To glorify the Supreme Personality of Godhead Lord Balarama, to purify ourselves, and to increase the pleasure of the devotees, we shall now read from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, Chapter Five: “The Glories of Lord Nityananda-Balarama”:
“This chapter is chiefly devoted to describing the essential nature and glories of Sri Nityananda Prabhu. Lord Sri Krsna is the absolute Personality of Godhead, and His first expansion in a form for pastimes is Sri Balarama.”
Let me offer my obeisances to Lord Sri Nityananda, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whose opulence is wonderful and unlimited. By His will, even a fool can understand His identity.
jaya jaya sri-caitanya jaya nityananda
jayadvaita-candra jaya gaura-bhakta-vrnda
All glories to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu! All glories to Lord Nityananda! All glories to Advaita Acarya! And all glories to all the devotees of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu!
sarva-avatari krsna svayam bhagavan
tanhara dvitiya deha sri-balarama
The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, is the fountainhead of all incarnations. Lord Balarama is His second body.
PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada
Lord Sri Krsna, the absolute Personality of Godhead, is the primeval Lord, the original form of Godhead, and His first expansion is Sri Balarama. The Personality of Godhead can expand Himself in innumerable forms. The forms that have unlimited potency are called svamsa, and forms that have limited potencies (the living entities) are called vibhinnamsa.
eka-i svarupa donhe, bhinna-matra kaya
adya kaya-vyuha, krsna-lilara sahaya
These two are one and the same identity. They differ only in form. Lord Balarama is the first bodily expansion of Krsna, and He assists in Lord Krsna’s transcendental pastimes.
Balarama is a svamsa expansion of the Lord, and therefore there is no difference in potency between Krsna and Balarama. The only difference is in Their bodily structure. As the first expansion of Godhead, Balarama is the chief Deity among the first quadruple forms, and He is the foremost assistant of Sri Krsna in His transcendental activities.
COMMENT by Giriraj Swami
At the beginning of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada explains the difference between the conception of the Absolute Truth and the conception of God. God (in Sanskrit, isvara) means “controller.” But the Absolute Truth, as defined in the Vedanta-sutra and explained in Srimad-Bhagavatam, is “He from whom everything emanates.” Someone may be God, creator and controller of the entire cosmos, but not necessarily the origin of everything. So the concept of the Absolute Truth goes beyond the concept of God as the controller. Janmady asya yatah. Om namo bhagavate vasudevaya, janmady asya yatah: Lord Krishna is the Absolute Truth. He is the origin of everything, both material and spiritual.
Lord Balarama is the first expansion of Lord Krishna. The Brahma-samhita gives an example: from one candle you can light a second candle, from the second you can light a third, from the third a fourth, and so on. All have the same candlepower, but still there is only one original candle. Similarly, Lord Krishna expands into innumerable plenary portions and portions of plenary portions, but Krishna is the original Absolute Truth, the original Personality of Godhead. And Balarama is the first expansion, the first candle lit by the original candle.
Here Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami and Srila Prabhupada explain that there is no difference between Krishna and Balarama in potency; the only difference is of bodily construction. Once, in Allahabad, at the Kumbha-mela, a dispute took place on this point between two devotees. One, Madhudvisa Prabhu, said, “There is no difference between Krishna and Balarama. The only difference is that Krishna is blackish and Balarama is whitish.” But Yamuna Devi disagreed. “No,” she held. “There is another difference, because Krishna is the only enjoyer of Srimati Radharani.” So, the two were arguing, and His Holiness Tamal Krishna Goswami, who was Srila Prabhupada’s zonal secretary for India, brought the matter to Prabhupada. He began, “Srila Prabhupada, Madhudvisa Prabhu says that the only difference between Krishna and Balarama is the color, that Krishna is blackish and Balarama is white.” Srila Prabhupada replied, “He is right.” Then Tamal Krishna continued, “But Yamuna is saying that there is another difference, because Krishna is the only enjoyer of Srimati Radharani.” And Prabhupada responded, “She is right.” Then Tamal Krishna offered, “Srila Prabhupada, they are saying different things. They both cannot be right.” And Prabhupada replied, “You are right.” Then Tamal Krishna asked, “Then, which is right?” And Prabhupada answered, “You decide.”
sei krsna—navadvipe sri-caitanya-candra
sei balarama—-sange sri-nityananda
That original Lord Krsna appeared in Navadvipa as Lord Caitanya, and Balarama appeared with Him as Lord Nityananda.
There was another incident along the same lines. Srila Prabhupada asked, “Who is stronger, Krishna or Balarama?” Although both have equal potencies as svamsa, still there may be some difference. So, Srila Prabhupada asked, “Who is stronger?” And I will ask the same question to you all.
Devotee (1): [inaudible]
Giriraj Swami: She says that Krishna is stronger because Balarama receives His strength from Krishna. Well, that is true. You are right.
Murari Caitanya: [inaudible]
Giriraj Swami: Yes. Murari says he agrees that Krishna is stronger, because Krishna is full in all opulences, and one of the opulences is strength.
Devotee (2): [inaudible]
Giriraj Swami: He says that Balarama is stronger because He is Krishna’s elder brother.
Srila Prabhupada answered, “Krishna is stronger,” but the evidence he gave is different from what anyone here has suggested. The evidence Prabhupada offered does not come from the books. He explained, “Krishna is stronger, because the Deity of Lord Balarama rests His arm on Krishna’s shoulder.”
Now we shall come to the pastimes.
nityananda-svarupa purve ha-iya laksmana
laghu-bhrata haiya kare ramera sevana
Lord Nityananda Svarupa formerly appeared as Laksmana and served Lord Ramacandra as His younger brother.
Among the sannyasis of the Sankara-sampradaya, there are different names for brahmacaris. Each sannyasi has some assistants, known as brahmacaris, who are called by different names according to the names of the sannyasi. Among such brahmacaris there are four names: Svarupa, Ananda, Prakasa, and Caitanya. Nityananda Prabhu maintained Himself as a brahmacari; He never took sannyasa. As a brahmacari, His name was Nityananda Svarupa, and therefore the sannyasi under whom He was living must have been from the tirthas or asramas of the Sankara-sampradaya, because one of the names for the assistant brahmacari of such a sannyasi is Svarupa.
ramera caritra saba,—duhkhera karana
svatantra lilaya duhkha sahena laksmana
The activities of Lord Rama were full of suffering, but Laksmana, of His own accord, tolerated that suffering.
nisedha karite nare, yate chota bhai
mauna dhari’ rahe laksmana mane duhkha pai’
As a younger brother, He could not stop Lord Rama from His resolution, and so He remained silent, although unhappy in His mind.
Just as Krishna took the form of Lord Ramachandra, Balarama took the form of Laksmana. In terms of the cycle of ages, Lord Ramacandra appeared earlier, in Treta-yuga, and Lord Krishna appeared later, in Dvapara-yuga. The pastimes of Lord Rama were full of suffering. Rama and Laksmana were the most qualified sons of King Dasaratha, and everyone expected Lord Rama to be crowned as the king of Ayodhya. At the last moment, however, Queen Kaikeyi reminded Dasaratha that he had once given her two boons—when he was pleased with her service to him while he was in grave danger. When Dasaratha had offered her these boons, Kaikeyi had said that she would not take them at that time but would ask for them later. For various reasons, Kaikeyi wanted her son Bharata to become the king instead of Lord Rama, so she asked for this boon. Dasaratha had given his word to her, and he was bound to keep it. She also asked that Lord Rama be sent into exile for fourteen years so that Bharata could enjoy the throne without any disturbance.
The Ramayana is full of ideals. Lord Rama is the ideal king, the ideal son, the ideal stepson, the ideal husband; Sita is the ideal wife; Laksmana is the ideal brother. Lord Ramacandra, the ideal son, seeing how distressed His father was when obliged to ask Him to give up the throne and go into the forest, of His own accord volunteered, “Yes, I will happily go. Do not worry.” When Lord Rama decided that He would go, Laksmana declared, “You cannot go into the forest alone. I will also go with You.” And Lord Rama agreed. Then Sitadevi insisted, “I am Your wife and must be with You in all circumstances.” Ultimately, Rama agreed that she could come, too. Practically everyone else in Ayodhya also wanted to come with Rama. But He said, “If you all come with Me, there will be no one left in Ayodhya. So you must stay.”
In the forest, Lord Ramachandra had to endure so many difficulties. There is a beautiful verse in Srimad-Bhagavatam about how the tender lotus feet of Ramachandra had to traverse the floor of the jungle, which was filled with stones and pebbles and thorns. The gopis used to cry, thinking that the lotus feet of Krishna would be pricked and pierced by stones and thorns. And just as devotees of Krishna consider His pastimes in Vrindavan most relishable because of their sweetness and intimacy, so devotees of Lord Rama consider His pastimes in the forest to be most sweet and relishable. Yet externally, the Lord suffered in the forest, and Laksmana was unable to do anything to stop Him.
As Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami explains so nicely in the Caitanya-caritamrta, everyone—from Lord Balarama, the first expansion, down to the other expansions of Krishna—has the sentiment of servitorship to Lord Krishna, and even the other expansions of Krishna take pleasure in service to Krishna. In other words, they feel happy when Krishna is happy. Laksmana could not bear all the sufferings that Lord Rama was undergoing, but because He was the younger brother, He could not stop Lord Rama.
There were other instances also where He was in an awkward position. For example, when Ravana was killed and Sitadevi was freed, Laksmana was obliged to do something very painful. Lord Ramacandra declared that He would not take Sita back. Sita asked, “If You are not going to take me back, what was the point of the war—so much bloodshed and death?” Rama replied, “We have not fought this war to get you back. We have fought this war to show the strength of our dynasty, lest the world think that we are weak. You have spent the night with another man, and we cannot take you back.” Then Lord Rama told Laksmana, “Now You take Sita and place her in the fire.” Mother Sita was the worshipable Deity of Laksmana. How could He put her in the fire? And yet, as the younger brother, He had no choice.
So, Laksmana had to do many things that were painful to Him, ultimately because they were painful to Sita-Rama, and He could do nothing about it because of His inferior position. Accordingly, He vowed that in the future He would never again take birth as the Supreme Lord’s younger brother. Therefore, we see that in krsna-lila He appears as the older brother, Balarama, and in gaura-lila He also appears as the older brother, as Nityananda.
krsna-avatare jyestha haila sevara karana
krsnake karaila nana sukha asvadana
When Lord Krsna appeared, He [Balarama] became His elder brother to serve Him to His heart’s content and make Him enjoy all sorts of happiness.
avatara-kale donhe donhate pravesa
Sri Rama and Sri Laksmana, who are plenary portions of Lord Krsna and Lord Balarama respectively, entered into Them at the time of Krsna’s and Balarama’s appearance.
With reference to the Visnu-dharmottara, the Laghu-bhagavatamrta explains that Rama is an incarnation of Vasudeva, Laksmana is an incarnation of Sankarsana, Bharata is an incarnation of Pradyumna, and Satrughna is an incarnation of Aniruddha. The Padma Purana describes that Ramacandra is Narayana and that Laksmana, Bharata, and Satrughna are respectively Sesa, Cakra, and Sankha (the conchshell in the hand of Narayana). In the Rama-gita of the Skanda Purana, Laksmana, Bharata, and Satrughna have been described as the triple attendants of Lord Rama.
sei amsa lana jyestha-kanisthabhimana
amsamsi-rupe sastre karaye vyakhyana
Krsna and Balarama present Themselves as younger brother and elder brother, but in the scriptures They are described as the original Supreme Personality of Godhead and His expansion.
ramadi-murtisu kala-niyamena tisthan
nanavataram akarod bhuvanesu kintu
krsnah svayam samabhavat paramah puman yo
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who by His various plenary portions appears in the world in different forms and incarnations such as Lord Rama, but who personally appears in His supreme original form as Lord Krsna.”
This is a quotation from Brahma-samhita (5.39).
sri-caitanya—sei krsna, nityananda—rama
nityananda purna kare caitanyera kama
Lord Caitanya is the same Lord Krsna, and Lord Nityananda is Lord Balarama. Lord Nityananda fulfills all of Lord Caitanya’s desires.
nityananda-mahima-sindhu ananta, apara
eka kana sparsi matra,—se krpa tanhara
The ocean of Lord Nityananda’s glories is infinite and unfathomable. Only by His mercy can I touch even a drop of it.
ei-rupe nityananda â€˜ananta’-prakasa
sei-bhave—kahe muni caitanyera dasa
Thus Lord Nityananda has unlimited incarnations. In transcendental emotion He calls Himself a servant of Lord Caitanya.
kabhu guru, kabhu sakha, kabhu bhrtya-lila
purve yena tina-bhave vraje kaila khela
Sometimes He serves Lord Caitanya as His guru, sometimes as His friend and sometimes as His servant, just as Lord Balarama played with Lord Krsna in these three different moods in Vraja.
“Sometimes He serves Lord Caitanya as His guru” means that He serves as the older brother, as the teacher. Lord Balarama, as the older brother of Lord Krishna, was in the position of a teacher or an authority for Lord Krishna, and therefore He served the Lord with an element of vatsalya-rasa. Vatsa in Sanskrit means “calf” or “dear child,” and the cow is one of our mothers, too. Thus, motherly or fatherly affection is vatsalya-rasa. So, as the elder brother is sometimes asked to care for the younger brother, Lord Balarama in Vrindavan sometimes served Lord Krishna in vatsalya-rasa. He served as Krishna’s guru, and He also sometimes served Krishna as His friend or equal in sakhya-rasa, and sometimes as His servant in dasya-rasa. Lord Nityananda serves Lord Chaitanya in the same three moods.
vrsa hana krsna-sane matha-mathi rana
kabhu krsna kare tanra pada-samvahana
Playing like a bull, Lord Balarama fights with Krsna head to head. And sometimes Lord Krsna massages the feet of Lord Balarama.
Once, after the Ardha-kumbha-mela in 1971, we were on a train with Srila Prabhupada. A few of us were in Prabhupada’s compartment, and Prabhupada asked one of the devotees to read from the Krsna book. “Should I read from any particular place?” the devotee asked. “No,” Prabhupada replied. “It is all nectar.” So, the devotee opened the book to the story of Dhenukasura, the ass demon that is killed by Lord Balarama. At the beginning of the story, the cowherd boys approach Lord Krishna and say, “We smell such sweet fruits in the Talavana forest, but we cannot enjoy them because of the demons there.” When the devotee read this, Prabhupada opened his eyes wide and exclaimed, “Just see how the cowherd boys were trying to engage Lord Krishna for their sense gratification!” After reading for some time more, the devotee showed us all the picture of the pastime. Prabhupada was very pleased with it and remarked, “The artists have done a great service; their service will not go in vain.”
In Srila Prabhupada’s quarters in Juhu we had a beautiful picture of Lord Balarama lying under a tree with Lord Krishna massaging His lotus feet. That is mentioned here: Sometimes Krishna would massage the lotus feet of Balarama, as a disciple serves the guru, or as a son serves his father.
apanake bhrtya kari’ krsne prabhu jane
krsnera kalara kala apanake mane
He considers Himself a servant and knows Krsna to be His master. Thus He regards Himself as a fragment of His plenary portion.
Even Lord Balarama desires to serve Krishna, considering Himself very insignificant in comparison. Although He is actually the Lord’s first expansion, with all the same potencies as Krishna, still He regards Himself as just a fragment of a fragment of Krishna (kalara kala). In other words, He is humble. The mood of service and the mood of humility go together. When I consider myself to be very small, naturally I want to serve the great. Lord Balarama is the original spiritual master, so we should learn from Him how to feel ourselves to be humble and insignificant, and thus develop the mood of wanting to serve the great, the Supreme.
anukrtya rutair jantums
ceratuh prakrtau yatha
“Acting just like ordinary boys, They played like roaring bulls as They fought each other, and They imitated the calls of various animals.”
This and the following quotation are from the Bhagavatam (10.11.40 and 10.15.14).
Krishna, Balarama, and the cowherd boys play just like ordinary friends.
svayam visramayaty aryam
“Sometimes when Lord Krsna’s elder brother, Lord Balarama, felt tired after playing and lay His head on the lap of a cowherd boy, Lord Krsna Himself served Him by massaging His feet.”
keyam va kuta ayata
daivi va nary utasuri
prayo mayastu me bhartur
nanya me ‘pi vimohini
“Who is this mystic power, and where has she come from? Is she a demigod or a demoness? She must be the illusory energy of My master, Lord Krsna, for who else can bewilder Me?”
The playful pastimes of the Lord caused suspicion in the mind of Lord Brahma, and therefore Lord Brahma, to test Krsna’s Lordship, stole all the Lord’s calves and cowherd boys with his own mystic power. Sri Krsna responded, however, by replacing all the calves and boys in the field. Lord Balarama’s thoughts of astonishment at such wonderful retaliation are recorded in this verse (SB 10.13.37).
Lord Brahma was struck by wonder at how all the inhabitants of Vrindavan had so much affection for Krishna. Therefore, to see more of Krishna’s glorious pastimes, by his mystic power he stole the cowherd boys and calves. Then Lord Krishna, by His greater mystic power, expanded Himself into an exact duplicate set of cowherd boys and calves. And for one year the cowherd boys and calves were actually direct expansions of Lord Krishna. Many unusual events took place during that year, and Lord Balarama suspected that something was different—though He wasn’t sure what. He wondered, “How could I be bewildered? How could I be confused?” And then he concluded, “Only by Lord Krishna’s potencies could I be mystified.” So, He glorifies the potency of Lord Krishna.
mauly-uttamair dhrtam upasita-tirtha-tirtham
brahma bhavo ‘ham api yasya kalah kalayah
sris codvahema ciram asya nrpasanam kva
“What is the value of a throne to Lord Krsna? The masters of the various planetary systems accept the dust of His lotus feet on their crowned heads. That dust makes the holy places sacred, and even Lord Brahma, Lord Siva, Laksmi and I Myself, who are all portions of His plenary portion, eternally carry that dust on our heads.”
When the Kauravas, to flatter Baladeva so that He would become their ally, spoke ill of Sri Krsna, Lord Baladeva became angry and spoke this verse (SB 10.68.37).
As stated by Srila Prabhupada here, the Kauravas wanted to lure Lord Balarama into their camp against Lord Krishna and His party, so they accused Krishna of being arrogant and impudent. Balarama, however, defended Krishna and declared, “What is the value of a throne to Lord Krishna? The masters of the various planetary systems accept the dust of His lotus feet on their crowned heads. They are the kings of the universe, but rather than wanting priceless crowns on their heads, they desire that the dust of Krishna’s lotus feet be placed there. So, what is the value of some throne to Lord Krishna?” Lord Balarama declares Himself to be kalah kalayah, the portion of a portion, or fragment of a fragment, of Lord Krishna, as Krishnadasa Kaviraja also remarks above (kalara kala).
Here we see not only how humble Lord Balarama is and how much He appreciates Lord Krishna, but also how loyal He is. The way of politics is to create division, to try to make a party weak by dividing it. (Therefore, Srila Prabhupada said that the only thing that can destroy ISKCON is fighting among ourselves. Nothing can destroy ISKCON from outside.) Here we see how faithful Balarama was to Krishna.
Sometimes we might hear someone speak ill of a devotee, and we might think that a good way to make friends with the critic is to agree with him or her. But if we go along with that criticism, especially in the absence of the devotee being criticized, and without any intention of helping the devotee, we weaken our spiritual position by indulging in finding fault with a Vaishnava, and we also weaken Srila Prabhupada’s mission.
Srila Prabhupada often quoted, “There is strength in unity.” He cited the story of a father who wanted his sons to cooperate. First the father gave each son a thin stick and asked him to break it, and each broke his stick very easily. Then the father took a bunch of similar thin sticks and bound them together and asked his sons to break them. Because the sticks were all bound together, none of the sons could break them. So, the father said, “In the same way, if you stay together, no one will be able to defeat you. But each of you alone can be defeated; each of you alone can be broken.” Srila Prabhupada wanted us to be united. From unity comes strength—with Srila Prabhupada, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and Lord Krishna as the center.
Srila Prabhupada gave another example of a father and his sons. The father was sick, and he needed his sons to massage him, but the sons began to fight among themselves about who would massage which part of the father’s body. One brother was massaging the head, but the brother who was massaging the feet said, “I want to massage the head—you massage the feet.” Another brother was massaging the left arm, and he began to fight with the brother massaging the right arm: “I am going to massage the right arm—you massage the left arm.” They got so absorbed in fighting with each other about who was going to massage which part of the father’s body that the father died. “So,” Srila Prabhupada concluded, “you should cooperate in the service of your father, not become so absorbed in fighting about who is going to do which service for him that you forget your father altogether.”
Now here is Lord Balarama’s great example for us to follow: how to be a humble servant, and how to be faithful and fearless. Balarama wasn’t afraid to express His devotion to Lord Krishna, to proclaim the glories of Lord Krishna—even to Krishna’s enemies. So, we should learn this from Lord Balarama. We should pray for His mercy, that He may teach us the mood of humble service—and also the mood of loyal devotion, the mood of fearlessly defending Krishna and fearlessly preaching Krishna’s glories.
The earlier verses describe a nice contrast. One verse explains how Krishna massaged the lotus feet of Balarama, and the next explains how Balarama considers Krishna to be His master. We can also have similar sentiments in our association with each other, because we too are brothers and sisters—spiritual brothers and sisters—and each of us should have the mood of service to the others. Thus Srila Prabhupada said that we should address each other as prabhu, because prabhu means “master.” We are the servants, and our prabhus are our masters—though they are also servants. Sometimes Balarama massaged the lotus feet of Krishna, and sometimes Krishna massaged the lotus feet of Balarama. Each was in the mood of giving pleasure to the other, and thus Their relationship was so sweet and sublime. We too should have this mood of service.
Once in Mayapur, just after he had finished taking prasada, Srila Prabhupada heard shouting from the next room. So he sent Hari-sauri Prabhu, his servant, to see what the shouting was all about. Hari-sauri came back and explained, “Srila Prabhupada, your two secretaries are arguing.” So, Srila Prabhupada called them and asked, “What is the difficulty?” One secretary replied, “Srila Prabhupada, I’m sick and the only food I can really eat is your remnants, so I wanted your remnants.” The other secretary countered, “Srila Prabhupada, I feel every disciple should get some of your remnants, not just one.” Prabhupada responded, “He is sick, and if all he can eat and digest is my remnants, then you should have given him my remnants.” He explained, “It is not enough just to be the servant of the spiritual master; you must also be the servant of the other servants of the spiritual master.” He said that by developing the humble mood of being the servant of the servant, one can make wonderful advancement. He gave the example that in Bengal, whenever a saintly person would come to a village, all the villagers would come to him, wanting to take dust from his feet, and invite him to their homes to feed him and serve him. All of them would think, “Oh, he is such a holy person. I want to get the dust of his feet and serve him.” And the saintly person would think, “Why do they want to take my dust? Why do they want to serve me? I’m just an ordinary person.” Srila Prabhupada said, “Because both groups were humble, both made wonderful advancement.”
Among ourselves, like Krishna and Balarama, each of us should feel that the other is my prabhu: “I want to serve my prabhu.” Thus everyone will make wonderful advancement and our relationships will be sweet and pure and sublime. And then people will be attracted. Not only will they be attracted, but they will naturally want to bring other people, too.
The other night, we celebrated Jhulana-yatra in Santa Barbara. There was a talk, and of course the swinging of Radha and Krishna, but mainly we were just doing kirtan. There was such a pleasing atmosphere. I really felt like going out and telling people, “This is such a nice thing. You should come and experience it.” But after I felt the spontaneous desire to go and call people so that they too could experience the sweetness of Krishna consciousness, I considered, “Sometimes I don’t really feel like inviting people to a temple, because I don’t know what they’ll experience when they come.” I’m sure that’s not the case here in Chicago, and it may just be due to my own fallen nature that I have such reservations, but I know that I don’t always have that confidence I felt the other night in Santa Barbara. As I and the other devotees there were relishing the kirtan and swing festival so much, I realized that the process of Krishna consciousness in and of itself—the process of chanting the holy names together with other devotees—is naturally sweet and blissful and pleasurable. And when you feel that pleasure, you naturally want to invite others: “Come, it’s such a wonderful thing. Come and experience it for yourself.”
I also realized why we don’t feel this pleasure all the time, and why we are facing so many disturbances that undermine our spontaneous, enthusiastic desire to go out and bring in others so that they too will experience that pleasure. What is the reason? I realized that it is the way we too often deal with each other, especially the way we sometimes fight with each other and criticize each other. That’s what pollutes the whole atmosphere. That’s what covers the pure, natural beauty and splendor and pleasure of chanting the holy names in the association of devotees, which is really our only interest and goal. If we could just deal with each other the way Krishna and Balarama deal with each other, we would have no such problems. It makes no difference that They are great and we are small. The point is that in Their relationships with each other, each is humble, and each wants to serve and please the other. Sometimes Krishna plays the part of the master and Balarama serves Him; sometimes it’s the other way around and Krishna serves Balarama. And that’s how it should be among ourselves—no politics, just humble and faithful service. Of course, I don’t want to oversimplify the problems, but these are some of my thoughts.
Now we come to the famous verse:
ekale isvara krsna, ara saba bhrtya
yare yaiche nacaya, se taiche kare nrtya
Lord Krsna alone is the supreme controller, and all others are His servants. They dance as He makes them do so.
ei mata caitanya-gosani ekale isvara
ara saba parisada, keha va kinkara
guru-varga,—nityananda, advaita acarya
srivasadi, ara yata—laghu, sama, arya
sabe parisada, sabe lilara sahaya
saba lana nija-karya sadhe gaura-raya
Thus Lord Caitanya is also the only controller. All others are His associates or servants. His elders such as Lord Nityananda, Advaita Acarya and Srivasa Thakura, as well as His other devotees—whether His juniors, equals or superiors—are all His associates who help Him in His pastimes. Lord Gauranga fulfills His aims with their help.
Someone may play the part of an elder, someone the part of an equal, and someone the part of a junior, but everyone’s mood is to serve the Supreme Lord, and everyone wants to fulfill the Supreme Lord’s desires. In our relationships too, because there are differences of spiritual advancement and seniority, someone may play the role of a senior, someone the role of an equal, and someone the role a junior. Yet whatever part we play, our inner motive should always be to serve the other devotees, to help the other devotees in Krishna consciousness and in devotional service, and to make the other devotees happy. When we adopt this mood, Srila Prabhupada will be happy, Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai will be happy, Sri Sri Krishna -Balarama will be happy, and automatically we too will be happy.
Bala means “strength,” and rama means “pleasure.” Lord Balarama is the source of the devotees’ spiritual strength. He is the original spiritual master, and we can get spiritual strength from Him. Once, Srila Prabhupada commented, “ ‘Strength’ means intelligence.” Therefore, we can pray to Lord Balarama for spiritual strength and intelligence so that we can be faithful servants of our spiritual master, of Srila Prabhupada and of his other servants, and of every living entity—for Srila Prabhupada’s mission is really to deliver every living entity to Krishna consciousness. So, we do make friends with devotees, but we also show mercy to the innocent and try to encourage them in Krishna consciousness. We try to encourage our superiors in their service in Krishna consciousness, we try to encourage our friends in Krishna consciousness, and we try to encourage new people in Krishna consciousness. And by such service—giving, encouraging, and helping others—Lord Balarama may be pleased.
Are there any questions or comments?
Giriraj Swami: We were reading about the pastime when Brahma stole the cowherd boys and calves from Lord Krishna. That was the last chapter of Srimad-Bhagavatam that Srila Prabhupada translated, lying on his bed in Vrindavan. He was very weak. His disciples would hold the Dictaphone right up to his mouth; we could hardly hear what he was saying. And one of the last purports that he dictated was, “We should discuss Srimad-Bhagavatam daily as much as possible, and then everything will be clarified. The more we read Srimad-Bhagavatam, the more its knowledge becomes clear. Each and every verse is transcendental.” (SB 10.13.54 purport)
So, one method of coming to a conclusion regarding a controversial point is to discuss it. Srila Prabhupada said we should come together and discuss the subject threadbare. If there is no personal motivation, and if we discuss simply to come to the proper conclusion, then—by hearing the ideas of others and clarifying our own ideas through discussion—we get answers, by the mercy of the Lord within the hearts of the devotees who sincerely discuss His service.
But sometimes—because Krishna consciousness is inconceivable—two quite different views may both be right. One thing might be good for one person but not for another, and it’s a sign of maturity to appreciate such differences and not fight because of them. Once, soon after I joined, I was riding in the temple’s car. I remember that one devotee was saying we should go one way to reach our destination, and another was saying we should go another way. Then a wise, Krishna conscious devotee said, “You both are right, because you both want to serve Krishna in the best way.”
Sometimes we can’t say really what the best way is. There might be a shorter route that goes through a bad part of town and a longer route that is more scenic. Or there may be a shorter route that uses less gas and a longer route that is faster because the road is better. So we cannot say absolutely which is better: one person may value his or her time more, and another person may value his or her money more—depending upon the circumstances.
It is a sign of immaturity to quarrel over something as if it were absolute when actually it is not. What is absolute is the desire to serve Krishna. However, there may be different ways to serve Him. Still, one way may not necessarily be better than another—rather, it might just be better for one person or in one circumstance.
My own conclusion is that Srila Prabhupada had so much love for the living entities, and so much potency, that he could do things that no one else ever did. Even most of his godbrothers could not fathom his greatness. Therefore, they applied ordinary standards to him, but such criteria were not really appropriate—because he was so inconceivably empowered. (At the same time, Srila Prabhupada said that he didn’t want ISKCON to become a personality cult. He was teaching a science, and he wanted us to know the science and to follow it.) So, we have to appreciate Srila Prabhupada’s greatness. Personally, I feel that whatever I could ever want in Krishna consciousness I can get from Srila Prabhupada. I don’t feel I have to go anywhere else to get it, and I don’t feel there is anything lacking in what he has given us.
Sometimes Krishna would massage the lotus feet of Balarama, and sometimes Balarama would massage Krishna’s lotus feet. So, sometimes Krishna would be a superior, sometimes an equal or friend, and sometimes a junior. In every position, we are meant to serve, and all such service is absolute. In one letter, Srila Prabhupada wrote to a disciple, “The practice of serving one’s godbrothers is very good. The spiritual master is never without his followers, so to serve the spiritual master means also to serve his disciples. When you serve the king, you must also serve his ministers, his secretaries, and all who serve him. And the king may be more pleased if we serve his servants than if we serve him personally. So, the spiritual master is not alone. He is always with his entourage. We are not impersonalists. We want to serve every part of the whole, just as one takes care of the hat as well as the shoes. Both are equally important for the upkeep of the body.”
One of my godbrothers once remarked that we want Srila Prabhupada in the center, and the ritviks want Srila Prabhupada in the center, but the difference is that they want Srila Prabhupada without associates, while we want Srila Prabhupada with associates. That was actually Prabhupada’s mood, and that’s the difference between a neophyte devotee and a more advanced devotee. The neophyte devotee knows only Krishna and his or her guru. A more advanced devotee can recognize other devotees and appreciate their relationship with Krishna and guru and want to serve them, too.
Actually, it is inconceivable—inconceivable oneness and difference. The sun and the sunrays are the same, yet simultaneously they are not the same. Still, they comprise one complete whole. Therefore, Krishna with His devotees is one complete whole, and serving Krishna without serving His devotees is not complete. Similarly, Srila Prabhupada with his devotees is one complete whole, and just serving Srila Prabhupada without serving his devotees won’t please Srila Prabhupada as completely as serving him with his other servants. So, fighting for supremacy—philosophical supremacy, political supremacy—is not really the mood we want or need.
Murari Caitanya: [inaudible]
Giriraj Swami: When Murari Prabhu began his question, I thought of the first time when Tamal Krishna Goswami and Brahmananda Prabhu visited Boston. They were legends in their own time, and Brahmananda said something that really struck me. It was so simple. He said, “Everyone wants love. So if we just give each other the love we want, then everyone will be satisfied.”
Also, I feel that we need to hear and chant about Krishna more. Just sitting and chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra opens the heart. So many problems go away just by chanting. In 1977, Srila Prabhupada established the program that on Sundays in Juhu we would simply chant kirtan in the temple all day, from nine in the morning until nine at night. I was the temple president, and we had problems (there are always problems in the material world), but I remember that by Thursday I would hardly deal with them, because I knew that on Sunday I would get all the answers in the kirtan. And we always did. Just sitting and chanting, I got so many answers. The same thing happened during pada-yatra. When I had visa difficulties and couldn’t go to India, we did pada-yatra in Mauritius, from Radhastami in 1984 to Gaura Purnima in 1986, and it was just the same: with my mind and intelligence I couldn’t figure out the answers to many problems, but simply by chanting for hours—walking and chanting—so many answers came to me. So, in one sense, ISKCON is a vehicle to carry Krishna consciousness, but the actual medium is hearing and chanting and remembering Krishna.
Giriraj Swami: Ista-gosthi: ista means “desirable,” and gosthi means “association.” So that’s the meaning. We should get together and talk about Krishna and Krishna’s service. I didn’t mean to suggest that because we chant together we don’t have to talk to each other. Rather, I meant that chanting together can create a nice mood within ourselves and among ourselves so that when we do talk we will be more spiritual and congenial. Srila Prabhupada would sometimes discuss even the most practical matters for hours. Once, Gargamuni imported some Mercedes vans into India for traveling sankirtana, but the Indian government then was very strict: either one had to pay a huge duty to bring a vehicle into the country, or one had to take it out within six months and then keep it out for at least another six months. So, Gargamuni had imported these vans, and the time was coming to take them out; otherwise, he would have to pay the duty, 220 percent of the original cost. So, it was a big topic. Gargamuni asked Srila Prabhupada, “What should I do with the vans? Should I take them to Nepal and preach there for six months and bring them back, or should I take them back to Europe?” Srila Prabhupada spent literally hours with him. There were so many alternatives and so many pros and cons.
Many times with the Juhu project, too, Srila Prabhupada would stay up until late at night discussing with us, trying to figure out what to do. So, it is impersonal to think, “Oh, I just want to chant the holy name. I don’t want to have anything to do with this world. I don’t want to talk or do anything; I just want to merge into Brahman.” I do not know how many hours Srila Prabhupada spent trying to help devotees find solutions to their problems. He was really with us.
Sometimes, however, he would also tell us not to bother him too much. During one period, we overdid it: We were going to him with any practical or managerial question we had, and finally, after so generously giving himself and his time to us, he quipped, “The guru is not a question-answering machine.” Then he said, “So-and-so should become the vice-president, and no more arguments. Now I have to translate my books.”
But yes, we need to discuss. In any relationship we have to be able to discuss.
Damodar Pandit: [inaudible]
Giriraj Swami: Thank you for that moving description. I went through a personal upheaval recently, too. And afterwards, while looking through the Bhagavad-gita, I happened to come to the verse api cet su-duracaro bhajante mam ananya-bhak sadhur eva sa mantavyah: “Even if one commits the most abominable action, if he is engaged in devotional service he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated in his determination.” “Properly situated” means engaged in devotional service—even if one commits the most abominable action.
I was reading the Bhagavad-gita along with the book called Surrender Unto Me, written by Bhurijana Prabhu. Bhurijana includes some commentaries by previous acharyas, and in one place Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura rewords the discussion between Krishna and Arjuna. Where Krishna says, “Declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes,” Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura paraphrases, “O Kaunteya, declare it with drums and cymbals that My devotee will never perish.” Then Sri Visvanatha introduces a hypothetical questioner. When Krishna says that a devotee who commits even a most abominable action “is still considered saintly,” this questioner raises the objection, “Yes, one may be considered saintly to the extent that one is engaged in pure devotional service,” to which Lord Krishna replies, “No. Even if he is not cent percent engaged, still he is to be considered saintly.” Then the hypothetical questioner asks, “But what if the devotee fails to give up his bad behavior throughout his whole life?” Krishna replies, “I, Krishna, am the Supreme Lord, and even if my devotee fails, he will never perish. On the contrary, he is sure to become successful.”
When I read that (and I was feeling really fallen at the time), I had a realization similar to what you just described. (I guess what I experienced was the extreme of what you did, because I had just gone through open-heart surgery, and I was feeling, “What a failure I am! I can’t even carry out the most basic function of keeping body and soul together.”) But then, when I read this strong and merciful affirmation, I realized that in Krishna’s eyes, by the grace of the acharyas, I nevertheless am considered a devotee.
The other realization that came was that although I am a devotee, I am also an individual. There is no stereotype of what a devotee should be. As no two individuals are the same, so no two devotees are the same. And the fact that I am not exactly the same as someone else who is a greater devotee doesn’t mean I am not a devotee. My point of view as a devotee has its own validity, because somehow or other I am a devotee—even though not as powerful or successful or learned as some other devotee may be.
So, I think what you say is true: we have to accept our own individuality, and then we can accept the individuality of others. Otherwise, if we try to measure ourselves against some artificial standard or some impossible standard and we don’t accept our own individuality, then we’ll also measure others against the same artificial standard and we’ll see that we’re failing, they’re failing, everyone is failing, and the whole process will become very depressing.
Thank you very much. All glories to Srila Prabhupada! Sri Balarama Prabhu ki jaya!
[A talk by Giriraj Swami on Lord Balarama’s appearance day, August 14, 2000, Chicago]