“Bali Maharaja has become the most famous among the demons and nonbelievers, for in spite of being bereft of all material opulences, he is fixed in his devotional service.” (SB 8.22.28)
Purport: In this verse, the words sidann api na muhyati are very important. A devotee is sometimes put into adversity while executing devotional service. In adversity, everyone laments and becomes aggrieved, but by the grace of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, a devotee, even in the worst condition, can understand that he is going through a severe examination by the Personality of Godhead. Bali Maharaja passed all such examinations, as explained in the following verses.
“Although bereft of his riches, fallen from his original position, defeated and arrested by his enemies, rebuked and deserted by his relatives and friends, although suffering the pain of being bound and although rebuked and cursed by his spiritual master, Bali Maharaja, being fixed in his vow, did not give up his truthfulness. It was certainly with pretention that I spoke about religious principles, but he did not give up religious principles, for he is true to his word.” (SB 8.22.29–30)
Purport: Bali Maharaja passed the severe test put before him by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is further proof of the Lord’s mercy toward His devotee. The Supreme Personality of Godhead sometimes puts a devotee to severe tests that are almost unbearable. One could hardly even live under the conditions forced upon Bali Maharaja. That Bali Maharaja endured all these severe tests and austerities is the mercy of the Supreme Lord. The Lord certainly appreciates the devotee’s forbearance, and it is recorded for the future glorification of the devotee. This was not an ordinary test. As described in this verse, hardly anyone could survive such a test, but for the future glorification of Bali Maharaja, one of the mahajanas, the Supreme Personality of Godhead not only tested him but also gave him the strength to tolerate such adversity. The Lord is so kind to His devotee that when severely testing him the Lord gives him the necessary strength to be tolerant and continue to remain a glorious devotee.
The present verses are spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Originally the Lord appeared as Vamanadeva before Bali Maharaja and asked three steps of land in charity. Bali Maharaja agreed. Vamanadeva expanded himself in size and with one step covered the planet Earth and all of space. With his second step He covered the rest of the universe. Then He arrested Bali Maharaja and said, “You have promised three steps, but you have given only two. You have broken your promise. Now I will arrest you and punish you.” Bali Maharaja accepted the Lord’s action. He did not protest. And ultimately he told the Lord, “Yes, with two steps You have covered the entire universe. Now kindly keep Your third step on my head. Thus I will fulfill my promise to You.” And so Bali Maharaja surrendered his life to Lord Krishna.
Vamanadeva was satisfied with Bali’s surrender, and after various devotees intervened on Bali’s behalf, the Lord had Bali Maharaja released from the ropes of Varuna and told him, “I am going to give you your own planet, Sutala-loka, and I will personally accompany you there and serve as your doorman.” Actually, the Lord never lives anywhere in the material world; He lives only in the spiritual world, Vaikuntha. By accompanying Bali Maharaja to Sutala-loka, the Lord was actually converting the place into Vaikuntha-loka, which is far more opulent, more beautiful, and more desirable than any planet of the material world or all the material worlds combined.
So, by surrendering to Vamanadeva, Bali Maharaja was not the loser; he was the gainer. One who surrenders unto the Lord never loses.