Vallabha Acharya

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Vallabhacharya
Shri mahaprabhuji.jpg
Born 1479
Champaran, Chhattisgarh (in present-day Raipur district, Chhattisgarh, India)
Titles/honours Venerated as shriman Narayana Narada Ved Vyas Vishnuswami Sampraday Samudhhar sambhrut Shri Purushottam Vadananlavatar Srvamnay Sanchar Vaishnavmnay Prachryaprakar Shri bilwamangalacharya Sampradayi Karpit Samrajya Sanakhand Bhoomandalacharya varya Jagadguru Mahaprabhu Shrimad Vallabhacharya
Philosophy Hindu philosophy, Shuddhadvaita, Pushtimarg, Vedanta
Literary works Madhurashtakam, Shri Subodhini, Tatwarthdip nibandh, Anubhashya, Shree Krushna Janmapatrika, PurushottamSahastranaam,Shree Yamunashtakam, Balbodh, Siddhant Muktavali, Pushti Pravaha Maryada, Siddhant Rahasyam, Navratnam, Antahkaranprabhodh, Vivekdhairyashraya, Krushnashraya, Chatuhshloki, Bhakti Vardhini, Shree Bhagwat Ekadash Skandharth Nirupan Karika, Vachnamrut, Shikshapatra, Vallabhakhyan, Purshottam Sahasranama, Janamangal Namavali etc;

Vallabhacharya (1479–1531 CE) was a devotional philosopher, who founded the Pushti sect in India,[1] following the philosophy of Shuddha advaita[2][3] (Pure Non-dualism).

Vallabhacharya accepted the 'Acharya' designation of Vishnuswami Sampraday (Rudra Sampraday) upon request of Bilvamangala Acharya, the last Vishnuswami Sampraday acharya before Vallabhacharya. This was after Vallabhacharya won the famous debate of Brahmavada over Shankaras in the courtyard of the Emperor Krishna Deva Raya of Vijayanagara Empire — the prosperous South Indian Empire. Apart from being the acharya of Vishnuswami Sampradaya, Vallabhacharya also propagated the Pushtimarga upon the god Krishna's order and thus became the acharya of not only Vishnuswami Sampradaya but also Pushti Sampradaya.

He is the Acharya and Guru within the Vaishnava traditions as promulgated and prescribed by the Vedanta philosophy. He is associated with Vishnuswami,[4] a prominent Acharya of Rudra Sampradaya out of the four Vaishnava Sampradayas.[5]

Within Indian Philosophy, he is known as the writer of Anubhashya (a commentary on Brahm Sutra), Shodash Granth or sixteen 'stotras' (tracts) and several commentaries on the Bhagavata Purana, which describes the many lilas (pastimes) of the Avatar, Krishna. Vallabhaacharya occupies a unique place in Indian culture as a scholar, a philosopher and devotional (bhakti) preacher. He is widely considered as the last of the four great Vaishnava Acharyas who established the various Vaishnava schools of thought based on Vedantic philosophy, the other three (preceding him) being Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya and Nimbarkacharya. He is especially known as a lover and a propagator of Bhagavata Dharma. He was born in Champaranya in India.

Life[edit]

Childhood[edit]

The ancestors of Vallabhacharya lived in Andhra Pradesh and belonged to a long line of Telugu Vaidiki Brahmins known as Vellanadu or Vellanatiya following the Vishnu Swami school of thought. According to devotional accounts, Krishna commanded his ancestor Yagnanarayana Bhatta that He would take birth in their family after completion of 100 Somayagnas (fire sacrifices). By the time of Yagnanarayana's descendant Lakshmana Bhatta who migrated to the holy town of Varanasi, the family had completed 100 Somayagnas. Vallabhacharya was born to Lakshmana Bhatta in 1479 A.D. (V.S. 1535) on the 11th day of the dark half of lunar month of chaitra at Champaranya. The name of his mother was Illamma.[1][6]

The period surrounding Vallabhacharya's birth was a tumultuous one and most of northern and central India was being influenced by Muslim invaders. It was common for populations to migrate in order to flee from religious persecution and conversion. On one such occasion, Lakshmana Bhatta had to urgently move out of Varanasi with his pregnant wife. Due to terror and physical strain of the flight suffered by the mother, there was a premature birth of the child, two months in advance. As the child did not show signs of life, the parents placed it under a tree wrapped in a piece of cloth. It is believed that Krishna appeared in a dream before the parents of Vallabhacharya and signified that He Himself had taken birth as the child. According to popular accounts, the parents rushed to the spot and were amazed to find their baby alive and protected by a circle of divine fire. The blessed mother extended her arms into the fire unscathed; she received from the fire the divine baby, gleefully to her bosom. The child was named Vallabha (meaning "dear one" in Sanskrit).[1]

Education[edit]

His education commenced at the age of seven with the study of four Vedas. He acquired mastery over the books expounding the six systems of Indian philosophy. He also learnt philosophical systems of Adi Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhva, Nimbarka along with the Buddhist and Jain schools. He was able to recite hundred mantras, not only from beginning to end but also in reverse order. At Vyankateshwar and Lakshmana Balaji, he made a strong impression on the public as an embodiment of knowledge. He was now applauded as Bala Saraswati.[1] Afer studying till age of 11, he went to Vrindavan.[6]

Victory at Vijayanagara[edit]

In the court Tuluva king Krishnadevaraya, a debate was conducted at Vijayanagara between the Vaishnavaites of Madhva and Shankarites over the philosophical question whether God is Dualistic or non-dualistic. Vallabhacharya participated in the discussion.

At the age of 12, Vallabhacharya, who had earned an epithet of Bala Saraswati was given the opportunity to discuss the question.[7] The discussion continued for 27 days in the conference hall. He was honoured with the kanakabhishekam ceremony by Krishnadevaraya on victory. The title of ‘Acharya’ and 'Jagadguru' (world preceptor) was conferred on him. He was given vessels of gold weighing a hundred maunds. Vallabhacharya declined to accept them politely and distributed them among the poor brahmins and the learned after keeping only seven gold mohurs. They were used for preparing the ornaments of Govardhananatha.[6]

Pilgrimage of India[edit]

Vallabhacharya performed three pilgrimages of India, barefooted. He wore a simple white dhoti and a white cloth to cover the upper part of his body (known as ‘Upavarna’, literally "upper cloth" in Sanskrit). He gave discourses on Bhagavata at 84 places and explained the meanings of the Puranic text. This 84 places are known as Chaurasi Bethak and now they are places of pilgrimage. He stayed in Vraja for four months in each year.[1][6]

Establishment of Pushtimarg[edit]

Vallabhacharya discovers Shrinathji, at Mount Govardhan

It is believed that when Vallabhacharya entered Gokul, he thought about the important question of restoring people to the right path of devotion. He meditated on Krishna who appeared to him in a vision in the form of Shrinathji,[8] deity discovered by Madhavendra Puri and disclosed the 'Brahma Sambandha' (Sanskrit for "relation with Brahman, the supreme Godhead"), a mantra of self dedication or consecration of self to Krishna. During that time Damodardasa, his worthiest and most beloved disciple, was sleeping next to him. In the early morning, Vallabhacharya related this experience to Damodardasa and asked him — “Damala, did you hear any voice last night” ? Damodaradasa replied that "I heard something but was not able to understand the meaning of it." Vallabhacharya then explained the meaning of the mantra and at that time he became the first Vaishnava initiated by Vallabhacharya. He wanted to preach his message of devotion to God and God’s grace called Pushtimarg(path of grace). He undertook three pilgrimages of India. He performed the initiation ceremony of religious rite by conferring on them ‘Nama Nivedana’ mantra or ‘Brahma Sambandha’ mantra. Thousands became his disciples, but 84 devoted servants are most famous and their life has been documented in Pushtimarg literature as the ‘Story of 84 Vaishnavas’.[1] He also met Vyas in his Himalayan cave and discussed about Krishna and his flute.

Personal life[edit]

He intended to remain a lifelong celibate but the deity-guru Vitthalanatha of Pandharpur commanded him to marry and live the life of householder. Obeying his guru, he married Mahalaxmi and had two sons: Gopinath and Vitthalanath (also known as Gusaiji).[9]

Death[edit]

Legend[edit]

Based on Pushti Marg literature, in about 1530 A.D., Shrinathji commanded Vallabhacharya to leave the worldly life and to come near Him. It is said that Shrinathji had previously expressed His wish on two different occasions. The third command was accepted by Vallabhacharya as the last verdict. He reached Kasi and according to Vedic traditions, formally renounced the world by taking Sanyasa and a vow of silence. He lived in a hut made of leaves on the Hanuman ghat for about a week. He spent his last days in contemplation of Krishna and suffered agonies of separation from Him. The members of his family assembled near him for his last darshan. When asked about his advice, Vallabhacharya scribbled three and a half Sanskrit verses in the sand by way of counsel. To complete this message, it is believed that Krishna Himself manifested visually on the spot and wrote in the form of a verse and a half. This collection of verses is known as ‘ShikshaSloki’ in Pushti Marg literature. He entered into the waters of the Ganges on the day of Rath Yatra (A festival that is celebrated on the second or third day of the bright side of the lunar month of Ashadha). People witnessed a brilliant flame as it arose from the water and ascended to heaven and was lost in the firmament. This episode is known as AsurVyamohLila.[1]

Pushtimarg[edit]

Vallabhacharya represented the culmination of philosophical thought during the Bhakti Movement in the Middle Ages. The sect established by him is unique in its facets of devotion to Krishna, especially his child manifestation, and is enriched with the use of traditions, music and festivals. Today, most of the followers of this sect reside in western and northern India.

Works[edit]

Vallabhacharya composed many philosophical and devotional books during his lifetime such as:

  1. Anubhashya or Brahmsutranubhashya - 4 cantos of commentaries on the Brahm Sutra of Ved Vyas
  2. Tattvaarth Dip Nibandh - Essays on the fundamental principles of spirituality (3 chapters)
    1. Chapter 1: Shaastrarth Prakaran
    2. Chapter 2: Bhagavatarth Prakaran
    3. Chapter 3: Sarvanirnay Prakaran
  3. Subodhini - Commentary on Shrimad Bhagavat Mahapuran (Available only on cantos 1,2,3 and 10)
  4. Shodash Granth - Sixteen short verse-type compositions to teach his followers about devotional life

Other than the above main literature, he also composed additional works such as Patravalamban, Madhurashtakam, Gayatribhashya, Purushottam Sahastranaam, Yamunastakam etc.

Commentaries and Verses (c. 1479-1531)[edit]

He wrote elaborate commentaries on Sanskrit scriptures, the Brahma-Sutras (Anubhasya[10]), and Shreemad Bhagwatam (Shree Subodhini ji, Tattvarth Dip Nibandh).

Shodash Granthas[edit]

Also, in order to help devotees on this path of devotion, he wrote 16 pieces in verse which we know as the Shodasha Granthas. These came about as answers to devotees. The verses define the practical theology of Pushtimarga.

The Shodash Granthas(doctrines) serve as a lighthouse for devotees. They speak about increasing love for Shri Krishna through Seva (service) and Smarana (remembering). These doctrines are Mahaprabhu’s way of encouraging and inspiring devotees on this path of grace. The central message of the Shodasha Granthas is, total surrender to the Lord. A Goswami can initiate an eager soul to this path of Shri Krishna’s loving devotion and service. The verses explain the types of devotees, the way to surrender and the reward for Seva, as well as other practical instructions. The devotee is nurtured by the Lord’s grace.

  1. Shree Yamunastakam: An ode to Shree Yamuna Maharani
  2. Baala Bodhah: A guide for beginners on the path of devotion
  3. Siddhant-Muktavali: A string of pearls consisting of the principles/fundamentals of Pushtimarg
  4. Pusti-Pravaha-Maryadabhedah: The different characteristics of the different types of souls (Receptivity of the Lord’s grace)
  5. Siddhant-Rahasya: The Secret behind the Principles
  6. Navratna : Nine jewels of instructions (Priceless instructions for a devotee)
  7. Antah-Karan-Prabodhah: Consoling one's Heart (Request to one’s own heart)
  8. Vivek-Dhairy-Aashray: Of discretion, patience and surrender
  9. Shree Krushna Aashray: Taking Shree Krushna’s shelter
  10. Chatuhshloki: A Four Verses (Verser) illustrating the four principles of life; Dharma, Arth, Kaam, Moksh
  11. Bhakti-Vardhini: Increase of devotion
  12. Jal-Bhed: Difference in Waters.
  13. Pancha-Padyaani: Five instructive verses
  14. Sannyasa-Nirnayah: Decision on taking Renunciation
  15. Nirodh-Lakshanam: Identifying characteristics of detachment
  16. Seva-Phalam: The reward of performing seva (worship) of the Lord

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Shah, J.G. (1969). Shri Vallabhacharya: His Philosophy and Religion. Pushtimargiya Pustakalaya. 
  2. ^ "Shuddha-advaita Brahmvaad - Philosophy of Shree Vallabhacharyaji". Kankroli based Shri Vakpati Foundation. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-06-06. 
  3. ^ Sharma, Govardhana; Parikha, Pravinacandra Cimanalala (January 1993). Vedanta Cintamanih of Bharatamartanda Pandita. Param Publications. ISBN 81-86045-00-7. 
  4. ^ Beck, G.U.Y.L. (2005). "Krishna as Loving Husband of God". Alternative Krishnas: Regional and Vernacular Variations on a Hindu Deity (SUNY Press). ISBN 978-0-7914-6415-1. Retrieved 2008-04-12. 
  5. ^ Sharma, V.P. (1998). The Sadhus and Indian Civilisation. Anmol Publications PVT. LTD. 
  6. ^ a b c d Prasoon, Shrikant (2009). Indian Saints & Sages. Pustak Mahal. ISBN 9788122310627. 
  7. ^ Jones, Constance (2007). Encyclopedia of Hinduism. New York: Infobase Publishing. p. 475. ISBN 0-8160-5458-4. 
  8. ^ Ojha, P.N. (1978). Aspects of Medieval Indian Society and Culture. BR Pub. Corp.; New Delhi: DK Publishers' Distributors. 
  9. ^ Bryant, Edwin F. (2007). Krishna: A Sourcebook. Oxford University Press. 
  10. ^ Anubhashya

Bibliography[edit]

  • Sri Subodhini, first time English Translation, 25 Vols./ Delhi
  • Babb, Lawrence A. The Bhakti Sect of Vallabhacarya. Delhi: Thomson Press. 1976

External links[edit]