Balaram is the older brother of Krishna. Bala means strength, and Rama signifies pleasure. Balarama gives us the spiritual strength to say ‘No’ to the temptations and distractions on the path of Krishna consciousness and He also provides us the spiritual taste or flavor of happiness in our devotional service. Krishna gives us the sword of knowledge called Bhakti that helps us connect to Him. To lift this sword, or to practice this process, we need strength, and that spiritual strength comes from the grace of Lord Balarama.
He appeared as the seventh son of Vasudev and Devaki. The couple’s six sons were brutally killed by Devaki’s brother Kamsa who had been warned by a celestial voice that Devaki’s eighth son would kill him. Fearing his death, he mercilessly killed all of their six children. When Devaki was pregnant for the seventh time carrying Balarama in her womb, the Lord ordered His spiritual potency to shift Balarama from Devaki’s womb to Rohini’s womb. Rohini was also the wife of Vasudeva but was kept under the protection of Nanda and Yashoda in Vrindavan. While Balarama was transferred, Kamsa and others thought Devaki had a miscarriage and her seventh child wasn’t born. In reality however he did appear but was now in Vrindavan, eagerly awaiting the arrival of His master and Lord, Lord Krishna who would soon appear as Devaki’s eight child.
Our hearts are compared to the womb of Devaki. Just as she lost her six sons before Balarama appeared there, similarly we need to see the death of our six anarthas, unwanted enemies of the soul, namely lust, greed, anger, pride, envy and illusion. Balarama then appeared as the seventh child and made Devaki’s womb ready for Krishna’s arrival. Similarly Balarama who appears in this material world as the spiritual master or guru first purifies our hearts by his instructions and by engaging us in service to Krishna. Then our hearts become ready for the descent of Lord Krishna.
During the pastimes in this world, Balarama served Krishna in all five flavors. In shanta or neutral rasa, he served Krishna by expanding as Krishna’s bedding, shoes, umbrella and various paraphernalia. In the dasya or servitor mood he would be ready to please Krishna. He also was Krishna’s best friend in the sakhya rasa. As the older brother, he also served in the vatsalya rasa and he expanded as Ananga Manjari, the sister of Radha Rani to give pleasure to Krishna in the madhurya rasa or conjugal mellow.
Balarama came as Lakshmana in the previous age and in the modern age of Kali, He came as Lord Nityananda, the associate of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. As Lakshmana and Balarama, he killed the demons but as Lord Nityananda, he kills the demoniac propensities in our hearts and awards us the gift of love of God. When Ravana attacked Lakshmana and caused him bleeding, he told his older brother Rama to immediately kill Ravana. However when the same Ravana appeared as Madhai, a terrible dacoit and murderer and when he attacked Lord Nityananda and caused him to bleed, Nityananda told Lord Chaitanya to overlook the fault and instead give him pure love of Krishna. This compassion of Balarama in the form of Lord Nityananda is unparalleled and caused Lord Chaitanya to cry torrents of tears in gratitude.
Seeing one terrible pair of degraded souls, Jagai and Madhai transform by the power of Lord Nityananda, Lord Chaitanya cried tears of love and gratitude. Just imagine how much more gratitude the Lord would feel to see Srila Prabhupada transform the hearts of thousands of Jagai and Madhai types of people. Srila Prabhupada preached the message of Krishna consciousness in the most challenging situation amidst men and women addicted to intoxication, drugs, meat, illicit sex, gambling and a host of other vices. In a lecture in Bombay, Srila Prabhupada while glorifying the Lord’s mercy said that five hundred years ago Lord Chaitanya and Lord Nityananda delivered one Jagai and Madhai but today by the same Lord’s mercy, ‘whole sale’ Jagai’s and Madhai’s are being delivered.
On such special occasions as the appearance day of Lord Balarama, a devotee prays to be able to selflessly serve his spiritual master who is a representative of Lord Balarama. This service brings us closer to the master of Lord Balarama, Lord Krishna.