|Translation/Excerpts from the upcoming Dasavatara Book of His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Goswami Maharaj.
Sri Baladeva Prabhu, the original Narayana, is the vaibhava-prakasa of Govinda. He is the original cause of all emanations. The Propagating Prime Cause of individuality or the All-pervading Function-Holder of the Personal Godhead is also Baladeva—He is svayam-prakasa. Sri Baladeva’s color is white, different from Krsna. He carries a buffalo horn, which produces more sound than the flute of Krsna. Therefore He is known as the Horn-holder (Singadhrka). Sri Baladeva possesses qualities like Krsna. He is the fountainhead or prime source of the all-embracing, all-pervading and all-extending energy. The actual meaning of these definitions cannot be understood completely using limited mundane terminology.
Sri Balarama, who is the deity of the sandhini potency, serves Krsna in His five Forms of Maha-Sankarsana, Karanodakasayi, Garbhodakasayi, Ksirodakasayi, and Sesa. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has written as follows in the Amrta Pravaha Bhasya (commentary) of Sri Caitanya Caritamrta:
Balaram, Who is one of the First Four Expanded Forms of Krsna in Dwaraka, can be called the Original Sankarsana. He is Maha-Sankarsana in the second manifested expanded Four Forms of Narayana in Vaikuntha. He serves Krsna by taking the Form of Maha-Sankarsana and Four other Amsamsa-Avataras Kala) Karanabdhisayi, Garbhodasayi, Ksirodakasayi and Sesa. He Himself, while assisting in the pastimes of Krsna, with the four Forms of Maha-Sankarsana, Karanodakasayi, Garbhodakasayi, and Ksirodakasayi, does also the work of creation. Sesa who is known as Ananta performs a variety of Krsna’s service. In this way, Balarama tastes the divine nectar of the service of Krsna accepting all these Forms.
sei ta’ ‘ananta’ ‘sesa’—bhakta-avatara
isvarera seva vina nahi jane ara
sahasra-vadane kare krsna-guna gana
niravadhi guna ga’na, anta nahi pa’na
sanakadi bhagavata sune yanra mukhe
bhagavanera guna kahe, bhase prema-sukhe
chatra, paduka, sayya, upadhana, vasana
arama, avasa, yajna-sutra, simhasana
eta murti-bheda kari’ krsna-seva kare
krsnera sesata paia ‘sesa’ nama dhare
(Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi-lila 5.120-124)
“That Ananta Sesa is the devotee Avatara of Godhead. He knows nothing but the service of Lord Krsna. With His thousands of mouths He sings the glories of Lord Krsna, but although He always sings in that way, He does not find an end to the qualities of the Lord. The four Kumaras (Sanak etc.) hear Srimad Bhagavatam from His lips, and they in turn repeat the glories of Lord to be immersed in the ocean of transcendental bliss of love of God. Ananta Sesa serves Lord Krsna by assuming the forms of the Lord’s umbrella, slippers, bedding, pillow, garments, easy chair, residence, sacred thread and throne. He is thus called Lord Sesa, as He is the last manifested Form of Krsna to serve Him. He takes various forms for the service of Krsna.”
While referring to Baladeva Vidyabhusana’s explanation on the Laghu-Bhagavatamrta, Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada, in his commentary (Anubhasya) on the above texts, has written as follows:
The Sesa who is the adhara-sakti (supporter-power) of the bedstead of Visnu (Wielder of the Sarnga bow), is in the category of God (Visnu-tattva).The Sesa who is the bearer of the planets is of the category of Saktyavista jiva-tattva. The Sankarsana of the second catur-vyuha appears as Rama, taking with Him Sesa who bears the global spheres. There are two features of Sesa. One is the bearer of the globes, and the other is the bedstead servitor.
The Sesa who bears the globes is an avesa-Avatara (absorption-avatara) of Krsna (or Sankarsana), and therefore He is (also) known as Sankarsana. The bedstead feature of Sesa always considers Himself to be an eternal servitor and friend of the Lord Sarngadhara (wielder of the Sarnga bow).
Sri Krsna Himself performs His own service in His Form of Baladeva. Therefore Sri Baladeva is the original Spiritual Master. By the mercy of Baladeva, one obtains the service of Sri Krsna. Gurudeva is non-different from Baladeva and Nityananda. The only difference between Baladeva and Gurudeva is that Sri Baladeva is omnipotent visnu-tattva Who possesses opulences while Gurudeva is sakti-tattva. Tulasi can be offered to the Lotus Feet of Sri Baladeva, but since Gurudeva is sakti-tattva, Tulasi cannot be offered to his lotus feet.
In the 3rd volume of the Sayings of Srila Prabhupada, Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada expresses the following thoughts in relation to Sri Baladeva:
In the sruti (Mundaka Upanisad 3.2.4) it is said: “nayamatma balahinena labhyau” (Without the grace of Baladeva, nobody can get God). There will be no auspiciousness, eternal bliss without taking shelter of the lotus feet of Sri Gurudeva. Sri Baladeva serves Krsna with His body, mind and words. We will be benefitted only by His mercy. When we will argue with our Gurudeva, when we will try to rectify or correct Gurudeva with our mundane knowledge or imitate him only artificially, not actually following him, then we will be following the path of asrauta (not listening/hearing of authentic scriptures descending through bona fide preceptorial channel) or tarka (argument) instead of the path of srauta (following or listening of scriptures). When we will give up all such evil-minded tendencies and surrender unto his lotus feet, only then will the following of the path of hearing bring auspiciousness to us.
The tenth canto of Srimad Bhagavatam describes the appearance pastime of Sri Baladeva.
Suffering from the burden of the demons, mother earth took shelter of Creator Brahma. Brahma and the demigods then went to the shore of the ocean of milk and prayed to Visnu. In a state of self-absorbed meditation, Brahma heard a divine voice from the sky which said that Visnu would soon appear to reduce the burden of the earth.
Brahma then told the demigods about the oracle and ordered them to take birth along with their wives in the dynasty of the Yadus and in the family of the Pandavas for the service of the Supreme Lord.
When Vasudeva married Devaki, Kamsa, out of affection for his sister, was driving their chariot. At that time, a heavenly voice said that Devaki’s eighth child would kill Kamsa. Just by hearing that heavenly voice, Kamsa got up and prepared to kill Devaki. Even after trying to convince him in many ways, Vasudeva was not able to stop Kamsa from carrying out his heinous act. He then took an oath before Kamsa that whenever they would have a child, Vasudeva would surrender it to Kamsa. “The saintly Vasudeva will surely keep his word.” With this strong confidence, Kamsa desisted from the killing of his sister.
In due course of time, on the birth of the first child of Devaki, Vasudeva took his son and went to Kamsa. He handed over his first child to Kamsa as he had promised. At that time Kamsa returned Vasudeva’s first son to him, but he later heard from Narada about the true forms of the residents of Vraja and the Yadavas, about his own previous birth, and whether the eighth pregnancy would be counted from the beginning or the end. When Kamsa heard such a suspicious statement, he became thoughtful. He then shackled Vasudeva and Devaki in prison, and killed the six children of Devaki one after the other. He imprisoned his father Ugrasena and began to oppose the Yadavas. After being harassed by Jarasandha, Aghasura, Bakasura and other demons, the Yadavas fled to different states.
When Sri Baladeva appeared as the seventh pregnancy of Devaki, Yogamaya, as per the Supreme Lord’s instruction, attracted the seventh pregnancy of Devaki without anyone’s knowledge and placed Him in the womb of Rohini, Vasudeva’s second wife in Gokula. Since He had been attracted from the womb of Devaki by Yogamaya and had been placed in the womb of Rohini, He is therefore known by the names of Rohini-nandana and Sankarsana. Because of giving pleasure to the residents of Gokula, He became famous as Rama, and he became known as Balabhadra due to possessing extraordinary strength.
The citizens of Mathura thought that Devaki’s pregnancy had been destroyed and lamented. After the appearance of the Presiding Deity of the sandhini potency Baladeva Prabhu, Lord Krsna appeared on the eighth day of the dark fortnight of the month of Bhadra when it was conjoined with the Rohini naksatra. Baladeva’s appearance day is the full moon day of the month of Bhadra. He appeared as the elder brother for the thorough service of Sri Krsna. In the pastimes of Rama, He appeared as the younger brother (Laksmana); therefore, He was not able to do the thorough service of Sri Ramacandra. That is why, in the pastimes of Krsna, He appeared as the elder brother. Nanda Maharaja and Yasoda Devi also entrusted only Balarama with the responsibility to look after the child Gopala. While Krsna wandered in the forest along with His friends, Balarama was always engaged in His service. After killing Aghasura, Krsna was taking lunch with the cowherd boys on the banks of a lake. At that time, Brahma, wanting to test Sri Krsna, took away His calves and cowherd boys and hid them in a cave within the Sumeru Mountain.
Sri Krsna immediately assumed the Forms of the calves and cowherd boys and came back home. Due to His returning in this way, neither the cowherds nor the cows were able to understand that their children had been kidnapped. But the cowherds became ecstatic with transcendental love when they touched their children. The cows on, touching their calves, began shedding tears due to intense love. Although the residents of Vraja were not able to understand the reason for this, Baladeva Prabhu understood that because Krsna had expanded Himself as the cowherd boys and calves, the residents of Vraja were exhibiting these symptoms of divine love of Godhead. During the Kaliya-damana pastime, the residents of Vraja, being greatly distressed in separation from Krsna, wanted to enter into the water polluted by the poison of Kaliya. But Baladeva Prabhu, who knows the glories of Sri Krsna, stopped them from this task and saved them from drowning in Kaliya’s lake.
Sri Baladeva Prabhu performed the pastimes of killing Dhenukasura in Talavana and Pralambasura in Bhandiravana. When Balarama and Sri Krsna reached the age of pauganda (ages 5-10), Nanda Maharaja and other cowherds appointed Them to take care of the cows along with the calves. One day, Balarama and Sri Krsna, along with Their friends, arrived in Talavana while wandering in different forests. The powerful Dhenukasura, in the form of an ass, along with his powerful cohorts, used to live there to guard the palmyra trees so that no living beings could eat the palmyra fruits. Many palmyra trees were full of fruits. By the smell of the fully-ripened palmyra fruits, Talavana and places nearby were giving off a nice aroma. Because of that, the cowherd boys requested Krsna and Balarama to get those fruits for them.
In order to fulfill their desire, Krsna and Balarama took all of Their friends and happily entered into Talavana. Out of affection for Sri Krsna, Baladeva first entered into the forest and like an intoxicated elephant, shook the palmyra trees. Because of this shaking, palmyra fruits began falling down making a loud sound. Angered by the sound of the falling palmyra fruits, the ass demon Dhenukasura immediately came there and struck the chest of Balarama with his hind legs and began jumping around making fearsome sounds. When Dhenukasura returned to kick Balarama, Baladeva caught hold of his two legs and wheeled him around with such speed that the demon left his body while he was still being wheeled. Baladeva then threw the demon to the top of a palmyra tree. The demon’s body was so big that palmyra tree began to break and by crashing against other palmyra trees, they all began to fall to the ground. When Dhenukasura’s cohorts arrived there in anger, they also achieved the same fate. The pastime of killing Dhenukasura took place in Talavana after the pastime of subduing Kaliya.
In his purport about the pastime of the killing of Dhenukasura, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has written as follows: “All the demons killed by Sri Baladeva are all those anarthas (unwanted things) that will be removed by the devotional practitioner with their efforts. This is the secret of Vraja-bhajan. Dhenukasura is the carrying of the burden of superstition. Ignorance and nescience about one’s own real self, the Real Form of the Holy Name, and the Real Form of the object of worship is indicated as Dhenukasura.
In the 18th chapter of the tenth canto of Srimad Bhagavatam, the pastime of the killing of Pralambasura is described as follows. Sri Krsna and Balarama’s wandering place of Vraja-dhama was decorated with all the pleasing qualities of spring even during the summer season.
One day, Krsna and Balarama, along with Their friends, were engaged in playing, dancing and singing when Pralambasura entered their midst disguised as a cowherd boy. The cowherd friends were not able to understand this, but the omniscient Lord Krsna understood that the newcomer cowherd was a demon in disguise. In order to kill him, He received him as a friend. All the cowherd boys then divided into two parties for a game. Krsna became the leader of one group and Balarama became the leader of the other. The condition of the game was that whoever was defeated would carry the victor on his shoulder. When they began playing, Sridama and Vrsabha of Balarama’s party became victorious. Then Krsna carried Sridama and Bhadrasena carried Vrsabha. On the other side, Pralambasura had been defeated by Balarama. Avoiding Krsna, he ran away carrying Balarama stealthily on his shoulders.
uvaha krsno bhagavan
vrsabham bhadrasenas tu
(Srimad Bhagavatam 10.18.24)
Balarama understood the ill motives of the demon and He became so heavy on the shoulders of Pralambasura that he was unable to bear Balarama’s weight. The demon then assumed his real form. On seeing the terrible form of the demon, Haladhara Baladeva at first expressed the symptoms of doubt. But just as Indra had hurled the lightning bolt to shatter mountains for slaying the demons, Baladeva struck the demon a ferocious blow on the head with His fist. This blow shattered Pralambasura’s head and he began to vomit blood. He left his body while repeatedly vomiting blood. The cowherd boys and demigods then began to glorify Lord Baladeva profusely on the excellence of His deed.
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura describes the purport of the killing of Pralambasura as follows: Pralambasura is a symbol of illicit sexual connection (stri-lampatya), aspiration for gain, adoration (labha-puja) and name and fame (pratistha).
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