Śrī Baladeva Pūrṇimā
[August 12, 2022 is Śrī Baladeva Pūrṇimā in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is an excerpt of a bhāva anuvāda of a discourse by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja on August 10, 2014. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]
[Śrīla Mahārāja began his Hari-kathā by first reciting the praṇāma mantra of Śrī Baladeva.]
namas te tu halāgrama namas te muṣalāyudha
namas te revatī-kānta namas te bhakta-vatsala
namas te dharaṇī-dhara namas te balināṁ śreṣṭha
pralambāre namaste tu trāhi māṁ kṛṣṇa pūrvaja
[Translation: Obeisances to You, O holder of the plow. Obeisances to You, O wielder of the mace. Obeisances to You, O darling of Revati. Obeisances to You, O kind benefactor of Your devotees.
Obeisances to You, O upholder of the earth. Obeisances to You, O best of the strong. Obeisances to You, O enemy of Pralamba. Please deliver me, O older brother of Kṛṣṇa.]
Today is a special day; it is the āvirbhāva of Śrī Balarāma. So the topic of discussion today will be connected to Śrī Baladeva-tattva.
STUDY SCRIPTURES UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF VAIṢṆAVAS
'Janma karma ca me divyam' – The subject of Bhagavān's birth and activities are all divine and wonderful as well as incomprehensible to our mundane intellect. Those who haven’t studied Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā under the guidance of a Vaiṣṇava have various doubts. In Purī, a group of devotees from abroad would daily approach me seeking answers to a host of questions. The nature of their queries went such as – “When did Mother Rohiṇī conceive Balarāma in her womb?” So what has been understood from the śloka from the Bhagavad-gītā – 'janma karma ca me divyam'?
Śrī Balarāma is the first expansion (prakāśa-vigraha) of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and from Him expands Kāraṇodakaśāyī, Garbhodakaśāyī, Kṣīrodakaśāyī and Śeṣa. When Kṛṣṇa bewildered Brahmā, He showed how all the cowherd boys and calves had four-handed Nārāyaṇa forms. So did these [Nārāyaṇa] forms enter the womb and take birth? No. How can those who have not acquired any spiritual knowledge understand these topics?
Devakī’s seventh pregnancy, Balarāma, was attracted to the womb of Rohiṇī. Can we fathom such a phenomenon? All these things are possible because Bhagavān is sarva-śaktimān— the possessor of all-strength. As a mere child of six days Kṛṣṇa so effortlessly killed Pūtanā, whose body was six krośa long [approximately 18 kilometers], simply by the act of sucking her breast-milk. [As Pūtanā’s mammoth body lay lifeless, Kṛṣṇa was without fear playing on the upper portion of her breast] the Vrajavāsīs had to use a ladder to retrieve Him. Kṛṣṇa was smiling, entirely unscathed, while the gigantic Pūtanā lay slain; Kṛṣṇa didn’t even have to assume any huge form to kill her. Everything about Kṛṣṇa is transcendental.
Similarly, Balarāma sanctified Devakī’s womb by first appearing in it and then during the eighth [pregnancy] Kṛṣṇa appeared in Devakī’s womb in a splendid four-handed form holding a conch, disc, club and lotus. Is any baby born in this manner? So how was this possible? When Vasudeva chanted hymns, nothing happened, but when Devakī prayed, “Now that You have so mercifully accepted to appear as our child….” It hasn’t been mentioned that He was born as their child, it is mentioned that ‘He accepted to appear as their child’. Those who read Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam will see that the term aṅgikāra is clearly mentioned, which means to accept. Hence Devakī said, “Now that you have accepted to appear as our child then please assume the form just like an ordinary human child, because no one will accept You as Devakī’s child in this four-handed form holding a conch, disc, club and lotus.”
Similar to this query, those devotees had many others. Why? Because they did not have sādhu-saṅga. Hence Svarūpa Dāmodara has said in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Antya 5.131-132):
yāha, bhāgavata paḍa vaiṣṇavera sthāne
ekānta āśraya kara caitanya-caraṇe
[If you want to understand Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, you must approach a self-realized Vaiṣṇava and hear from him. You can do this when you have completely taken shelter of the lotus feet of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.]
caitanyera bhakta-gaṇera nitya kara ‘saṅga’ tabeta jānibā siddhānta-samudra-taraṅga
[Associate regularly with the devotees of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, this is the only way to understand the waves of the ocean of devotional service.]
In this way we can come to know the waves of the ocean of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s divine teachings. It is not possible to know the entire ocean, but by associating with the devotees of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu we can absorb ourselves in some of the waves [of that ocean].
This is the reason why we have to repeatedly emphasize that Bhagavān's appearance is divya (transcendental), it is not laukika (mundane).
BALADEVA APPEARS TO GIVE US KNOWLEDGE OF BHAGAVĀN
The appearance of Baladeva is also transcendental. Baladeva is prakāśa-vigraha - He appears to give us knowledge of Bhagavān and explain who Bhagavān is. Balarāma holds a plough and a mace in His hands. Just as a field is tilled with a plough to sow seeds for the crops to grow, Baladeva ploughs the field of our hearts to prepare it to receive the seed of bhakti, and by His mace He subdues the opposing tendencies to help us surrender unto Bhagavān. That is why He is guru-tattva.
THE KAURAVĀS’ PLIGHT
When Duryodhana opposed Kṛṣṇa, Baladeva went to advise him because Duryodhana was His disciple because the guru will always try to protect his disciple. [Hence Balarāma spoke, “On the order of the all-powerful King Ugrasena, please immediately release Sāmba, and bring him, along with his wife, Lakṣmaṇā, before Me.". The leaders of the Kuru Dynasty did not appreciate the statements made by Balarāma and becoming agitated they said with great anger, “Due to the influence of this age, it appears that the shoes befitting the feet want to rise to the top of the head where the helmet is worn.”] [Endnote 1] When the leaders of the Kuru dynasty did not heed his advice, at that time, [enraged] Balarāma began to drag the entire city of Hastināpura with His plough into the Ganges. The historians retort, “There is no Gaṅgā near Hastināpura, there is Yamunā instead.” Actually, the [Sanskrit] meaning of the word ‘Gaṅgā’ is ‘water’ so all can be addressed as Gaṅgā. That is why it is said in the scriptures –'gaṅge ca yamune caiva godāvari sarasvatī narmade sindhu kāveri'. Whose name is taken first? All of these rivers can be referred as Gaṅgā. It is very difficult to comprehend.
There is one verse from the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.68.31:
nūnaṁ nānā-madonnaddhāḥ śāntiṁ necchanty asādhavaḥ teṣāṁ hi praśamo daṇḍaḥ paśūnāṁ laguḍo yathā
[Lord Balarāma said:] “Clearly the many passions of these scoundrels have made them so proud that they do not want peace. Then let them be pacified by physical punishment, as animals are with a stick.
Animals can be tamed only by beating. Likewise, striking one with a rod as punishment will make one understand. The terrified Kauravās now surrendered to the lotus feet of Balarāma, begging for His mercy. They cried out, ‘Trāhi Baladeva! Trāhi Baladeva! Śaraṇāgata! [Please save us O! Baladeva, we surrender]’.
KṚṢṆA-BHAKTI WILL APPEAR BY THE MERCY OF BALARĀMA
Śrīla Narottama Dāsa Ṭhākura has said in his kīrtana:
'gaurāńga' bolite habe pulaka-śarīra
'hari hari' bolite nayane ba'be nīra
āra kabe nitāi-cānder karuṇā hoibe
saḿsāra-vāsanā mora kabe tuccha ha'be
When I attain the mercy of Baladeva (Nityānanda) then the desire for material enjoyment will become very insignificant, otherwise it won’t go. ‘viṣaya chāḍiyā kabe śuddha habe mana. When the mind becomes freed from material desires, it becomes completely purified. Viṣaya means material sound, touch, form, taste and fragrance – by giving up these things and turning to the Lord, the mind will be cleansed.
In another place Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī says:
jñānī jīvan-mukta-daśā pāinu kari’ māne vastutaḥ buddhi ‘śuddha’ nahe kṛṣṇa-bhakti vine
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 22.29)
[“There are many philosophical speculators [jñānīs] belonging to the Māyāvāda school who consider themselves liberated and call themselves Nārāyaṇa. But their intelligence is not purified unless they engage in Kṛṣṇa’s devotional service.]
vastutaḥ buddhi ‘śuddha’ nahe kṛṣṇa-bhakti vine - without kṛṣṇa-bhakti the intelligence can never become purified. And Kṛṣṇa-bhakti will appear when one attains the mercy of Lord Nityānanda [Balarāma]. Through association we will gain some knowledge about Baladeva Prabhu - only then will our hearts be cleansed and we be able to attain our ultimate auspiciousness. Until Baladeva Prabhu ploughs the field of our hearts, making us qualified to attain kṛṣṇa-bhakti, it is not possible.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF NITYĀNANDA PRABHU’S OUTER APPEARANCE
Nityānanda Prabhu also used to wear a variety of ornaments and fine silken clothing of different shades. Upon seeing Him people would remark that such an appearance doesn’t suit Him. Likewise, once a co-student of Caitanya-deva approached Him and complained about Nityānanda’s [unusual] appearance; Caitanya-deva replied, “The ornaments adorned by Nityānanda are [representative of] navadhā-bhakti [the nine-fold process of devotional service]. Please go and pray to Him for mercy, otherwise, inauspiciousness will prevail for you.” Nityānanda takes so many forms for the eternal welfare of the conditioned souls. Is there anyone else in the history like Him? Without the mercy of Nityānanda, the heart will not transform.
ENTRANCE INTO VṚNDĀVANA ONLY BY THE MERCY OF BALARĀMA
Didn’t Śrīla Narottama Dāsa Ṭhākura come to Vṛndāvana? He received dīkṣā from Śrīla Lokanātha Gosvāmī in Vṛndāvana itself. He also performed parikramā of Vraja-maṇḍala, despite all this he says, kabe hāma herabo śrī-vṛndāvana'—when will I have darśana of Vṛndāvana? In this way Śrīla Narottama Dāsa Ṭhākura showed us the process of attaining [real] darśana of Vṛndāvana. Simply by residing in Vṛndāvana and continuing to engage in sense gratification, one will not get to see [the real] Vṛndāvana.
Only by the mercy of Balarāma can we get entrance into Vṛndāvana. When the mind is cleansed of all material desires then one will have darśana of Śrī Vṛndāvana.
I can speak a lot about the details, but the mood will not come in the heart until the mercy of Balarāma, the mercy of guru pādapadma, is received, just as I mentioned, in the form of different pramāṇas.
HUMBLE SUBMISSION IS THE PRE-REQUISITE
We have to remember the utterances of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī in humility:
adharo ‘py aparadhanaṁ aviveka-hato ‘py aham tvat-karuṇya-pratikṣo ‘smi prasīda mayi madhava
Stava-mālā (Volume 1, Praṇāma-praṇaya-stava 14)
[Although I am a mine of offenses, and although I cannot tell right from wrong, I still hope for Your mercy. O Mādhava, please be merciful to me.]
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī addresses himself as a dustbin (kudā-dāna) of faults and defects. Is he really a dustbin? Similarly, Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī said:
jagāi mādhāi hôite muñi se pāpiṣṭha
purīṣera kīṭa hôite muñi se laghiṣṭha
mora nāma śune ĵei tāra puṇya kṣaya
mora nāma laya ĵei tāra pāpa haya
[I am more sinful than Jagāi and Mādhāi and
even lower than a worm in stool. The pious
activities of that person who hears my name
are completely destroyed. Anyone who utters
my name commits a sin. ]
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 5.205-206)
So should we not take his name because he has ordered us not to do so? It is very difficult to reconcile. Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī said, “There is no greater fool than I. I do not know myself. I am a multi-linguist, I know Urdu, Farsi, Sanskrit, Bangla - I know all these languages, yet I am such a fool that I don’t know myself. And that is why I posed the question – who am I?” It is very difficult to comprehend such profound expressions of humility.
NITYĀNANDA AS ANAṄGA-MAÑJARĪ
Among the five rasas – śānta, dāsya, sakhya, vātsalya and mādhurya, there is no uttamā-bhakti, no mādhurya-rasa (the topmost mellow) in Nityānanda. In mādhurya-rasa, Nityānanda follows in the footsteps of Rādhārāṇi as a mañjarī, Anaṅga-mañjarī. To sequentially guide us to that stage, Nityānanda behaves accordingly; everything is there.
So, to bestow mercy on us, as guru-tattva, He manifested as Anaṅga-mañjarī, who is junior (kaniṣṭha) to Rādhārāṇi, to award us prema-bhakti. Not everyone knows about this aspect.
vāñchā-kalpa-tarubhyaś ca kṛpā-sindhubhya eva ca
From ‘Kṛṣṇa – The Supreme Personality of Godhead’ by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī
Duryodhana, the son of Dhṛtarāṣṭra, had a marriageable daughter by the name of Lakṣmaṇā. She was a very highly quaified girl of the Kuru dynasty, and many princes wanted to marry her. In such cases, the svayaṁvara ceremony is held so that the girl may select her husband according to her own choice.
In Lakṣmaṇā's svayaṁvara assembly, when the girl was to select her husband, Sāmba appeared. He was a son of Kṛṣṇa's by Jāmbavatī, one of the chief wives of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Sāmba wanted the daughter of Duryodhana, Lakṣmaṇā, although she was not inclined to marry him. Therefore, Sāmba kidnapped Lakṣmaṇā by force from the svayaṁvara assembly.
Because Sāmba took Lakṣmaṇā away from the assembly by force, all the members of the Kuru dynasty, namely, Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Bhīṣma, Vidura, Ujahan and Arjuna, thought it an insult to their family tradition that the boy, Sāmba, could possibly have kidnapped their daughter. All of them knew that Lakṣmaṇā was not at all inclined to select him as her husband and that she was not given the chance to select her own husband; instead she was forcibly taken away by this boy. Therefore, they decided that he must be punished. They unanimously declared that he was most impudent and that he had degraded the Kurus' family tradition. Therefore, all of them, under the counsel of the elderly members of the Kuru family, decided to arrest the boy but not kill him.
The great sage Nārada immediately carried the news to the Yadu dynasty that Sāmba was arrested and told them the whole story. The members of the Yadu dynasty became very angry at Sāmba's being arrested, and improperly so by six warriors. Now, with the permission of the head of the Yadu dynasty's king, Ugrasena, they prepared to attack the capital city of the Kuru dynasty.
Although Lord Balarāma knew very well that by slight provocation people are prepared to fight with one another in the age of Kali, He did not like the idea that the two great dynasties, the Kuru dynasty and the Yadu dynasty, would fight amongst themselves, even though they were influenced by Kali-yuga. "Instead of fighting with them," He wisely thought, "let Me go there and see the situation, and let Me try to see if the fight can be settled by mutual understanding." Balarāma's idea was that if the Kuru dynasty could be induced to release Sāmba along with his wife, Lakṣmaṇā, then the fight could be avoided. He therefore immediately arranged for a nice chariot to go to Hastināpura, accompanied by learned priests and brāhmaṇas, as well as by some of the elderly members of the Yadu dynasty. He was confident that the members of the Kuru dynasty would agree to this marriage and avoid fighting among themselves.