Hare Krishna! Please accept my humble obeisances ! All glories to Srila Prabhupada and Gurudev!
On the auspicious occasion of the appearance of Vamanadeva, H.G. Sajjanapriya Krishna Prabhuji took a very nice class on the pastime of Lord Vamanadeva referring to the following verse from Srimad Bhagavatam 8.22.35
"O great hero, I shall always be with you and give you protection in all respects along with your associates and paraphernalia. Moreover, you will always be able to see Me there."
This is the verse spoken by Lord Vamanadeva to Bali Maharaj after Bali Maharaj was arrested by the rope of Varuna, as he was unable to fulfill his promise to the Lord to give in charity the three paces of land begged by the Lord. Even after he was arrested, Bali Maharaj very much felt that he could not fulfill his promise and he spoke very humbly expressing that he deserved this punishment which was for his own benefit. Seeing the condition of Bali Maharaj, Lord Brahma and Prahlada Maharaj glorified the Lord for His merciful favor in removing the darkness of ignorance of Bali by taking away all his opulence and Lord Brahma requested for the release of Bali Maharaj who has willingly offered everything to the Lord. On hearing this request, the Lord replied in a very wonderful manner and the above quoted verse is from the Lord’s reply.
In this particular verse, the Lord addresses Bali Maharaj as ‘veera’ or ‘o great hero’. Our conception of hero in the material world is the one we have imbibed by seeing the films wherein the heroes do all kinds of wonderful feats, fight with so many villains single handedly, drive the vehicles in unbelievable ways or rescues the heroine from the villain, so on and so forth. Here Bali Maharaj stands before the Lord arrested and he is bereft of all the opulences and so we wonder how come the Lord calls him as a great hero. The Lord explains the reason in the following verses from Srimad Bhagavatam 8.22.-28,29,30.
esha daanava-daityaanaam / agraneeh keerti-vardhanah ajaishid ajayaam maayaam / seedann api na muhyati
ksheena-rikthas cyutah sthaanaat / kshipto baddhas ca shatrubhih jnaatibhis ca parityakto / yaatanaam anuyaapitah gurunaa bhartsitah shapto / jahau satyam na suvratah chalair ukto mayaa dharmo / naayam tyajati satya-vaak
"Bali Maharaja has become the most famous among the demons and nonbelievers, for in spite of being bereft of all material opulences, he is fixed in his devotional service."
"Although bereft of his riches, fallen from his original position, defeated and arrested by his enemies, rebuked and deserted by his relatives and friends, although suffering the pain of being bound and although rebuked and cursed by his spiritual master, Bali Maharaja, being fixed in his vow, did not give up his truthfulness. It was certainly with pretension that I spoke about religious principles, but he did not give up religious principles, for he is true to his word."
In Srimad Bhagavatam 1.18.48 the forbearance of the devotees is explained as under :
tiraskrtaa vipralabdhaah / shaptaah kshiptaa hataa api naasya tat pratikurvanti / tad-bhaktaah prabhavo ’pi hi
"The devotees of the Lord are so forbearing that even though they are defamed, cheated, cursed, disturbed, neglected or even killed, they are never inclined to avenge themselves."
There are five situations mentioned in this verse and they are :
1.tiraskrtaah – being defamed 2.vipralabdaah – being cheated 3.shaptaah – being cursed 4.ksiptaah – being disturbed by negligence 5.hataah – being killed
Our beloved Guru Maharaj says that anyone in the material world has to go through any or all of these situations. H.G. Svayam Sphurathy Krishna prabhu explained in one of the classes that Bali Maharaj faced all these situations together and the way he responded is exemplary and hence the Lord is very pleased to address him as ‘veera’ or ‘great hero’.
Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport that one could hardly have lived under the conditions forced upon Bali Maharaj. When there is a very small disturbance in the material life, I completely go haywire and here we see the determination and tolerance of Bali Maharaj and his surrender to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The Lord specifically states that Bali Maharaj was satya-vak – true to his word, but He (the Lord Himself) was pretentious about the religious principles. This is the standard of character of the Lord. The Lord being the master of all the religious principles (dharmasya prabhur achyutah) and supreme proprietor of the all the three worlds has got every right to claim the land hence there is no question of pretension on His part. Srila Prabhupada highlights in his purport, "The Lord certainly appreciates the devotee’s forbearance, and it is recorded for the future glorification of the devotee. This was not an ordinary test. As described in this verse, hardly anyone could survive such a test, but for the future glorification of Bali Maharaja, one of the Mahajanas, the Supreme Personality of Godhead not only tested him but also gave him the strength to tolerate such adversity. The Lord is so kind to His devotee that when severely testing him the Lord gives him the necessary strength to be tolerant and continue to remain a glorious devotee."
We see that even today when we are observing Lord Vamana jayanthi, we cannot observe the celebration without remembering the glorious devotee Bali Maharaja. This makes him the real hero. Children always like to hear the stories of great heroes and they begin worshiping them and they paste full blown posters of the heroes in their rooms. Let us revive our Vedic culture of narrating the stories of great heroes like Bali Maharaj to the children so that they can come to the correct conclusion of who is the real hero to be worshipped and followed.