: Gaudiya Vaishnavism
Baladeva Vidyabhusana is
considered the founder of the Gaudiya Vaisnava school of Vedanta, acintya-bhedabheda
is famous for his Govinda-bhasya commentary to Vedanta-sutra.
Although Mahaprabhu considered Srimad-Bhagavatam, that superexcellent
ripened fruit of Vedic wisdom to be the natural commentary to Vedanta-sutra,
on Mahaprabhu's indirect order Sri Baladeva wrote the Govinda-bhasya in order to
satisfy Sadacari Raja's assembly of brahmanas in Jaipur and to lend
formal credibility to the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya.
Little is known of Baladeva's advent. The place and time of
his birth, as well as his family are unknown, however it is believed by some
that he was born in Balesvara, near Remunapur (Orissa) in the early 18th
Century, to a vaisya farmer. During his childhood, he studied with the panditas
on the bank of the Cilkahrada River. As Baladeva grew he demonstrated his
natural capabilities and became well versed in Sanskrit grammar, poetry,
rhetoric and logic. After he graduated from school, not wanting to be tied to
his father's profession, he left home and travelled to different places of
After a time he came upon the temple of the tattva-vadi
followers of the Madhva sampradaya in Mysore (now Karnataka). He became
fully conversant with their philosophy and conclusions (siddhanta), and
after accepting the renounced order of sannyasa adopted the life of a
wandering renunciate, travelling and preaching vigorously all over Bharata.
After a time he came to Sri Jagannatha Puri, and at
Utkaladesa he met Radha-Damodara Deva Goswami, one of the foremost
grand-disciples of Sri Rasikananda Deva. They discussed devotional topics for
some time, and Radha-Damodara Maharaja related Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's
teaching of Gaudiya Vaisnava siddhanta to Sarvabhauma
Bhattacarya. He urged Baladeva to read Jiva Goswami's Bhagavata-sandarbha.
After days of being immersed in such nectarian topics, Baladeva was
overwhelmed, his heart deeply moved. (At the same time he noted, on an
intellectual level, that Jiva Goswami and Sri Madhvacarya did not significantly
differ on essential points of siddhanta.) He then accepted initiation
into the Radha-Krsna mantra, and began studying Jiva Goswami's Sat-sandarbha
under the tutelage of his guru, Radha-Damodara Maharaja.
As with tattvavadi siddhanta, Baladeva soon became
expert in Gaudiya siddhanta. In order to further this, his gurudeva
instructed him to journey to Vrindavana and take shelter of the mercy of
Visvanatha Cakrtavarti Thakura.
Journeying first through Navadwipa dhama, he travelled the
800-odd miles to Vrindavana by foot, where he was met by Visvanatha. Visvanatha
observed in Baladeva the Vaisnava qualities of submission, modesty, learning
and renunciation. Baladeva completely dedicated to the krsna-bhakti and
the service of Sri Visvanatha, and the Thakura (along with another scholar,
Pitambara dasa) taught Baladeva acintya-bhedabheda-tattva, the esoteric
meanings of bhagavata philosophy as found in the rasa-sastras,
Caitanya-caritamrta, among other things. With his mind fixed, Baladeva
preached vigorously the Gaudiya Vaisnava conception of love and service of
Around 1628 (Shaka era), in Amber (the old capital of
the Rajputs of Jaipur), followers of Ramanuja attempted to cause controversy by
arguing to the King there--Sadacari Raja--that since the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya
had no commentary on Vedanta-sutra, and yet all others did, that
Mahaprabhu's sampradaya was not valid. After the arrival of the popular
Govinda deity they felt their six-generation old positions of privilege
challenged by the charming deity of the Gaudiyas and his followers. Like the
Vaisnavas of Vrindavana, Sri Govindadeva began to captivate the hearts and minds
of the Jai Singh and his family.
The Ramanandis therefore contested
the Gaudiya lineage and contended that they should not be allowed to serve
Govinda and Gopinatha, and that "more qualified persons" (i.e. the
Ramanujas) should. They thought that this would ensure their hegemony in the
area. The King being a wise man had pored over the
literatures of the four sampradayas--studying
the Bhagavata Purana
commentaries by Sridhara Swami, Sanatana Goswami, and Jiva Goswami, the
Vedanta-sutra and its commentaries by Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhva, Vallabha, and
Nimbarka, and Jayadeva's Gita-govinda. He also read the works of Rupa
Goswami, Gopala Bhatta Goswami, and Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami--even going as
far as to pen his Brahma-bodhini, a thesis advocating the unity of the
However, to the Ramanandi's dismay the King of Jaipur had already
become ensnared by Govinda's charm, and a follower of Gaudiya Vaisnavism.
In order to
settle the controversy fairly, he discreetly sent a messenger to Visvanatha in
Vrindavana, asking if there was a Gaudiya commentary on Vedanta-sutra,
and if so to expedite it at once so that the learned panditas could
By now Visvanatha had become old, and feeling his body weak
and infirm he sent Baladeva to contest the Ramanuja panditas at the
King's assembly in Golta, near present-day Jaipur. Baladeva, being expert in
logic, reasoning, and scriptural conclusions, disputed their claims, arguing
that Mahaprabhu had established Srimad Bhagavatam as the conclusion of
all the sruti, and therefore the topmost commentary on Vedanta.
The Bhagavatam itself claims this and therefore it is called bhasyanam
brahma-sutranam, and the natural commentary (bhasya) on the Vedanta-sutra.
This is confirmed in the Vedic literatures such as the Garuda Purana ("bhasyam
brahma-sutranam vedartha-paribrmhitam"), and later by Jiva Goswami in his Sat-sandarbha.
Therefore the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya saw no need for a separate
commentary on Vedanta-sutra.
However the Ramanujas took this as Baladeva conceding
defeat, and they shouted loud and clear "They have no commentary, they have no
commentary!" Realising the delicacy of the situation, and faced with no other
option, Baladeva promised to show them the "commentary" within a few days. The panditas
suspected a trick, thinking that such a commentary would not exist based on
Baladeva's previous arguments, but were temporarily silenced.
Feeling very perturbed, Baladeva went to the temple of Sri
Govinda (Rupa Goswami's Deity), and offered his astanga-dandavats. He
recounted all that had happened. That night, as he slept, Govindaji came to him
in a dream and personally told him to compose a commentary: "That commentary
will be personally sanctioned by me. No one will be able to find fault in it."
Awakening, Baladeva became joyous, and after meditating on Govinda's lotus feet
he began composition. After a few days he was ready with his commentary on Vedanta
sutra: the Govinda-bhasya (Govinda's commentary).
Later in his life, Baladeva wrote an appendix to the Govinda-bhasya
wherein he reveals his inspiration:
bhusanam ye pradaya /
khatim nitye teno yo mamudaraha //
govinda-svapna-nirdistha bhasye /
sa jivat //
"May Sri Govinda be all glorious. By his mercy, he revealed
this commentary to me in a dream. As such, this commentary
is especially appreciated by the highly
learned, and as a result of this I have been bestowed the name 'Vidyabhusana',
but it is Sri Govinda who deserves all credit. That Sri Govinda, who is the
most dear life and soul of Sri Radhika--may he be all-victorious."
Armed with this commentary, Baladeva went to the halls of
the King. The Ramanandi panditas were stupefied by his work, and the
Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya was declared victorious. Everybody became
blissful and happy, and the panditas bestowed the title of
'Vidyabhusana'--"one whose ornament is knowledge"--on Sri Baladeva, in honour of
his scholarship and achievement.
Baladeva Vidyabhusana installed
the Deity of Vijaya Gopala there at Golta Mandira (the whereabouts of this
Deity are at present not known), and the King then furthermore decreed that henceforth everyone
should attend the arati of Govindadeva, who was ultimately the
inspiration for and source of the commentary. He declared that Sri Govinda
should be worshipped first, and that then and only then could the other temples
perform their aratis. The King also declared Sri Govindadeva the king of
Jaipur and accepted the position of minister for himself.
The Ramanujas accepted Baladeva Vidyabhusana as their acarya
and asked to be his disciples. Demonstrating great humility he declined,
citing that there were four sampradayas and that their Sri (Ramanuja)
sampradaya was one of these, highly
respectable, the foremost adherent
of dasya-bhakti, and
preaching servitude to God in dasya-rasa
as the best religious process. Although he preached Gaudiya siddhanta
he said he meant no loss of respect of esteem to the Sri sampradaya and
was wary of insulting them and thereby committing a great offence.
Baladeva then returned victorious to Vrindavana. His
gurudeva, the Vaisnavas and all the residents of the dhama were elated
and Sri Visvanatha bestowed his blessings on his disciple. Baladeva then
commenced his commentaries on Jiva Goswami's Sat-sandarbha. Around this
time Visvanatha Cakrtavarti Thakura passed from their vision, but although his
caused the community distress they saw Baladeva as continuing in his spirit.
They accepted him as their leader.
He wrote prolifically and very nicely explains Gaudiya siddhanta.
In his Siddhanta-darpana he explains the position of transcendental
sound (e.g. the Omkara) to Krsna and his name, and further
explains the potency of Godhead. And in his Vedanta-samantaka, he
explains the relevance of sastra-pramana, in relation to
perception), anuman (inference, hypothesis, and deduction), sabda (the
words of the authorities), arthapati (interpretation), anupalabdhi (negative
inference), sambhava (the laws of probability) and aitihya (history).
He continued this in his Prameya Ratnavali, where sloka eight
reads like a Gaudiya Vaisnava declaration of faith:
sri madvhah praha visnum paratamam akhilamnaya
vedyam ca cisvam /
satyam bhedam ca jivam hari carana jusas tartamyam ca tesam //
moksam visnv-anghri-labham tad-amala-bhajanam tasya hetum pramanam /
pratyaksadi trayam cety upadisati hari krsna-caitanya candra //
"Sri Madhvacarya taught that:
These very principles were taught by
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu."
who is known as Hari is the Supreme Lord, the Absolute.
Supreme Lord may be known through the Vedas.
material world is real.
or souls, are different from the Supreme Lord.
are by nature servants of the Supreme Lord.
are two categories of jivas: liberated and illusioned.
means attaining the lotus feet of Krishna, that is, entering into an eternal
relationship of service to the Supreme Lord.
devotional service is the cause of this relationship.
truth may be known through direct perception, inference and Vedic authority.
Baladeva also elucidated on the
five divisions of reality (isvara, jiva, prakrti, kala and karma),
and on Krsna's three energies, which he calls para-sakti, ksetrajña-sakti, and
Baladeva Vidyabhusana's writing constitute a veritable
treasure trove of explanations of Gaudiya Vaisnava siddhanta, which he
acknowledged, but reserving true honour and position for his gurudeva:
In His Vedanta Samantaka, Sri
Baladeva Vidyabhusana offers the following prayer to the lotus feet of his
gurudeva, Sri Radha-Damodara Goswami:
radhadidamodara nama vibhrata /
viprena vedantamayah syamantaka //
sri radhikayairviniveditomaya /
tasyah pramodam sa tanotu sarvada //
"Having been deputed to do so by my gurudeva, the
brahmana named Sri Radha-Damodara Goswami, I have compiled this commentary on
the Vedanta known as Vedanta-syamantaka for the sake of Srimati Radharani's
pleasure. This commentary is a summary of the important points of Vedanta. May
it be pleasing to Sri Radhika."
Among the books compiled by Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana are
commentary on Vedanta;
the "Jewel of Conclusions";
a summary of acintya-bhedabheda
--the "Jewel of Factual
Principles" listing the nine common principles of both the Madhva and
a summary of Gaudiya Vaisnava
--a Vaisnava anthology;
--a book on grammar;
Commentaries on the important Upanishads,
including Isopanisad and Gopala-tapani;
--a commentary on Bhagavad-gita;
commentaries on Gopala Campu, Krsna-bhavanamrta,
commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam; and
on Visnu-Sahasra-nama, Tattva-sandarbha, Stavamala, Nata-candrika,
Candraloka, Sahitya Kaumudi, Lahu-bhagavatamrta, Nataka-Candrika and
He had two disciples, Sri Uddhava dasa, and Sri Nandana
Misra, and personally worshipped Sri Jaya and Sri Vijaya Govinda
, (having their
residence at the Gokulananda Mandira in Vrindavana
). Baladeva installed some of
the deities of the Radha-Syamasundara temple, and his little known samadhi
is situated behind the temple. He disappeared from his earthly lila
in 1768 CE.
(Text based on Lives of
the Vaisnava Saints and other sources. This year, June 8, 2003 is the
anniversary (tirobhava) of his passing away.)