Bali was a noble king, one of selflessness and an ardent devotee. One who seeks alms is considered small. Hence, even Lord Narayana had to assume the form of a vamana (dwarf) when He went to beg for alms from Bali. The Pakshi Vahana (the one who has Garuda as His vehicle) has Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth on His chest. Yet He became very small and sought bhiksha (alms) from Bali. He sought just three footsteps of land. Being small in stature, his feet were even smaller. Yet He could measure the three worlds with His three steps. Sage Sukracharya, the preceptor of Bali, cautioned him not to yield to Vamana's request. He revealed that He was no ordinary being but Lord Narayana Himself. But Bali did not pay heed to his counsel, saying it was not proper for one to go back on one's promise. Having given his word, he wanted to fulfil it, come what may. He even disobeyed his Guru and offered himself to God. God has infinite potentialities. Nothing is impossible for Him. Vamana occupied the three worlds with his footsteps. The three worlds are represented by Bhur Bhuvah Suvah. Bhur stands for material world. Bhuvaha represents the realm of thought, i.e., the mind. Suvaha is the principle of the Atma. All the three are contained in man.
Kerala is the birthplace of sacrifice and the centre of devotion and surrender. No beggar is turned away empty-handed. Everyone does charity as per his capacity. It is this Punya Bhumi (land of merit) that gave birth to Bali. There are many in this world who perform Bhudana, Godana, Annadana, Vastradana, Suvarnadana (giving away land, cows, food, clothes and gold in charity). But emperor Bali performed the supreme sacrifice by offering himself to God. With the passage of time, there might have been a few changes, but, nevertheless, Kerala continues to be the land famous for devotion and surrender. It is the birthplace of Prahlada, the great devotee of the Lord. Even as Bali disobeyed the command of his Guru for the sake of God, Prahlada, too, went against the wishes of his father and surrendered totally to the Lord. Many such noble souls have taken birth in the sacred land of Kerala.
Love all. Do not hate anyone. Love even your enemies. If there is any trace of anger or hatred in you, transform them into love. Then you will also become a great Rishi.
Divine Discourse: Aug 21, 2002
Emperor Bali was the personification of generosity. To uphold his promise, he sacrificed everything. Young Vamana requested three paces of land. Bali promised without a moment's hesitation. His preceptor Sukracharya however dissuaded him. He told Bali, "The person before you is Vishnu Himself. Once you promise Him anything, you cannot transgress it. So, do not make any hasty promises." Bali replied Sukracharya that there was no greater sin than going back on one's words and, not withstanding the specific command of his own preceptor, he upheld the promise made to Vamana. Bali was prepared to undergo any misery while maintaining truth. So Lord Vishnu sent him to the netherworld and gave him all the comforts of living. Being in Pathala, he attained eternal life. He however prayed to Vamana that He should return every year to the land of Kerala and grace it with His blessings. That is why the people of Kerala have named this day "Onam" and celebrate it with fervor.
Emperor Bali was an extremely virtuous person. Though born in a family of demons, he was filled with divine thoughts. It is the consequence of the great merits of Bali that is manifesting as the benefits that people of Kerala enjoy today. Onam does not mean merely the preparation of sweet pudding, various delicious dishes, etc., and eating ourselves to the full. We must re-live the experience of the encounter between Bali and Vamana. Today Vamana is supposed to be physically present in the land of Kerala and hence this day should be celebrated with gaiety and joy. We should lead an ethical, moral and spiritual life.
Divine Discourse: Aug 31, 2001
Kerala occupies a place of prominence in this sacred land of Bharat, which is Thyaga Bhumi (land of sacrifice), Yoga Bhumi (land of spirituality) and Karma Bhumi (land of action). The state of Kerala owes its reputation not only to Emperor Bali but also to the advent of Lord Vamana. It is the tradition of Kerala not to turn away anybody empty-handed. In fact, every Bharatiya is endowed with this spirit of sacrifice. The people of Kerala are not affected by the impact of Kali Age as they continue to follow the ideals set by Bali and lead their lives happily. They are righteous, devoted and god-minded. I wish that they live in harmony like members of one family. Kerala is, in fact, the birthplace of sacrifice. But today people are trying to convert this Thyaga Bhumi into Bhoga Bhumi.
Divine Discourse: Sep 10, 2000
Since ancient times, in this sacred land of Bharat, many sages, seers and also the kings propagated the spirit of sacrifice and the principle of spirituality, paving way to peace and security. Bali was one such king who personified and propagated the spirit of sacrifice by undertaking many sacred rituals like Yajnas and Yagas. He even disobeyed the command of his Guru, Sukracharya, who tried to dissuade him from keeping up his promise to Vamana. He told his Guru that there was no greater sin than going back on one's own promise and that he would abide by his word to Vamana, come what may. Bharat, which has given birth to such noble kings and has been the land of sacrifice, spirituality and peace, has now become a place of injustice, untruth and restlessness.
You have all come from Kerala. You might have heard communists arguing that they do not believe in the existence of God as He is not seen. One cannot deny the existence of air just because it is not seen. Likewise, one cannot deny the existence of God. God exists, but you cannot see Him. All the names and forms are His. Once you develop this faith, love will follow.
Divine Discourse: Aug 25, 1999
In ancient times the kings ruled over their kingdoms in a righteous manner. The very name of Emperor Bali instills fear in the minds of people. But, Bali was the very embodiment of compassion. He was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu and he upheld the principles of righteousness. Emperor Bali did undertake all the sacred activities, but he had in him two bad qualities, ego and possessiveness (Ahamkaaram and Abhimaanam).
Once Bali performed a Yajna, by name Sarvajit. Vamana also attended the Yajna. Emperor Bali welcomed him and paid his respects. Till then, Vamana did not ask for anything. In fact, he was planning how to subdue the ego of Emperor Bali. In this world, for any work, people plan in advance. But God's plan is not an ordinary one. God always thinks of the future and plans accordingly. Vamana went to Emperor Bali and asked for three footsteps of land. But his preceptor, Sukracharya warned him against giving what Vamana asked for, since he knew who Vamana was, and the purpose for which He had come. Then Bali said, "Guruji, the hand of the giver is always on the top end the receiver's is at the bottom. When God Himself comes to me and asks for something, His hand will be below that of mine. That is enough for me." Even there, we find a trace of the ego.
God came down in order to destroy the ego of Bali and distribute Love to the entire world. Bali was granted a boon that he should be allowed to come and visit his people on this day, every year. That day is celebrated as Onam. Be it an emperor or an innocent person, one can attain God only through Love.
Embodiments of Love! Emperor Bali served the people of Kerala, and sacrificed everything, including his body. That is why he has attained such an exalted position, not possible for others.
Divine Discourse: Sept 4, 1998
Because of the undesirable quality of ego in Emperor Bali, Vamana incarnated to eradicate it. Bali was known for his love of his subjects. Poverty was unknown in his realm. He looked after the welfare of his people with an equal eye. He felt proud about his kingdom and his people. Vamana wanted to remove even this pride and redeem Bali.
Before leaving for the nether world Bali gave a promise to his people whom he loved. He said he would come back to them every year on Onam day and bless them.
Onam is celebrated as the day of advent of Vamana and Bali. It marks the beginning of a new life. That is why it is celebrated by wearing new clothes and resolving to lead a new life.
Divine Discourse: Sept 14, 1997
When the Lord as Vamana, was approaching Emperor Bali's yaga, the Emperor received him reverentially and asked him what he wanted. He said: "I want three feet of ground measured by my feet". Bali said: "Why came all the way to ask for just three feet of ground?" Vamana declared: "That is all I want". The Emperor's preceptor, Sukracharya warned the Emperor against making the gift, as the seeker was no ordinary person. But the Emperor firmly declared that there is no greater sin than going back on one's promise. He kept his word.
Emperor Bali stands forth as the great upholder of the plighted word. That is the reason why the people of Kerala worship him to this day and celebrate the festival of Onam in his memory.
What is it that is adored today? It is Truth. Without truth nothing has any value. Without the values of Truth, Righteousness, Peace and Love, all education and other attainments are useless. (Telugu Poem).
Love is the supreme value. It is not mundane love, but Divine love that is precious. That Divine love encompasses every other form of attachment to friends and others. Cultivate the enduring friendship of God.
Emperor Bali was prepared to offer everything, including himself, to God. That is his greatness. It is not the gift of mere three feet of land. He offered himself to the Lord. "I am offering all that is mine, my family and wealth, and myself, keeping nothing for myself. Save me, Oh Lord, who has sought refuge in you". (Sanskrit Sloka) "The heart which you gave to me, I am offering to you, what else can I offer at your Lotus Feet?" (Telugu Poem). This is the spirit in which Bali surrendered to the Lord.
Divine Discourse: Aug 27, 1996
The Lord had incarnated to bless Bali, not to destroy him. So, when He had measured the earth with one stride and the sky with second, he placed his foot on Bali's head and accepted the emperor as the third foot of ground. That foot released Bali from the recurrent cycle of birth and death.
But Bali made one last lingering wish, which the Lord agreed to fulfill. He prayed, "allow me to come to Kerala I ruled over, one day in the year, so that I can see people I love and the land I cherish in my heart". Onam is that day. The word Sravanam, when it is applied to this month, has become Chingam and when applied to the star with which the moon is associated this day, has become Onam - Sravanam, Vanam, Onam. Bali chose for his annual visit the day of the Sravanam star, in the Sravanam month.
The lesson Onam imparts is: A lifetime spent without devotion to the Almighty Lord is a pitiful waste. Ridding oneself of identification with the body and its adjuncts, one must involve oneself with the spirit. This alone can reveal to him his reality, the Atma. Once the Atmic core of oneself is contacted, it needs only one step more to discover that all else have the same Atma as their reality. Thus man becomes aware of the Unity that is Truth, that is God.
Emperor Bali, who is welcomed into their hearts and home by the people of Kerala on Onam day, had unwavering faith in God. He served his subjects as if he was commissioned by God (Narayana). He offered all he earned, all he was, himself, most gladly to God. He overcame the clouds of ignorance and rose to the heights of supreme wisdom. His self expanded so vastly that it merged in Divine Consciousness. Purity leads to Unity and Unity to mergence with Divinity. This is the message that the Onam festival and the story of Bali conveys to mankind.
Divine Discourse: Aug 28, 1985