This mail is a humble effort to glorify Lord Balarama by meditating on the lessons to be learnt from the pastime of Lord meeting Romaharshana.
The place named Naimisharanya still exists in India, and in ancient times it was especially used for the meetings of great sages and saintly persons with the aim of understanding spiritual life and self-realization. When Lord Balarama visited that place there was a great sacrifice being performed by a great assembly of transcendentalists. Such meetings were planned to last thousands of years. When Lord Balarama arrived, all the participants in the meeting—great sages, ascetics, Brahmanas and learned scholars—immediately arose from their seats and welcomed Him with great honor and respect. Some offered Him respects by standing up and then paying obeisances and those who were elderly great sages and Brahmanas offered Him blessings after standing up. After this, Lord Balarama was offered a suitable seat, and everyone present worshiped Him. Everyone in the assembly stood up in the presence of Lord Balarama because they knew Him to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Education or learning means to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead; therefore, although Lord Balarama appeared on the earth as a Kshatriya, all the Brahmanas and sages stood up because they knew who Lord Balarama was.
Unfortunately, after being worshiped and seated in His place, Lord Balarama saw Romaharshana, the disciple of Vyasadeva (the literary incarnation of Godhead), still sitting on the Vyaasasana. He neither got up from his seat nor offered Him respects. Because he was seated on the Vyaasasana, he foolishly thought himself greater than the Lord; therefore he did not get down from his seat or bow down before the Lord. Lord Balarama then considered the history of Romaharshana: he was born in a Suta family, or a mixed family, (his mother was a Brahmin woman and father was a Kshatriya). Therefore although Romaharshana considered Balarama a Kshatriya, he should not have remained sitting on a higher seat; according to his position by birth he should not even have accepted the higher sitting position, because many learned Brahmanas and sages were present. Lord Balarama also observed that Romaharshana not only refused to come down from his exalted seat but did not even stand up and offer his respects when Balaramji entered the assembly. Lord Balarama did not like the audacity of Romaharshana and, becoming very angry at him. In Srimad Bhagavatam verses 10.78.25-26 He says
rsher bhagavato bhutvaa / shishyo dheetya bahuni ca
setihaasa puraanaani / dharma shaastraani sarvashah
adaantasyaavineetasya / vrthaa pandita maaninah
na gunaaya bhavanti sma / natasyevaajitaatmanah
“Although he is a disciple of the divine sage Vyāsa and has thoroughly learned many scriptures from him, including the lawbooks of religious duties and the epic histories and Purāṇas, all this study has not produced good qualities in him. Rather, his study of the scriptures is like an actor’s studying his part, for he is not self-controlled or humble and vainly presumes himself a scholarly authority, though he has failed to conquer his own mind.“
Srila Prabhupada explains that when a person is seated on the Vyaasasana, he does not generally have to stand to receive a particular person entering the assembly, but in this case the situation was different because Lord Baladeva is not an ordinary human being. Therefore, although Romaharshana Suta was voted to the Vyaasasana by all the Brahmanas, he should have followed the behavior of other learned sages and Brahmanas present and should have known that Lord Balarama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Respects are always due Him, even though such respects can be avoided in the case of an ordinary man. The appearance of Krishna and Balarama is especially meant for reestablishment of the religious principles. As stated in the Bhagavad-Gita, the highest religious principle is to surrender to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Srimad-Bhagavatam also confirms that the topmost perfection of religion is to be engaged in the devotional service of the Lord.
As stated in the Bhagavad-Gita, a person who is actually a Brahman and is very learned must automatically become very gentle also. But although Romaharshana Suta was very learned and had been given the chance to become a Brahman, he had not become gentle. From this we can understand that one who is puffed up by material acquisitions cannot acquire the gentle behavior befitting a Brahman. The learning of such a person is as good as a valuable jewel decorating the hood of a serpent. Despite the valuable jewel on the hood, a serpent is still a serpent and is as fearful as an ordinary serpent. If a person does not become meek and humble, all his studies of the Vedas and Puranas and his vast knowledge of the Shastras are simply outward dress, like the costume of a theatrical artist dancing on the stage. Lord Balarama considered, “I have appeared in order to chastise false persons who are internally impure but externally pose themselves as very learned and religious. My killing of such persons is proper, to check them from further sinful activity.”
Srila Prabhupada writes – Lord Balarama had avoided taking part in the battle of Kurukshetra, and yet because of His position as an incarnation, the reestablishment of religious principles was His prime duty. Considering these points, He killed Romaharshana Suta simply by striking him with a kusa straw, which was nothing but a blade of grass. If someone questions how Lord Balarama could kill Romaharshana Suta simply by striking him with a blade of kusa grass, the answer is given in Srimad-Bhagavatam by the use of the word Prabhu (“master”). The Lord’s position is always transcendental, and because He is omnipotent He can act as He likes, without being obliged to follow the material laws and principles. Thus it was possible for Him to kill Romaharshana Suta simply by striking him with a blade of kusa grass.
Here it is important to learn from this incident that if one becomes knowledgeable in Vedic scriptures but if he still does not understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead then his knowledge is like water in Ocean, ample in quantity but of no use to quench the thirst. Thus the fall down of such person is certain. The basic idea behind studying scriptures is to understand the supremacy of Absolute truth and surrender unto Him unconditionally. The more the person advances in Bhakti, the more humble and meek he becomes.
I pray at the Lotus feet of Krishna, Lord Baladeva, Srila Prabhupad and Srila Gurudev to give me understanding of the importance of humbleness and meekness in devotional life as per the above incident of Romaharshana.
Thank you very much.
Yours in Service of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudev,
Vinayasheela devi dasi,