Heres an awesome class by Srila Gurudeva that I just came across on his website. For those of you who've ever been present during Maharaj's classes - you'll know what an experience it can be! His sense of humour, his expressions...and I can tell that it's all here in this class :) Thank you for the nectar Gurudeva!
“The glories of Lord Balaram”
gomatim gandakim snatvavipasam sona aplutahgayam gatva pitrn istvaganga-sagara-sangame
upasprsya mahendradrauramam drstvabhivadya casapta-godavarim venampampam bhimarathim tatah
skandam drstva yayau ramahsri-sailam girisalayamdravidesu maha-punyamdrstvadrim venkatam prabhuh
kama-kosnim purim kancimkaverim ca sarid-varamsri-rangakhyam maha-punyamyatra sannihito harih
rsabhadrim hareh ksetramdaksinam mathuram tathasamudram setum agamatmaha-pataka-nasanam
TRANSLATION: Lord Balarama bathed in the Gomati, Gandaki and Vipasa rivers, and also immersed Himself in the Sona. He went to Gaya, where He worshiped His forefathers, and to the mouth of the Ganges, where He performed purifying ablutions. At Mount Mahendra He saw Lord Parasurama and offered Him prayers, and then He bathed in the seven branches of the Godavari River, and also in the rivers Vena, Pampa and Bhimarathi. Then Lord Balarama met Lord Skanda and visited Sri-saila, the abode of Lord Girisa. In the southern provinces known as Dravida-desa the Supreme Lord saw the sacred Venkata Hill, as well as the cities of Kamakosni and Kanci, the exalted Kaveri River and the most holy Sri-ranga, where Lord Krsna has manifested Himself. From there He went to Rsabha Mountain, where Lord Krsna also lives, and to the southern Mathura. Then He came to Setubandha, where the most grievous sins are destroyed.
PURPORT:Usually one goes to Gaya to worship deceased forefathers. But as Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti explains, although Lord Balarama’s father and grandfather were still alive, it was on His father’s order that He carefully worshiped His forefathers at Gaya. Drawing insight from the Vaisnava-tosani, the acarya further explains that although Lord Balarama was in the immediate proximity of Jagannatha Puri, He did not go there, since He wanted to avoid the embarrassment of having to worship Himself among the forms of Sri Krsna, Balabhadra and Subhadra.
Class by HH Bhakti Caitanya Swami: So when we read the 10th canto of Srimad Bhagavatam, its focusing on Lord Krsna, from the beginning of His appearance to the later portion at least of His pastimes. Pastimes are included in the 11th canto. And of course we do see that throughout the 10th canto and 11th canto that Krsna is focused upon, Krsna is the focal point. Even though Lord Balaram is there and Lord Balaram is not different from Krsna. The only difference is a difference in bodily hue. Otherwise They’re the same. Even more so than any other forms of the Lord. Even Lord Ramacandra, Whose appearance day it is the day after tomorrow, and the various other forms. Except of course for Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda, but on the whole They’re so much one. Even more so than the other forms of the Lord like Maha Visnu and Vasudev, Sankarsan, Pradyumna and Aniruddha, and the Narayan forms in the Vaikuntha realm, and so on. So Krsna and Balaram are more one than those other forms are one. But still we see in the 10th canto of the Bhagavatam and the 11th that really Krsna is being focused on to a very, very large extent, at least 90% or I’m not quite sure in those terms, but to a very large extent. But from time to time, we come across some incidents, pastimes, chapters in the 10th canto where Lord Balaram is the subject and this is one. Who of you, Let us start with the men, please tell us of one pastime in the 10th canto where Lord Balaram is really the focal point?
Devotee: “Guru Maharaj, when Lord Balaram became angry with the Yamuna and scattered her by scratching up her banksi”
BCS: Okay. Yes. Lord Balaram with the river Yamuna, and He forced her to come over to Him. And now the matajis. (One of the men puts up his hand) You’re not a mataji. (laughter) Its okay. Just checking. (laughter) Come on. You know.
Devotee: “I can’t remember the demon’s name but the gorilla demon.”
BCS: Gorilla? Dvivida! Whoa! (laughter)
Madhumangal Prabhu: “I was thinking of ploughing up outside of Hastinapur.”
BCS: Oh, okay, yes! Good! Yes. That was when Samba was kidnapped, was it? When Samba was kidnapped, Lord Balaram went to make a negotiation to get him released. They wouldn’t agree. So, He took His plough and plunged it into the earth right at the foot of the walls of the city and then in this way uprooted the whole city, complete with the earth it was standing on and started dragging it to the Yamuna. To just throw it into the Yamuna, an that would have been the end of all the inhabitants of Hastinapur. So, and matajis, can you think of another one? What about Dhenukasura? The donkey-demon. And I think we just read one, isn’t it? Another one? What was it? “Romaharshana” Romaharshanasuta. Right, killing of Romaharsanasuta.
Devotee: “Maharaj, when during the lifting of Govardhan Hill, and when Krsna was looking at the gopis, and Balaram was looking at Him, smiling because He knew what was going on.”
BCS: Okay. Yes, that’s good. Right. I think those are the main pastimes. At least that I can remember off-hand. And where Lord Balaram is very much the focal point. Otherwise, the rest of the time, its Krsna. And amongst the demons, what we call the demons in Krsna’s Vrndavan lila, there are 21 or 22, I think. Of them, two are killed by Krsna (Balaram). Dhenukasura and Pralambasura. So, two out of twenty or twenty-something.
So here we are then. Yes, another situation where Lord Balaram is being focused upon and performing very wonderful pastimes. He is very amazing transcendental personality.
Oh, there are others. The killing of Rukmi. And then, before the killing of Rukmi, when Krsna kidnapped Rukmini, then Lord Balaram Krsna kidnapped Rukmini. Rukmi chased them and confronted Krsna. Krsna defeated him in a fight and then humiliated him by cutting his hair off in different places. You know. So he ended up looking sort of like a punk rocker. (laughter) Or something strange. And Rukmini was very upset. And it was their wedding day. Well it was. Even though it wasn’t a formal wedding obviously, Krsna kidnapped her. But that is a form of wedding. According to Vedic literaturesit is called the “raksasa” style of wedding, that the young man just kidnaps the brideiwell not bride exactly, but you know, the young woman, whether anybody else likes it or not, including her. (laughter) And that is a form of wedding. Don’t anybody, any of you young men here think of doing that. (laughter) Because it may be more. Anyway its called raksasa style. So, yes. It was their wedding day and Rukmi was, you know as a powerful ksatriya, he was feeling terrible. And Rukmini as a ksatriya girl with the same type of spirit, she was also feeling disturbed and it was her wedding day. Not agood way to start a marriage. So Lord Balaram came and spoke toifirst of all to Rukmini. Oh no, first of all He chastised Krsna, which made Rumini feel a little better. And then He spoke to Rukmini and told her that, well, different things,”You know these ksatriyas, what can we do? They do things like that.” And then chastised Krsna again. (Laughter)
And then back to Rumini, that “everybody gets there karma, and you know, what can we say? It’s in the hands of Providence. So we shouldn’t get upset with Krsna too much”. Like this. And Rukmini became pacified. Yes?
“There was the one incident, when they went to the home. And they were playing dice, and the one personality… I forget the name, was insulting Krsna and Balaram, what do They know about dice. They are just cowherd boys. Then he smiled and showed his teeth”
Well that. Yeah. The king of Kalinga. That’s part of the killing of Rukmi. First of all Balarama smashed Rukmi. And then smashed the king of Kalinga in the mouth. Smashing his teeth because he smiled, showing his teeth. (Laughter)
Yes. Lord Balaram, what happened was well, we just read how Balaram killed Romaharshanasuta Sometimes the Lord does things which are somewhat inscrutable in the sense that you could say thay would be easy for people to object to, people who don’t really understand so much or sufficiently. There’s Romaharshanasuta, sitting on the vyasasana, addressing the sages. And Lord Balaram enters the arena. And according to Vedic etiquette, someone who is sitting on the vyasasana, in an assembly, if some other respectable personiwell obviously he’s sitting thereifirst of all because he’s arespectable person and he’s doing some special respectable function. It may be even more so just that he’s doing the function. Like here We are sitting on the seat. Why? Because We are reading Srimad Bhagavatam. This is a particular point. So, out of deference to Srimad Bhagavatam and it’s exalted message, the speaker…the book has to be higher, and the speaker who is meant to be imparting the book is also, in that sense in deference to the duty, is meant to sit higher. So, because he was in that situation himself, then he sort of had to sit higher. It’s like a point of etiquette that the speaker is meant to sit higher. Not just that he is higher or something. But he’s actually meant, because he’s giving the Bhagavatam, so he’s kind of identified in that sense with the Bhagavatam and it’s message.
So Romaharshana was in that situation. And Lord Balaram, who of course is very respectable person, at least, He came into the assembly. And Romaharshana thought, “Even though He’s a respectable person, but because I am speaking (some whatever, some sastra or something). And this is the etiquette, that the speaker is not really meant to get down and offerobeisances, and so on like that. I remember once going to Varsana, and there was, there they had many different families. Families worship the Deities every two weeks or so they change over. One family to the next. So there was one boy. He was a brahmacari in Krsna Balaram Temple. But he was he is, a, like the oldest son in one of those families of Varsana brahmanas. Although he became, you know, like a real ISKCON devotee, and not just, you know, a sort of “pundit-type”, Brijbasi pundit-type.
So, when it came time for the family to do their couple of weeks, he came back from Krsna Balaram Temple because he was the eldest son and he had to actually, he was doing the whole, all the pujas and all that. So we visited the temple on parikrama, Varsana parikrama, we came and offered our obeisances. He was there, and he was on the altar, and he saw us and he came running out and he offered his obeisances, and then went back on the altar. Then a little later, we stayed perhaps half an hour or so. So a little later he came and said that his father, who was like overseeing things, his fatherhad chastised him. He said that when you’re doing the puja you are not meant to offer anybody else respects. Even if, you know, in a certain sense, normally you would, but when you’re in that role, doing that duty, you are not meant to do that. To break your focus on the duty, because the duty is so exalted and you, you know, you’re meant to give your full attention to the duty.
So, in that sense, Romaharshana didn’t get up. Not necessarily that he was thinking, “Oh. Who is this?” You know. And he became puffed upilike in a more gross sense. Of course he should have got off and offered his obeisances because this is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is beyond even sastra. But it was not exactly that he was thinking that Lord Balarama is just some nobody in particular and therefore there’s no need. Although he should have actually been more mindful of Lord Balaram’s position. So, Lord Balaram, seeing that, took a kusaipiece of kusa grass and hit him or pokedhim with it. Normally if a piece of kusa grass hits you, or you are poked with it, one piece of kusa, normally you won’t die. (Laughter) It’s sort of like a, anyway it’s likeiit doesn’t really look like a grass. It grows in clumps, like a plant. But still, it’s not like, like anything solid. But by the potency of Lord Balaram, he died. So, Lord Balaram, on one hand, He was right to do that, to show that the Supreme Personality of Godhead has to always be accepted and offered respect. And it’s not just a matter of Vedic etiquette or something, but it this an absolute point. This is an absolute point. We have to accept the Supreme Lord and not be mistaken about His position.
But still, the brahmanas there well, first of all, they said actually you know, “You’re the Supreme Lord, so it’s okay.You know, You can just do these things.” But then they said, “You know, really speaking it wasn’t so good, so we think You should do something. You should atone for it. At least to set an example, that would be the best thing. So Lord Balaram said, “Fine.” And then, among other things, they told Him to go on pilgrimage. He was already on a type of pilgrimage. At least He was already moving around. Because, although it’s not really discussed so much in the Bhagavatam, when the Battle of Kurukshetra started then He felt very frustrated. Because He felt the battle could be avoided. Lord Balaram, one of His key interests and expertise is negotiation. He is a very expert negotiator. If two parties are at odds with each other, He can find ways to bring them together and balance things out and make a solution, which people will actually be happy with. So He felt that something could be done, but Krsna didn’t seem to want that. In fact, Krsna Himself had actually become frustrated in His own way. Krsna wanted the battle so therefore, and ,of course, it’s all part of the lila, but Duryodhana, the leader of the other side was very dear to Balaram, in a certain particular way. Jiva Goswami says that this was a special arrangement of the lila sakti.
Even though Duryodhana was a demon and the Supreme Lord, you know, He doesn’t like demons, but due to the influence of the lila sakti and the course of the pastimes, because Duryodhana had been such an attentive student in club-fighting under the direction of Lord Balaram. So Lord Balaram developed some type of a soft spot for him. So, Lord Balaram wasfrustrated that this battle could not be avoided so He left. Krsna stayed, as we know, and He participated, driving the chariot mainly, of Arjuna. But Lord Balaram felt “No. I don’t like this. I’ve had enough. So He went. And while the battle was starting, He was there in this pastime with Romaharshanasuta. And then, as the battle was continuing, He went to these places. So, in other words, He was moving around quite quickly. And then He came at the end, as mentioned already in the summary, He came to where Bhima and Duryodhana were about to fight, which was right at the end of the Battleof Kurukshetra, still within that eighteen-day period. At some point in the build-up to the battle itself, after Lord Krsna’s final attempt to negotiate peace and being mistreated by Duryodhana again. Then at some point during that build-up when appeared that the battle was inevitable, then Lord Balaram left. So He went to all these places. Some very nice places. Some of us may have been there.
Venkata Hill. Thirumala. The Thirumala Hill, where the Thirupati Temple is. The Kanci. Kanci. Kancipuram. These places were already famous pilgrimage before the appearance of Lord Krsna and Balaram.
Kancipuram. There is a famous temple there of Varadaraj, of Lord Visnu. Big temple, very nice temple. And the exalted Kaveri River, which runs by Sri Rangam, which is also mentioned here, which is also a famous place of pilgrimage. We were there at Sri Rangam many years ago and we went and bathed in the Kaveri River. And there we were, bathing away. And we would, you knowiit’s quite shallow, stand there in the water. And suddenly we noticed. Oh! Our feet were being bitten, by little fish. All these little fish. Little schools of fish coming and biting our feet. And we asked the local people, “Why do they do that? Don’t they get enough food?” And they said, “Well, no. Nearby there’s the cremation ghat, and they, youknow, often times they throw the bodies in, they haven’t been fully burned. And the fish have developed a taste, And the same thing at Kesi Ghat actually, in Vrndavana. Well, it’s considered not wise to bathe from Kesi Ghat going a little further down the Yamuna because the turtles have developed the same taste, because the cremation ghat is just further down.Hare Krsna! But the Holy Sri Rangam, where Lord manifested Himself. Sri Rangam, Rangaksetra is magnificent temple, and very nice place, very interesting placei but it was already there. It was already there before Lord Balaram visited there. And there’s various other places. Then to Setubander.
Oh, the Southern Mathura, which is Madurai, where there’s the Meenaksi Temple of Durga . And Setubander. Setubander, where Lord Ram broke the bridge, when they finished the whole pastime of going to Lanka and rescuing Sita. That place is there at Ramesvaram. AlthoughiThere used to be a temple there. It’s right down the southern end of Ramesvaram Island. There used to be a temple but there was a storm and it got washed away. So, Lord Balaram went to all these places. He went to Gaya. In the purport its mentioned how He went to Gaya. And normally you go to Gaya when your father has died. Normally your father, and you do ceremonies particularly for your father. And also for the other forefathers but it’s generally, in the great majority of cases, done in the context of one’s father’s passing away. And then one may offer also oblations for the grandfather. But then otherwise, in the general sense, for the forefathers one may do some things there. But Lord Balaram’s father and grandfather were still present, so why did He do that? Well, as is pointed out here, drawing from the Vaisnava Tosani, which is Sanatan Goswami’s commentary on the Srimad Bhagavatam, Visvanath CakravatiThakur somehow or the other extracted some point there that, Oh, no. Ok. That’s something elseithat His father had told Him either, either, Vasudev, not really Vasudev actually, had told Him that You should go there anyways and make offerings to the forefathers.
And then, from Vaisnava Tosani, Visvanath Cakravati Thakur, drawing insight from Vaisnava Tosani, which is I think is Sanatan Goswami’s commentary on the Bhagavatam, explains that even though the Lord, Lord Balaram was there at Jaganath Puri, He didn’t go there because They, Jaganath, Baladev and Subhadra were already being worshipped. And He didn’t want to go there and be put in that transcendentally embarrassing situation, of seeing Himself being worshipped. So, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He has these sensitivities. Personal sensitivities, like Krsna, every morning, as described in the 10th canto, Krsna wakes up, and what does He do? Well He takes a bath and He meditates on Himself. This is His sadhana. Lord Balaram, wakes up in the morning, takes His bath and what does He do? He meditates on Krsna. He doesn’t sit down and meditate on Himselfialthough there would be nothing wrong with that. But He is in the mood of a devotee, so therefore He meditates on Krsna. But Krsna, is very much in the mood of being the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He meditates on Himself. And He enjoys that very much. So these are some of the things which are described here.
Any comment or question?
Devotee: “Maharaj, about Thirumala. Its one of the richest temples in the world. Isn’t the form of Balaji worshipped there?”
BCS: Its Visnu. Yeah. Its Visnu. Srinivas. Sri-nivas. Visnu, the resting place of Luxmi, as far as I’m aware. Yeah, its very rich, but that’s only in the last previous century, that it became very opulent, otherwise it was, you know, one of these temples up on top a hilliyou get these temples on top of a hill and it was very hard to reach and it was not opulent. But then some people went there and offered prayers and became very wealthy. So therefore they started a campaign of promoting the temple on that basis, and as a result the temple started becoming more popular. And then more people became wealthy, and then they really started promoting it in that way. And now it’s known for that, you know, universally, throughout India at least. So, it’s only been in the last less than a hundred years that it’s become opulent. Otherwise it was up on top of a hill and, you know, there were no motor cars to get up there. Oh! It was a big job. So people really didn’t go there. And one devotee, well Prabhupada was discussing this, and one devotee suggested it to Prabhupada.
Devotee: “Why don’t we start a rumour like that?” (Laughter)
BCS: I think this was in Bombay… “about Radha-Rasabihari?” Prabhupada said, “No. We don’t want people coming with that sort of mentality.” Yeah. Because, you know, it happens. For example, you know, I’ve had people come to Me, couples, saying that they were not able to have a child for years in the marriage, they came and prayed to Radha-Radhanath and they had a child. And they’re coming to offer their thanks. I’ve had a number of couples come to Me. I’ve also had people say that they were unsuccessful financially, they prayed to Radha-Radhanath, and suddenly Bang!…their business justtook off, and things like that. But in that case I forget if it was Giriraj Maharaj or who it was who told Me, but I remember some years ago somebody said that they were present with Srila Prabhupada when this thing about Thirupati was brought up. And Prabhupada said, “No, we don’t want people coming with that sort of mentality. Because then it will become like ananartha, and they wont really become devotees for the sake of being devotees, and it will be tinged, heavily tinged. And you see them if you go there to the Thirumala Temple. Then, they have all these brahmanas, they get so much money every day, seven days a week, particularly the weekends, Saturday and Sunday, it’s just bizarre. And they have this group of people, they simply sit there whole day, brahmanas, counting money. I have seen at least half a dozen of them, in India, they’re sitting, this big pile of money.
“Are there books there, Maharaj?”
“Is there somebody sitting next to the brahmanas, who are counting the money, that they have books?”
“Is there somebody sitting next to the brahmanas, who are counting the money, that they have books?”
Well our devotees have a permanent book stall there. From the temple at the bottom. The town is called Thirupati, which is at the bottom, the hill is Thirumala. The temple is actually the Thirumala Temple. But, yeah, our devotees have a permanent place there. They’re there seven days a week, and that’s one of the main sources of income, how they were able to build the temple, which was just opened, I think one year ago.”
“Maharaj, You know the Deity Venkatesvara? Where do read about Him in the Srimad Bhagavatam?”
He’s not there. That’s Balaji. Venkatesvara. Thirumala.
“Why’s He not mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam?”
Oh, He’s mentioned here… “Lord Caitanya went to Venkata Hill.” Venkatesvara. That Thirumala is also called Venkata Hill.
“What I mean is that you never read any pastimes”
Well, you’ll have to go down there. They have literature of their own, but I don’t think you’ll find in the actual Vedic scriptures as such. I am not aware of there being accounts, like in the Puranas.
“How do you get up the hill, Maharaj?”
You can walk or you can drive up. Take a bus. Take a taxi.
“They haven’t got a cable-car?”
Devotee: “Maharaj, what do Aniruddha, Sankarsan and Pradyumna look like?”
BCS: They look like Krsna. Well there are different forms, but in Goloka in Svetadvipa. They’re there, which is part of Goloka, the surrounding area. So They look like Krsna. Two-armed forms. More or less identical to Krsna. And, you know, there’s the story of Aniruddha with who? The daughter of Duryodhana, right? Wasn’t it? Laksmana? That’s Aniruddha? I think so. In the Bhagavatam, in the 10th Canto. And Laksmana dreamt of Aniruddha and she just decided, “This man, He’s going to be my husband.” But she’d never seen Him. So asked her, one of her assistants, who was a mystical yogini, “Who is this? Show me pictures of all the very handsome, young ksatriya men on the planet.” So that person showed her different pictures, including Krsna. And when she saw Krsna, she thought, “Oh! This is almost Him.” She was struck. “But not quite.” And then she saw Pradyumna, and she thought, “Wow! This is just, but not quite.” And then she saw the picture of Aniruddha, and she knew, “Yes. This is Him.” So, They look like Krsna. They look like Krsna.
Devotee: “Then They’re expansions of Balaram?”
BCS: Yes. Yes. First of all, He expands as Sankarsan, and from Sankarsan the other three come. Then from that Sankarsan, comes a second Sankarsan who is called Maha Sankarsan, who is the chief presiding Deity in Vaikuntha, therealm beneath Goloka. And from Himiand He’s four-armed. And from Him comes another Vasudev, Pradyumna and Aniruddha. They’re all four-armed. And the Vasudev, Pradyumna and Aniruddha in Goloka, They’re generally two-armedalthough sometimes They may be four-armed.
Devotee: “Maharaj, I have a question on how Romaharsanasuta, is he categorized as a demon?”
BCS: He was not a demon. He was the father of Suta Goswami, yeah. He’s a big sastric authority actually, but somehow, he wasn’t exactly a pure devotee. So therefore he made that miscalculation with Lord Balaram. But He’s big, big pundit and sort of devotee to some degree.
Devotee: “When Lord Balaram kills someone do they also get liberated, like when Krsna kills?”
BCS: Yes. Yes.
Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!