(From a class given by Sri B.V Tripurari Swami on Balaram Purnima)
Balarama conceives of himself first and foremost as Krsna’s friend.
However, within his sense of fraternal love for Krsna, he also
conceives of himself as both Krsna’s servant and Krsna’s guru. Thus he
serves Krsna from above, below, and in between. His sakhya-bhava is
sankula, or mixed–mixed with dasya and vatsalya-bhava.
Regarding Balarama’s vatsalya sentiment, or guru-bhava, he is Krsna’s
elder brother, and in ancient Indian society, the elder brother is
thought of as a guru by his younger siblings: a guru, that is, who is
filled with affectionate feelings for those who have taken shelter of
him. A guru feels like this toward his or her disciples. He or she
rules them with love, affection, and the competence to guide them
spiritually. Balarama personifies this love, affection, and competence,
and thus he is sometimes referred to as akhanda-guru-tattva, the
reservoir of guru-tattva. In this sense he is the adi-guru, the
original guru of everyone.
While all three of Balarama’s sentiments for Krsna are portrayed in
Srimad Bhagavatam, the sense that he is Krsna’s guru is mentioned in
the Tenth Canto’s fifteenth chapter, the Dhenukasura lila. There we
find Krsna praising Balarama in so many ways, and the Bhagavata tells
us that sometimes Balarama lies down, puts his head in the lap of
another cowherd, and pada-samvahanadibhih: Krsna massages his feet and
expresses himself as a servant of Balarama.
So Balarama is one of Krnsa’s gurus. Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami writes
at the onset of his treatise on Sri Caitanya, vande gurun: “I offer my
respects to my gurus.” Krsna has different kinds of gurus: his diksa
guru, the Saivaite Sandipani Muni; his rasa guru, Srimati Radhika, who
teaches him how to dance and thus be all that sastra says he is; and
Balarama, his family guru, who watches over him with his immense
strength and sense of dharma, protecting him from irreligion, as the
maryada purusa in his life.
Bala means strength, and Rama means to take pleasure, so he who takes
pleasure in exhibiting spiritual strength is Balarama. This strength is
the strength to do what is correct, the strength to build a foundation
for one’s spiritual life on the ground of suddha-sattva, pure
existence, governed as it is by Rama’s sandhini-sakti.
Whenever Krsna would do something incorrect, Balarama would show his
displeasure, as he did when Krsna advised Bhima to strike
below the belt and thus deviate from the ksatriya code. However,
although Balarama is the maryada purusa of Krsna’s life, he never
interfered with Krsna’s apparently illicit romantic life with .
Indeed, he facilitated it at every opportunity, albeit for the most
part indirectly. Nonetheless, the fact remains that it was entered into
on the part of Krsna without any objection from Rama. Indeed, we even
find Rama helping to facilitate their love, as he did when he carried
Krsna’s message to the gopis. Similarly, if we are to know anything
about Krsna’s love life, we will have to get help from Baladeva. We
will need his blessing.
One may think that Balarama is not involved with Krsna’s romantic life.
We are told that if Radha and Krsna are on the altar, we cannot put
Balarama on the same throne. He will leave the room, because in the
presence of the elder brother, Radha will feel a inhibited. These are
the “rules” of rasa. More than rules they are really feelings; rasa is
ruled by feelings. So, if Balarama will exit, how can we say that
Balarama is involved in facilitating the love life of Radha and Krsna?
Don’t think that he’s not; he’s involved in every way, in this case
indirectly. Otherwise, why will he excuse himself? He excuses himself
to facilitate their intimacy. He pays his respect to their divine love
as he did when he returned to Vrndavana and thus teaches us to do the
Balarama is the Deity presiding over sandhini-sakti, which is the
essence of the suddha-sattva, transcendental existence. Sandhini means
“existence potency.” So that which takes place in the lila is a
combination of samvit and hladini, the knowing potency and the bliss
potency, within suddha-sattva, or on the plane of sandhini-sakti. That
is real bhakti. Balarama expands the dhama and manifests all the forms
in the lila. Even Krsna’s form is a manifestation of Balarama’s
sandhini sakti. Just see how he is woven into the fabric of existence
like the warp and weft of a cloth; Balarama is described like this in
the Bhagavatam. He is involved in everything, everywhere. We owe our
existence to him. From Balarama expands the dhama and so many
associates for serving Krsna. Because he has the sentiment of a guru
(vatsalya-bhakti), friend (sakhya-bhakti), and servant of Krsna
(dasya-bhakti), he presides over all three of these sentiments and
expands personalities to participate in the lila in all of them. He is
the root of the service ego–bhakta abhiman mula balarama–that
underlies the entire lila.
From Baladeva comes Mula-Sankarasana for lila in Dvaraka and Mathura.
From Mula-Sankarsana comes Narayana, and the second catur-vyuha. Then
Sankarsana of the second catur-vyuha expands associates in Vaikuntha.
Then he expands further as Karanodakasayi Visnu, and this Maha-Visnu
expands so many souls for this world, the baddha-jiva.
So we owe our existence to Balarama; he is the very basis of existence.
He is involved in Krsna-lila both directly and indirectly by looking
the other way. We say: Hare, Krsna, Rama. These three names are in the
mantra. There are many ways to understand this, and this is
one way: hladini, samvit, sandhini. Radha presides over hladini sakti,
the pleasure potency; Krsna presides over the samvit sakti, the power
to know; and Balarama presides over sandhini sakti, the existential
potency. Hare, Krsna, Rama. This is Vrndavana. These three make up
Vrndavana. Wherever there are Radha and Krsna, Balarama is also there
in the background. So don’t think Rama is not involved in Krsna’s
romantic life; he is Krsna’s dearmost friend, and there is no Krsna
lila, or any lila for that matter, without Balarama.