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, asaṅgo'yaṁ puruṣaḥ—the living entity has nothing to do with the material covering. Hiraṇyakaśipu 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 Brahmā was at first unable to see him. Later, however, Brahmā could ascertain where Hiraṇyakaśipu was, and Brahmā was struck with wonder to see Hiraṇyakaśipu's extraordinary power to execute tapasya. Anyone would conclude that Hiraṇyakaśipu was dead because his body was covered in so many ways, but Lord Brahmā, the supreme living being in this universe, could understand that Hiraṇyakaśipu was alive but covered by material elements.
It is also to be noted that although Hiraṇyakaśipu performed this austerity for a long, long time, he was nonetheless known as a Daitya and Rākṣasa. 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 Rākṣasa and Daitya? It is because whatever he did was for his own sense gratification. His son Prahlāda Mahārāja was only five years old, and so what could Prahlāda do? Yet simply by performing a little devotional service according to the instructions of Nārada Muni, Prahlāda became so dear to the Lord that the Lord came to save him, whereas Hiraṇyakaśipu, 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 (suhṛdaṁ sarva-bhūtānām (BG 5.29)). 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 Hiraṇyakaśipu performed such a severe austerity, he remained a Daitya and a Rākṣasa, whereas Prahlāda Mahārāja, although born of the same Daitya father, became the most exalted devotee and was personally protected by the Supreme Lord. Bhakti is therefore called sarvopādhi-vinirmuktam (CC Madhya 19.170), indicating that a devotee is freed from all material designations, and anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyam [Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.1.11], situated in a transcendental position, free from all material desires.