Baladeva Vidyabhusana's Karika-bhasya Release

BY: DR. DEMIAN MARTINS - 27.11 2017

It is a great pleasure to announce that Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana's first commentary on the Vedanta-sutra has just been released for the first time. The Brahma-sutra-karika-bhasyais a unique composition in many respects. Besides being one of the most concise commentaries on the whole Brahma-sutra, it may be the only extant versified (karika) commentary on every single aphorism.

Versified commentaries are rare, given that versification substantially increases the level of difficulty, and only a few authors ventured to write one. Gaudapada's karika commentary on the Mandukya Upanisad is perhaps the best known text in the genre. Sri Madhvacarya's two versified commentaries on the Brahma-sutra are also very well-known. In the Anubhasya, he summarized each of the four chapters in seven verses. In the Anuvyakhyana, he commented on most of the text in 1,920 verses, yet he skipped many sutras. This was probably the major source of inspiration for Vidyabhusana to compose his own karika commentary, in which he explains all the 552 sutras in merely 750 verses, most of them in anustup (32 syllables). Some aphorisms are glossed with a quarter of a verse (pada), while others are more elaborately commented in several verses. Madhvacarya's influence is also evident from the very first section, where Vidyabhusana brings the concept of 'visesa.' The author also gives original interpretations to several aphorisms all over the text, which also differ considerably from those in his Govinda-bhasya.

The appearance of Madhvacarya (1238-1317 AD) was also a turning point in the propagation of Vaisnava philosophy and dharma. His commentaries on Vedanta from the view-point of dualism (dvaita) established another important tradition that has remained strong throughout the centuries. Vyasa Tirtha (ca. 1446-1539 AD) was the eleventh pontiff after Madhvacarya and had thousands of disciples in all parts of the country. Some of his most notable disciples are Kanaka Dasa and Purandara Dasa, who redefined the propagation of Vaisnavism by introducing a new genre of devotional poetry and music, especially among common people and the lower social classes. Another amongst Vyasa Tirtha's disciples was Laksmipati Tirtha, about whom nothing definite is known at present. As the successor of Vyasa Tirtha in the post of pontiff was Srinivasa Tirtha, the name of Laksmipati Tirtha is obviously not mentioned in the list of the disciplic succession of the Vyasaraja Matha. On the other hand, Laksmipati Tirtha's name does appear in the lists of the disciplic succession that came to be known as the Madhva-parampara in Northern India, from which we learn that Madhavendra Puri was his disciple. Despite the consistent title "Tirtha" in this line and the apparently sudden change into the title "Puri," Madhavendra Puri was widely known in those days as a Madhva. One of the possible explanations is that he may have taken sannyasa from the Visnu-sampradaya. There is a rumour that he took sannyasa in the line descending from Visnu Puri, the author of Bhakti-ratnavali, who was also known as a disciple of Jayadharma Tirtha. There is also a possibility that Laksmipati Tirtha named some of his sannyasi disciples in Northern India with different titles to distinguish them from the orthodox Southern tradition.

Both Kavi Karnapura (16th century AD) and Visvanatha Cakravarti (17th-18th century AD) corroborate[i] that Madhavendra Puri was a disciple of Laksmipati Tirtha and the original propounder of the madhurya-rasa (conjugal mellow) mode of worship as the utmost. Madhavendra Puri is also well-known as a Madhva amongst the Vaisnavas of the Vallabhacarya-sampradaya. By the end of his Sri-Vallabha-digvijaya, Yadunatha (16th century AD), grandson of Vallabhacarya, described the episode of Vallabhacarya's taking sannyasa from Madhavendra Puri, whom he describes as a sannyasi of the Madhva-sampradaya. In his Do Sau Bavan Vaisnava Ki Varta, Gokulanatha (16th century AD), another grandson of Vallabhacarya, narrated how Vitthalanatha studied the scriptures from a Madhva renunciate named Madhavendra Puri.[ii] It is beyond doubt that Madhavendra Puri was the guru of Isvara Puri, from whom Lord Caitanya received diksa. In this way, His connection with the Madhva-sampradaya is clear.

One of the earliest known references to this link is found in an unpublished Oriya manuscript entitled Bhakti-jsana-brahma-yoga, attributed to Acyutananda Dasa (early 16th century), one of the members of the pasca-sakha of Odisha. Prabhat Mukherjee refers to other two Oriya texts that mention the link: Isvara Dasa's (end of 16th century) Caitanya Bhagavata and Divakara Dasa's (early 17th century) Jagannatha Caritamrta. Similarly, in the introduction of the Nava-ratnam, Harirama Vyasa (early 16th century) also presents the Madhva-Gaudiya disciplic succession, and so does Narahari Cakravarti (early 18th century) in the Bhakti-ratnakara, fifth wave, in the section dealing with Raghava's description of Lord Gauranga's pastimes to Srinivasa. Therein, he states that the mentioned parampara list was heard from Gopala Guru, a contemporary of Lord Caitanya. Those same verses containing this list were quoted by Manohara Dasa in his Sampradaya-bodhini.[iii] Manohara Dasa described the four Vaisnava sampradayas at the end of the Anuragavalli, dated Samvat 1753 (1696 AD), in which he counts the Gaudiyas among the Madhvas and assures that there is no reason to doubt this connection. Similarly, in his Bhakta-mala, dated 1717 AD, Raghava Dasa also describes the Madhva-Gaudiya parampara.[iv] In the Narayana-bhatta-caritamrta (3.33-47),[v] Janakiprasada Bhatta also corroborates the same disciplic succession.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu had given three main orders to the six Gosvamis of Vrndavana – to write books on philosophy extensively quoting from the sruti and the smrti to corroborate the acintya-bhedabheda conclusion; to excavate Vrndavana in order to recover the lost sites of the pastimes of Lord Krsna; and to establish temples for His worship. Tradition says that the great-grandson of Lord Krsna, Vajranabha, had first carved three deities in an attempt to depict Him – Govinda, Madana-mohana and Gopinatha. Govindadeva was found by Srila Rupa Gosvami and in 1590 AD was installed in the most gorgeous temple ever built in North India, sponsored by King Man Singh I (1550-1614 AD) from Amber, Rajasthan. Madana-mohana was under the care of Srila Sanatana Gosvami and in 1580 AD was installed in a temple built by a rich merchant on the Aditya Tila (Hill), by the bank of the Yamuna. Gopinatha was worshipped by Madhu Pandita, a disciple of Gadadhara Pandita, and installed in a similar temple built by another Rajasthani Rajput called Raesil in the same period. Unfortunately, the time came when the Moghul ruler, Aurangzeb, took the power and started his persecutions against Hinduism. In 1669 AD, he gave an open order to his army to destroy all the main Hindu temples and deities within his domain. Under this threat, the Vaisnava leaders in Vrndavana decided to appeal to the Rajput kings. With mutual cooperation, it was decided that the deities should be moved to Rajasthan. In 1670, the troops of Aurangzeb mercilessly desecrated the main temples in Vrndavana, but by then, there was no one inside anymore.

After moving from one place to another, Govindadeva finally settled under the protection of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II (1688-1743 AD) in the area where he built the present Jaipur city. According to oral tradition, some time after their arrival, the Gaudiyas had to face some challenges put by the local Vaisnava community. In the historical context of that time, affiliation with one of the four traditional Vaisnava sampradayas somehow became an unavoidable requirement for a religious group to acquire social legitimacy. The concept of only four sampradayas had then become popular in North India, partly on account of Nabhaji's (1570–1662 AD) Bhakta-mala. In the early 18th century, Balananda Svami from the Ramanandi-sampradaya created the Car sampradaya akhada (Assembly of the Four Sampradayas) with branches in several cities. Having a large number of members, they soon attained considerable political influence and firmly established a sort of religious monopoly. G. N. Bahura remarks this fact by quoting the following verse: [vi]

sampradaya hi catvarah pascamo naiva vidyate
padmokta-vacanenaiva nirnitam panditaih kila

"There are only four sampradayas and not a fifth one. This was factually ascertained by learned scholars on the basis of the statements of the Padma Purana." This refers to the following verses:

sampradaya-vihina ye mantras te viphala matah
atah kalau bhavisyanti catvarah sampradayinah
sri-brahma-rudra-sanaka vaisnavah ksiti-pavanah

"The mantras received outside a sampradaya are considered fruitless. Therefore, in Kali-yuga there will be four founders of sampradayas: Sri, Brahma, Rudra and Sanaka Kumara. These Vaisnavas will be the sanctifiers of the earth."[vii]

It is said that the questions raised were primarily based on the following grounds: the Gaudiyas did not seem to belong to any of the four sampradayas; and they did not have a commentary on the Brahma-sutra as the other sampradayas had. Although there are no definite records to corroborate the incidents with accuracy, from the available documentation and the known subsequent history, it seems that there is a fund of truth in this version. The tone and the context in which these questions were raised is not totally clear, and may have been possibly born from a natural urge to be duly introduced to and accepted by that religious and social environment. What is clear from the available documentation is that King Sawai Jai Singh II was regularly holding philosophical debates among different groups in his court, so it is natural to assume that the Gaudiyas may have had one or more turns in those. In one sense, it is also true that since Govindadeva arrived there, He has been the centre of attention, and His temple substantially overshadows other important temples in the area. Hence, it is not out of place to assume that political interests may have also played a role in the plot. At the same time, to prove one's affiliation to a bona fide sampradaya was a sine qua non. According to some records,[viii] when Rupa Lal, the then Mahanta of the Radha-vallabha Temple in Vrndavana, declined to admit their affiliation to any other sampradaya and failed to attend a debate on the matter, he was persecuted by the King for his disregard and had to leave Vraja along with his family.

There are several documents and letters that somehow hint that the Gaudiyas were expected to legitimize their status as priests and missionaries and clarify their philosophy and mode of worship. This was probably not a matter of a particular incident or other but something that was going on for many years until effective steps were taken. One of the oldest accounts of the case is Gopala Kavi's Vrndavana-dhamanuragavali (chapter 13), composed in 1843, where he states that the Ramanandis and the followers of Visnu Svami and Harivyasa wanted to take over the worship of Govinda, Gopinatha and Madana-mohana and were taking the Gaudiyas to task. King Sawai Jai Singh requested Gaudiya scholars to come forward in their defence. Three Vaisnavas from Navadvipa signed a letter[ix] sent to the King stating their views regarding Vaisnava conduct and explaining how the principles governing the Gaudiya-sampradaya are based on the works of the Gosvamis Rupa, Sanatana, Gopala Bhatta and Jiva. A couple of letters,[x] one sent by some panditas from the court of King Krsnacandra of Navadvipa and the other sent by four Gaudiya Gosvamis, address the parakiya-svakiya controversy and conveys to the King the message that Radharani's relation with Krsna as parakiya (paramour) is just apparent.

This seems to corroborate another rumour that the local community protested against the worship of Radha and Krsna together, as They are not husband and wife. A certain tridandi sannyasi wrote to the King declaring that, "I agree with the views of His Majesty that the texts written by the ancient acaryas should be coordinated and all controversies should be sincerely removed." [xi] All these are evidences that there were indeed some struggles between the various religious groups regarding their philosophical concepts, traditions, modes of worship, etc. In the position of an impartial ruler, King Jai Singh took upon himself the task to try to establish an environment congenial for all, based on mutual harmony.

One of the first responses from the Gaudiyas appears to be a letter[xii] written by Syamacarana Sarma addressed to Sawai Jai Singh II, in which he describes the Gaudiya-sampradaya as being independent from the other lines because it was founded by Lord Krsna Himself in the form of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He then justifies the lack of a commentary on the Brahma-sutra based on Lord Caitanya's proposition that the Srimad-Bhagavatam is its natural commentary.[xiii] Yet he agreed that it would be appropriate for His Majesty to commission an aphorism-wise Brahma-sutra commentary from the Gaudiya perspective. In those days, the King had already commissioned several works written by Krsnadeva Bhattacarya, in which different aspects of the Gaudiya philosophy are dealt with.

It seems that the view that the Gaudiya-sampradaya is independent did not meet a good response either from the local orthodox Vaisnavas or from other Gaudiyas who knew of its connection with the Madhva-parampara, as well demonstrated by the ample evidence mentioned above. The locals were not ready to accept as bona fide any sampradaya not proceeding from these four – Sri, Brahma, Rudra and the Kumaras, represented by their respective acaryas – Ramanuja, Madhva, Visnu Svami and Nimbarka. The Gaudiyas had to send a message to Vrndavana appealing to the senior most learned scholar at that time – Visvanatha Cakravarti. The acarya, however, was in advanced age and had also taken a vow to never leave Vraja, hence he would not be able to personally go to Jaipur to face the opponents. Yet he was convinced that Baladeva Vidyabhusana, a youth who had come to study Srimad-Bhagavatam from him, was the right person to deal with the case. Once in Jaipur, Vidyabhusana was successful in presenting the Gaudiyas as a legitimate branch of the Madhva-sampradaya. As it is clear from the innumerable sources quoted above, this underlying relation between both Vaisnava traditions was already well-known for centuries before Vidyabhusana appeared on the scene. His earliest dated manuscripts were compiled in the 1740s AD, and the earliest documents which mention his name belong to the same decade. According to documentary evidence,[xiv] he left this world in 1793, and based on these dates we can infer that he was probably born around 1700 and might have arrived in Vrndavana in the 1730s. By then, practically all the texts quoted above had already been written long before, which entirely rules out any chance of Vidyabhusana having authored any of them, as insinuated by some very malicious authors.[xv] All he did was bring to light a fact which was perhaps not so relevant until then.

Although from the outset it is very clear that the condition for legitimacy was affiliation to one of the four Vaisnava sampradayas, and although Vidyabhusana himself quotes the mentioned Padma Purana verses to corroborate this point, surprisingly, writers like Vidyavinoda[xvi] and Kanai Lal Adhikari[xvii] state that Vidyabhusana proved that the Gaudiyas are the fifth sampradaya! Despite having been initiated in the Syamanandi-parivara, Adhikari was such a black sheep that when Vidyabhusana presents his own disciplic succession (tatra sva-guru-parampara yatha...) in the beginning of the Prameya-ratnavali, the so-called Bengali translator writes, "grantha-kara nija prathamika guru-parampara bolitechen" (Now the author states his previous disciplic succession). After the paragraph in which Vidyabhusana lists the names of the acaryas in the Madhva-Gaudiya-parampara beginning with Lord Brahma up to Advaitacarya, Lord Nityananda and Lord Caitanya, the commentary written by Vedantavagisa reads: ittham ca trayanam prabhunam vamsyair idanintanaih sambadhya sva-sva-guru-parampara sarvair boddhavya iti darsitam, "It is thus demonstrated that one should understand one's respective disciplic succession by connecting the current followers with those three Lords." Instead of repeating the words of the author and the commentator in his translation, Adhikari writes: ei parampara madhye grantha-kara nija nama va tamhara sri-gurura nama lipi-baddha na thakaya sudhi-ganera cintaniya, "The wise should reflect on the fact that the author did not mention his own name or the name of his guru in this disciplic succession." Since the translator had just said that this is Vidyabhusana's "previous" disciplic succession, the only thing the wise reader will conclude from this is that Vidyabhusana must have given up his connection with Lord Caitanya and His predecessors! [xviii] In this case, there would be no connection with any of the four bona fide Vaisnava sampradayas, and thus Vidyabhusana's writings would be self-defeating in the Jaipur debates.

What the wise who read the original and the commentary will actually conclude is that Vidyabhusana did not mention any name after Lord Caitanya because by proving the legitimacy of the Gaudiya-sampradaya, all its branches would be automatically legitimized. There were probably members of all different Gaudiya branches serving Govindadeva in Jaipur in those days, just as at present, so it would be inappropriate to specifically call attention to his own branch (Syamanandi-parivara).

Sadly, the above is just one instance among many, and it reveals what seems to be an internal conspiracy. In his commentary on the Syamananda-satakam (2), Vidyabhusana writes: sri-krsno nanda-sunuh sri-krsna-caitanyakhyaya gaude'vatatara madhva-siddhantam svikrtya hari-bhaktim tatra pracarayam cakara, "Lord Krsna, the son of Nanda Maharaja, has now descended in Gaudadesa and is called Sri Krsna Caitanya. Having accepted the siddhanta of Madhvacarya, He has propagated devotion to Lord Hari in that country." When the very Mahanta of the Syamanandi-parivara published this text in Gopiballabhpur in 1987, he totally omitted this sentence. For such a hoax to be successful, they would have to delete much more than that. In books like Prameya-ratnavali, Govinda-bhasya and Siddhanta-ratna, Baladeva Vidyabhusana clearly highlights a strong common philosophical ground between the Madhva and the Gaudiya systems, thus evincing that there is nothing inconsistent in their disciplic affiliation. Yet at the same time, in his scriptural exegesis, he always brings up the Gaudiyas' unique mood and identity that make them a particular branch within that sampradaya on their own merit. On this basis, some argue that the Madhva link is not legitimate, as there are factual philosophical differences between both sampradayas. However, philosophical diversity within the same religious group is far from being something unheard of.

In all Vaisnava sampradayas there is a substantial divergence among their respective followers, which sometimes may lead to the formation of sub-sects. Among Sri Vaisnavas, for example, the division of Tenkalais and Vadakalais is notorious. Nevertheless, both are undisputedly connected to Ramanujacarya in many respects. The very fact that the Ramanandis of Jaipur had declared their affiliation to the Sri-sampradaya and the Pusti-margis had declared their affiliation to the Visnu-svami-sampradaya, despite their respective independent views, corroborates that philosophy was not the main criteria to be accepted as legitimate. From the aforementioned Padma Purana verse, it seems that receiving a mantra from a sampradaya was indeed the main factor under consideration to ascertain whether one's affiliation was genuine or not, which would be possible only by identifying one's religious lineage. While they seemed to be somewhat lenient regarding the dynamics of philosophy along the centuries, the same certainly could not be applied to the Vedic mantras.

On the other hand, to propose that Mahaprabhu started His own sampradaya because He is the Supreme Lord and does not need an affiliation with any of the traditional sampradayas would completely clash with the Gaudiya theological view that He is the 'covered' avatara of Kali-yuga mentioned in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.9.38):

ittham nr-tiryag-rsi-deva-jhasavatarair
lokan vibhavayasi hamsi jagat-pratipan
dharmam maha-purusa pasi yuganuvrttam
channah kalau yad abhavas tri-yugo'tha sa tvam

"In this way, through Your various avataras in the form of human beings, animals, sages, demigods and aquatic beings, You maintain all the creation and kill those who are inimical towards the world. O Supreme Lord, You protect dharma in conformity with each age, but because in Kali-yuga you remained covered, therefore You are known as Triyuga, one who appears in three yugas."

By declaring that Lord Caitanya is an open avatara Who started His own sampradaya, as does Lord Narayana, the words channah (covered) and tri-yugah (Who is manifest only in three yugas) in the above verse would be meaningless in connection to Him, and the Gaudiyas would lack unambiguous scriptural evidence to support His open status as the Supreme Lord. We would also like to hear an explanation as to why an open manifestation of Lord Narayana Himself would accept initiation at all, and then start a new sampradaya which has no connection with His diksa-guru! It does not take much to conclude that the natural result of such a deviation will be the self destruction of the Gaudiya-sampradaya, and this is what Bhaktivinoda Thakura meant when he declared, "By all of these statements it is clear that the sampradaya of Lord Caitanya and His followers is the Brahma-sampradaya. Accordingly, Kavi Karnapura corroborated this disciplic succession in his Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika, and Baladeva Vidyabhusana also confirmed it. Anyone who does not accept this disciplic succession is without doubt the greatest enemy of Lord Krsna Caitanya and His followers."

Some ill-informed individuals claim that there are no common mantras between the Madhvas and the Gaudiyas, which is far from being true. The answer to this claim is actually hinted by Vedantavagisa in his commentary on the Prameya-ratnavali: brahmanah sri-krsna-sisyatvam sri-gopala-purva-tapinyam visphutam, "In the Gopala-tapani it is clearly stated that Lord Brahma became a disciple of Lord Krsna." From that sruti we learn that Lord Brahma was then initiated into the Gopala-mantra by Lord Krsna Himself. In the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika, Kavi Karnapura says: vyasal labdha-krsna-dikso madhvacaryah, "Madhvacarya was initiated by Vyasadeva into the Krsna-mantra." In this way, the very same Gopala-mantra was received by Lord Caitanya from Isvara Puri and is commonly chanted in all Gaudiya branches. Factually, in the Mahabharata-tatparya-nirnaya (32.27), Madhvacarya states: gopala-mantram bhajatam phala-prada ekena rupena bhuvy adrsyah, "Although invisible, Lord Krsna manifests His form in this world to those who worship Him with the Gopala-mantra, for He rewards them accordingly." Would Madhvacarya make such a statement if he had not received the Gopala-mantra and also initiated his disciples into it? The present Madhvas in Udupi can also confirm that this is one of the mantras received in their disciplic succession.

Following the royal family tradition, King Sawai Jai Singh II extended substantial financial assistance to the Gaudiya temples during his rule. He purchased a large plot of land on the bank of the Yamuna, where he built palatial quarters named "Jai Singh Ghera," meant for his residence while visiting Vrndavana. We know that he was already in touch with Visvanatha Cakravarti as early as 1716 AD, when he allotted the whole income of a village to be used in the service of the Radha-Gokulananda Temple, then situated at Radha-kunda.[xix] Jai Singh not only built the Jaipur city for Govindadeva but also installed Him as the King and accepted for himself the post of minister under Him. His royal seal reads: Sri Govindadeva carana Sawai Jai Singh sarana, "Lord Govinda's feet are the shelter of Sawai Jai Singh." From the volumes in his library and recorded documents, it is clear that he had a deep interest in philosophy and even penned a good number of original texts. He collected multiple Brahma-sutra commentaries from different schools and also authored a vivrti (explanation) on it entitled "Brahma-bodhini." Yet the Gaudiyas had no Vedanta commentary to their credit. Since the Srimad-Bhagavatam was equally accepted as authority by the other philosophical schools, the Gaudiyas could not vindicate it as a direct exposition of their Vedanta interpretation – the aphorisms still needed to be properly defined on the light of the Bhagavata philosophy, as it was done by Nimbarka, Ramanuja, Madhva,Vallabha, and many of their followers. On the one hand, the lack of a Brahma-sutra commentary was a setback for the Gaudiyas in their need to prove their credentials, and on the other, the King himself had a great interest in having another commentary for his personal studies. In due course, Baladeva Vidyabhusana proved himself capable to write such a commentary and accepted the King's order to do it.

There are important documents and letters that shed light on some of the dates and accomplishments of Vidyabhusana during what seems to have been a quite long life span. The earliest dated historical reference to him is a document[xx] that records the visit of Sawai Jai Singh to Vrndavana in 1741 AD, in which he attended a religious ceremony held by Vidyabhusana and offered him a generous gift in money. This ceremony may have marked the appointment of "Vidyabhusana Svami" as the Mahanta of the new Govinda Temple, and consequentially, of the whole Vrndavana, as confirmed by another document quoted below. In a letter by Ramasarana Gosvami, the then Mahanta of the Govindadeva Temple in Jaipur, and others inform the King that a new mahanta would be appointed in consultation with Vidyabhusana,[xxi] who is referred to as the Mahanta of the new Govinda Temple in Vrndavana.

From this, we can conclude that by 1742 AD he was already a distinguished personality both in Vrndavana and Jaipur, something he could have accomplished only after succeeding in establishing the authority of the Gaudiya-sampradaya and writing a Vedanta commentary. He was also the head priest of the Radha-Syamasundara Temple in Vrndavana, to which several of the rulers of Jaipur offered regular grants. In 1745 AD, King Isvari Singh (ruled 1743-1750 AD) renewed a grant for that temple in Vidyabhusana's name, but the same was transferred to Visvambhara Adhikari in 1749 AD due to Vidyabhusana's absence.[xxii] Soon after his coronation, King Madho Singh (ruled 1751-1768 AD) gave Vidyabhusana a respectable reception and gifted him money.

A document quoted below states that Sawai Jai Singh II gave Baladeva Vidyabhusana a temple called "Vijaya-Syamasundara," which became better known as the "Vidyabhusana-mandira." This suggests that Baladeva's fame was very wide spread. In 1751 AD, King Madho Singh granted a village for the service of this temple,[xxiii] and several documents issued in subsequent years attest that it was regularly receiving financial assistance for the service of the deity, sometimes referred to as "Syamasundara," and sometimes as "Vijaya-Syamasundara." On the contrary of the records of grants to other temples, in which their locations are clearly mentioned, none of the records about it state anything about its location, except that it was in Jaipur. This may be an indication that the temple was situated in the main area of the city, nearby the royal palace and the Govindadeva Temple. Yet at present there is no clue about its whereabouts and nobody in Jaipur seems to have ever heard of it. The absolute lack of records in the Devasthana Vibhaga, which manages temples all over Rajasthan, corroborates that the temple may have become extinct long before the independence of India.

In those days, Vidyabhusana may have spent his time partly in Jaipur managing this temple, and partly in Vrndavana, managing the new Govinda Temple, which seems to justify his absence in the Radha-Syamasundara Temple in Vrndavana. The Vijaya-Syamasundara Temple in Jaipur seems to have been notorious from mid 18th century to mid 19th century. The last known document[xxiv] about it is a report to the Car Sampradaya Akhada that gives a brief account of its history: "The temple of Sri Syamasundara in Vrndavana is served by the priests from Gopiballabhpur, among whom Mahanta Vidyabhusana was an eminent scholar and temple manager. The late King of kings[xxv] invited him to Jaipur, and understanding his talents as a manager, installed the deity of Sri Syamasundara, for Whose service he gave the village Somli in the district of Hindaun. In Jaipur, he first built a temple and then ordered the deity of Sri Syamasundara to be carved in Vrndavana, which he later installed in that temple. For the daily service of the deity, he first gave the village Rigasya. When this village was withdrawn, the deity received instead the village Haripura in the district of Dausa. This village was also withdrawn after some time, and then there were no grains for the service of the deity. The head priest, Sadhucarana, reported this in Vrndavana. The then Mahanta met the service expenditure, for the custom in that lineage is that as Vidyabhusana was the Mahanta of Sridhama Vrndavana, he was thereby the master of all temples in the region and their revenue. After he passed away, his disciple Paramananda ascended the post of Mahanta, and the head priest was Sadhucarana. After some time, Sadhucarana went to Jaipur to serve the deity. At the time when Sadhucarana passed away, the representative was Narottamadasa. After him, Jayanarayana performed the service. All of them were celibate ascetics.

In Vrndavana and the other places in that area, celibate asceticism is prominent. Now Jayanarayana has passed away and left no disciple. He has not appointed any successor either. Therefore, I inform all sampradaya members that we, as the representatives of the sampradayas and their respective estate-holders (...). It is usually upon the master to appoint a disciple to manage his estate and revenue. Among all householders and celibate ascetics there are disciples, but not all of them have rights over the property. Hence, an heir apparent should be selected. (...) This is the custom everywhere and it also applies to the ascetics of the various branches of all sampradayas. This procedure also applies to all of us, representatives of the sampradayas. (...) The genealogy in this tradition is as follows: Mahanta Vidyabhusana; his disciple was Mahanta Paramananda; his disciple was Mahanta Gopalacarana; his disciple was Mahanta Subalacarana; his disciple is Vanamalicarana, the present Mahanta." [xxvi] At the end of the letter are the signatures of several members of the Car Sampradaya Akhada. It is clear from this that since there was no successor, the matter was brought to them to decide the future of the temple. Further research is yet to be done to ascertain the outcome, but we may infer that they consulted the then current Syamanandi authorities in Vrndavana and Gopiballabhpur, and after due deliberation, may have relocated the deities and shut down the temple. According to the oral tradition, the small deities of Radha-Syamasundara in Vrndavana were installed by Syamananda Prabhu in the late 16th century, and the large deities were installed by Baladeva Vidyabhusana in the 18th century.

Although there are clear records about many incidents in Vidyabhusana's life, there is not a single piece of evidence that he ever installed a new set of deities in the Radha-Syamasundara Temple in Vrndavana. If we link the information given in the above document with the oral tradition that the large deities of Radha-Syamasundara were installed by Vidyabhusana, the most plausible hypothesis is that the Vijaya-Syamasundara Temple was indeed shut down in 1854 AD and the deities were then taken to Vrndavana, where They are now worshipped side-by-side with Syamananda Prabhu's deities. Since the names "Vijaya-Syamasundara" and "Syamasundara" were both commonly used in Jaipur, it is quite possible that the former felt into oblivion in Vrndavana.

There are yet other two deities allegedly connected with Baladeva Vidyabhusana. In the present Radha-Gokulananda Temple in Vrndavana, nearby the Kesi Ghat, there is a deity named "Vijaya-Govinda," Who, according to the oral tradition of that temple, was worshipped by Vidyabhusana. There are no available records to corroborate this, and the present priests are not able to provide any definite information as to how and when the deity arrived there. We do know, however, that the temple of Radha-Gokulananda used to be situated at Radha-kunda, where Visvanatha Cakravarti spent the rest of his life. Some time after his disappearance, the deities were moved to Patthar Pura in Vrndavana, in a plot of land that belonged to him.[xxvii] Gopala Kavi states that Sawai Jai Singh II built a temple for Radha-Gokulananda on that same spot, next to the ancient Govindadeva Temple.[xxviii] A samadhi in memory of Cakravarti was also established there. Around mid 20th century, that land was sold out and the deities and samadhi were shifted to the present location. This may rule out the idea that Vidyabhusana ever lived in this place. Since the new temple hosts several deities, Who were worshipped by different acaryas and were obtained in different times and circumstances, without at least a piece of evidence, it is not possible to have a clear picture of the connection with Vidyabhusana. We hear from the oral tradition that he studied Srimad-Bhagavatam from Cakravarti, who is actually acknowledged in the beginning of Vidyabhusana's commentary on it. We also know about the connection both of them had with King Jai Singh.

It is possible that Vidyabhusana may have lived with Cakravarti in his kusja at Patthar Pura, where the latter used to spend time whenever he came from Radha-kunda to Vrndavana. After being successful in his mission in Jaipur, Vidyabhusana may have brought Vijaya-Govinda ("Victorious Govinda") and installed Him in that kusja, where later the King would built a temple and bring Radha-Gokulananda. Since the main deities of the temple became Radha-Gokulananda, the name of Vijaya-Govinda would naturally not appear in any documentation regarding grants and so on. As afterwards Vidyabhusana had to attend the temples of Radha-Syamasundara, Govindadeva and Vijaya-Syamasundara, his connection would the Radha-Gokulananda Temple would have been discontinued and is today unheard of. Yet, in the absence of clear records, this is nothing more than conjecture.

Another deity, called "Vijaya-Gopala," used to be worshipped in the main temple in Galta, but according to the present authorities, it was somehow damaged about a hundred years ago, and a new deity was never installed. The old altar remains closed. In the Gaudiya Vaisnava Abhidhana, Haridasa Dasa states that this deity was installed by Vidyabhusana, but he gives neither the source of this information nor any detail. There is no indication that Haridasa Dasa ever went personally to Galta, so this may be nothing more than mere misinformation received from unreliable sources. First of all, the local Vaisnavas have no information or records of any deity installed by Vidyabhusana or any other Gaudiya, as a matter of fact. Nor is there any evidence that Vidyabhusana had any connection with Galta at all. Moreover, the present temple was built before Vidyabhusana's period, and its original structure has five altars. Anyone who visits the temple will immediately notice that this structure was built as a whole at the foot of a hill, without any chance that a fifth altar may have been added later. It is possible that the name "Vijaya" may be the cause of the confusion. Even today, many deities called "Vijaya" are found all over Jaipur, but there is hardly any relation between them. Unless someone is able to present historical data, rumours that Vidyabhusana wrote a commentary on the Brahma-sutra while staying at Galta or installed any deity there sound like baseless folklore.

From time to time, Vidyabhusana paid visits to King Madho Singh and sent him letters and prasada.[xxix] Following his forefathers' tradition, when Prithvi Singh (ruled 1768-1778 AD) ascended the throne, he renewed Vidyabhusana's grants.[xxx] From one of his few dated works, the Aisvarya-kadambini, we learn that Vidyabhusana was still actively writing in 1779 AD. There are no known records about his last decade of life, but a document dated the fourteenth day of the Bhadra month of Samvat 1850 (nineteenth of September, 1793 AD) describes his ceremony of condolence presided by King Pratap Singh (ruled 1778-1803 AD).[xxxi] The ritual was held in the Govindadeva Temple in Jaipur, and Sadhucarana was consecrated as the successor of Mahanta Vidyabhusana. In this document it is also indicated that there was a huge estate under the management of Vidyabhusana, including temples, lands, villages and their revenues. It is hoped that present and future research will shed more light on his life and work.

Although Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana remains the sole Gaudiya Vedantacarya, although he stood up for the whole Gaudiya-sampradaya when its credibility was questioned, although he was venerated by several generations of kings, saints and scholars alike, although his life was spotless and fully dedicated to the service of Sri Sri Radha-Syamasundara and the scriptures, and although his increasing glory is celebrated all over the world, some renegades insist in affronting his authority. Since he was known in Jaipur and Vrndavana as "Vidyabhusana Svami," Lord Caitanya's words seem to be very appropriate in connection to him also:

prabhu hasi' kahe,—"svami na mane yei jana
vesyara bhitare tare kariye ganana"

"Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu smilingly said, 'One who does not accept the svami [husband] as an authority I consider a prostitute.' " [xxxii]

 

The Text and the Manuscripts

As we mentioned previously, King Sawai Jai Singh II wanted to commission a Gaudiya commentary on the Brahma-sutra, and it may have taken many years until he found someone capable and ready for the task. Therefore, Vidyabhusana begins and ends his Karika-bhasya by stating that he is working under the direct order of His Majesty. In a couple of places, [xxxiii] Vidyabhusana actually seems to be referring to the Brahma-sutra-vivrti Brahma-bodhini, which was composed by the King himself, whom Vidyabhusana calls "rajarsi-sattama" (the best of saintly kings). The only extant complete copy of the Karika-bhasya is indeed part of the personal collection of manuscripts that belonged to Sawai Jai Singh II, the Khasmohor Collection, preserved at the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum in the City Palace in Jaipur, accession number 6079. Although no date is mentioned, based on available documentation, we can estimate its period.

One of the manuscripts of the Brahma-bodhini [xxxiv] is dated Samvat 1787 (1730 AD), and from an aforementioned document we learn that by 1741 AD Vidyabhusana was already an eminent personality. Hence the Karika-bhasya must have been written between 1730 AD and 1740 AD. The name of the scribe is not mentioned, but the corrections and notes on the borders of the manuscript were unmistakably written by Dayanidhi, who was Vidyabhusana's main scribe for many years. We know his name from a manuscript of the Govinda-bhasya preserved in Gopiballabhpur, the Syamanandi-pitha in West Bengal, dated Samvat 1815 (1758 AD), in which he identifies himself as a brahmana, the son of the minister of Kurmacala. He not only copied most of Vidyabhusana's works but also wrote several of his personal letters. The commentary portion is preceded by the salutation "sri-gurave namah," and the sutra portion starts with the salutation "sri-krsno jayati." The handwriting is very neat and clean, which indicates that the scribe may have been a professional.

Only one more manuscript copy of this text could be located so far, and it is preserved at the Vrindavan Research Institute, accession number 6630, but unfortunately it is damaged and it abruptly ends on sutra 3,3.39. This is noticeably an older version of the commentary, and some of the mistakes in it were corrected in the Jaipur edition. The commentary portion is preceded by the salutation "srimad-gopala-bhatto jayati," and the sutra portion starts with the salutation "sri-radha-ramano jayati," both of which obviously indicate that the scribe was either a member of that branch or worked for them. The most surprising thing in it is that from sutra 3,3.1 onwards, the commentary is totally different from that in the Jaipur edition. Here Vidyabhusana sticks to the same pattern of the previous sections and mostly follows Sankara in the interpretation of aphorisms on karma-kanda related topics. Without knowing the background behind it, it is difficult to guess what could have made Vidyabhusana write two versions of this section, and possibly the last five sections also, as it seems that the manuscript used to be complete. It is possible that it was only after writing this version that Vidyabhusana could secure a copy of Vitthalanatha's Anubhasya and then felt highly inspired by his innovative way to interpret the sutras from a very devotional perspective. This third section also has a brief introduction, something which was not seen in any of the previous sections and appears to be a later addition.

There is a strong tradition according to which Vidyabhusana wrote a commentary on the Brahma-sutra in a very short time, although there is divergence regarding how long it took. Some claim it was as quick as three days; some say one week; some say one month; some say three months, and so on. Whatever the case, it is clear from all the above evidence that the said commentary was indeed the Karika-bhasya, and not the Govinda-bhasya, which was a much longer and later composition. Since the copy Vidyabhusana sent to Gopiballabhpur is dated 1758 AD, this is most probably the year in which the Govinda-bhasya was concluded. In corroboration to this, there is no copy of the Govinda-bhasya in the Khasmohor Collection, for Sawai Jai Singh II passed away in 1743 AD, and none of his successors seemed to share the same interest in philosophy. Since the Karika-bhasya was specifically meant to attend the King's request and had to be delivered shortly to appease the alleged opposition, Vidyabhusana was as concise and fast as possible, but he knew that to make justice to the Gaudiya philosophy he would have to write a much more elaborate commentary later. This justifies the scarcity of copies of this text, as opposed to the Govinda-bhasya, whose copies were vastly distributed.

It is also appropriate to remark that the Tattva-dipika was also commissioned by Sawai Jai Singh II, as I recently came to know from another manuscript in the Khasmohor Collection. This is yet another evidence of the relation of Vidyabhusana with the King and well justifies the honour received from him.

With a few exceptions, the original manuscript gives no references to the specific scriptural passages under discussion. Therefore, in order to help the readers, I have provided relevant quotes from the sruti and the smrti. These were mostly selected by consulting other commentaries on the Brahma-sutra. In instances where Vidyabhusana gave original interpretations, and the cross references on the same sutra are not applicable, I made my own selections of texts. In either case, the scriptural quotes are not meant to be exhaustive. The Upanisadic references are usually limited to a single text, although in many instances the same sentence or a similar one can also be found in other Upanisads and Vedas. I attempted to give Gaudiya oriented translations to the quoted Upanisads, but the readers should bear in mind that sometimes the passages were translated from view-point of the purva-paksa (opponent). Thus, the same Upanisadic sentence is sometimes translated in different ways, depending on the context.

 

The Painting

A bonus in this research work was to come across the painting that illustrates the cover of this edition, which is part of the collection in the art gallery of the Maharaja Man Singh II Museum of the City Palace in Jaipur, exhibit number AG 1215. It was painted on a kind of handmade paper named wasli, which is particularly used in miniatures. The original dimensions are 29 x 43 cm. On the top it is written "Rasika-murari ji," another name of Rasikananda Prabhu, the foremost disciple of Syamananda Prabhu. The painting depicts Rasikananda surrounded by his disciples, including the elephant Gopaladasa, who is bringing fruits, flowers and other gifts for him. Although these two names are widely known among the Gaudiya Vaisnavas in Bengal and Odisha, one may wonder how this painting would end up in the palace of the King of Jaipur in the 18th century. The conversion of this elephant, who used to devastate villages and kill anyone on his way, is one of the most notorious episodes that spread the glories of the Syamanandi-parivara and its unprecedented missionary activities. Rasikananda Prabhu was the guru of Nayanananda Gosvami, who was the guru of Radha-Damodara Gosvami, who was the guru of Baladeva Vidyabhusana Svami, who was the only eminent Syamanandi in Jaipur in the 18th century. Based on these indications, I had requested a copy of the painting and was later delighted to know that on the back side it is written: syamanandi rasika-murariji godiya vaisnava jyam mast hathi ne bas kiyo. vidyabhusanaji inke marg mahe he, "Syamanandi Rasika-murariji, a Gaudiya Vaisnava who subdued an elephant in rut. Vidyabhusanaji belongs to his line." From the available records, we hear that Vidyabhusana regularly visited the kings of Jaipur and used to exchange gifts with them. The exact circumstances behind this painting are not known, but it is clear that it was presented either by Vidyabhusana or one of his followers to Sawai Jai Singh II or one of his descendants.

This edition includes the original in Sanskrit followed by the English translation and extensive notes.

For more details, questions and orders, please visit: 
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___________________________________

[i] tasya sisyo madhavendro yad-dharmo'yam pravartitah, "The disciple of Laksmipati Tirtha was Madhavendra, by whom this religion of love for God was established." Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika (1576 AD) and Gaura-gana-svarupa-tattva-candrika (early 18th century AD) respectively.

[ii] This narration appears in the varta (chronicle) number 251, entitled Sri Gusaim ji ke Sevak Madhavendra Puri ki Varta.

[iii] This book was published by Krsnadasa Baba based on a manuscript dated 1707 Samvat (1651 AD).

[iv] For the all original verses and translations of the texts mentioned here, please check my introduction to the Gaura-gana-svarupa-tattva-candrika, published by the Jiva Institute, 2015.

[v] He belonged to the Gadadhara-parivara. This book was published by Krsnadasa Baba in 1957. In the introduction, he says that Bhatta was born in Samvat 1722 (1665 AD).

[vi] Literary Heritage of the Rulers of Amber and Jaipur, page 66. This seems to be a popular verse of unknown source.

[vii] It is not clear who the earliest author to attribute these verses to the Padma Purana was, which are factually not seen in any of the editions published so far. Yet similar verses are found in the Garga-samhita, Asvamedha-khanda, 61.24-26: visnu-svami vamanamsas tatha madhvas tu brahmanah | ramanujas tu sesamso nimbarkah sanakasya ca || ete kalau yuge bhavyah sampradaya-pravartakah | samvatsare vikramasya catvarah ksiti- pavanah || sampradaya-vihina ye mantras te nisphalah smrtah | tasmac ca gamanam hy asti sampradaye narair api, "Visnu Svami is a partial expansion of Vamanadeva, Madhva is a partial expansion of Brahma, Ramanuja is a partial expansion of Sesa, and Nimbarka is a partial expansion of Sanaka Kumara. These four will appear in Kali-yuga in the Vikramaditya Age and become founders of sampradayas and sanctifiers of the earth. The mantras received outside these sampradayas are considered fruitless. Therefore, only within a sampradaya can people move forward towards the goal of life."

[viii] Vide Caca Vrndavanadasa's Astayama Seva Samaya Prabandha, published by Sri Hita Sahitya Prakasana, Vrndavana.

[ix] #1501, undated, Catalogue of Historical Documents in Kapad Dwara, Jaipur, 1988.

[x] #1507 and #1521, undated, idem.

[xi] #1529, undated, idem.

[xii] #1519, undated, idem. He was the head priest of the Gopinatha Temple in Jaipur from 1697 AD to approximately 1730 AD.

[xiii] Vide Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya, 143-144.

[xiv] Quoted below.

[xv] Such as S. K. De in Early History of the Vaisnava Faith and Movement in Bengal, chapter 1; Sundarananda Vidyavinoda in Acintya-bhedabheda-vada, section 13; A. K. Majumdar in Caitanya, His Life and Doctrine, chapter 22; and others.

[xvi] Acintya-bhedabheda-vada, section 13.

[xvii] Vide his introduction to the Prameya-ratnavali.

[xviii] It is nothing but appalling that a man so incoherent and who shows such a lack of integrity by desecrating Vidyabhusana's work to present his own opinion was the principal of the Sanskrit College in Navadvipa for many years as well as diksa-guru. Unfortunately, has left similarly ignoble disciples who follow in his footsteps and keep on perpetrating profanities against Baladeva Vidyabhusana and the Madhva-Gaudiya-parampara.

[xix] Nusukha Punya, Vol. 17, p.205, Rajasthan State Archives.

[xx] The information from documents quoted here which have no specific reference are from Dr. Adrian Burton's thesis "Temples, Texts, and Taxes: the Bhagavad-gita and the Politico Religious Identity of the Caitanya Sect," Australian National University, 2000. All of them are supposed to be from the Rajasthan State Archives, but due to insufficient or inaccurate references, some of the originals could not be consulted.

[xxi] #1531, dated Samvat 1799 (1742 AD), Catalogue of Historical Documents in Kapad Dwara, Jaipur, 1988.

[xxii] Nusukha Punya, Vol. 17, Pargana Hindaun, p. 951-2, dated Samvat 1806 (1749 AD), Rajasthan State Archives.

[xxiii] Nusukha Punya, Vol. 18, Pargana Hindaun, Samvat 1808 (1751 AD), p. 258-9, Rajasthan State Archives.

[xxiv] HL 180/1-2, Balananda Matha, Phalguna 5, Samvat 1912 (1854 AD), Jaipur. This English rendition of the original in Rajasthani was slightly adapted for the sake of flow and clarity.

[xxv] Although no name was mentioned, this most probably refers to Sawai Jai Singh II.

[xxvi] This last succession may pertain either to the new Govinda Temple or the Radha-Syamasundara in Vrndavana.

[xxvii] Nusukha Punya, Thakura-dvara, Vol. II, p. 201, Rajasthan State Archives.

[xxviii] Vrndavana-dhamanuragavali, 32.69.

[xxix] As recorded in the document #391, bundle 34, Toji Dastur Kaumvar, Samvat 1812 (1755 AD) and letters 139, 145 and 211, bundle 4/1, Rajasthan State Archives.

[xxx] Nusukha Punya, Thakura-dvara, Vol. I, p. 645, Rajasthan State Archives.

[xxxi] According to Dr. Adrian Burton (ibid.), #117, bundle 34, Toji Dastu Kaumvar, Rajasthan State Archives. However, either this reference is inaccurate, or the document is misplaced, and hence the original could not be consulted.

[xxxii] Caitanya-caritamrta, Antya 7.116.

[xxxiii] 2,1.6 and 2,4.1.

[xxxiv] Khasmohor Collection #5850.