GET THE WHOLE PICTURE
We know the story where Lord Balaram, intoxicated with Varuni, desired to enjoy the company of Yamuna. She refuses because she is afraid of His intoxicated state and thus, enraged Balaram takes His plow and makes a channel, dragging it through the earth. This way He forces Yamuna to come to Him.
This is a lila that I wouldn’t tell in the presence of the present-day feminists.
Before I make my point, it is necessary to give a little background:
I am on the BBT Editorial Review Panel, where we have been asked to review the process of editing Srila Prabhupada’s books. It is quite controversial for many people. In our meetings, I came to notice something—we have many discussions and sometimes we spend about an hour discussing a particular edit. The discussion can be quite enlivening but also quite agonizing, because making such decisions can be difficult.
Sometimes the issue comes up in our panel that a word-for-word translation of a particular word would be different from how it is in the verse translation, and then sometimes something would be explained by Srila Prabhupada in his purport which we may have thought should be in the word-for-word or in the translation, but it is not there.
My point is being—what we in our Panel came to appreciate is that in Srila Prabhupada’s books you need the “whole thing.” There is the Sanskrit verse, the word-for-word translations, the translation, and the purport. Altogether these elements make up a complete package, and one needs to look at the “whole thing.” We can expand this and further say that we need the whole package of all of Srila Prabhupada’s books. We need the Gita, the Bhagavatam, Caitanya-caritamrita and Nectar of Devotion. All of these together give the full picture of Krishna consciousness.
Now, to apply this point, back to Lord Balarama and His pastime:
The more complete picture of Balarama dragging Yamuna is hinted in the song “nitai guna mani” by Srila Locana-dasa Thakur. He is glorifying Lord Nityananda—who is, of course, Balaram. In the same way, Lord Caitanya is completing the appearance of Lord Krishna. And it is explained that whenever Krishna appears in Dvapara-yuga—in many cycles, there is only one in the 28 cycles in one day of Brahma—Lord Caitanya appears after Him. They are a set, They go together. Similarly, when Balarama appears, Nityananda appears.
When Nityananda appears—this is in Locanadasa Thakur’s song and as Prabhupada explains it in his translation of this verse—He creates a canal to each and every door, or He is “dragging” the flow of Krishna-prema and in this way, He is continuing that pastime. He is realizing the real purport of the whole Yamuna dragging pastime.
Therefore, we always need the whole picture, otherwise we don’t get it. And then we need to apply this to all of Krishna’s pastimes. In order to get the full understanding of them we must get the full picture. We do that especially through Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, His pastimes and His teachings given to us in Sri Caitanya Caritamrita. The Panca Tattva are giving the full picture of what it is when the Lord is expanding into so many different forms. You can call it a “holistic” appreciation of the Lord’s pastimes.
—From the online discussion “Churning the Bhagavatam: Dasavatara 8—Balarama”, The Monk’s Podcast 110, by Krishna Kshetra Swami and Chaitanya Charan Dasa, December 14, 2021.