The following is a transcription of a lecture delivered by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Mahārāja on September 13, 2016, published on visuddhacaitanyavani.com
Today is a special day; it is the appearance day of Vāmanadeva. For those observing the Cāturmāsya-vrata, today is also a special tithi known as pārṣa-parivartana. Bhagavān, who has been resting facing north, will today turn to the other side facing south. There are eight māhā-dvādaśīs – Jaya, Vijaya, Jayantī, Pāpamocanī, Pakṣavardhinī, Vyānjulī, Bhaimi and Pāśānkuṣā. There is no rule that all eight will appear every year. However, if they all do appear in a year, then it is only after another eight years that they reappear together within one year. Today is another special tithi; it is the āvirbhāva tithi of Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, who is the youngest amongst the Ṣaḍ-Gosvāmīs. There are so many tithis on this day.
Bhagavān said in the Gītā [4.8]:
vināśāya ca duṣkṛtām
sambhavāmi yuge yuge
[To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear, millennium after millennium.]
Śrīla Jayadeva Gosvāmī sang – keśava dhṛta-mīna-śarīra, keśava dhṛta-kūrma-śarīra jaya jagadīśa hare – that Bhagavān appears in the form of a fish, tortoise, boar and so on. But [particular] incarnations of Bhagavān like Varāha, Kūrma, and Matsya are not as important as Vāmanadeva and Nṛsiṁhadeva. Why are Their incarnations more significant? Because paritrāṇa (deliverance) is of many types, and the type of paritrāṇa that benefits others [the most] has been categorized separately. In all incarnations there is, ‘paritrāṇa – delivering the pious’ but in incarnations like Vāmanadeva and Nṛsiṁhadeva there is also special deliverance, whereas in Paraśurāma’s incarnation there was nothing special in his deliverance.
In the case of Vāmanadeva, when Bali Mahārāja conquered all three worlds and took over the throne of Indra, reducing him to a pauper, Indra’s mother Aditi prayed to Kaśyapa to reinstate her son as the king of heaven. Kaśyapa had two wives – Aditi and Diti. All the sons of Aditi were demigods while all the sons of Diti were demons. [On the instructions Kaśyapa] Aditi performed severe penance and Bhagavān mercifully appeared as her son Vāmanadeva, who was the younger brother of Indra, so He is also known as Upendra. [Because Indra and Bali belonged to the same family and were related to Bhagavān in this incarnation, He decided to trick or cheat Bali to give the throne back to Indra.] That is why the term ‘chalayasi’, which means deception has been used [chalayasi vikramaṇe balim adbhuta-vāmana – O Lord Hari, who assumed the form of a dwarf brāhmaṇa! All glories to You! O wonderful Vāmanadeva, by Your massive steps You deceive King Bali]. Bhagavān’s deceit is also His pastime. [It is not a fault in Him. All His activities are full of compassion] Just like sugar candy – no matter which side you taste it from, it will taste the same; there won’t be any difference. However, not everyone will understand this.
Bali Mahārāja had already conquered Svarga and Pātāla. In order to conquer all the remaining places in the fourteen planetary systems Bali Mahārāja performed a fire sacrifice (yajña) to please yajña-pati Bhagavān. Śukrācārya, the spiritual master of the demons, was the chief among the yajña performers. Vāmanadeva appeared at the place of the fire sacrifice in the form of a dwarf brāhmaṇa (brahma-baṭu) carrying a rod, waterpot, umbrella, and wearing wooden sandals. Bali Mahārāja welcomed Him and said, “You are a brāhmaṇa-baṭu and have come here to ask me for something. What do You desire?” Vāmanadeva replied, “I ask you for three steps of land. I desire to walk the path of eternal welfare (nivṛitti-mārga) and not the path of sense-enjoyment (pravṛitti-mārga).”
To this Bali Mahārāja smilingly said, “Your intelligence is just like Your stature. It is dwarfed. Would You beg alms from others as well after accepting alms from me? I can provide you with everything. What do You desire? Would You like to marry a brāhmaṇa girl? Or do You desire ten villages to maintain a family?” Vāmanadeva replied, “No, I took a vow to perform austerities. So anything more than three steps of land will turn My mind towards sense enjoyment.” Bali Mahārāja pleaded, “Please reconsider.” Vāmanadeva persisted, “I spoke only after giving it proper thought.”
But then, Śukrācārya told Bali Mahārāja, “He is not a baṭu (dwarf), He is Bhagavān. On the pretext of begging three steps of land, He will take away everything. Then where will you reside?” Hearing this Bali Mahārāja contemplated, ‘If He is Bhagavān Himself, even without offering Him anything, He can still snatch away everything from me. So it is better for me to offer charity and assume the position of a donor.’ Just as Bali Mahārāja conveyed this decision, Vāmanadeva [assuming a very large form] covered the entire Svarga-loka (the higher planets) with His first step and with His second step He covered all the outer worlds, He then asked Bali Mahārāja, “Where shall I place My third step? You are bound by your promise, so you have to keep your word.” In fear of his defeat Bali Mahārāja looked towards his wife, Vindhyāvali, who alluded to what he should do by touching her own head, ‘You gave all your material possessions, but you have not given your very self!’ Then Bali Mahārāja surrendered his head before Vāmanadeva saying, “You may place Your foot [for Your third step] upon my head.” Vāmanadeva then manifested a third foot from His lotus navel and rested it upon the head of Bali Mahārāja.
Vāmanadeva added, “Until now, you were the donor and I was the receiver. Now I am the giver and you are the receiver.” Bali Mahārāja’s foolish army was prepared for battle. Bali Mahārāja ordered, ‘tasmāt kālaṁ pratīkṣadhvaṁ – Please wait because the time is not in our favour now’. But overpowered by a sense of duty, his army proceeded to fight. Sometimes even the prime minister has to submit to the instructions of his bodyguards or security personnel. Why did Rajiv Gandhi die? Although he was not a prime minister, he was still under his security personnel. [He had gone to South India, Tamil Nadu, for campaigning.] Yet, he refused to pay heed to the instructions of his security and went to meet the people in the rallies and was assassinated as a result. Had he adhered to his security personnel’s advice, his life would have been spared. This is an ancient ordinance for any head of state to follow the counsel of his security personnel.
When Bali Mahārāja’s army saw him bound by the ropes of Varuṇa [babandha vāruṇaiḥ pāśair – arrested with the ropes of Varuṇa – Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 8.21.26], what could they do? Vāmanadeva said, “Now I am the donor and you are the receiver. I shall give you whatever you ask for.” Did Bali Mahārāja ask for the lost kingdom? Did his wife advise him to ask for something? No. But his sister Ratnāvalī, upon first seeing Vāmanadeva said if this beautiful young lad were my son I would have taken Him on my lap and breastfed Him. However, later after Vāmanadeva snatched everything from her brother she said, “If He were my son I would have poisoned and killed Him.” That is why, later she became Pūtanā. Such are the pastimes of Bhagavān – they are infinite.
Thus, when Bali Mahārāja was tied, he prayed, “Vāmanadeva! May Your soothing lotus feet which You have placed upon my head, always remain there. Do not take Them back.” This pastime of Bhagavān is viewed in two different ways: one by the karma-kāṇḍīs and jñāna-kāṇḍīs, and another by the devotees. Devotees perceive that Bali Mahārāja surrendered himself completely to Bhagavān and pleased Him, while karmīs perceive that Bali Mahārāja offered charity beyond his capacity and therefore became bound. They even composed a śloka on this thought:
ati māne ca kauravā
ati dāne bali badhhā
ati sarbatra garhitam
[Excess pride destroyed the golden kingdom of Rāvaṇa; excess feeling that ‘I am great’ destroyed the Kauravas- the sons of Dhṛtarāṣṭra; excess charity got Bali bound up. Too much of everything is bad.]
Because of his pride Rāvaṇa lost Laṅkā. Duryodhana, who craved honour and respect and thought himself to be a great personality, eventually met with an ill fate.
So, Bali Mahārāja first said to Vāmanadeva, “Place Your third foot[step] upon my head”, and next begged for the second boon, “And please do not withdraw it”.
When did Bhagavān go back to the dhāma? [Lakṣmidevī came as a brāhmaṇī, referring to Bali as her brother and requested Bali that Vāmanadeva be returned, and afterwards she tied a rakṣā-sūtra on the hand of Bali.] So when you celebrate Rakṣā-bandhana, Bali’s name is in the Rakṣā-bandhana mantra – yena bandho bali rājā, devendra māhabala.
We simply follow [as a custom] what comes down in paramparā, but if we study the practices then all these things become clear and meaningful. So Bhagavān’s three feet [three manifestations] – one stays with Bali Mahārāja in Pātālaloka, one in Kṣīra-sāgara and the last in Vaikuṇṭha.
Nowadays no one follows all these things. Even a mother does not know the birth tithi of her son, she just refers to the date on the English calendar [solar calendar] whereas we refer to the tithi [lunar calendar]. We determine the tithi based on the pañcāṅga. Pañcāṅga is prepared taking five attributes into consideration – tithi, nakśatra, kārana, yoga and vāra.
So today is Vāmana Dvādaśī – the day of Vāmanadeva’s appearance. But sometimes there is a difference of opinion about Dvādaśī tithis. There are eight māhā-dvādaśīs: Jaya Vijaya, Jayantī, Pāpamocanī, Trisprisa, Vyānjulī, Pārśva and Bhaimi – all these are māhā-dvādaśīs. The Vaiṣṇavas calculate the tithis in a different way than the smārtas, therefore Ekādaśī may fall on different days. According to Vaiṣṇava smṛti and smārta thoughts, tithis sometimes fall on different days. Some observe Daśama-viddhā Ekādaśī*. When Durodhyana’s mother Gāndhārī asked Yudhiṣṭhira Maharaja why her children died before her, he replied that if one observes Daśama-viddhā Ekādaśī one will have to suffer the pain of separation from their son (putra-śoka).
* One daṇḍa comprises twenty-four minutes, and two daṇḍas, or forty-eight minutes, comprise one muhūrta. In one complete day of twenty-four hours, there are thirty muhūrtas. In the last part of the night, the segment of time consisting of the two muhūrtas (one hour and thirty-six minutes) before sunrise, is called aruṇodaya, or dawn. The first of these two muhūrtas is called the brāhma-muhūrta. This brāhma-muhūrta is the most beneficial time of the day for the cultivation of spiritual life — Arcana-dīpikā, The Light that Illuminates the Process of Deity Worship, Third Edition
The name of śuddhā Ekādaśī is Harivāsara, the day of Lord Hari. Śuddhā Ekādaśī means pure Ekādaśī. This refers to a circumstance in which there is no overlapping or mixture of tithis, lunar days. When the Ekādaśī tithi begins one aruṇodaya period, or at least ninety-six minutes before sunrise on a particular day, and continues until sunrise of the following day with no overlapping of tithis, it is known as śuddhā Ekādaśī, or pūrṇā Ekādaśī.
If, however, the Daśamī tithi extends even one second within the aruṇodaya period before sunrise, the tithis are said to overlap and this is called pūrva-viddhā Ekādaśī. The term pūrva-viddhā Ekādaśī means that the overlapping takes place at the beginning of Ekādaśī, or in other words, with the Daśamī tithi. One should not observe the ekādaśī-vrata on pūrva-viddhā Ekādaśī. In such a case the Dvādaśī tithi that follows will be known as Mahādvādaśī. The ekādaśī-vrata should then be observed on Mahādvādaśī instead of on the Ekādaśī tithi.
When, however, the overlapping occurs any time before sunrise of the following day, or in other words, with the Dvādaśī tithi, it is known as para-viddhā Ekādaśī. The term para-viddhā Ekādaśī means that the overlapping occurs at the conclusion of Ekādaśī. This does not present any problem, and the ekādaśī-vrata should still be observed on the Ekādaśī tithi — Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu-bindu, A drop of the nectarean ocean of devotional mellows, Third Edition
Excerpt from Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja’s commentary on Śrī Gopī-gīta, Verse Seven (First printing)
It is a fact that Śrīmatī Lakṣmī-devī does not leave Lord Nārāyaṇa’s lotus feet, not even for a moment, and there is a reason for this. Once, in the form of Vāmanadeva, Lord Nārāyaṇa visited the palace of Bali Mahārāja in order to trick him into giving up his kingdom. Bali Mahārāja’s kingdom consisted of the entire universe of fourteen worlds: the upper planetary systems of Bhūr, Bhuvar, Svar, Mahar, Janas, Tapas, and Satya, as well as the seven lower planetary systems. Lord Nārāyaṇa retrieved that entire kingdom.
In the presence of Lord Brahmā and Prahlāda Mahārāja, Lord Nārāyaṇa gave the planet of Sutala to Bali Mahārāja and invited Śrī Prahlāda to stay for some time in Bali Mahārāja’s palace. Upon hearing this, Prahlāda whispered something in Bali Mahārāja’s ear that obviously pleased him. Bali Mahārāja then turned to Lord Nārāyaṇa and said, “You have given me Sutala as my residence, and I will obey Your order, but I beg something else from You. Please stay with me there. The palace there has fifty doors, and I humbly request You to be at whatever door I pass through, whether I am entering or leaving. In this way, I will always be able to see You.” Lord Nārāyaṇa agreed to this, and thus He remained in Bali Mahārāja’s palace.
Time passed, and Lakṣmī began to wonder why her husband had not returned. “My Prabhu left quite some time ago to trick Bali,” she thought, “but still He has not returned home. Where can He be?” Suddenly, Śrī Nārada Muni appeared before her, and she inquired about her husband’s whereabouts from him.
Nārada related what had taken place. He explained how Lord Nārāyaṇa had tricked Bali Mahārāja, and how Bali had in turn ‘tricked’ Lord Nārāyaṇa so that He was unable to leave Bali’s palace.
“Please tell me what I should do,” Lakṣmī said. Then, under Nārada’s instruction, Lakṣmī assumed the form of an old and poor, but very beautiful, brāhmaṇa lady, and went to Bali Mahārāja’s palace when he was giving charity. Amid the clamor of the occasion, Bali Mahārāja saw that an elderly lady had entered the palace and was sitting quietly and patiently on a bench at the back of the assembly.
While everyone else was pushing forward and jostling each other to take as much charity as they could from him, that brāhmaṇa lady simply sat silently. Bali Mahārāja thought, “That brāhmaṇī cannot be an ordinary lady, because she is sitting and waiting so patiently. No common person can do this; she must be someone extraordinary.”
Descending from his throne, he approached the lady and offered his obeisances. “O Mother,” he said. “Who are you and what do you want? It appears that you have a desire for something, but for some reason you are not expressing it. It seems to me that You are seeking an opportunity to see me after everyone else has left. Please tell me what You want.”
“Yes,” she said. “I have come to ask for something, but I am afraid you will not give it to me.”
“I will give you anything you ask for.”
“Is that for certain?”
“Yes, I will definitely give you whatever you ask for.”
“Do you give your word that you will do that?”
“Yes, I give my word.”
When Bali Mahārāja had promised three times that he would give her what she would ask for, Lakṣmī sought further, “You must vow to give me whatever I ask for. Will you do this?” Upon hearing these words, Bali Mahārāja remembered how Lord Nārāyaṇa in the form of Vāmanadeva had made the same request to him.
“Who are you?” he asked.
She remained silent and did not reply. Finally he said, “Very well, please tell me what you want.”
Without saying a word, that brāhmaṇī simply pointed toward Śrī Vāmanadeva, at which moment Bali Mahārāja recognized her as Lakṣmī. He became simultaneously overjoyed and sorrowful, fearing that he would now lose his Lord.
Bali prayed, “O Śrī Nārāyaṇa, Lakṣmī-devī has come to take You away,” he said. “But I cannot bear the thought of You leaving. Please make some type of arrangement so that You can simultaneously live here and with Lakṣmī.”
Lord Nārāyaṇa manifested a second form that would remain with Bali Mahārāja, and then, in His original form, He returned to Vaikuṇṭha. From that time on, Lakṣmī has been afraid that He might leave her again, and she therefore always holds His feet on her lap and heart.
Image/Art made possible by Pixabay.com, Krishnapath.org and/or Bhaktiart.net
Unless indicated differently, all verse translations and quotes are from the books by Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja Prabhupāda (Vedabase.com)