editorials

Lively, insightful commentary on contemporary issues facing spiritual practitioners.

reviews

Book, film, and audio reviews of contemporary Gaudiya media, as well as a wide variety of media of interest to the spiritually minded.

news

News from around the world with an emphasis on alternative press that is especially relevant to spiritual practitioners.

classroom

Excerpts from classical Gaudiya texts, with and without commentaries, hosted by teachers with whom readers can interact and ask questions.

philosophy

Philosophical articles on Gaudiya Vaisnavism that focus on the tradition’s scriptural conclusions as well as its feeling for the nature of ultimate reality.

Home » philosophy

All Rests on Balarama

Submitted by on August 10, 2014 – 12:30 am12 Comments

balaramaBy Swami Tripurari, originally published on August 9, 2009.

Balarama conceives of himself first and foremost as Krishna’s friend. However, within his sense of fraternal love for Krishna, he also conceives of himself as both Krishna’s servant and Krishna’s guru. Thus he serves Krishna from above, below, and in between. His sakhya-bhava is sankula, or mixed—mixed with dasya and vatsalya-bhava.

Regarding Balarama’s vatsalya sentiment, his guru-bhava, he is Krishna’s elder brother, and in ancient Indian society, the elder brother is thought of as a guru by his younger siblings: a guru, that is, who is filled with affectionate feelings for those who have taken shelter of him. A guru feels like this toward his or her disciples. And the guru rules them with love, affection, and the competence to guide them spiritually. Balarama personifies this love, affection, and competence, and thus he is sometimes referred to as akhanda-guru-tattva, the reservoir of guru-tattva. In this sense he is the adi-guru, the original guru of everyone.

While all three of Balarama’s sentiments for Krishna are portrayed in Srimad Bhagavatam, the sense that he is Krishna’s guru is mentioned in the Tenth Canto’s fifteenth chapter, the Dhenukasura lila. There we find Krishna praising Balarama in so many ways, and the Bhagavata tells us that sometimes Balarama lies down, puts his head in the lap of another cowherd, and pada-samvahanadibhih: Krishna massages his feet and expresses himself as a servant of Balarama.

So Balarama is one of Krishna’s gurus. Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami writes at the onset of his treatise on Sri Caitanya, vande gurun: “I offer my respects to my gurus.” Krishna has different kinds of gurus: his diksa guru, the Saivaite Sandipani Muni; his rasa guru, Srimati Radhika, who teaches him how to dance and thus be all that sastra says he is; and Balarama, his family guru, who watches over him with his immense strength and sense of dharma, protecting him from irreligion, as the maryada purusa in his life.

Bala means strength, and Rama means to take pleasure, so he who takes pleasure in exhibiting spiritual strength is Balarama. This strength is the strength to do what is correct, the strength to build a foundation for one’s spiritual life on the ground of suddha-sattva, pure existence, governed as it is by Rama’s sandhini-sakti.

Whenever Krishna would do something incorrect, Balarama would show his displeasure, as he did when Krishna advised Bhima to strike Jarasandha below the belt and thus deviate from the ksatriya code. However, although Balarama is the maryada purusa of Krishna’s life, he never interfered with Krishna’s apparently illicit romantic life with Radha. Indeed, he facilitated it at every opportunity, albeit for the most part indirectly. Nonetheless, the fact remains that the romance was entered into on the part of Krishna without any objection from Rama. Indeed, we even find Rama assisting their love, as he did when he carried Krishna’s message to the gopis. Similarly, if we are to know anything about Krishna’s love life, we will have to get help from Baladeva. We will need his blessing.

One may think that Balarama is not involved with Krishna’s romantic life. We are told that if Radha and Krsna are on the altar, we cannot put Balarama on the same throne. He will leave the room, because in the presence of the elder brother, Radha will feel a inhibited. These are the “rules” of rasa. More than rules they are really feelings; rasa is ruled by feelings. So, if Balarama will exit, how can we say that Balarama is involved in facilitating the love life of Radha and Krishna? Don’t think that he’s not; he’s involved in every way, in this case indirectly. Otherwise, why will he excuse himself? He excuses himself to facilitate their intimacy. He pays his respect to their divine love as he did when he returned to Vrindavana and thus teaches us to do the same.

Balarama is the Deity presiding over sandhini-sakti, which is the essence of the suddha-sattva, transcendental existence. Sandhini means “existence potency.” So that which takes place in the lila is a combination of samvit and hladini, the knowing potency and the bliss potency, within suddha-sattva, or on the plane of sandhini-sakti. That is real bhakti. Balarama expands the dhama and manifests all the forms in the lila. Even Krishna’s form is a manifestation of Balarama’s sandhini sakti. Just see how he is woven into the fabric of existence like the warp and weft of a cloth; Balarama is described like this in the Bhagavatam. He is involved in everything, everywhere. We owe our existence to him. From Balarama expands the dhama and so many associates for serving Krsna. Because he has the sentiment of a guru (vatsalya-bhakti), friend (sakhya-bhakti), and servant of Krishna (dasya-bhakti), he presides over all three of these sentiments and expands personalities to participate in the lila in all of them. He is the root of the service ego—bhakta abhiman mula balarama—that underlies the entire lila.

From Baladeva comes Mula-Sankarasana for lila in Dvaraka and Mathura. From Mula-Sankarsana comes Narayana, and the second catur-vyuha. Then Sankarsana of the second catur-vyuha expands associates in Vaikuntha. Then he expands further as Karanodakasayi Visnu, and this Maha-Visnu expands so many souls for this world, the baddha-jiva.

So we owe our existence to Balarama; he is the very basis of existence. He is involved in Krishna-lila both directly and indirectly by looking the other way. We say: Hare, Krishna, and Rama. These three names are in the Hare Krishna mantra. There are many ways to understand this, and this is one way: hladini, samvit, sandhini. Radha presides over hladini sakti, the pleasure potency; Krishna presides over the samvit sakti, the power to know; and Balarama presides over sandhini sakti, the existential potency. Hare, Krishna, Rama. This is Vrindavana. These three make up Vrindavana. Wherever there are Radha and Krsna, Balarama is also there in the background. So don’t think Rama is not involved in Krishna’s romantic life; he is Krishna’s dearmost friend, and without Balarama there would be no dhama and no Krishna lila, or any lila for that matter.

12 Comments »

  • Amara dasa

    Sri Balarama ki jaya! Beautiful article, Maharaja! I have also heard that Lord Balarama sometimes takes the form of a gopi maiden–Ananga-manjari–to even more directly serve the Divine Couple.

    • Yes, but this form should be considered somewhat separately because she is a sakti-tattva manifestation of Balarama for lila. Accordingly she is the younger sister of Radha. In other words, Radha is also Krsna, being his sakti, but she is considered separately in the lila.

      • Amara dasa

        Very interesting, Maharaja! I was wondering…does the same hold true for Lord Balarama’s expansion’s as the Divine Couple’s bed, pillows, blankets, etc.? Are these also separated expansions and to what tattva do they belong?

  • Sridama dasa

    I don’t have a whole lot to add, but this article really helped me understand more about Balarama and his role(s) in the lila, so I’m thankful for that.

  • Gaura-Vijaya

    It is said in the C.C, Balarama appears as the elder brother because he can serve Krsna without any obstruction. Balarama as Lakshmana being younger faces obstructions in his service. This understanding is confusing to me. Isn’t Balarama always older than Krsna in Goloka?
    So why this reason is connected to his birth in an earlier yuga?

    Also when Krsna went inside the pool where Kalia resided, Balarama is smiling and thinking how Krsna as Garbodakshaya Visnu rests peacefully on Ananta Sesa,Balarama’s form as a big snake. I don’t understand that though Ramacandra and Laskmana, Narayana and Sesa, all originate in Balarama and not Krsna, Balarama does not identify himself as Ramacandra or Narayana. Even as Nityananda, he identifies with Lakshmana. How can he have reverential attitude towards Ramacandra, when he is the source of Ramacandra?

  • Gaura-Vijaya

    So is the source of jiva sakti balarama or radharani who is the source of all saktis? It is said that all saktis are connected to the svarupa sakti.

  • Balarama is the source, but just as Krishna is the source of Balarama, Narayana etc., Radha is the fountainhead of all sakti, even though that sakti is manifest from Balarama, Narayana, etc.

  • Gaura-Vijaya

    Another thing I don’t understand is that though Ramacandra and Laskmana, Narayana and Sesa, all originate in Balarama and not Krsna, Balarama does not identify himself as Ramacandra or Narayana. Even as Nityananda, he identifies with Lakshmana. How can he have reverential attitude towards Ramacandra, when he is the source of Ramacandra?

    • In tattva he is Rama’s source but in lila/bhava he is Rama’s younger brother.

      • Gaura-Vijaya

        Thank you Maharaja. Another question on similar lines:It is said in the C.C, Balarama appears as the elder brother because he can serve Krsna without any obstruction. Balarama as Lakshmana being younger faces obstructions in his service. This understanding is confusing to me. Isn’t Balarama always older than Krsna in Goloka?
        So why this reason is connected to his birth in an earlier yuga?

  • Željka Kakarigi

    Jaya Sri Balarama jayanti, ….Varuni drink: 1 lit water to boil, add cup of honney, 1/2 cup rose water, 2 inch ginger, grate and rind lime, remove seeds and skin, add a cup of rose petals, leave to stay for one hour or so, put Tulasi leaves, manjaris, add ice cubes or grind, mix and: offer to Their Lordships: Revati-Varuni-Balaramaji Dauji….wait for prasadam, be careful if or better not driving….only bhajana kirtana sankirtana, thnx yhs Rdd..

Leave a comment!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.

Subscribe without commenting