Nimbarka sampradaya notes

These notes are just for future reference and are a bit sloppy.

Sharan Behari Goswami is very critical of the dating of the Nimbarka sampradaya as given by the tradition itself. I personally have never been able to find any clear or decisive information about that sect, and a wide variety of authors gives a rather wide variety of dates for Nimbarka and his principal followers. The tradition itself says that he appeared at the end of the Dvapara yuga, which we can discount. Scholars give a variety of speculations, which need to be examined. Bhandarkar gives his birth as 1162 CE, and others like Baladeva Upadhyay say he is the “oldest among the Vaishnava acharyas” (vaiṣṇava ācāryoṁ meṁ pracīnatama), but the speculations run from 531 CE (Virajakant Ghosh) to post Vallabhacharya (R.L. Mitra)

The most credible scholars say that he comes after Ramanuja, since certain texts in his Vedanta commentary appear to be based on the Sri Bhashya. If this is the only evidence, it is not particularly strong, as such things can point both ways. Vrajavallabha Sharana Vedantacharya (Sri Nimbarkacharya, Sudarshan Patrika, Visesanka 1972, 66-79) finds evidence to show that Shankar debated his ideas, thus placing him before Shankara, i.e., in the 7th century, or even earlier. Sundarananda Vidyavinoda places Nimbarka later than Ramanuja, on the basis of original research. Sashibhushan Dasgupta শ্রীরাধার ক্রম বিকাশ, 195), also points to Nimbarka’s shakti doctrine as following Ramanuja. I would have to go with this consensus and place Nimbarka after the 12th century.

Saranabehari (SBG) was the first person I have read who did not accept anything except for the Vedānta-parijāta-saurabha as a genuine work of Nimbarka, rejecting Mantra-rahasya-ṣoḍaśi, Vedānta-kāma-dhenu (Daśaślokī), Prabhāta-stotra and Rādhāṣṭakam, the well-known works that are usually considered proofs that Nimbarka was the first to worship Radha and Krishna in sakhī-bhāva.

I don’t find his arguments very strong, mainly because he does not present his proofs in any detail. Like many Indian scholars, he lists the dates postulated by previous writers without examining or judging their proofs, so it is hard to find the kernel of verity. My tendency is to be wary of his argument, since he seems predisposed to making every development in the sakhī-bhāva dependent on Haridas Swami, and therefore it is necessary to dispose of Nimbarki claims to be originators of the mood.

Vedānta-parijāta-saurabha is a short philosophical work and has no mention of Radha or even a whiff of yugala-upāsanā. Whether this in itself can be proof of anything is hard to say. Could we deduce sakhī- or mañjarī-bhāva from the writings of Sanatan Goswami? Or Baladeva Vidyabhushan? Could we discard Mādhava-mahotsava because there is nothing of its flavor in Tattva-sandarbha?

SBG states that Srinivas, Nimbarka’s disciple, who wrote a commentary on VPS named Vedānta-kaustubha, does not mention Radha either. Other, pre-16th century attributed works of the line are disposed of, some for very good reasons. But I find it very hard to accept that Daśaślokī was written in the 19th century, as stated by Hazari Prasad Dvivedi (Hindi Sahitya, 1952, p.198-199), a very influential and credible historian of Hindi literature. Whatever the actual date of writing, the verse that everyone points to in the Daśaślokī, which mentions Radha and the sakhis, is this one:

aṅge tu vāme vṛṣabhānujāṁ mudā
virājamānām anurūpa-saubhagām |
sakhī-sahasraiḥ parisevitāṁ sadā
smarema devīṁ sakaleṣṭa-kāma-dām ||5||

We should remember the Goddess, daughter of Vrishabhanu, who joyfully sits to Krishna’s left, and whose beauty and blessedness match his, and who is constantly served by thousands of sakhis, and who awards all desires.
SBG (page 61) quotes one Sudarshan Singh, who denies that this is truly a basis for sakhi-bhava worship. (avaśya hī daśaślokī meṁ śrīrādhākṛṣṇakī vandanā hai, para usase madhura bhāva yā sakhī bhāva saṁpradāya ko poṣaṇa mile, aisā koī bīja nahīṁ hai | uṣā māsika, akṭūbara 1952). I don’t see the validity of this statement.

There are two commentaries on the Daśaślokī, one by Purushottam Acharya (usually number 7 on the parampara lists), Vedānta-ratna-mañjuṣa, the other by Harivyasa Devacharya (no. 35 and definitely dated as a junior contemporary of Sri Rupa), Siddhānta-ratnāñjali. SBG discredits both of these works as predating developments in the sakhi mood, i.e., the early to mid-16th century. Though these are predominantly concerned with siddhanta, Purushottam, who follows Sri Sampradaya arguments about Lakshmi, concludes that Radha and the Vraja-vadhus are premādhiṣṭhātrī devīs, while Lakshmi is aiśvaryādhiṣṭhātrī devī, which is definitely an evolution of Shakti-tattva. Some of the texts he quotes (rādhayā mādhavo devo, etc.) are among those interpolated texts that are quite late. It would be hard to place this commentary too far ahead of our watershed moment, but even if it were only a day, it would still show Nimbarka sampradaya primacy.

Another work is credited to Nimbarka, Mantra-rahasya-shodasi, which we have published on GGM with a commentary by Sundara Bhatta. Generally, even if we compress the 30-odd names that the Nimbarki tradition gives separating Nimbarka from Harivyasa (most acharya lists need to be taken with a grain of salt, as they can be easily falsified for propaganda purposes), we still have to accept that Sundara Bhatta, Keshava Kashmiri, and Sri Bhatta (his guru) all preceded Harivyas. Nevertheless, neither the original MRS nor the commentary show any signs of sakhī-bhāva. They clearly belong to the pāñcarātrika vaidhī ethos that SBG (and Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati) says characterizes most of the Vaishnava sampradayas prior to the pre-16th century.

Later in his book (pages xx), SBG quotes from a work called Sudharmādhva-bodha, apparently only available in manuscript form and with the author's name cut off. I was able to find no further information from the VRI catalogues or elsewhere. SBG says it is important for understanding Nimbarki siddhanta and sadhana, but unfortunately, as is so often the case in Indian scholarship, such trivial information as the date of a work is neglected. (As usual, earlier and later works are jumbled together without any thought of historical relations.) The Sudharmādhva-bodha appears to be a work similar to the Sādhanāmṛta-candrikā, a combination pūjā and smaraṇa paddhati, and probably dates from around the same period (i.e. end 18th).

Anyway, what held my attention here was a series of meditations on the aṣṭa-sakhīs which match Rādhā-kṛṣṇa-gaṇoddeśa-dīpikā in many details. I knew that most of the rasika sampradayas in Vrindavan accepted the same set of eight sakhi names, but the order of the eight names and other details , i.e., parents' names, color of cloth and bodily hue, seva, etc., match with a great deal of consistency. Even the eight subordinate friends, e.g., Ratnaprabha, etc., for Lalita, are named with fair consistency, and some variants could be attributed to misreadings (e.g. Shubhatha for Subhadra). Since I imagine that Sudharmādhva-bodha is probably not going to be easy to find, I will add these verses as footnotes to RKGGD on Grantha Mandir. The Nimbarka version does not include the names of the husbands of the gopis, as might well be expected.

Since these details have no, as far as I know, Puranic or Pancharatrik antecedents, it shows once again the close interactions that existed between Gaudiyas and other sampradayas of the period and is probably worth following up on. But if I had to guess, I would say that the direction of influence goes from Gaudiya to Nimbarki, primarily because of the use of terms like vāmā-prakharā (cf., Indulekha) to describe the personalities of these sakhis, which looks like Rupa Goswami’s handiwork. Finally, some of the repetition is word for word (kaniṣṭhā saptabhir dinaiḥ), which again indicates direct lines of influence. It would be interesting to see the extent of use of this text in the Nimbarka sampradaya. SBG says it is important, but there does not seem to be much evidence of existing MS or publication.

On the other hand, SBG gives an analysis of the gopis from Harivyasji's Siddhānta-ratnāñjalī, which is a commentary on the Vedānta-kāma-dhenu mentioned above (showing that at least by the mid-16th century, it was accepted as Nimbarka's work.) SBG says this analysis is not as "scientific" as Rupa Goswami's. On the other hand, he also mentions that it shows the direct influence of BRS and UN (page xx).

Harivyasa says that Nimbarka was an incarnation of Rangadevi. His disciples Srinivas and Audumbara were Sudevi and Chitra respectively. Krishna has two kinds of preyasī--independent (svatantra) and dependent (paratantra). The distinction is that the former attain Krishna by their own efforts (nija-ceṣṭita-labdhāśā) and have no consideration for convention (tyakta-laukikā), the latter are dependent on Krishna (mukundehita-labdhāśā) and subservient to others (parāśritā).

The svatantra-preyasīs are divided into three categories: didṛkṣu (wanting just to see Krishna), rirāṁsu (wanting to enjoy with Krishna), and vivarayiṣu (wanting to marry Krishna). These are exemplified by the yajñapatnīs, the rāsalīlā gopis and the Katyayani pūjā gopis respectively. Radha is the best of the svatantra-preyasīs.

Paratantra-preyasīs are of two kinds, nitya-dṛk and didṛkṣu. The first category counts the queens of Dvaraka, the latter the women of Mathura who watched Krishna enter the town.

I note with interest SBG’s references to Bhagiratha Jha (“a scholar of the Nimbarka tradition”), whom I discovered last time I went to Vrindavan, and whose commentary to Gopāla-tāpanī Upaniṣad I have posted on GGM. The book SBG refers to is Yugala-tattva-samīkṣā, portions of which have also been posted on GGM under the title Vṛndāvana-rasa-tattva-samīkṣā. Anyway, SBG draws on Jha to show that in the Nimbarka sampradaya, the eight principal sakhis enjoy sambhoga with Krishna. I think that if he had talked to more people from that sampradaya, however, he would have realized that this does not necessarily mean sambhoga relationship.


Anonymous said…
Thanks for posting these notes. It is difficult to find information on Nimbarka sampradaya, and, I think, you made some good points regarding their relation to Gaudiyas.

Have you seen the book by Joseph Satyanand, Nimbarka: A Pre-Samkara Vedantin and His Philosophy. I haven't, but it can apparently have something to say on the dating of Nimbarka.

There is also a book on Radha by Baladev Upadhyay, Bharatiya vanmay men Sri Radha, which is quite good, and you may be interested in. It is a comparative study of the figure of Radha in all major sampradayas and in Indian literatures in general. Of course, most of the book is devoted to the Gaudiya concept of Radha and sakhi-bhava.
Jagadananda Das said…
I tried to find Satyananda's book once, but evidently he follows the pre-Shankarite arguments already mentioned above.

Baladeva Upadhyay's book is clearly based on Dasgupta's, though he concentrates more extensively on the Hindi and Braj contributions, Dasgupta on the Bengali.
Anonymous said…
AGTSP, PAMHO. Thankyou for your insights.

I strongly suggest that all Vaisnavas heartily take up the study of the character of Sri Nimbarkacarya. Just because there is a lack of published matter regarding him and his sampradaya, it doesnt give us the right to pseudo-intellectually dissect him or the tradition he founded.

Indeed, it has been proven that the most influential Acarya of their lineage is Sri Kesava Kasmiri Bhattacarya, who lived until 1390AD. His headquarters were established on Vishranta Ghat (Vishram Ghat) in Mathura. His most important disciple, Swami Sribhatta was the foremost exponent of Sri Radha-Krsna worship in Gopi Bhava Upasana in Vraja Bhasha, and his work, th Yugala Shataka, is dated to 1389AD, nearly a century before Sri Mahaprabhu appeared in Navadwip. His headquarters was at Vamshivata in Vrindavana; a place which is still managed by disciples of their tradition.

His disciple, Swami Harivyasa Devacarya, who wrote the most famous work in Vraja Bhasha known as the Mahavani, did so in Samvat 1515, or 1452AD. Even we sing a hymn from his collection - Jaya Radhe Jay Radhe Radhe, Jaya Radhe Jaya Shri Radhe... Syama Gori Nitya Kisori Pritama Jori Sri Radhe...etc.

These three influential acharyas of the Nimbarka sect were active from the 1300's onwards in Vrindavana and Mathura. So, Nimbarka, who is 18 Acharyas before Keshava Kashmiri, must have been around at Shankaras time or a little before.

We should all be glad as devotees of the Divine Couple and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu that such great Vaisnavas were working to prepare the ground for the arrival of our own Sampradaya.

Sectarianism is a sin, we should all keep far from this. We should acknowledge the achievements of all Vaisnavas - why else do we say Vancha Kalpatarubhyascha every day? Vaisnava means a person initiated into one of the four Bonafide Sampradayas and who follows the regulations. And last time I checked, Sri Nimbarka Sampradaya is a bonafide Sampradaya started by the Lord himself (cf. Srimad Bhagavatam, canto 11, Sri Hamsa Avatara)
anju said…
Radhay-radhay g aap ki kripa se humne is blog ko samjhane ka prays kiya ati sunder shri krishori ju ki kripa se hume nimbarka samparadye ke vishaya me kuch to malum hua.radhay radhay g or bhi nai or purani jankariyo ka swagat hai.dhanyavad.
anju said…
Radhay radhay ji aap ki amulya jankari ke liy thanks isi tarha or bhi nai-purani jankariya samaya-2 per dene ki kripa karte rahiyega. dhanyavad Radhay radhay ji.
Gehapati N said…
just found this in british library catalogue :
ANANTARAMA, disciple of Kesava Bhatta : Vaishnavadharmamimamsa
Edited by Dulare Prasad Sarma Brindaban 1901
could shed light on the nature of the sampradaya during/before Sribhatta Acharya
may have gone off the mark, though from what is available to the common - non scholars thats what it "may" seem like, thus any comments by yourself would be honoured
Gehapati N said…
Anonymous said…
Dearest Jagadananda Das,

Here is a note for you to contemplate:

Kind regards,


Further Notes

One may find part's I, II and III here:
Anonymous said…

Abe Books has 'Nimbarka: A Pre-Samkara Vedantin And His Philosophy'

In regard to Nimbarka, looking in the 1908 edition of:

A Supplementary Catalogue of Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrit Books in the Library of the British Museum Acquired during the years 1892-1906

see the book-marked pages:

Kind regards,

Anonymous said…

In regard to the Nimbarka Sampradaya, the phrase "Tulsi Brindavan" and all its associated etymology and symbolism springs to mind.

(Above photograh bears the description "Ancient Tulsi Vrindavan")

If you have bee n reading through the links Jagadananda Das, the photograph (above) is an intresting form you will have seen outlined elsewhere...


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