Shri Baladeva Purnima
Wednesday, August 5th, 2009, was the auspicious appearance of Lord Balarama or Baladeva. As Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Balarama is similarly understood. He is the first expansion of Krishna from which many other expansions emanate, such as the 3 Vishnus and Lord Ananta-sesha. The "tattva" or truth of Balarama is very deep and I will only touch on a little of the ocean of who he is philosophically to give you a taste. In a spontaneous blog such as this I just write about what comes up for me as I think on the subject. In the spirit of "he who hesitates is lost" or "if it is auspicious do it immediately", I wanted to offer something for you now, because if I don't it won't happen, as I am just getting ready to go to the Temple to cook for his feast.
When I grew up there was a science fiction movie, "The Blob" which was some kind of monster which came to the earth from outer space, with a form something like a huge slug though with an undefined shape....so God is not some nebulous form or non-form, he is the supreme consciousness who desires to enjoy himself in various ways. Although God is one--and from one perspective everything is God--he also expanses himself into different aspects to enjoy rasa or enjoyment. Balarama is known affectionately as "Douji" or the elder brother of Krishna, and he has a relationship with him to serve as a friend and parent, or the combined relationships of "sakhya" and "vatsalya". So Krishna and Balarama are identical from the view of being the Supreme Truth, yet Lord Balarama considers himself a servant of Krishna in the above ways and also expanses himself into Krishna's paraphernalia like Krishna's clothes, Brahmin's thread, shoes and all the dhamas or holy places, etc.
This is especially significant for me since I have been involved in Deity worship for some many years both at the official Temple and at my home Temple. Doing worship means to be using the manifestation of Balarama as the worship paraphernalia. One of my favorite services is preparing the offering trays of food to offer the Deities, and also the arotik trays for offering the formal worship services. I often think of how merciful Lord Balarama is to give me the opportunity to serve Krishna in all is manifestations, like Radha-Krishna, Lord Chaitanya and Nitai, Giriraja, Nrishimhadeva etc.
And despite my diverse disqualifications he has always allowed me to do Deity service--in fact it often comes looking of me. And then I married, Archana-siddhi dd, which means the perfection of Deity service. So due to my wife's desire, our home altar is filled with enchanting and merciful forms of God, including Lord Nitai or Nityananda!
Another important point is that Balarama or Nityananda promote the worship of Krishna, and therefore the Guru is considered his manifestation. In this Age of Kali, Lord Krishna and Balarama have appeared as Lord Chaitanya and Nitai. They are the mercy incarnations who have come to give the fallen souls of this age the most sublime and nectarine holy name to awaken prema (love of God) in their hearts. Lord Chaitanya is considered the "most magnanimous" or most merciful aspect of God, and Lord Nityananda is his mercy. Lord Chaitanya gave love of God to those who wanted it, but Lord Nityananda gave love of even the most unqualified persons who didn't want or didn't understand the value of Krishna Prema. That is why the Guru is considered a manifestation of Nityananda/Balarama.
Here is what Shrila Prabhupada says about Lord Nityananda/Balarama:
"Significant in this verse are the words jnanasim acyuta-balah. Jnanasim, the sword of knowledge, is given by Krsna, and when one serves the guru and Krsna in order to hold the sword of Krsna's instructions, Balarama gives one strength. Balarama is Nityananda. Vrajendra-nandana yei, saci-suta haila sei, balarama ha-ila nitai. This bala -- Balarama -- comes with Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and both of Them are so merciful that in this age of Kali one may very easily take shelter of Their lotus feet. They come especially to deliver the fallen souls of this age. papi tapi yata chila, hari-name uddharila. Their weapon is sankirtana, hari-nama. Thus one should accept the sword of knowledge from Krsna and be strong with the mercy of Balarama." SB 7.15.45 pp
One cannot attain the goal of life without the mercy of Balarama. Sri Narottama dasa Thakura therefore says, nitaiyera karuna habe, vraje radha-krsna pabe: when one receives the mercy of Balarama, Nityananda, one can attain the lotus feet of Radha and Krsna very easily."
se sambandha nahi yara, brtha janma gela tara,
vidya-kule hi karibe tara
If one has no connection with Nitai, Balarama, then even though one is a very learned scholar or jnani or has taken birth in a very respectable family, these assets will not help him. We must therefore conquer the enemies of Krsna consciousness with the strength received from Balarama." SB 7.15.45 pp
Understanding a philosophy behind God, his expansions or incarnations and our relationship to them is explained by Krishna in the Gita 4.9 to be liberating. Their appearances and the divine mission, lila or activities of the Supreme Lord teach us that we are very small in comparison to him. We are constitutionally made to serve him. God is infinite although he appears by worldly estimation just like a human being. Although it could be said that we are all actors in the stage performance of the material world of so many different conditioned identities, the Lord's appearance in the world is also compared to a dramatic performance. The different between our "drama" is that we are forced to take birth on the strength of our karma, and Krishna and his expansions or incarnations take birth out of their sweet will to serve their spiritual purpose which includes delivering us from our ignorance.
So on this special day you can read more about Lord Balarama and Shri Nitayanada, or listen to classes about him. You can pray to him for his mercy that you can obtain spiritual standing and a taste for hearing and chanting the glories of the Lord, and serving him in many diverse ways. You can also go to a Temple for this purpose and do service there or you can do service to him wherever you are. Wherever you are when you engage in service try to think of the Lord, and offer your activity to him with as much of your heart as you can. Practice makes perfect, and the Lord will help you.
Here is some more nectar about Lord Balarama which summarizes some of his activities when he appeared 5,000 years ago with Krishna, who both demonstrated the activities of the spiritual world in a special place called Vrindavana in India, which although in appearing on the Earth, is actually a manifestation of the spiritual world.
[Lord Balarama]"...is the divine son of Vasudeva by his wife Rohini. He is also known as Rohini-nandana, the beloved son of Rohini. He was also entrusted to Nanda Maharaja along with His mother, Rohini, when Vasudeva embraced imprisonment by mutual agreement with Kamsa. So Nanda Maharaja is also the foster father of Baladeva along with Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna and Lord Baladeva were constant companions from Their very childhood, although They were stepbrothers. He is the plenary manifestation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and therefore He is as good and powerful as Lord Krishna. He belongs to the visnu-tattva (the principle of Godhead).
He attended the svayamvara ceremony of Draupadi along with Sri Krishna. When Subhadra was kidnapped by Arjuna by the organized plan of Sri Krsna, Baladeva was very angry with Arjuna and wanted to kill him at once. Sri Krishna, for the sake of His dear friend, fell at the feet of Lord Baladeva and implored Him not to be so angry. Sri Baladeva was thus satisfied. Similarly, He was once very angry with the Kauravas, and He wanted to throw their whole city into the depths of the Yamuna. But the Kauravas satisfied Him by surrendering unto His divine lotus feet.
He was actually the seventh son of Devaki prior to the birth of Lord Krsna, but by the will of the Lord He was transferred to the womb of Rohini to escape the wrath of Kamsa. His other name is therefore Sankarsana, who is also the plenary portion of Sri Baladeva. Because He is as powerful as Lord Krsna and can bestow spiritual power to the devotees, He is therefore known as Baladeva.
In the Vedas also it is enjoined that no one can know the Supreme Lord without being favored by Baladeva. Bala means spiritual strength not physical. Some less intelligent persons interpret bala as the strength of the body. But no one can have spiritual realization by physical strength. Physical strength ends with the end of the physical body, but spiritual strength follows the spirit soul to the next transmigration, and therefore the strength obtained by Baladeva is never wasted. The strength is eternal, and thus Baladeva is the original spiritual master of all devotees.
Sri Baladeva was also a class friend of Lord Sri Krsna as a student of Sandipani Muni. In His childhood He killed many asuras along with Sri Krsna, and specifically He killed the Dhenukasura at Talavana. During the Kuruksetra battle, He remained neutral, and He tried His best not to bring about the fight. He was in favor of Duryodhana, but still He remained neutral. When there was a club-fight between Duryodhana and Bhimasena, He was present on the spot. He was angry at Bhimasena when the latter struck Duryodhana on the thigh or below the belt, and He wanted to retaliate the unfair action. Lord Sri Krsna saved Bhima from His wrath. But He left the place at once, being disgusted at Bhimasena, and after His departure Duryodhana fell to the ground to meet his death.
The funeral ceremony of Abhimanyu, the son of Arjuna, was performed by Him, as He was the maternal uncle. It was impossible to be performed by any one of the Pandavas, who were all overwhelmed with grief. At the last stage, He departed from this world by producing a great white snake from His mouth, and thus He was carried by Sesanaga in the shape of a serpent." SB 1.11.16-17 pp