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From SB 10.78:

When Lord Baladeva heard that the Pāṇḍavas and Kauravas were about to go to war, in order to remain neutral He left Dvārakā on the pretext of going on pilgrimage. The Lord bathed in sacred places such as Prabhāsa, Tritakūpa and Viśāla, and eventually He came to the holy Naimiṣāraṇya forest, where great sages were performing an extended fire sacrifice. While being worshiped by the assembled sages and offered a seat of honor, the Lord noticed that Romaharṣaṇa Sūta, sitting on the speaker’s seat, had failed to stand in deference to Him. Greatly angered by this offense, Lord Balarāma killed Romaharṣaṇa by touching him with the tip of a blade of kuśa grass.

The assembled sages were disturbed by what Lord Baladeva had done, and they said to Him, “You have unknowingly killed a brāhmaṇa. Therefore, even though You are above the Vedic injunctions, we request You to set a perfect example for the general populace by atoning for this sin.” Then Śrī Baladeva, following the Vedic maxim that “one’s son takes birth as one’s own self,” granted to Romaharṣaṇa’s son Ugraśravā the position of speaker of the Purāṇas, and in accordance with the sages’ desires He promised Ugraśravā a long life with unfailing sensory capacity.

Wanting to do something more for the sages, Lord Baladeva promised to kill a demon named Balvala, who had been polluting their sacrificial arena. Finally, on the sages’ advice, He agreed to go on a year-long pilgrimage of all the holy places in India.

How is this killing of Romaharshana (for simply not standing up) justified?

Does Balarama ever regret his action? If not, what is the point of going on a pilgrimage?

  • Well, disrespecting the supreme Lord of all the worlds sounds like an offense worthy of punishment. In any case, the point of the pilgrimage is spelled out by the Rishis: "even though You are above the Vedic injunctions, we request You to set a perfect example for the general populace by atoning for this sin". So it's not that Balarama regretted his actions or that he incurred any sins, it's just that if an ordinary person did that it would incur a sin and there would have to be atonement for it, so Balarama wanted to set an example for others. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 13 '16 at 15:54
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    @sv. First of all, Romaharshana was not the guru of those rishis. Second of all, even if Balarama had killed their guru, it is still the case that Balarama being an incarnation of the supreme lord of all the worlds is above Vedic injunctions. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 13 '16 at 16:56
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    @TheDestroyer Yes, that was the Lila of Sriman Narayana. In any case, there certainly is a difference between Krishna and Balarama, but we have to distinguish between the Purna Avatara vs. Amsa Avatara distinction, and the Avesha Avatara vs. non-Avesha Avatara. Balarama might have been an Amsa Avatara rather than a Purna Avatara, but that has absolutely no bearing on being fallible or subject to Avidya. It's only if he were an Avesha Avatara (which he wasn't) that he would have a Jivatma. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 14 '16 at 9:16
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    Lord Balarama is certainly not an ordinary living being, ie a jiva soul (jivatma), but is the Supreme Lord or Supreme Soul (paramatma), and thus He is that what Upanishads call Brahman or the Absolute. Thus we should understand his position according to the teaching of Vedanta as an entity which is not under the influence of ignorance, improper behavior, deluded mind and other negative influences such as sins, injustice, etc. And if some story describes him as if he was under such negative influences we should understand that to be just a lila (pastime) of the Lord as I have explained at ... – brahma jijnasa Oct 17 '16 at 22:39
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    ... hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/15067/2790 People who do not understand that are lacking in proper understanding of the philosophy of Vedanta. They are advised to learn Vedanta first, to be able to properly understand those things, and then they will be not confused to understand properly the position of Lord Vishnu, or in this particular case Lord Balarama. We can see that those people who do not know Vedanta properly are often confused and misunderstand stories that are told in the Puranas and Itihasas. My favorite system of Vedanta is that one of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas. – brahma jijnasa Oct 17 '16 at 22:39
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Markandeya Purana chapter 6 states that BalaRama repents for killing Suta. It states:

Suta, being slain, attained to the dignity of Brahma; and all the twice-born, clad in antelope skin, went away from the forest. Considering himself sullied, the holder of plough thought: "A great iniquity has been perpetrated by me. I have slain Suta who has attained to the dignity of Brahma; and seeing me all these twice-born ones have gone away. The smell of my body, hard as iron, is creating uneasiness. I have degraded my own-self cursed with the destruction of a Brahmana. Fie on spite, drink, egoism and rashness, possessed by which I have perpetrated this mighty iniquity. For expiating my sin, I shall observe a vow extending over twelve years by washing away my deed and making an excellent atonement. In this visit of the holy shrines which I have undertaken I shall go to Pratiloma Saraswati." Thereupon Rama repaired to Pratiloma Saraswati; hear next the narration concerning the Pandavas. (Markandeya Purana chapter 6)

8

It looks like Balarama was aware of His divinity. Balarama is avatar of Adishesha who is Lord Vishnu Himself. So, it's like Lord Vishnu killing Romaharshana. Even it is virtuous or a boon to get killed by Lord. So, Romaharshana (Suta) was blessed for getting killed by Lord.

Anyways, Balarama mentions the reason in detail in Chapter 19 Setu Mahatmya Brahma Khanda of Skanda Purana.

19-26. He saw Suta, the disciple of Vyasa, seated on a lofty seat." He did not bow down to him. He did not get up. He did not join the palms in reverence. He continued to be seated. But on seeing him the Brahmanas had bowed down their heads. Observing this, the son of Rohini, became furious with Suta, the most excellent one conversant with the Puranas. (Then he said thus:) “Why does this Anuloma born (i.e. born of a woman inferior in caste to the father) censurable Suta occupy a lofty seat in the middle of the sages. This is not at all proper. We are the protectors of Dharma. But he has insulted us very much. He does not get up. He dares to be seated continuously. He does not pay respect to us. He has read the Puranas under the supervision of Dvaipayana. He has learned many scriptures on Dharmasastra along with the legendary narratives. Still he does not make obeisance to me even after seeing me, nor does he leave his seat. Dwaipayana has many great disciples, the Brahmanas Paila and others. They will not commit such an offence as this fellow does. Hence I shall kill this wicked and senseless fellow. Indeed it is to restrain wicked ones that I have come down to the terrestrial world. Undoubtedly this vicious one will attain purity on being killed by me.'

Balarama purified Suta by killing him. Not only He purified, He also gave the boon. So, there's no need to regret. However, due to rules of world and physical body he donned, He incurred the sin of Brahmana slaughter. He expiated the Brahmana sin by taking dip in Lakshmana tirtha in Rameswaram.

70-73. On being told thus, Rama went to the Gandhamadana mountain, O eminent sages, and reached Laksmanatirtha. The lord with ploughshare for his weapon took his holy bath in that Tirtha along with the requisite Sanhkalpa rites. Then he gave away monetary gifts, foodgrains, cows and plots of land. At that time an unembodied speech said to Rama: "Now, your sin of Brahmana's slaughter has been eradicated completely, O Rama. You need not have any doubt about this. Go happily to your city." On hearing it, Balabhadra praised that Tirtha.

74-76. Thereafter Madhava (i.e. Bala) took his bath in all the local Tirthas. He then bathed in Dhanuskoti and worshipped Ramanatha (Lord Shiva). Having got rid of all his sins, he went to his city Dvaraka.

Actions done by Lord are called leela which can't be understood easily with our limited intelligence sometimes. We need to expand our consciousness (transcendental consciousness) to understand them better.

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    One thing for sure is Krishna wouldn't have killed a sage like Balarama did. He gave 100 chances to a mere king like Sishupala. – sv. Dec 1 '16 at 14:26
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    @sv. Even some actions of Krishna are difficult to understand such as using tricks and ploys to win the war. – The Destroyer Dec 1 '16 at 15:05
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    @sv. haha. Yeah. I believe we can only understand our scriptures properly when we expand our consciousness like our Rishis. – The Destroyer Dec 1 '16 at 15:06
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    @sv. "One thing for sure is Krishna wouldn't have killed a sage like Balarama did. He gave 100 chances to a mere king like Sishupala." No, Krishna reacted to disrespect in a similar manner to Balarama. Look at how Krishna reacted to Paundraka when Paundraka pretended to be Vishnu: vedabase.com/en/sb/10/66 The case of Shishupala was unusual, because when Shishupala was a baby Shishupala's mother asked Krishna not to kill him. If he hadn't granted her a boon, he would have killed Shishupala far sooner. Disrespect against the supreme lord of all the worlds is a heinous sin. – Keshav Srinivasan Dec 1 '16 at 15:59
  • This conversation has been moved to chat. – Keshav Srinivasan Dec 1 '16 at 22:40

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