Monday Morning Greetings 2022 #34 – Monday Morning Metaphysics: Balarama-tattva Made Simple

August 22nd, 2022

It is my conviction that a sincere person will find the theology of Krishna very beautiful and thought provoking whether they are among the faithful or not. One example of this is balarama-tattva—the science of Balarama, who is the elder brother of Krishna. To understand Lord Balarama, however, you must first understand a fundamental principle of divinity: That God must be enjoying.


What is the sense of being the supreme controller if your powers do not result in a state of unbounded bliss? The Taittirīya Upaniṣad thus describes the Absolute Reality as raso vai saḥ—the “Supreme Reservoir of Pleasure”. Śrīla Prabhupāda illustrated this point with a charming story about a godbrother name Sadānanda das.


Sadānanda was a German intellectual who visited India first in the early 1930s. He visited many temples of India and saw the figures of the different “gods” of India, from the goddess Durgā riding a lion and holding her ten weapons including a mace and a triśūla, to Lord Śiva covered with snakes and ashes. When he saw Govinda (Krishna), however, with his three-fold bending form blowing His flute, he had an epiphany—Krishna must be God, because God must be enjoying! When Śrīla Prabhupāda narrated this story, he laughed and commented: “You never see Krishna in the spiritual world wearing a construction helmet and smoking a cigarette.”


But what is a reasonable conception of that enjoyment? I wrote about that previously in a piece called “Sri Krishna: A Reasonable Conception of Divinity”.


  1. All of us are seeking pleasure, and our greatest pleasure is found in pure, unmotivated love.
  2. If pure love is our guiding and universal principle, then why should it not be part of its source, the Ultimate Reality?
  3. As pure love entails a mutual exchange, then the one harmonious truth must have a type of discrimination within. There must be personality, beauty, and other qualities to enhance the flow of love.
  4. This flow of love is known as śakti or energy, and like all energy it is devoted to bringing pleasure to its source.
  5. Thus the Vaiṣṇava conception of reality is divine līlā, a drama that stages the perfect expression of love, and exchange of devotion between the source of all energies, Sri Krishna, and the supreme śakti, Sri Radha.


So, what does this all have to do with Lord Balarama?


As Krishna is fully immersed in the pleasure of rasa, a drama that brings love to its height, to enjoy that work, someone must execute all the affairs of existence and knowledge. That’s Balarama, Krishna’s first expansion who takes up that task eternally so that Krishna never has to leave His ecstatic pastimes in Vrindavan. Wouldn’t many of us, if we had the potency, manifest ourselves in a different form, a job expansion so to speak, so that we could stay at home and enjoy leisurely?


Balarama-tattva is therefore, in a sense, simple. Lord Balarama to serve Krishna manifests the spiritual and material worlds and all of God’s incarnations. He even manifests guru-tattva, the principle of knowledge that flows through pure souls who know and represent that Absolute Truth to those persons who repose faith in their knowledge and devotion. On the most intimate level of service, he also assists Krishna in His pastimes in all five rasas.[1]


In other words, Lord Balarama is the full manifestation of God, the servitor Godhead, who assists Krishna in all matters of existence, knowledge, and even relationship.


What should be clear here is what I am not trying to do—to prove this conception of the Absolute for there is no logical reason for God to be the way He is outside of His own will. What I have tried to do, however, is to demonstrate how delightful and reasonable this theology is, and specifically in the case of balarama-tattva—that God is enjoying and fully duplicates Himself, except for color and function,[2] for the pleasure of rasa without distraction!


[1]As Krishna’s older brother, he serves Krishna with affection in a protective mood like a parent (vātsalya-rasa). The older brother can also be a bosom friend (sakhya-rasa) or take the humble mood of servant (dāsya-rasa) of his brother. Balarama also serves in neutrality (śānta-rasa) as he manifests all of Krishna’s paraphernalia, even His bed, house, and shoes, and finally even in the conjugal rasa (śṛṅgāra-rasa) as Anaṅga-mañjarī, Sri Radha’s youngest sister.


[2] Lord Balarama is a full manifestation of Lord Krishna. The only difference is that Krishna is dark and Balarama is white, and that Balarama’s function is one of service.


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