are more compassionate than Kṛṣṇa. Therefore they preach Kṛṣṇa consciousness or God consciousness to the poor people.
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, San Francisco, March 6, 1968)