The inevitable fluctuations of fortune in life are dictated by the laws of Kala, or Time, as well as the effects of each individual’s karma. But the Lord’s Sankalpa reigns supreme and His Maya is the controlling power of Kala and Karma. This is especially typified in His incarnation as Vamana, when the Lord humbles Bali and makes him eligible for salvation, pointed out Damal Sri Ramakrishnan and Srimati Perundevi in a discourse.
Bali is at the height of a golden period, having consolidated his position over the celestial beings and rules as the master of the three worlds. Aditi, the mother of the celestial beings, is sad at the pitiable plight of her sons and, on the advice of Sage Kashyapa, propitiates the Lord by undertaking the Payovrata vow for 12 days. The Lord appears before her and promises to restore the lost glory of her sons at the opportune moment. The Lord wills His birth as their son at the auspicious Abhijit hour when His advent would be most beneficial. He appears in His divine form and even as all rejoice at His presence, He transforms Himself into a Brahmachari lad of exceptional brilliance and austere appearance.
The Upanayanam is performed and the Lord proceeds to Bali’s yaga sala on the banks of the Narmada. Bali notices the arrival of Vamana and is impressed by the His appearance, a bright young lad clad in deerskin, with staff, umbrella and a jar of water. Bali welcomes Him most warmly and, conscious of his own munificence, expresses his wish to grant Him whatever He desires. Bali is surprised when the Lord seeks a mere three steps of land measured by His feet. This apparently simple request turns out to be a calculated move to overtly divest Bali of his material wealth; but in actuality it benefits him by freeing him from self-consuming pride.
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