by Gauranga Darshan Das
“God’s grace comes through great souls. By sincerely serving and satisfying spiritually advanced personalities, we receive unlimited blessings of God.”
Here is the story of a great King who received blessings from great souls and thus became a recipient of the grace of God, who then, lovingly became his gatekeeper.
The most famous and eventful churning of the milk ocean (samudra-manthana) by the demigods and the demons, resulted in the appearance of nectar (amata). And the Supreme Lord Vineu took the form of a beautiful woman Mohine-murte and bewildered the demons and gave all the nectar to the demigods. Being thoroughly cheated, the demons fought with the demigods but were defeated in the war. Cukracarya, the guru of the demons, revived the demons headed by Bali Maharaja, the virtuous grandson of pure devotee Prahlada Maharaja.
THE POWER OF BLESSINGS
Bali became very grateful to Cukracarya and served him sincerely. Pleased with Bali, the brahmaeas of the Bhagu dynasty had him perform the Vicvajit-yajia, from which Bali received a celestial chariot, a bow, two quivers, and an armor. Prahlada offered Bali a garland, Cukracarya gave him conch shell.
By satisfying great souls, one receives profuse blessings and success in one’s endeavors, and by dissatisfying them, one receives the opposite. Pleasing great souls is the easiest way of attaining God’s grace. The grace of God is certainly more powerful than the wrath of God. By God’s wrath, great planets, their rulers, and the entire universe could be destroyed, but by God’s grace, even the most fallen person can be plifted. This grace of God comes through His devotees.
Compassionate devotees who are objects of Kanea’s mercy are always ready to transmit that mercy to common people, but only some fortunate persons are willing to accept it. For example, the sun gives light to everyone, but only a person who exposes oneself to the sunshine can take advantage of it, and not the one who locks oneself within a dark room or a cave. Collecting blessings doesn’t need expertise or diplomacy, but it needs genuine humility and submissiveness. Arrogance and pride never attract any blessings.
BLESSINGS ARE BEYOND THE GIVER
Bali acknowledged the blessings of the brahmaeas by offering them obeisances and circumambulating them. Bali also saluted Prahlada, who blessed him to attain all success. The blessing of pure devotee Prahlada opened the doors for Bali to attain the highest perfection. Equipped with all these blessings and the military paraphernalia, and accompanied by a great army of demons, Bali attacked the city of Indra to settle past dues.
One might question: How could Prahlada bless Bali to conquer the demigods, when the Lord arranges that the demigods rule heaven? The answer is that Prahlada blessed Bali to ultimately get the shelter of the Supreme Lord. And Bali was humbling himself to receive Prahlada Maharaja’s blessing. Had Bali Maharaja not conquered heaven, Lord Vamanadeva would have to come to take everything from Bali, allowing him to surrender. So, Prahlada was ultimately blessing Bali to go through whatever is needed to get the Lord’s grace. The immediate result of his blessings was that Bali could conquer heaven, but the ultimate result was that Bali could receive the love of Vamana.
Blessings are beyond the giver. We can only be instruments of God’s grace. To be an instrument of the mercy of God is the most fantastic way of living. When a devotee sincerely does one’s best in one’s devotional service, and thus accesses the grace of Kanea, guru, and Vaineavas, one can see that a great spiritual power that is far beyond oneself, manifests through him or her. That should actually humble the devotee, and not make him or her proud.
Just by seeing Bali’s splendor and confidence, Indra and the demigods were surprised and approached their guru Bahaspati. Bahaspati advised them, “This is not Bali’s power, but the power of the brahmaeas’ blessings (brahma-tejas). At the present, no one can stand before Bali, except the Supreme Lord. You all should now leave heaven, waiting for the situation of the enemies to get reversed.” The blessings of brahmaeas and gurus are more powerful than one’s own strength and independent efforts.
GOD RESPONDS TO SINCERE PRAYERS
Hearing Bahaspati’s words, the demigods left the heavenly kingdom in disguised forms. Bali entered heaven and further brought the three worlds under his control. He performed hundred acvamedha sacrifices to keep his position as the king of heaven stable.
Aditi, the mother of demigods, was pained at the predicament of her sons and wanted to regain the heavenly kingdom for them. She performed a vow called Payo-vrata (subsisting only on milk while worshiping the Lord) under the advice of her husband Kacyapa Muni. Thus Lord Vineu was pleased to appear as the son of Aditi – Lord Vamanadeva. To restore cosmic order, fulfil His devotees’ desires and to give and experience pleasure – all simultaneously, the Lord manifests His inconceivable pastimes.
The Lord responds to the sincere prayers of His devotees. Vamanadeva certainly appeared in response to Aditi’s prayers and to fulfil her desire of regaining heaven for her sons. However, more than that, Vamanadeva appeared to bless Bali Maharaja in response to the prayers of Prahlada Maharaja. Prahlada prayed for his grandson to get pure devotional service. Prahlada prayed to Lord Nasiahadeva to show mercy on Hiraeyakacipu and the Lord responded to it. If Hiraeyakacipu was delivered, then what to speak of Bali?
PRINCIPLES OF SATISFACTION
Lord Vamana eventually arrived at the site of Bali’s acvamedha sacrifice at Bhrgukaccha. Feeling blessed, Bali heartily welcomed Vamana and washed His divine lotus feet, the source of Ganges. Bali was spontaneously attracted to Vamana and wished to offer Him obeisances, but couldn’t do so. Because Bali was in the position of the king of demons, his act of offering obeisances to Vamana with devotion wouldn’t be appreciated by the demons and Cukracarya. Hence, he was fearful. Nevertheless, the Lord recognized Bali’s sincere intent. Even though a devotee may not render complete service to the Lord externally due to certain circumstances, the Lord is kind enough to accept the internal mood of a devotee, and thus He is called bhava-grahe.
Bali then took the opportunity to wash the lotus feet of Vamana. As it was not unnatural for a knatriya to treat a brahmaea guest in this way, none of the demons raised their eyebrows in objection to this. Bali washed Vamana’s feet, and sprinkled the water on his head, and promised to offer Him anything that He desired. Vamana praised Bali and his dynasty and asked for three steps of and. Considering the brahmaea boy less intelligent owing to his tender age, Bali told Him to ask as much as He might need to maintain Himself for all the future times to come.
Vamanadeva then spoke on the principles of satisfaction and condemned material greed. He said, “Even all the sense objects within the three worlds cannot satisfy a person with uncontrolled senses. If I’m not satisfied with three steps of land, I will not be satisfied even with one of the seven islands in Bhumaeoala, due to desire for the other islands.”
santunoo vartate sukham
nasantunoas tribhir lokair
“One should be satisfied with whatever he achieves by his previous destiny, for discontent can never bring happiness. A person who is not self-controlled will not be happy even with possessing the three worlds.” (SB 8.19.24)
Satisfaction leads to liberation, while dissatisfaction leads to transmigration. If one doesn’t have the inner fulfilment in experiencing the shelter of the Lord that’s accessed through hearing about, glorifying, and remembering Him, one hankers for the satisfaction of being praised by others. If we do not learn how to be content and peaceful and try to find satisfaction in our internal relationship with God, then it is impossible to find any true satisfaction in any of our external endeavours in life. Satisfaction in bhakti depends on the purity of our intent (ahaituki) and the consistency of our attempt (apratihata).
WHY & WHY NOT GIVE CHARITY
Bali Maharaja smiled and told Vamana, “All right, take whatever You like.” To confirm his promise, Bali then took up his water pot to make a solemn oath (sankalpa). Recognizing Vamana’s deception, Cukracarya gave Bali nine reasons why Bali shouldn’t give charity to Vamana.
1. This boy is Lord Vineu who appeared to fulfil the purpose of the demigods.
2. Your promise will bring great inauspiciousness to the demons.
3. Lord Hari will take away all your wealth and give it to Indra.
4. How will you live when He takes away everything from you?
5. You can’t even fulfil your promise as He will occupy everything in just two steps.
6. Unable to fulfil your promise, you have to reside in hell.
7. The charity that endangers one’s livelihood is not praiseworthy.
8. One has to divide one’s wealth for religion, reputation, opulence, sense gratification, and family. Not only for charity.
9. Take back your promise. One has to maintain one’s body even by untruth.
Bali, being fixed up in his truthfulness and especially his devotion to Lord Vineu, humbly gave nine reasons to Cukracarya why he must give charity to Vamana
1. I’m the grandson of glorious Prahlada Maharaja. How can I withdraw my promise?
2. There is nothing more sinful than untruthfulness.
3. I don’t fear hell, poverty, distress, or even death as much as I fear cheating a brahmaea.
4. Wealth is anyway separated from us at the time of death. Why not please a brahmaea with that wealth?
5. Dadheci, Cibi, and many other great men sacrificed even their own lives for the benefit of others.
6. Time destroys everything except one’s reputation.
7. The chance of giving charity to a brahmaea is very rare.
8. Becoming poverty-stricken by such a charity is also very auspicious.
9. If it is Vineu who has come here in the form of this brahmaea, I must carry out His order.
If a guru advises something against the desire of the Supreme Lord, there is no fault in disobeying such a guru. Bali’s disobedience displeased Cukracarya, who cursed him to be deprived of his wealth. Magnanimous Bali then solemnly vowed to give the charity of three steps to Vamanadeva. No one can give anything to the Lord for He is full in everything and everything belongs to Him. What we offer doesn’t belong to us, nor does it enrich His opulence. But such an offering brings one recognized as a devotee, which is an ornament for the soul.
HUMILITY THAT SHONE IN HUMILIATION
Vamanadeva then manifested His divine pastime. He became Trivikrama increased His size and covered the entire earth with His one step, all directions with His body, and the heavenly planets with His second step. Trivikrama then reduced to His original size as Vamana. The demons tried to attack Him, but Bali stopped them. Garuoa then arrested Bali with the ropes of Varuea (varuea-paca) and Vamanadeva accused Bali, “O King, being falsely proud of your wealth, you have promised me three steps of the land but I occupied the entire universe by two steps. Where shall I keep My third step? Because you couldn’t fulfil your promise of charity, you should go to hell.”
Even though the Lord seemed to have mistreated Bali and deliberately made him break his promise, Bali tolerated all this humiliation and spoke to the Lord with an undisturbed mind, “O Lord, if You think my promise has become false, I shall rectify the situation. Place your third lotus footstep on my head. I consider the most exalted punishment is that which is given by You, the supreme well-wisher and benefactor, for even the demons. I don’t feel ashamed or aggrieved on being arrested by You.” Thus, Bali offered himself to the Lord, after having offered all his property. To show the tolerance of Bali to the entire universe, Vamana had humiliated him in this way. Generally, wealthy men are famous, but Bali became famous for all time, being deprived of all his wealth. Tolerance and equanimity in humiliation is a manifestation of true surrender.
GOD AT THE GATE
Being profusely pleased, Vamana then spoke about His merciful nature, “I favour My devotee who is puffed up with material opulence, by taking away all his possessions. Despite possessing high birth, youth, beauty, education, opulence, and wealth if one is not proud, such a person is understood to be favoured by me.” False prestige and impudence caused by material qualifications are impediments in spiritual advancement. The Lord protects devotees from illusion and pride by taking away their opulence that made them proud.
Lord Vamana praised the forbearance and truthfulness of Bali, “Bali has surpassed the insurmountable maya. He is fixed up in his vow of truthfulness despite being bereft of his riches, fallen from his position, defeated and arrested by his enemies, rebuked and deserted by his relatives, and cursed by his guru.” A pure devotee never deviates from the Lord’s service despite all difficulties and impediments.
Vamanadeva blessed Bali, “You will become Indra during the Cavarni (eighth) manvantara. Until then you may live on the Sutala planet which is more opulent than heaven. I shall be your doorkeeper staying awake all the time to protect you from any attacks. By My prowess, you will not adopt a demoniac mentality even in the association of the demons.” The Lord offers Himself to those devotees who offer themselves to Him by mind, words, and actions.
Bali was overwhelmed upon hearing Vamandeva and thanked him, “I merely offered obeisances to You within my mind, yet I attained results sought by fully surrendered devotees. The rare mercy You have shown to this fallen demon (by putting Your foot on my head) was not achieved even by the demigods.” Bali offered respects to the Lord and happily went to the Sutala planet along with the demons. Prahlada also joined him according to the Lord’s instruction. Although a pure devotee may appear to have gone to hell or heaven, he doesn’t live in either place. Rather, he always lives in Vaikuetha engaged in the Lord’s service.
In this way, God became the gatekeeper of His devotee who surrendered everything including himself to the Lord.