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Baladeva Vidyabhushan: Defender of the Gaudiya Sampradaya

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Baladev Vidyabhushan Samadhi← Samadhi of Baladev Vidyabhushan

Vrindavan, 2018.06.24

June 22nd was celebrated as the disappearance day of the exalted scholar-Vaishnava, Baladeva Vidhyabhushan who is best known for defending the authenticity of the Gaudiya Sampradaya in the Royal Court. As evidence is scarce, scholars are still debating the biographical details of Vidyabhushan’s life. He is thought to have lived from 1700-1793 AD.

On the occasion of Vidyabhushan’s disappearance day in 1998, Shrila Bhaktivanta Narayan Maharaj spoke about Baladev Vidyabhushan’s early life:

Baladeva Vidyabhusan was born in Orissa, near Puri, in a place called Chilka Lake. He was very brilliant, and in his boyhood he learned all vyakarana (Sanskrit grammar) as well as the Vedas, Upanisads and all other scriptures. He wanted especially to read and study Vedanta. He read Sri Sankaracarya’s explanation of Vedanta, but he was not satisfied and wanted to study more. Therefore, he went to Udupi in South India, where he studied all the commentaries on Vedanta, like the Sri-Bhasya of Sri Ramanuja, the Parijata-Saurabha-Bhasya of Sri Nimbaditya, more of the Sariraka-bhasya of Sri Sankaracarya, the Sarvajna-Sukti-bhasya of Sri Visnusvami, the Brhad-bhasya and Anubhasya of Sri Madhvacarya, and the Bhaskara-bhasya of Sri Bhaskara Acarya. He became very learned, and after that he returned to his homeland with a desire to conquer the entire world – to free it of misunderstandings in philosophical tattva.

He went to Jagannatha Puri, and he thought, “Previously, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya and many others like him have been here, so there must be so many learned persons in their line. I will conquer and defeat them.” At that time there was a Gaudiya-Vaisnava present, named Radha-Damodara Prabhu, who was in the line of, and just after, Syamananda Prabhu, Rasikananda Prabhu, and Nayananda Prabhu. Radha-Damodara Prabhu was a very good scholar. He was very learned, but he kept all his knowledge hidden. He was a very simple person, always chanting and remembering in the line of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Srila Rupa Gosvami.

One day Baladeva Vidyabhusana came to defeat him, but when he heard all his siddhanta (conclusive truths) he thought, “I am very insignificant and I do not know anything in front of him. I am like a baby, a small baby.” He at once surrendered to the lotus feet of Radha-Damodara and took initiation from him.

After that he went to Vrndavana and took shelter of his siksa-guru, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, and he totally surrendered to him. There he read all of Srila Jiva Gosvami’s Six Sandarbhas: Tattva-sandarbha, Paramatma-sandharbha, Bhagavat-sandarbha, Krsna-sandarbha, Bhakti-sandarbha, and Prtti-sandarbha.

After coming to Vrindavan, Vidyabhushan accomplished his most important work – the first Gaudiya Vaishnava commentary on Vedanta Sutra. Vidyabhushan presented Govinda Bhashya as the Gaudiya Vaishnava commentary on Vedanta Sutra in the Royal court, after members of the Ramanuja Sampradaya challenged the authenticity of Gaudiya Vaishnavism.

Lord Caitanya accepted Srimad-Bhagwatam as the genuine commentary to Vedanta Sutra, because Ved Vyasa wrote Vedanta-Sutra and elaborated it further in Srimad-Bhagwatam, so, according to Vaishnav philosophy, commentaries of the Vedanta Sutra would be unnecessary. Despite this, if having a commentary would prove the legitimacy of the Gaudiya sanpradaya, then Vidyabhusan was determined to produce one.

Legend has it that Vidyabhushan felt overwhelmed by this task due to his humility and due to the short time he had to complete it, so, he prayed at Govind Dev Temple and Govind Dev Himself narrated the commentary.

Shrila Bhaktivedanta Narayan Maharaj explains how Vidyabhushan traced the lineage of the Gauriya Sampradaya back to Madhava Acharya, saying:

The followers of the Ramanuja-sampradaya said, “You have no bona fide Vaishnava sampradaya.” Baladeva Vidyabhusan then proved the Gaudiya Vaisnavas are in the line of Sri Madhvacarya. Sri Laksmipati Tirtha, who gave diksa to Sri Nityananda Prabhu, was a disciple of Sri Madhvacarya. Sri Madhavendra Puripada, the grand spiritual master of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, was also a disciple of this Laksmipati Tirtha.

The followers of the Ramanuja sampradaya challenged, “Laksmipati Tirtha was ‘Tirtha’ and Madhavendra Puri was ‘Puri.’ How did this difference come?

Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusan clearly explained that one cannot decide a person’s disciplic succession on the basis of sannyasa. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was initiated by Sri Isvari Puripada at Gaya, and in Vaisnava siddhanta He followed Isvara Puripada. He did not follow Kesava Bharati, who gave Him sanyasa. The Guru is he who initiates by mantra – harinama and diksa-mantra. Sri Isvara Puripada gave Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu the Gopal-mantra, and Mahaprabhu followed Vaishnava religion according to the mood of Isvara Puripada, in the line of Madhavendra Puripada.

In the same way, although Srila Madhavendra Puri received sanyasa from someone else, he was initiated into the Gopal-mantra by Sri Laksmipati Tirtha. There was a householder devotee at that time, who took sanyasa from someone in the Sankara-sampradaya, just as Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu did. Like Mahaprabhu, he was Vaisnava. That Vaisnava was named Vishnu Puri, and he had been initiated in the Madhva-sampradaya. Madhavendra Puri took sanyasa from that Puri – from Visnu Puri. In this way, Gaudiya Vaisnavas are part of the Madhva sampradaya.

After he returned from the royal court in Jaipur, Shri Baladeva Vidyabhushan presented the certificate of victory to his Guru, Shrila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakur. Srila Vishwanatha bestowed his full blessings on Shri Baladeva. At this time, Shri Baladeva Vidyabhushan began to write a commentary on Srila Jiva Gosvami‘s Sat-Sandarbha.

Shri Radha Vijay-Govinda, in Vrindavan’s Radha Gokulananda temple are Baladeva Vidyabhushan’s worshipable deities and it is said that Vidyabhushan installed the large Deities of at Radha Shyamasundar temple.

According to temple history, Vidyabhushan found the Deity worshipped by Shyamananda Pandit too small. Everyone present in the temple could not see the deity at the same time. The devotees had to go near the deity to have proper Darshan and the deity was also too small for detailed decoration. So, Vidyabhushan installed a larger deity of Shyamasundar Krishna on the central altar, while the original deity of Shyamasundar was moved to the left.

Baladeva Vidyabhushan’s samadhi is at Shyamasundar temple. Radha Vijay Govind, the deities that Vidhyabhushan worshipped when he first came to Vrindavan are at Radha Gokulananda temple, next to Radharaman temple.

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