"This holy place, Naimisaranya, is still existing 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 of 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 respectful obeisances, and those who were elderly great sages and brahmanas offered Him blessings by standing up. After this formality, Lord Balarama was offered a suitable seat, and everyone present worshiped Him. Everyone in the assembly stood up in the presence of 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 ksatriya, all the brahmanas and sages stood up because they knew who Lord Balarama was.
Unfortunately, after being worshiped and seated at His place, Lord Balarama saw Romaharsana, the disciple of Vyasadeva (the literary incarnation of Godhead), still sitting on the vyasasana. He had neither gotten up from his seat nor offered Him respects. Because he was seated on the vyasasana, he foolishly thought himself greater than the Lord; therefore he did not get down from the seat or bow down before the Lord. Lord Balarama then considered the history of Romaharsana: he was born in a suta family, or a mixed family, born of a brahmana woman and a ksatriya man. Therefore although Romaharsana considered Balarama a ksatriya, he should not have remained sitting on a higher seat. Lord Balarama considered that Romaharsana, according to his position by birth, should not have accepted the higher sitting position, because there were many learned brahmanas and sages present. He also observed that Romaharsana not only did not come down from his exalted seat, but he did not even stand up and offer his respects when Balaramaji entered the assembly. Lord Balarama did not like the audacity of Romaharsana, and He became very angry with him.
When a person is seated on the vyasasana, 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 Romaharsana Suta was voted to the vyasasana by all the brahmanas, he should have followed the behavior of other learned sages and brahmanas who were 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 Krsna and Balarama is especially meant for reestablishment of the religious principles. As stated in the Bhagavad-gita, the highest religious principle is to surrender unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is also confirmed in the Srimad-Bhagavatam that the topmost perfection of religiousness is to be engaged in the devotional service of the Lord.
When Lord Balarama saw that Romaharsana Suta did not understand the highest principle of religion in spite of his having studied all the Vedas, He certainly could not support his position. Romaharsana Suta had been given the chance to become a perfect brahmana, but because of his ill behavior in his relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, his low birth was immediately remembered. Romaharsana Suta had been given the position of a brahmana, but he had not been born in the family of a brahmana; he had been born in a pratiloma family. According to the Vedic concept, there are two kinds of mixed family heritage. They are called anuloma and pratiloma. When a male is united with a female of a lower caste, the offspring is called anuloma; but when a male unites with a woman of a higher caste, the offspring is called pratiloma. Romaharsana Suta belonged to a pratiloma family because his father was a ksatriya and his mother a brahmana. Because Romaharsana's transcendental realization was not perfect, Lord Balarama remembered his pratiloma heritage. The idea is that any man can be given the chance to become a brahmana, but if he improperly uses the position of a brahmana without actual realization, then his elevation to the brahminical position is not valid.
After seeing the deficiency of realization in Romaharsana Suta, Lord Balarama decided to chastise him for being puffed up. Lord Balarama therefore said, "This man is liable to be awarded the death punishment because, although he has the good qualification of being a disciple of Lord Vyasadeva, and although he has studied all the Vedic literature from this exalted personality, he was not submissive in the presence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead." As stated in the Bhagavad-gita, a person who is actually a brahmana and is very learned must automatically become very gentle also. In the case of Romaharsana Suta, although he was very learned and had been given the chance to become a brahmana, he had not become gentle. From this we can understand that when one is puffed up by material acquisition, he cannot acquire the gentle behavior befitting a brahmana. 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 in the sastras become simply outward dress, like the costume of a theatrical artist dancing on the stage. Lord Balarama began to consider thus, "I have appeared in order to chastise false persons who are internally impure but externally pose themselves to be very learned and religious. My killing of such persons is proper, to check them from further sinful activity."
Lord Balarama had avoided taking part in the Battle of Kuruksetra, and yet because of His position, the reestablishment of religious principles was His prime duty. Considering these points, He killed Romaharsana 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 Romaharsana 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 the material laws and principles. Thus it was possible for Him to kill Romaharsana Suta simply by striking him with a blade of kusa grass.
At the death of Romaharsana Suta, everyone present became much aggrieved, and there was roaring crying. Although all the brahmanas and sages present there knew Lord Balarama to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead, they did not hesitate to protest the Lord's action, and they humbly submitted, "Our dear Lord, we think that Your action is not in line with the religious principles. Dear Lord Yadunandana, we may inform You that we brahmanas posted Romaharsana Suta on that exalted position for the duration of this great sacrifice. He was seated on the vyasasana by our election, and when one is seated on the vyasasana, it is improper for him to stand up to receive a person. Moreover, we awarded Romaharsana Suta an undisturbed duration of life. Under the circumstances, since Your Lordship has killed him without knowing all these facts, we think that Your action has been equal to that of killing a brahmana. Dear Lord, deliverer of all fallen souls, we know certainly that You are the knower of all Vedic principles. You are the master of all mystic powers; therefore ordinarily the Vedic injunctions cannot be applied to Your personality. But we request that You show Your causeless mercy upon others by kindly atoning for this killing of Romaharsana Suta. We do not, however, suggest what kind of act You should perform to atone for killing him; we simply suggest that some method of atonement be adopted by You so that others may follow Your action. What is done by a great personality is followed by the ordinary man."
The Lord replied, "Yes, I must atone for this action, which may have been proper for Me, but is improper for others; therefore, I think it is My duty to execute a suitable act of atonement enjoined in the authorized scriptures. Simultaneously I can also give this Romaharsana Suta life again, with a span of long duration, sufficient strength, and full power of the senses. Not only this, if you desire I shall be glad to award him anything else which you may ask. I shall be very glad to grant all these boons in order to fulfill your desires."
This statement of Lord Balarama definitely confirms that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is free to act in any way. Although it may be considered that His killing of Romaharsana Suta was improper, He could immediately counteract the action with greater profit to all. Therefore, one should not imitate the actions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead; one should simply follow the instructions of the Lord. All the great learned sages present realized that although they considered the action of Lord Balarama to be improper, the Lord was immediately able to compensate with greater profits. Not wanting to detract from the mission of the Lord in killing Romaharsana Suta, all of them prayed, "Our dear Lord, the uncommon use of Your kusa weapon to kill Romaharsana Suta may remain as it is; because of Your desire to kill him, he should not be brought to life again. At the same time Your Lordship may remember that we sages and brahmanas voluntarily gave him long life; therefore, such a benediction should not be nullified." Thus the request of all the learned brahmanas in the assembly was ambiguous because they wanted to keep intact the benediction given by them that Romaharsana Suta would continue to live until the end of the great sacrifice, but at the same time they did not want to nullify Balarama's killing him.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead therefore solved the problem in a manner befitting His exalted position, and said, "Because the son is produced from the body of the father, it is the injunction of the Vedas that the son is the father's representative. Therefore I say that Ugrasrava Suta, the son of Romaharsana Suta, should henceforth take his father's position and continue the discourses on the Puranas, and because you wanted Romaharsana to have a long duration of life, this benediction will be transferred to his son. The son, Ugrasrava, will therefore have all the facilities you offered--long duration of life in a good and healthy body, without any disturbances and full strength of all the senses."
Lord Balarama then implored all the sages and brahmanas that aside from the benediction offered to the son of Romaharsana, they should ask from Him any other benediction, and He would be prepared to fulfill it immediately. The Lord thus placed Himself in the position of an ordinary ksatriya and informed the sages that He did not know in what way He could atone for His killing of Romaharsana, but whatever they would suggest He would be glad to accept.
The brahmanas could understand the purpose of the Lord, and thus, they suggested that He atone for His actions in a manner which would be beneficial to them. They said, "Our dear Lord, there is a demon of the name Balvala. He is the son of Ilvala, but he is a very powerful demon, and he visits this sacred place of sacrifice every fortnight on the full moon and moonless days and creates a great disturbance to the discharge of our duties in the sacrifice. O descendant of the Dasarha family, we all request You to kill this demon. We think that if You kindly kill him, that will be Your atonement on our behalf. The demon occasionally comes here and profusely throws upon us contaminated, impure things like pus, blood, stool, urine and wine, and he pollutes this sacred place by showering such filth upon us. After killing Balvala, You may continue touring all the sacred places of pilgrimage for twelve months, and in that way You will be completely freed from all contamination. That is our prescription."
Krsna Book, Chapter 77
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. Excerpted from text and purport of HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.