Naimiṣāraṇya 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 Balarāma 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 Balarāma arrived, all the participants in the meeting—great sages, ascetics, brāhmaṇas and learned scholars—immediately arose from their seats and welcomed Him with great honor and respect. Some offered Him respects by standing up and then paying obeisances, and those who were elderly great sages and brāhmaṇas offered Him blessings after standing up. After this formality, Lord Balarāma was offered a suitable seat, and everyone present worshiped Him. Everyone in the assembly stood up in the presence of Balarāma 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 Balarāma appeared on the earth as a kṣatriya, all the brāhmaṇas and sages stood up because they knew who Lord Balarāma was.
Unfortunately, after being worshiped and seated in His place, Lord Balarāma saw Romaharṣaṇa, the disciple of Vyāsadeva (the literary incarnation of Godhead), still sitting on the vyāsāsana. He had neither gotten up from his seat nor offered Him respects. Because he was seated on the vyāsāsana, he foolishly thought himself greater than the Lord; therefore he did not get down from his seat or bow down before the Lord. Lord Balarāma then considered the history of Romaharṣaṇa: he was born in a sūta family, or a mixed family, born of a brāhmaṇa woman and a kṣatriya man. Therefore although Romaharṣaṇa considered Balarāma a kṣatriya, he should not have remained sitting on a higher seat; according to his position by birth he should not even have accepted the higher sitting position, because many learned brāhmaṇas and sages were present. Lord Balarāma also observed that Romaharṣaṇa not only refused to come down from his exalted seat but did not even stand up and offer his respects when Balarāmajī entered the assembly. Lord Balarāma did not like the audacity of Romaharṣaṇa and, becoming very angry at him, declared from His seat, "This man, Romaharṣaṇa, is so impudent that he has accepted a higher seat than that of all the respectable brāhmaṇas present here, although he was born in a degraded pratiloma family."
When a person is seated on the vyāsāsana, 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 Romaharṣaṇa Sūta was voted to the vyāsāsana by all the brāhmaṇas, he should have followed the behavior of other learned sages and brāhmaṇas present and should have known that Lord Balarāma 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 Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma is especially meant for reestablishment of the religious principles. As stated in the Bhagavad-gītā, the highest religious principle is to surrender to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam also confirms that the topmost perfection of religion is to be engaged in the devotional service of the Lord.
When Lord Balarāma saw that Romaharṣaṇa Sūta did not understand the highest principle of religion in spite of his having studied all the Vedas, He certainly could not support his position. Romaharṣaṇa Sūta had been given the chance to become a perfect brāhmaṇa, but because of his ill behavior in his relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, his low birth was immediately remembered. Romaharṣaṇa Sūta had been given the position of a brāhmaṇa, but he had not been born in the family of a brāhmaṇa; he had been born in a pratiloma family. According to the Vedic concept, there are two kinds of mixed family heritage, 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. Romaharṣaṇa Sūta belonged to a pratiloma family because his father was a kṣatriya and his mother a brāhmaṇa. Because Romaharṣaṇa's transcendental realization was not perfect, Lord Balarāma remembered his pratiloma heritage. The idea is that any man may be given the chance to become a brāhmaṇa, but if he improperly uses the position of a brāhmaṇa without actual realization, then his elevation to the brahminical position is not valid.
After seeing the deficiency of realization in Romaharṣaṇa Sūta, Lord Balarāma decided to chastise him for being puffed up. Lord Balarāma 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 Vyāsadeva, 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-gītā, a person who is actually a brāhmaṇa and is very learned must automatically become very gentle also. But although Romaharṣaṇa Sūta was very learned and had been given the chance to become a brāhmaṇa, he had not become gentle. From this we can understand that one who is puffed up by material acquisitions cannot acquire the gentle behavior befitting a brāhmaṇa. 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 Purāṇas and his vast knowledge of the śāstras are simply outward dress, like the costume of a theatrical artist dancing on the stage. Lord Balarāma considered, "I have appeared in order to chastise false persons who are internally impure but externally pose themselves as very learned and religious. My killing of such persons is proper, to check them from further sinful activity."