[September 26, 2023 is Vāmanadeva āvirbhāva in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is an excerpt of a bhāva anuvāda of a discourse by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja on September 13, 2016. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]
Today is a special day; it is the appearance day of Vāmanadeva. For those observing the Cāturmāsya-vrata, today is also a special tithi known as pārṣa-parivartana. Bhagavān, who has been resting facing north, will today turn to the other side facing south. There are eight māhā-dvādaśīs – Jaya, Vijaya, Jayantī, Pāpamocanī, Pakṣavardhinī, Vyānjulī [Trispṛśā, Unmīlanī]. There is no rule that all eight will appear every year. However, if they all do appear in a year, then it is only after another eight years that they reappear together within one year. Today is another special tithi; it is the āvirbhāva tithi of Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, who is the youngest amongst the Ṣaḍ-Gosvāmīs. There are so many tithis on this day.
Bhagavān said in the Gītā [4.8]:
paritrāṇāya sādhūnāṁ vināśāya ca duṣkṛtām dharma-saṁsthāpanārthāya sambhavāmi yuge yuge
[To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear, millennium after millennium.]
DELIVERANCE OF A SPECIAL KIND
Śrīla Jayadeva Gosvāmī sang – keśava dhṛta-mīna-śarīra, keśava dhṛta-kūrma-śarīra jaya jagadīśa hare – that Bhagavān appears in the form of a fish, tortoise, boar and so on. But [particular] incarnations of Bhagavān like Varāha, Kūrma, and Matsya are not as important as Vāmanadeva and Nṛsiṁhadeva. Why are Their incarnations more significant? Because paritrāṇa (deliverance) is of many types, and the type of paritrāṇa that benefits others [the most] has been categorized separately. In all incarnations there is, 'paritrāṇa – delivering the pious' but in incarnations like Vāmanadeva and Nṛsiṁhadeva there is also special deliverance, whereas in Paraśurāma’s incarnation there was nothing special in his deliverance.
BHAGAVĀN’S DECEPTION IS ALSO HIS COMPASSION
In the case of Vāmanadeva, when Bali Mahārāja conquered all the three worlds and took over the throne of Indra, reducing him to a pauper, Indra's mother Aditi prayed to Kaśyapa to reinstate her son back as the king of heaven. Kaśyapa had two wives – Aditi and Diti. All the sons of Aditi were demigods while all the sons of Diti were demons. [On the instructions Kaśyapa] Aditi performed severe penance and Bhagavān mercifully appeared as her son Vāmanadeva, who was the younger brother of Indra, so He is also known as Upendra. [Because Indra and Bali belonged to the same family and were related to Bhagavan in this incarnation, He decided to trick or cheat Bali to give the throne back to Indra.] That is why the term ‘chalayasi’, which means deception has been used [chalayasi vikramaṇe balim adbhuta-vāmana - O Lord Hari, who have assumed the form of a dwarf-brāhmaṇa! All glories to You! O wonderful dwarf, by Your massive steps You deceive King Bali]. Bhagavān’s deceit is also His pastime. [It is not a fault in Him. All His activities are full of compassion] Just like sugar candy - no matter which side you taste it from, it will taste the same; there won’t be any difference. However, not everyone will understand this.
ONLY THREE STEPS OF LAND
Bali Mahārāja had already conquered Svarga and Pātāla. In order to conquer all the remaining places in the fourteen planetary systems Bali Mahārāja was performing a fire sacrifice (yajña) to please yajña-pati Bhagavān. Śukrācārya, the spiritual master of the demons, was the chief among the yajña performers. Vāmanadeva appeared at the place of the fire sacrifice in the form of a dwarf brāhmaṇa (brahma-baṭu) carrying a rod, waterpot, umbrella, and wearing wooden sandals. Bali Mahārāja welcomed Him and said, “You are a brāhmaṇa-baṭu and have come here to ask me for something. What do You desire?” Vāmanadeva replied, “I ask you for three steps of land. I desire to walk the path of eternal welfare (nivṛitti-mārga) and not the path of sense-enjoyment (pravṛitti-mārga).”
To this Bali Mahārāja smilingly said, “Your intelligence is just like Your stature. It is dwarfed. Would You beg alms from others as well after accepting alms from me? I can provide you with everything. What do You desire? Would You like to marry a brāhmaṇa girl? Or do You desire ten villages to maintain a family?” Vāmanadeva replied, “No, I took a vow to perform austerities. So anything more than three steps of land will turn My mind towards sense enjoyment.” Bali Mahārāja pleaded, “Please reconsider.” Vāmanadeva persisted, “I spoke only after giving it proper thought.”
OFFERING THE SELF
But then, Śukrācārya told Bali Mahārāja, “He is not baṭu (dwarf), He is Bhagavān. On the pretext of begging three steps of land, He will take away everything. Then where will you reside?” Hearing this Bali Mahārāja contemplated, ‘If He is Bhagavān Himself, even without offering Him anything, He can still snatch away everything from me. So it is better for me to offer charity and assume the position of a donor.’ Just as Bali Mahārāja conveyed this decision, Vāmanadeva [assuming a very large form] covered the entire Svarga-loka (the higher planets) with His first step and with His second step He covered all the outer worlds, He then asked Bali Mahārāja, “Where shall I keep My third step? You are bound by your promise, so you have to keep your word.” In fear of his defeat Bali Mahārāja looked towards his wife, Vindhyāvali, who alluded to what he should do by touching her own head, ‘You gave all your material possessions, but you have not given your very self!’ Then Bali Mahārāja surrendered his head before Vāmanadeva saying, “You may keep Your foot [this step] upon my head.” Vāmanadeva then manifested a third foot from His lotus navel and rested it upon the head of Bali Mahārāja.
Vāmanadeva added, “Until now, you were the donor and I was the receiver. Now I am the giver and you are the receiver.” Bali Mahārāja's foolish army was prepared for battle. Bali Mahārāja ordered, 'tasmāt kālaṁ pratīkṣadhvaṁ - Please wait because the time is not in our favor now’. But overpowered by a sense of duty, his army proceeded to fight. Sometimes even the prime minister has to submit to the instructions of his bodyguards or security personnel. Why did Rajiv Gandhi die? Although he was not a prime minister, he was still under his security personnel. [He had gone to South India, Tamil Nadu, for campaigning.] Yet, he refused to pay heed to the instructions of his security and went to meet the people in the rallies and was assassinated as a result. Had he adhered to his security personnel's advice, his life would have been spared. This is an ancient ordinance for any head of state to follow counsel of his security personnel.
When Bali Mahārāja’s army saw him bound by the ropes of Varuṇa [babandha vāruṇaiḥ pāśair - arrested with the ropes of Varuṇa - Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 8.21.26], what could they do? Vāmanadeva said, “Now I am the donor and you are the receiver. I shall give you whatever you ask for.” Did Bali Mahārāja ask for the lost kingdom? Did his wife advise him to ask for something? No. But his sister Ratnāvalī, upon first seeing Vāmanadeva said if this beautiful young lad were my son I would have taken Him on my lap and breast fed Him. However, later after Vāmanadeva snatched everything from her brother she said, “If He were my son I would have poisoned and killed Him.” That is why, later she became Pūtanā. Such are the pastimes of Bhagavān – they are infinite.
Thus, when Bali Mahārāja was tied, he prayed, “Vāmanadeva! May Your soothing lotus feet which You have placed upon my head, always remain there. Do not take Them back.” This pastime of Bhagavān is viewed in two different ways: one by the karma-kāṇḍīs and jñāna-kāṇḍīs, and another by the devotees. Devotees perceive that Bali Mahārāja surrendered himself completely to Bhagavān and pleased Him, while karmīs perceive that Bali Mahārāja offered charity beyond his capacity and therefore became bound. They even composed a śloka on this thought:
ati darpe hata lankā
ati māne ca kauravā
ati dāne bali badhhā
ati sarbatra garhitam
[Excess pride destroyed the golden kingdom of Rāvaṇa; excess feeling that ‘I am great’ destroyed the Kauravas- the sons of Dhṛtarāṣṭra; excess charity got Bali bound up. Too much of everything is bad.]
Because of his pride Rāvaṇa lost Laṅkā. Duryodhana, who craved honor and respect and thought himself to be a great personality, eventually met with ill-fate.
DON’T JUST FOLLOW, KNOW THE IMPORT
So, Bali Mahārāja first said to Vāmanadeva, “Keep Your third foot upon my head”, and next begged for the second boon, “And please do not withdraw it”.
When did Bhagavān go back to the dhāma? [Lakṣmidevī came as a brāhmaṇī, referring to Bali as her brother and requested Bali that Vāmanadeva be returned, and afterwards she tied rakṣā sutra on the hand of Bali.] So when you’ll celebrate rakṣā bandhan, Bali’s name is in the rakṣā bandhan mantra – yena bandho bali rājā, devendra māhabala.
We simply follow [as a custom] what comes down in paramparā, but if we study the practices then all these things become clear and meaningful. So Bhagavān’s three feet [three manifestations] – one stays with Bali Mahārāja in the Pātālaloka, and one in Kṣīra-sāgara and the last in Vaikuṇṭha.
Nowadays no one follows all these things. Even a mother does not know the birth tithi of her son, she just refers to the date on the English calendar [solar calendar] whereas we refer to the tithi [lunar calendar]. We determine the tithi based on the pañcāṅga. Pañcāṅga is prepared taking five attributes into consideration - tithi, nakśatra, kārana, yoga and vāra.
So today is Vāmana Dvādaśī - the day of Vāmanadeva's appearance. But sometimes there is a difference of opinion about Dvādaśī tithis. There are 8 māhā-dvādaśīs: Jaya Vijaya, Jayantī, Pāpamocanī, Trispṛśā, Vyañjulī, Pakṣavardhinī, Unmīlanī - all these are māhā-dvādaśīs. The Vaiṣṇavas calculate the tithis in a different way than the smārtas, therefore Ekādaśī may fall on different days. According to Vaiṣṇavas smṛtis and smārta thoughts tithis sometimes fall on different days. Some observe Daśama-viddhā Ekādaśī. [where there is combination of Daśamī and Ekādaśī tithis together, in other words, Vaiṣṇavas do not consider it a pure Ekādaśī if the Ekādaśī tithi was not on at aruṇodaya] When Durodhyana’s mother Gāndhārī asked Yudhiṣṭhira Maharaja why her children died before her, he replied that if one observes Daśama-viddhā Ekādaśī one will have to suffer the pain of separation from their son (putra-śoka).