Uniting Devotees: Balarama’s Appearance

By Giriraj Swami - 7.8 2017

Today is the appearance day of Lord Balarama, the Personality of Godhead who is the first expansion of Lord Krsna, the original Personality of Godhead. As Krsna states in the Bhagavad-gita (4.7), “Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time I descend Myself.” Lord Krsna says, srjamy aham: “I manifest Myself.” He doesn’t take birth like an ordinary human being, but He manifests Himself in His original spiritual form.

For what purpose? “To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear, millennium after millennium.” (Bg 4.8) He manifests Himself to protect the devotees, diminish the demons, and reestablish religious principles.

In every sphere of activity in the material world there is deterioration; everything in the material world declines. A new house, for example, is very nice, but it gradually deteriorates, and eventually, when too old, it has to be rebuilt. In the same way, our performance of spiritual duties deteriorates, whether we are individuals, families, communities, or a society. And so the Lord comes repeatedly to reestablish religious practice. He appears in order to establish religious principles (dharma), but over time religious practice declines, and so He manifests Himself again and again. We all know how prone we are to allow our practice to deteriorate. Thus, on auspicious occasions like today, Lord Balarama’s appearance day, we can pray to the Lord to manifest Himself and help us to become reestablished in our religious principles and practice.

I shall read from Srimad-Bhagavatam specifically about the appearance of Lord Balarama. What Lord Krsna said in the two verses quoted from the Bhagavad-gita is explained elaborately in Srimad-Bhagavatam. As stated there, when the earth was overburdened by demonic rulers who had amassed large military forces armed with deadly weapons to wage war for personal gain, Lord Brahma, the chief of the demigods in this universe, approached the shore of the ocean of milk. There, accompanied by Lord Siva and other celestial beings, he worshiped Lord Visnu, the supreme God of all gods. In response, Lord Visnu imparted some instructions, which Lord Brahma in turn conveyed to the demigods. He told them that very soon the Lord would appear on earth to diminish the burden of the world and that the demigods, to assist Him, should take birth in the Yadu dynasty. Lord Brahma further stated that Lord Balarama, who is also known as Sankarsana, would precede the Lord and serve Him in every respect:

“The foremost manifestation of Krsna is Sankarsana, who is known as Ananta. He is the origin of all incarnations within this material world. Previous to the appearance of Lord Krsna, this original Sankarsana will appear as Baladeva, just to please the Supreme Lord Krsna in His transcendental pastimes.” (SB 10.1.24)

Lord Brahma told them as well that Yogamaya, the personal potency of the Lord, would also appear and assist the Lord in His mission.

Many of you may know the history that immediately preceded the appearance of Krsna and Balarama. Vasudeva, a great devotee in the Yadu dynasty, wedded Devaki, another pure devotee. After their marriage, Vasudeva mounted his chariot with his newly wedded wife to return home, and Devaki’s brother Kamsa, to please his sister, took the reins of the horses to drive the chariot. Along the way, Kamsa heard a voice from an invisible source, which told him, “You fool, the eighth child of the woman you are carrying will kill you!” Kamsa, a great demon, became enraged and was ready to kill his own sister on the day of her marriage. But Vasudeva intervened and appealed to him to desist. He said, “How could a qualified person like you kill a woman—your own sister—on the occasion of her marriage? In any case, one day you will die, and in your next life you will have to suffer the reactions to your present activities.” Still, Kamsa was so shameless and cruel that he persisted, and Vasudeva, to save his wife from imminent death, told him, “You have nothing to fear from Devaki, according to the omen. It is her son that will kill you. So I promise to deliver all her sons, who are the cause of your fear, into your hands.” Kamsa, having faith in Vasudeva’s word, was pacified. Still, he imprisoned Vasudeva and Devaki. And year after year, as their children were born, Vasudeva very dutifully delivered them to Kamsa, who mercilessly killed them.

Now we shall read from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Ten, Chapter Two: “Prayers by the Demigods.”


The Lord ordered Yogamaya: O My potency, who are worshipable for the entire world and whose nature is to bestow good fortune upon all living entities, go to Vraja, where there live many cowherd men and their wives. In that very beautiful land, where many cows reside, Rohini, the wife of Vasudeva, is living at the home of Nanda Maharaja. Other wives of Vasudeva are also living there incognito because of fear of Kamsa. Please go there.

PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada

Nanda-gokula, the residence of King Nanda, was itself very beautiful, but when Yogamaya was ordered to go there and encourage the devotees with fearlessness, it became even more beautiful and safe. Because Yogamaya had the ability to create such an atmosphere, the Lord ordered her to go to Nanda-gokula.

COMMENT by Giriraj Swami

King Kamsa was such a demon that he was performing all sorts of atrocities, and Vasudeva was afraid for the safety of his wives. In Vedic culture, the ksatriyas in particular were allowed to marry more than one wife. Now that idea seems a bit foreign or odd, but it had its purpose in Vedic civilization. The ksatriyas then were powerful; they could maintain many wives. But, as predicted in Srimad-Bhagavatam, as the present age of Kali progresses, or deteriorates, a husband has to struggle just to maintain one wife, one family, and if he is somehow able to do so nicely, he is considered a great success in life.

Previously, people were more qualified. They were more opulent. The ksatriyas could have more than one wife, though Lord Ramacandra took eka-patni-vrata, a vow to accept only one wife—Sitadevi. Vasudeva had more than one wife, but he was responsible. He didn’t want any harm to befall any of them, and he arranged for their protection. Vasudeva and Devaki had relatives, who were also family friends, in Gokula—Nanda and Yasoda. And so Vasudeva placed one of his wives, Rohini, under the care of Nanda and Yasoda. And after Balarama had entered the womb of Devaki, Lord Krsna ordered Yogamaya to transfer Him from the womb of Devaki into the womb of Rohini.


Within the womb of Devaki is My partial plenary expansion known as Sankarsana or Sesa. Without difficulty, transfer Him into the womb of Rohini.


The first plenary expansion of Krsna is Baladeva, also known as Sesa. The Sesa incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead supports the entire universe, and the eternal mother of this incarnation is Mother Rohini. “Because I am going into the womb of Devaki,” the Lord told Yogamaya, “the Sesa incarnation has already gone there and made suitable arrangements so that I may live there. Now He should enter the womb of Rohini, His eternal mother.”

In this connection, one may ask how the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is always situated transcendentally, could enter the womb of Devaki, which had previously been entered by the six asuras, the sad-garbhas. Does this mean that the sad-garbhasuras were equal to the transcendental body of the Supreme Personality of Godhead? The following answer is given by Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura.


As promised, Vasudeva delivered the first six sons of Devaki to Kamsa, who killed them one after the other. They were actually the six asuras who, because of events from their past life, had taken birth in Devaki’s womb to be killed by Kamsa. So the question is, Krsna is going to enter the womb of Devaki—does that mean He is on the same level as these asuras who took birth from her womb and were killed by Kamsa? Visvanatha Cakravarti explains:

PURPORT (continued)

The entire creation, as well as its individual parts, is an expansion of the energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore, even though the Lord enters the material world, He does not do so. This is explained by the Lord Himself in the Bhagavad-gita (9.4–5): “By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them. And yet everything that is created does not rest in Me. Behold My mystic opulence! Although I am the maintainer of all living entities and although I am everywhere, I am not a part of this cosmic manifestation, for My Self is the very source of creation.”


The idea is that the Lord is everywhere within His creation but at the same time is not there. This appears to be contradictory. The contradiction is resolved, however, when we understand that the Lord in His original form as Krsna in Goloka Vrndavana is not in the material creation; He remains aloof, in His divine abode, enjoying sublime pastimes with His loving devotees. Still, by His expansion as the Supersoul, the Paramatma, He pervades His creation.

PURPORT (continued)

A pure devotee is always transcendentally situated because of executing nine different processes of bhakti-yoga. Thus situated in devotional service, a devotee, although in the material world, is not in the material world. Yet a devotee always fears, “Because I am associated with the material world, so many contaminations affect me.” Therefore he is always alert in fear, which gradually diminishes his material association.


As stated earlier, Yogamaya appeared in Gokula to create fearlessness—freedom from fear of the attacks of demons. Yet a pure devotee is always afraid of material contamination. Once, Srila Prabhupada gave a class at the Bhaktivedanta Manor in which he told the audience, “The difference between you and me is that you can fall down but I cannot fall down.” Later, after the class, Srila Prabhupada was praying in front of the deities, and one disciple asked him, “What were you praying?” And Srila Prabhupada replied, “I was praying that I may never fall down.” The disciple responded, “But in your talk you said that you can never fall down.” And Srila Prabhupada replied, “Yes, because I am always praying never to fall down, therefore I can never fall down.” So, we should always be afraid of the material energy (maya), of being deluded by maya and being diverted from the true path of Krsna consciousness.

PURPORT (continued)

Symbolically, Mother Devaki’s constant fear of Kamsa was purifying her. A pure devotee should always fear material association, and in this way all the asuras of material association will be killed, as the sad-garbhasuras were killed by Kamsa.


Especially devotees in the grhastha-asrama may have to associate with the material energy, to earn money to maintain their families. Like it or not, they may have to associate with materialistic people. And there is always a danger that by their associating with materialistic people, their consciousness will be affected. So they should be afraid of material association. Of course, circumstantially we have to interact with such people, and we may do so as people normally interact in the workplace. But internally we should be conscious that if we associate with them too much, in the wrong way, it can affect us, and we can become weakened in our determination to progress in Krsna consciousness. We may start to compromise in different ways, which will weaken us even more.

PURPORT (concluded)

It is said that from the mind, Marici appears. In other words, Marici is an incarnation of the mind. Marici has six sons: Kama, Krodha, Lobha, Moha, Mada, and Matsarya (lust, anger, greed, illusion, madness, and envy). The Supreme Personality of Godhead appears in pure devotional service. This is confirmed in the Vedas: bhaktir evainam darsayati. Only bhakti can bring one in contact with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Supreme Personality of Godhead appeared from the womb of Devaki, and therefore Devaki symbolically represents bhakti, and Kamsa symbolically represents material fear. When a pure devotee always fears material association, his real position of bhakti is manifested, and he naturally becomes uninterested in material enjoyment. When the six sons of Marici are killed by such fear and one is freed from material contamination, within the womb of bhakti the Supreme Personality of Godhead appears. Thus the seventh pregnancy of Devaki signifies the appearance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. After the six sons Kama, Krodha, Lobha, Moha, Mada, and Matsarya are killed, the Sesa incarnation creates a suitable situation for the appearance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In other words, when one awakens his natural Krsna consciousness, Lord Krsna appears. This is the explanation given by Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura.


There are different stages of advancement in devotional service, and when one is completely purified, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is revealed within the heart. That purified stage is called vasudeva, or suddha-sattva. It is the same name as that of Krsna’s father, Vasudeva, because Krsna first appeared in the purified mind of Vasudeva and then from the mind of Vasudeva He was transferred into the purified mind—and womb—of Devaki.

So it is possible that the Lord will manifest Himself to a devotee who is sincere in the practice of devotional service. And before He manifests Himself fully, as He did for Vasudeva and Devaki, and for Nanda and Yasoda, He manifests Himself as the holy name (as we all experience when we try to chant offenselessly); as holy scripture—Srimad-Bhagavatam, Srimad Bhagavad-gita, or Sri Caitanya-caritamrta; as the holy dhama—Sri Vrndavana, Mayapur, or Puri; as the Deity; and in the hearts, and words, of His pure devotees.


O all-auspicious Yogamaya, I shall then appear with My full six opulences as the son of Devaki, and you will appear as the daughter of Mother Yasoda, the queen of Maharaja Nanda.


This is the history. Balarama, or Sesa, first entered the womb of Devaki as her seventh son, but by the arrangement of Krsna, through the agency of Yogamaya, He was transferred to the womb of Rohini in Gokula. And thus it appeared that Devaki had a miscarriage. But it is Sesa’s service to arrange for Krsna’s comfort, and so He entered her womb first and created a favorable situation in which Lord Krsna could reside. We always see pictures of Lord Visnu with Sesa, who acts as the Lord’s umbrella and throne. Sesa expands Himself in so many ways to facilitate the pleasure and comfort of the Lord.

After being transferred to the womb of Rohini, His eternal mother, Balarama took birth in Gokula. His stay within the womb of Devaki was just a temporary arrangement to create a favorable situation for Krsna. Then Krsna Himself entered the womb of Devaki through the mind of Vasudeva and took birth.

For the duration of Their infancy, childhood, and youth, Krsna and Balarama enjoyed together in Gokula, in Vraja. Then, when They were about sixteen years old, They went to Mathura to participate in a wrestling match arranged by Kamsa. Ultimately Krsna killed Kamsa. Krsna and Balarama did not return to Vrndavana then. They had many pastimes in Mathura and Dvaraka. Because They had not yet received a proper, formal education, Vasudeva and Devaki arranged for Them to study under a guru, Sandipani Muni, from whom They learned sixty-four different arts and sciences. And then They went on to rule Mathura and, finally, Dvaraka.

It is, one could say, a peculiar situation that Krsna was actually the son of Vasudeva and Devaki but that He was raised by Nanda and Yasoda and never really spent time with His original parents until many years later. And then He was separated from the parents who had raised Him, and He didn’t see them again for many, many, many years.

After Krsna and Balarama left Vrndavana, the Vraja-vasis were plunged into an ocean of separation. Their only business was crying for Krsna and Balarama. Of course, their crying was not like our material crying. Theirs was transcendental ecstasy. And in that separation, they were experiencing association. Still, they were separated, and many years later, when Krsna was living in royal opulence in Dvaraka, He went to Kuruksetra for a solar eclipse, to perform sacrifices and give in charity, as advised in sastra.

At Kuruksetra there was a great reunion, not only between Krsna and Balarama and Their friends from Vrndavana, but also between Vasudeva and Devaki and Nanda and Yasoda, and between Krsna’s various wives and Draupadi. Their meetings and interactions with each other are very instructive for us—how devotees relate to each other, how they think, and how they feel.

Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Ten, Chapter Eighty-Two: “Krsna Meets the Inhabitants of Vrndavana.”

TEXTS 31–32

When Nanda Maharaja learned that the Yadus had arrived, led by Krsna, he immediately went to see them. The cowherds accompanied him, their various possessions loaded on their wagons.

Seeing Nanda, the Vrsnis were delighted and stood up like dead bodies coming back to life. Having felt much distress at not seeing him for so long, they held him in a tight embrace.


The Vrsnis from Dvaraka returned to life when they saw Nanda, and they embraced him affectionately.

TEXTS 33–38

Vasudeva embraced Nanda Maharaja with great joy. Beside himself with ecstatic love, Vasudeva remembered the troubles Kamsa had caused him, forcing him to leave his sons in Gokula for Their safety.

O hero of the Kurus, Krsna and Balarama embraced Their foster parents and bowed down to them, but Their throats were so choked up with tears of love that the two Lords could say nothing.

Raising their two sons onto their laps and holding Them in their arms, Nanda and saintly Mother Yasoda forgot their sorrows.

Then Rohini and Devaki both embraced the Queen of Vraja, remembering the faithful friendship she had shown them. Their throats choking with tears, they addressed her as follows.

[Rohini and Devaki said:] What woman could forget the unceasing friendship you and Nanda have shown us, dear Queen of Vraja? There is no way to repay you in this world, even with the wealth of Indra.

Before these two boys had ever seen Their real parents, you acted as Their parents and gave Them all affectionate care, training, nourishment, and protection. They were never afraid, good lady, because you protected Them just as eyelids protect the eyes. Indeed, saintly persons like you never discriminate between outsiders and their own kin.


As Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti explains, Krsna and Balarama had not seen Their parents for two reasons: because of Their exile in Vraja, and also because They are never actually born and therefore have no parents.

Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti also describes what Devaki thought before speaking this verse: “Alas, because for so long these two sons of mine had you, Yasoda, as Their guardian and mother, and because They were immersed in such a vast ocean of ecstatic loving dealings with you, now that you are once more before Them They are too distracted to even notice me. Also, you are behaving as if insane and blind with love for Them, showing millions of times more maternal affection than I possess. Thus you simply keep staring at us, your friends, without recognizing us. So let me bring you back to reality on the pretext of some affectionate words.”


There are many points here. First is how much Devaki appreciated Mother Yasoda for taking care of her son Krsna. Before He had even seen His real parents, Yasoda and Nanda had acted as His and Balarama’s parents and cared for Them, taught Them, nourished Them, and protected Them. And thus Devaké’s sons never had any fear. And she praises Yasoda for being a saintly person who never discriminates between outsiders and her own kin. Of course, on another level Krsna is the Supersoul; He is the most intimate friend and the supreme lovable object for everyone. But in terms of the pastimes, Yasoda did not discriminate that Krsna was not her own son; she and Nanda raised Him as if He were their own.

Also, Devaki was completely free from envy. She saw that Krsna (with Balarama) was so overwhelmed with love that He forgot everything. He just rushed into the arms of Mother Yasoda. And Devaki not only admitted but actually appreciated that Yasoda had more love for Krsna than even she did.

These are some of the qualities that devotees develop in Krsna consciousness. They appreciate the service of others, and they are not envious. They are happy to acknowledge when others have more love for Krsna than they do, or render better service to Krsna than they do. And they are full of love. It is described here that when the Vrsnis saw Nanda and Yasoda—even though they had the association of Krsna in Dvaraka and were with Him in Kuruksetra—they felt as if their lives had come back to them. They had so much love and affection for them, and they were most grateful to them for their service to Krsna.

PURPORT (concluded)

Then, when Devaki failed to get any response from Yasoda even after addressing her, Rohini said, “My dear Devaki, it’s impossible just now to rouse her out of this ecstatic trance. We are crying in the wilderness, and her two sons are no less bound up in the ropes of affection for her than she is for Them.


Yasoda had lost consciousness of everything other than her sons, Krsna and Balarama. And again, Yasoda did not discriminate, that “Krsna is my son, but Balarama is Rohini’s.” Nor did Rohini discriminate that “Balarama is my son, but Krsna is Yasoda’s.” Both mothers were mothers to both sons, and both sons saw both as Their mothers.

This type of love develops with Krsna consciousness, but it is also something that we are meant to cultivate. In Srila Prabhupada’s last days, in Vrndavana, His Holiness Tamal Krishna Goswami exclaimed, “Srila Prabhupada, your disciples love you so much.” And Srila Prabhupada replied, “Your love for me will be shown by how much you cooperate with each other.” Many authorities, both spiritual and mundane, have commented that love is not just a sentiment but is also a process. Srila Prabhupada said that if we really love him—if we want to show our love for him—we will cooperate with each other for his pleasure, which ultimately means Krsna’s pleasure (yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasado).

By the family of Vasudeva and Devaki and the family of Nanda and Yasoda cooperating for the service of Lord Balarama, the two families were brought together. And that was one of Lord Balarama’s purposes, as foretold by Gargamuni. “Gargamuni said: This child, the son of Rohini, will give all happiness to His relatives and friends by His transcendental qualities. Therefore He will be known as Rama. And because He will manifest extraordinary bodily strength, He will also be known as Bala. Moreover, because He unites two families—Vasudeva’s family and the family of Nanda Maharaja—He will be known as Sankarsana.”(SB 10.8.12)

In the purport, Srila Prabhupada explains: “Baladeva was actually the son of Devaki, but He was transferred from Devaki’s womb to that of Rohini. This fact was not disclosed. According to a statement in the Hari-vamsa, “Gargamuni did disclose to Nanda Maharaja that Balarama would be known as Sankarsana because of uniting two families—the yadu-vamsa and the vamsa of Nanda Maharaja—one of which was known as ksatriya and the other as vaisya. Both families had the same original forefather, the only difference being that Nanda Maharaja was born of a vaisya wife whereas Vasudeva was born of a ksatriya wife. Later, Nanda Maharaja married a vaisya wife, and Vasudeva married a ksatriya wife. So although the families of Nanda Maharaja and Vasudeva both came from the same father, they were divided as ksatriya and vaisya. Now Baladeva united them, and therefore He was known as Sankarsana.”

By Krsna consciousness, by cooperating to serve the spiritual master and the Supreme Personality of Godhead, different individuals, families, castes, and communities can all be united.

Even Balarama considers Himself to be a servant of Lord Krsna. Balarama is the first expansion of Krsna and is the original spiritual master, and He too has the sentiment that He is a servant of Krsna. In fact, every conscious being is imbued with the sentiment of being a servant of Krsna. Balarama, and all of Krsna’s expansions—Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna, Aniruddha, Karanodakasayi Visnu, Garbhodakasayi Visnu, Ksirodakasayi Visnu—all have the sentiment of being servants of Krsna.

As stated in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, “Lord Krsna alone is the supreme controller, and all others are His servants. They dance as He makes them do so.” (Cc Adi 5.142) “[Balarama] considers Himself a servant and knows Krsna to be His master. Thus He regards Himself as a fragment of His plenary portion.” (Cc Adi 5.137)

We quoted a verse in the beginning, which stated that Balarama, or Sankarsana, would appear prior to Krsna in order to serve Krsna and please Him in every respect: “The foremost manifestation of Krsna is Sankarsana, who is known as Ananta. He is the origin of all incarnations within this material world. Previous to the appearance of Lord Krsna, this original Sankarsana will appear as Baladeva, just to please the Supreme Lord Krsna in His transcendental pastimes.” (SB 10.1.24)

And that is the duty of the spiritual master—to serve and please the Supreme Lord. Once, Srila Prabhupada asked some disciples, “What is the duty of the spiritual master?” And then he gave the answer: “The duty of the spiritual master is to serve Krsna. And the duty of the disciples is to assist the spiritual master.” Balarama is the original spiritual master because, as Krsna’s first expansion, He is the first servant of Krsna, and He is the first instructor about Krsna. The spiritual master is considered to be the representative of Lord Balarama, or Nityananda Prabhu.

So, Srila Prabhupada said, “Your love for me will be shown by how you cooperate.” In other words, love is not just a sentiment but is expressed through practical activity. Further, it is evoked by practical activity; loving sentiment is increased by devotional service. The word “cooperate” consists of “co-,” which means “together,” “jointly”; and “operate,” which means to “perform a function,” to “exert power or influence.” Cooperate means that together we perform some function. And we see the perfect example of cooperation in Vrndavana. Nanda and Yasoda and Rohini cooperated to raise Krsna and Balarama. In a broader sense, they cooperated with Vasudeva and Devaki to raise Them. And there was no envy.

Srila Prabhupada gave the example of the different parts of the body, which cooperate for the sake of the whole, to serve the stomach. If the different parts try to enjoy independent of the stomach, they won’t be able to. They will fail—and suffer. Srila Prabhupada gave the example that if there is a nice rasagulla and if the hand thinks, “Why should I give all the food to the stomach? I will enjoy myself,” and then tries to enjoy directly, it won’t be able to. The food is meant to be given to the stomach, and when it goes to the stomach, all the different parts of the body benefit.

Srila Prabhupada elaborated on this analogy by saying that once, the different parts of the body went on strike, thinking, “We do all the work, and the stomach gets all the food. Why should we work for the sake of the stomach?” So they decided to go on strike. As a result, all the parts of the body suffered. They became weak. Then they had another meeting and decided, “We were better off when we were serving the stomach.” So they went back to serving the stomach.

Krsna is the focus of all devotional service. That is the meaning of bhakti—to serve and please Krsna. And the medium for that service is the spiritual master, who represents Lord Balarama, or Lord Nityananda. So, Srila Prabhupada said, “Your love for me will be shown by how you cooperate.” That means we work together, co-operate. We perform the same function, but together, for the pleasure of guru and Krsna. And in that service there is no envy. There is only appreciation and gratitude. Each devotee thinks, “You’ve helped me so much by doing this.” That consciousness develops naturally from bhakti, but at the same time we have to practice; we are in the stage of sadhana-bhakti, devotional service in practice. When we practice cooperation, serving the other devotees and appreciating their service, bhakti develops, and ultimately Krsna manifests Himself. Krsna and all of His associates are revealed to us in that state of pure devotion.

Hare Krsna.

Are there any questions or comments?

Urvasi dasi: Maharaja, a devotee should always be aware and careful of maya and contact with the material world, but then again it is said that a devotee is fearless. How do you get to that point where you can count on Krsna’s mercy and be fearless? It is so dangerous in this material world, and maya is so strong. So, how can we actually feel that we have Krsna’s mercy, so we can be fearless?

Giriraj Swami: The only thing a devotee really fears is forgetfulness of Krsna—maya. If we are always conscious of Krsna and our relationship with Him, we will not be afraid of anything else, because we know that we are not this body, that we are part and parcel of Krsna, that our real relationship is with Him, and that we are under His personal care and protection. If Krsna wants us to stay longer in this body, we will, and if Krsna wants us to leave this body, we will. We are not afraid, because we know we are under Krsna’s shelter.

Once, during the war between India and Pakistan in 1971, a reporter asked Srila Prabhupada, “Suppose a hundred pure, saintly, Krsna conscious people are meditating or discussing together, and someone comes and drops a bomb . . .” And Srila Prabhupada replied, “Those who are Krsna conscious are not afraid of a bomb. When they see a bomb coming, they think that Krsna desired the bomb to come. A Krsna conscious person is never afraid of anything. Bhayam dvitiyabhinivesatah syat. [SB 11.2.37] One who has the conception that something can exist outside of Krsna is afraid. But one who knows that everything is coming from Krsna has no reason to be afraid. The bomb is coming, and the devotee says, ‘Ah, Krsna is coming.’ That is the vision of the devotee. He thinks, ‘Krsna wants to kill me with a bomb. That’s all right. I will be killed.’ That is Krsna consciousness.”

Still, another time, in a different situation, someone asked Srila Prabhupada, “What if some evil person came to attack you, to kill you. Would you protect yourself?” And Prabhupada replied, “Yes. Why should I let some rascal harm Krsna’s devotee?” But that is different. That is not out of fear. That is in the mood of service, to protect Krsna’s devotee. Srila Prabhupada was not identifying with the body but was seeing himself as Krsna’s devotee who had service to do for Krsna, so he wanted to protect Krsna’s devotee from harm—for Krsna’s service. But personally, he was not afraid. The only thing a devotee fears is forgetting Krsna.

And a devotee is always satisfied; he does not want anything but devotional service. He is satisfied with devotional service but never complacent—“Now I have done enough service.” He always wants to do more and better service. But he is satisfied in the sense that he wants nothing but devotional service, and he always has service. No one can take devotional service from him, because it is ahaituky apratihata. It has no cause, and it has no impediment. It cannot be interrupted.

“The supreme occupation [dharma] for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendent Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted to completely satisfy the self.” (SB 1.2.6) So, the devotee is satisfied with devotional service, and he always has service. No one can take that away from him. But he is never complacent: “Oh, I have done enough now. Let me eat and sleep.” He always wants to do more service and better service.

So, a devotee is not afraid of anything material, because he has Krsna—but he is afraid of losing Krsna due to his own weakness. He always feels himself to be weak and dependent on the strength that comes from superior authorities such as Balarama. The Upanisads state, nayam atma bala-hinena labhyah. One cannot attain the platform of self-realization without spiritual strength, which comes from Balarama. Bala means “strength”—spiritual strength, which comes from Lord Balarama, Lord Nityananda, who is represented by the spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada and the parampara. So, we feel dependent on superior authorities, but we are not afraid of anything material, because we know that the only thing that really matters to us is devotional service and that nothing material can take devotional service away from us. We have nothing to lose, because we can’t lose devotional service, and we have nothing to gain, because we don’t want anything but devotional service. So why should we be afraid? We have nothing to lose or to gain from anyone.

The Bhagavad-gita (6.20–23) says that upon achieving Krsna consciousness one thinks that there is no greater gain and even in the midst of the greatest calamity one is not shaken: “In the stage of perfection called trance, or samadhi, one’s mind is completely restrained from material mental activities by practice of yoga. This perfection is characterized by one’s ability to see the self by the pure mind and to relish and rejoice in the self. In that joyous state, one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness, realized through transcendental senses. Established thus, one never departs from the truth, and upon gaining this he thinks there is no greater gain. Being situated in such a position, one is never shaken, even in the midst of greatest difficulty. This indeed is actual freedom from all miseries arising from material contact.”

The pure devotee is fixed in consciousness because he has what he wants—Krsna—and no matter what happens externally, no one can take Krsna from him. Queen Kunti prayed to Lord Krsna for calamities, because in the midst of all her difficulties Krsna was with her and her sons. In terms of lila, Krsna was with them in Hastinapura, but when the calamities were over and Maharaja Yudhisthira was installed on the throne, Krsna was ready to leave. So, Kunti prayed, “When we were in difficulty, You were with us, but now that we are happily situated in our kingdom, You are leaving us.” So she prayed, “Let the calamities come again and again. I would rather have all the calamities and have You with us than be situated in material opulence and comfort and lose You.” She concluded: “I wish that all those calamities would happen again and again so that we could see You again and again, for seeing You means that we will no longer see repeated births and deaths.” (SB 1.8.25)

Sometimes being in material difficulty can serve as an impetus to Krsna consciousness. And a devotee may fear being in too comfortable a position lest he or she forget Krsna, lose his or her Krsna consciousness. That is the only fear.

King Rahugana declared, “I am not at all afraid of the thunderbolt of King Indra, nor am I afraid of the serpentine, piercing trident of Lord Siva. I do not care about the punishment of Yamaraja, the superintendent of death, nor am I afraid of fire, scorching sun, moon, wind, or the weapons of Kuvera. Yet I am afraid of offending a brahmana [devotee]. I am very much afraid of this.” (SB 5.10.17)

We are not afraid of any external, material force, but we are afraid of losing our Krsna consciousness. And the quickest way to lose it is to offend a devotee. So although we do not fear any material danger, we are afraid of maya—afraid of committing offenses, especially vaisnava-aparadha, that will take us away from Krsna, from loving service to Krsna and His devotees.

[A talk by Giriraj Swami on October 16, 2008, in Ventura, California]