By Lalita-Krishna Dasi
Lord Balaram. What to say about such a wonderful and attractive personality? His dazzling complexion more white and cooling than crystal, autumn clouds, cascades, full moons and white lotuses; his sparkling eyes full of laughter; his honey-sweet smile; his vibrant blue garments that bring out his fairness so beautifully; his curling dark hair; his broad, powerful chest; his playful, spontaneous gait…
He is Krishna’s beloved elder brother and best friend. Together they roam the forests and hills of Vrindavan, herding the cows, playing games, and sharing jokes with their friends in their eternal spiritual abode, which lies far beyond this realm.
Before his appearance in this world, Krishna declared that Balaram would be “the source of all spiritual power, or bala, by which one can attain the highest bliss of life, which is called ramaṇa.” Thus, we pray to Balaram for the spiritual strength to keep us going on our paths, and the spiritual happiness that gives us the determination to stick to it no matter the distractions of this world.
Balaram is always there to help us. He is always ready to give us courage and hope, ever willing to offer the protection of his strong arms and merciful glance.
There is even a story that a disciple once came to Srila Prabhupada – this was in Vrindavan, back in the early days. He was having a lot of headaches and problems that he just couldn’t figure out how to solve. “What should I do, Srila Prabhupada?” he asked. Prabhupada gave him a disarmingly simple answer. “Go to the temple, go before Balaram, and tell Him all your problems. Ask Him for help.” The devotee did as he was told, he went before the altar of Krishna Balaram and he explained everything, all the difficulties he was facing – he didn’t hold anything back. “My dear Balaram, now I have presented before you all of my troubles. Kindly take charge of them. I surrender unto you,” he prayed. And lo and behold, in the coming days, all his problems vanished one by one.
Srila Prabhupada writes in the second chapter of the Krishna Book, “the spiritual master is the representative of Balarāma, the form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead who supplies spiritual strength. In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta it is confirmed that the spiritual master is the manifestation of the mercy of Kṛṣṇa.” So Balarama is naturally full of compassion and very much willing to help us.
He even carries a plough, that symbolises his ability to till our rock-hard, barren hearts, so that they become soft and fertile for the creeper of devotion to grow.
We often hear of him killing demons – Dhenukasura, Pralambasura, Dvivida… these
represent anarthas, or unwanted qualities in our hearts, such as lust, greed and anger. Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur writes in his Caitanya Siksamrita, “If a devotee cries out humbly and sincerely to Lord Sri Krsna to remove these demoniac qualities which are represented by the demons killed by Lord Krsna, then Sri Krsna Himself will remove those evils. But the devotees
must personally work to drive out the anarthas represented by the demons killed by Lord Balarama. This is a mystery of Vraja-bhajana. The aspirant must personally remove these strong impediments with his best care and efforts and by obtaining the mercy of Krsna. If the devotee’s humility- becomes very deep and intense, Krsna will be merciful. In that case, the feeling of Lord Baladeva will arise in his mind and quickly destroy these demoniac qualities. Then one will gradually improve his cultivation of bhajana.”
To sum up, Lord Balarama is the abode of spiritual bliss, strength, mercy, and guidance, and he is even described as the beauty incarnation of the Lord. What’s not to love?