“The summary of this twenty-second chapter is as follows. The Supreme Personality of Godhead was pleased by the behavior of Bali Maharaja. Thus the Lord placed him on the planet Sutala, and there, after bestowing benedictions upon him, the Lord agreed to become his doorman.
“Bali Maharaja was extremely truthful. Being unable to keep his promise, he was very much afraid, for he knew that one who has deviated from truthfulness is insignificant in the eyes of society. An exalted person can suffer the consequences of hellish life, but he is very much afraid of being defamed for deviation from the truth. Bali Maharaja agreed with great pleasure to accept the punishment awarded him by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In Bali Maharaja’s dynasty there were many asuras who because of their enmity toward Visnu had achieved a destination more exalted than that of many mystic yogis. Bali Maharaja specifically remembered the determination of Prahlada Maharaja in devotional service. Considering all these points, he decided to give his head in charity as the place for Visnu’s third step. Bali Maharaja also considered how great personalities give up their family relationships and material possessions to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Indeed, they sometimes even sacrifice their lives for the satisfaction of the Lord, just to become His personal servants. Accordingly, by following in the footsteps of previous acaryas and devotees, Bali Maharaja perceived himself successful.
“While Bali Maharaja, having been arrested by the ropes of Varuna, was offering prayers to the Lord, his grandfather Prahlada Maharaja appeared there and described how the Supreme Personality of Godhead had delivered Bali Maharaja by taking his possessions in a tricky way. While Prahlada Maharaja was present, Lord Brahma and Bali’s wife, Vindhyavali, described the supremacy of the Supreme Lord. Since Bali Maharaja had given everything to the Lord, they prayed for his release. The Lord then described how a nondevotee’s possession of wealth is a danger whereas a devotee’s opulence is a benediction from the Lord. Then, being pleased with Bali Maharaja, the Supreme Lord offered His disc to protect Bali Maharaja and promised to remain with him.”
COMMENT by Giriraj Swami
The Lord appears in various incarnations to favor the devotees. Although Bali Maharaja was born in a family of demons, he was a devotee, and Vamanadeva appeared to favor him, as well as to favor the demigods, who were also devotees.
The Lord reciprocates with the particular mentality of each individual devotee. Bali Maharaja was inclined to give charity. In fact, he had achieved his opulence by the favor of the brahmans to whom he had given so much. Therefore Lord Vishnu, in order to take service from Bali Maharaja, assumed the form of a brahman and begged some charity from him. And because Bali Maharaja was so inclined to give charity to brahmans, he agreed to give Vamanadeva whatever He asked. Vamana replied, “I would like three steps of land.” Bali Maharaja was surprised. He said, “I thought You were more intelligent. You could ask for a whole planet. Why do You ask only for three steps of land?” And Vamana answered, “If I cannot be satisfied by three steps of land, I will not be satisfied by even a whole planet.” Srila Prabhupada enunciated the same principle for devotees, especially for brahmacharis: “All you need is a little service, a little prasada, and a little place to lie down at night”—three steps of land and a little prasada and service. Vamanadeva Himself played the role of a brahmachari, so He set the example.
Now we come to the point at which Prahlada Maharaja appears in the arena where Bali Maharaja had been arrested and bound by the ropes of Varuna because of his failure to keep his promise. After Bali Maharaja agreed to give three steps of land, Vamanadeva expanded Himself into a gigantic form. With one step He covered the entire upper planetary system, and His toe actually pierced the coverings of the universe. Spiritual water from the causal ocean entered the universe through the hole made by His toe, and that spiritual water became the Ganges River. Then with His second step Vamanadeva covered the entire lower portion of the universe, and so with two steps He had covered the entire universe. Thus He concluded that Bali Maharaja would not be able to fulfill his promise and should therefore be arrested and punished. Now Bali Maharaja will find the most intelligent solution to the problem and tell the Lord, “You can place Your third step on my head, and thus I will fulfill my promise.”
jivan chavo bhagavatanghri-renum
na jatu martyo ’bhilabheta yas tu
sri-visnu-padya manujas tulasyah
svasan chavo yas tu na veda gandham
The person who has not at any time received the dust of the feet of the Lord’s pure devotee upon his head is certainly a dead body. And the person who has never experienced the aroma of the tulasi leaves from the lotus feet of the Lord is also a dead body, although breathing.
PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada
According to Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, the breathing dead body is a ghost. When a man dies, he is called dead, but when he again appears in a subtle form not visible to our present vision and yet acts, such a dead body is called a ghost. Ghosts are always very bad elements, always creating a fearful situation for others. Similarly, the ghostlike nondevotees who have no respect for the pure devotees, nor for the Visnu Deity in the temples, create a fearful situation for the devotees at all times. The Lord never accepts any offerings by such impure ghosts. There is a common saying that one should first love the dog of the beloved before one shows any loving sentiments for the beloved. The stage of pure devotion is attained by sincerely serving a pure devotee of the Lord. The first condition of devotional service to the Lord is therefore to be a servant of a pure devotee, and this condition is fulfilled by the statement “reception of the dust of the lotus feet of a pure devotee who has also served another pure devotee.” That is the way of pure disciplic succession, or devotional parampara.
Maharaja Rahugana inquired from the great saint Jada Bharata as to how he had attained such a liberated stage of a paramahamsa, and in answer the great saint replied as follows (Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.12.12):
rahuganaitat tapasa na yati
na cejyaya nirvapanad grhad va
na cchandasa naiva jalagni-suryair
“O King Rahugana, the perfectional stage of devotional service, or the paramahamsa stage of life, cannot be attained unless one is blessed by the dust of the feet of great devotees. It is never attained by tapasya (austerity), the Vedic worshiping process, acceptance of the renounced order of life, the discharge of the duties of household life, the chanting of the Vedic hymns, or the performance of penances in the hot sun, within cold water, or before the blazing fire.”
In other words, Lord Sri Krsna is the property of His pure unconditional devotees, and as such only the devotees can deliver Krsna to another devotee; Krsna is never obtainable directly. Lord Chaitanya therefore designated Himself as gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah (Cc Madhya 13.80), or “the most obedient servant of the servants of the Lord, who maintains the gopi damsels at Vrndavana.” A pure devotee therefore never approaches the Lord directly, but tries to please the servant of the Lord’s servants, and thus the Lord becomes pleased, and only then can the devotee relish the taste of the tulasi leaves stuck to His lotus feet. In the Brahma-samhita it is said that the Lord is never to be found by becoming a great scholar of the Vedic literatures, but He is very easily approachable through His pure devotee. In Vrndavana all the pure devotees pray for the mercy of Srimati Radharani, the pleasure potency of Lord Krsna. Srimati Radharani is a tenderhearted feminine counterpart of the supreme whole, resembling the perfectional stage of the worldly feminine nature. Therefore, the mercy of Radharani is available very readily to the sincere devotees, and once She recommends such a devotee to Lord Krsna, the Lord at once accepts the devotee’s admittance into His association. The conclusion is, therefore, that one should be more serious about seeking the mercy of the devotee than that of the Lord directly, and by one’s doing so (by the good will of the devotee) the natural attraction for the service of the Lord will be revived.
COMMENT by Giriraj Swami
This verse and purport are so deep. Practically the whole philosophy of Krishna consciousness is contained in this purport, and one could discuss it for many hours and days. Still, we shall try to say something within the time available to us.
Born into dense illusion, one of countless conditioned souls;
doomed to endless births and deaths while playing different roles.
My life a hell that made no sense, trying drugs I took my chances;
searching faces on streets and buses, hoping to find someone with answers.
Religion as I knew it seemed a total farce,
and the diet of dead animals weighed heavy on my heart.
So, trapped, I studied different books, became an avid reader:
Leary, Huxley, Buddhism, a short little Bhagavad-gita.
Though small and insignificant, I searched for knowledge true.
If there was a kindly God, I begged for but a clue.
The summer of ’69 found my younger brother and me in Boston.
Along with other seekers, we’d go to Harvard Square quite often.
One special day before us danced a group in orange bed sheets.
Intrigued, we watched, chanted along, and were given some “simply wonderful” little round white sweets!
Who were these people? What’d they find? What did their mantra mean?
Swarup and Manmohini soon became two new additions to Prabhupada’s spiritual team!
Now the how and why this Prabhupada came is quite a blessed miracle.
He melted hearts and changed the lives of even us very cynical.
He understood our sorry plight with Godless lives so vacant,
and pure devotees of his kind can never be complacent.
And so he came from far abroad and risked his life to save us.
He taught us how to speak, eat, dance, and even renamed us!
He cut through our illusions using knowledge like a sword,
explaining that as spirit souls we’re meant to love and serve the Lord!
Embodiment of compassion and of the purest selfless love,
it seemed his every movement was choreographed from above!
All moves had grace and purpose, never wasting precious time,
engaging every single soul in Lord Chaitanya’s line.
The Prabhupada cookies, Prabhupada medicine, Prabhupada hat and two step were all so charming and unique.
And those cookies that he handed out were sweetest of the sweet!
For twelve amazing years he walked and talked and lived right in our midst.
Who could have ever fathomed a benediction such as this?!
All desperate searches ended as our lives began anew.
Our love for him propelled us to do things we’d never before do.
With his beaming smile in class one day Brahmananda said some humorous facts.
He proudly said that in the beginning we were like Prabhupada’s guinea pigs, or better still, laboratory rats!
Soon told to wed the temple cook, someone I didn’t favor,
I’d share the glory of opening new temples and so I didn’t waver.
Right afterwards, I called my mom to tell her I was now a married woman.
When asked his “real” name, I said, “Hold on—I have to find and ask him.”
“You married him,” she shouted, “and you don’t even know his name?
This time you’ve really done it. You’ve gone totally insane!”
Irate, she slammed the phone down hard (an act that wasn’t new),
but actually this time I kind of saw her point of view.
There was no doubt about it: crazy was the truth.
Crazy to please my glorious master, crazy with gratitude.
Crazy with happiness to understand all facets of this life,
to have and to hold the holy names, which counteract all strife.
Thrilled to play an active role in Prabhupada’s great mission,
armed with his books that reveal all that is real, far beyond our limited vision!
So, yeah, I’d dance in the streets wearing sheets and marry a guy I didn’t know!
It’s the least I could do for my beloved guru, for this Prabhupada we all loved so.
I’ll proudly state for the record, my fervent plea is that
I again obtain the rare boon, though spoken in jest, to be among those compared to a Prabhupada Guinea pig or a laboratory rat.
Thank you, Srila Prabhupada. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
All glories to you, Srila Prabhupada!