Rāma Shines Only in Connection With Kṛṣṇa

By Swami Sri Bhaktivedanta Tripurari, excerpted from his forthcoming book, Circle of Friends as part of a series of articles concerning Balarāma Tattva.

Although we are concerned only with Balarāma of Vraja, it may help us in understanding his role in the Vraja līlā to look beyond this pastoral realm to Rāma’s role elsewhere. With the exceptions of the Nara-Nārāyaṇa and Mohinī-mūrti avatāras,13 wherever Kṛṣṇa manifests, his consort does as well. In Mathurā and Dvārakā he is accompanied by Rukmiṇī; in Vaikuṇṭha by Lakṣmī; and as all of his līlā-avatāras by a corresponding Lakṣmī as well. However, wherever Kṛṣṇa manifests himself as Viṣṇu along with Lakṣmī, Balarāma in the form of Ananta Śeṣa accompanies him unaccompanied by any corresponding consort. Here, three is not a crowd. Balarāma is more concerned with Kṛṣṇa than he is with any consort of his own. Even in the expansions in which he is accompanied by a consort—Mūla-saṅkarṣaṇa, Mahā-saṅkarṣaṇa, Lakṣmaṇa, and Nityānanda—his relationship with her is secondary to his preoccupation with sevā to Kṛṣṇa, Nārāyaṇa, Rāmacandra, and Gaura Kṛṣṇa, respectively.14

Aside from the exceptions mentioned above, every manifestation of Viṣṇu is accompanied by an expansion of Balarāma, who serves him in all respects other than directly in the romanticism of Lakṣmī.15 While Lakṣmī is śakti-tattva, Balarāma is Viṣṇu tattva. Nevertheless, he serves much like the śakti-tattva in fraternal, servile, and parental love. Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja describes him as the root of the serving ego in all devotees—bhakta-abhimāna mūla śrī-balarāme.16 Furthermore, he is the very fabric of existence—its warp and woof—presiding as he does over the sandhinī-śakti, or existential potency of the Godhead. From his serving ego, the realms for Kṛṣṇa’s various līlās, those of both this world—sṛṣṭi-līlā—and the world beyond, are manifested.

Unlike all other Viṣṇu tattva forms of Kṛṣṇa, who are emotionally complete in and of themselves, Balarāma is not so. While Nārāyaṇa and his avatāras are not separate from svayam bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa, in that they are his partial manifestations, they are nonetheless emotionally complete. However, unlike them, Balarāma is not emotionally complete without Kṛṣṇa. He lives only for the service of Kṛṣṇa. In his commentary to Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 10.1.24, Jīva Goswāmī writes, “He shines only in connection with Kṛṣṇa, who is nondifferent from himself. Balarāma cannot stay anywhere without Kṛṣṇa.” Similarly, in Gopāla-campū 2.20.32, Jīva Goswāmī explains, “Balarāma does not consider himself Balarāma without the presence of Kṛṣṇa.”


13 Kṛṣṇa’s Nara-Nārāyaṇa avatāra is a celibate sage, and Mohinī is female.

14 Notably, when Rāmacandra married Sītā, Lakṣmaṇa married her younger sister, Urmilā, but when Rāma was exiled, Lakṣmaṇa left Urmilā behind and entered the forest along with Rāma to serve his older brother.

15 Balarāma serves Kṛṣṇa/Viṣṇu in ten ways: as his shoes, clothes, bed, umbrella, seat, sacred thread, house, ornaments, pillow, and himself personally.

16 Caitanya-caritāmṛta 1.6.88

Additional Articles in this Series

Balarāma, The Birth of Sakhya-bhava

Balarāma Tattva

Rāma Shines Only in Connection With Kṛṣṇa

Balarāma’s Romantic Life

Balarāma and Ananga-mañjarī

Anaṅga-mañjarī: A Historical and Theological Perspective

Rāmāi Ṭhākura and Anaṅga-mañjarī-sampuṭikā

Balarāma Slays a False Friend

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2 Responses to Rāma Shines Only in Connection With Kṛṣṇa

  1. I would like to ask something regarding Jiva Gosvami’s explanation “Balarāma does not consider himself Balarāma without the presence of Kṛṣṇa.”

    Even though we are only parts and parcels of Krsna, should even we as mortal beings, when we are devotees, consider the same thing as said in this line? “I”, (my name) do not consider myself (my name) without the presence of Krsna? Is Balarama giving us an example here of how we must think of our own identity? This may seem like an obvious question, but as we are not Bhagavan himself, we cannot “act” as we are Balarama but take an example from Balaramas feeling here. Thank you and Pranams.

    • Sri Jiva’s intent is to distinguish Balarama from every other manifestation of Krsna, such as Narayana, etc. But it is true that one named Krsna dasi, etc. does not consider herself so without Krsna in her life, and thus it can be taken in that way as well.

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