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Holy icon of Nimbarkacharya
Kārtika Purnima 3096 BCE
Vaidurya Pattanam in Andhra Pradesh , India
|Titles/honours||Nimbabhaskar, Nimbaditya , Sudarshanchakravatar|
|Literary works||Vedanta Parijata Saurabh, Gita Bhashya, Dashsloki|
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Nimbarka is known for propagating the Vaishnava Theology of Dvaitadvaita, duality in unity. According to scholars headed by Prof. Roma Bose, he lived in the 13th Century, on the assumption that Śrī Nimbārkāchārya was the author of the work Madhvamukhamardana. According to Nimbārka Sampradāya however, Śrī Nimbārkāchārya appeared over 5000 years ago, in the year 3096 BCE at the time when the grandson of Arjuna was on the throne. He hailed from the present-day Andhra Pradesh, in South India.
Bhandarkar has placed him as a philosopher after Ramanuja and has maintained his demise date as 1162 AD. Some hold that he is dated around 13th Century. However, S.N.Dasgupta dated Nimbarka to around middle of 14th Century. On the other hand, S A A Rizvi assigns the date of Circa 1130–1200 AD  But Jadunath Sinha, has counted him as a 13th-century philosopher, and Tarachand has held him to be a younger contemporary of Ramanuja.
Current scholarship has pointed out that in Bhandarkar's own work it is clearly stated that this was an approximation based on an extremely flimsy calculation, yet most scholars chose to honour his suggested date, even until modern times. Current scholars have demonstrated with a high degree of clarity that Nimbarka and his immediate disciple Shrinivasa flourished well before Ramanuja, and that Shrinivasa was a contemporary, or just after Sankaracarya. This clearly settles the debate, pending an in depth investigation of this already tested hypothesis, that Nimbarka is a contemporary or just before Sankaracarya.
Śrī Nimbārkācārya is believed to be the incarnation of the Sudarshana Chakra (the Discus weapon of Krishna), Shri Sakhi Ranga Devi, Shri Tosha Sakha, a cow named Ghusara, a stick for herding cows, the lustre of the limbs of Radha, and the nose ring of Radha. In the Naimiṣa Kaṇḍa of the Bhavishya Purana the following is recorded:
At the end of Tretā Yuga, the Brāhmaṇas, being afraid of the Asuras, prayed to Lord Hari. They also prayed to Brahmā who himself prayed to Lord Hari again. Then the Lord summoned his own Sudarśana Cakra -a part of Himself- and commanded him to descend on earth to revive and teach the Vaiṣṇava Dharma which was waning and which he could learn from Nārada, and spread it all around.
The incarnation of the Sudarśana Cakra occurred, according to the Bhaviṣya Purāṇa in the month of Kārtika on the evening of the full moon in the year 3096 BCE. His mother, Jayanti and father, Aruṇa were Tailanga Brāhmaṇas, who resided on the banks of the river Godavari at a place known as Telinga, the modern Vaidurya Pattanam in Andhra Pradesh. He was named Niyamānanda at birth. The region was famed for its scholarly learning, and by the age of 16, Niyamānanda had mastered the Vedas and all related philosophical scripture. With the permission of his parents, Niyamānanda then embarked on a search of a true Guru. Upon reaching Govardhan in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, he began practising penance under the shade of Neem trees. Pleased with his penance, the Sage Narada blessed him with the knowledge of true Vedanta, the doctrine of Dvaitādvaita – or unity in duality. After this, Niyamānanda begged Nārada to accept him as a disciple. The great sage Nārada gave him initiation according to Vaiṣṇava rites, and bestowed him the śālagrāma deity known as Śrī Sarveśvara (the Lord of All). Continuing, Nārada renamed him Haripriyā (one dear to the Lord). He then instructed Niyamānanda on the Gopāla Mantra of the Gopālatāpini Upanishad. Once completed, the Sage Nārada instructed him to practise further penance with that Mantra and all will be revealed before leaving.
In the ritual recitation and meditation upon that mantra, the Lord revealed Himself as Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. Niyamānanda worshipped them, and was blessed with the recollection of his former glory as the Sudarśana Cakra of that very Lord. The Lord instructed him to teach this philosophy to all, and departed.
In a famous incident, having established his āśrama (monastery/hermitage) at that place near Govardhan now known as Nimbagrāma, Niyamānanda began to teach the disciples who dedicated themselves to his mission. Brahmā disguised himself as a renounciate and ventured to this hermitage just before sunset, where the two engaged in philosophical debate. Niyamānanda, being victorious, then offered the guest some refreshments, but he refused, as the sun had set and it would be against the rules of the renounciates. Niyamānanda had to make sure the renounciate ate, otherwise the rules of receiving a guest would be broken. The enlightened Niyamānanda projected some of the effulgence of his being over the neem trees and the renounciate agreed to accept the refreshment. Thereafter, Brahmā revealed himself and blessed him on his knowledge of the Supreme, and gave him a new name – Nimbārka, the one who has placed the Sun in the midst of the Neem trees.
It is with this name that he became famous, though his exact date of death is not known. His disciplic tradition continues unbroken till today, however the information regarding the leaders between leaders 12 and 13 is lost; amongst which were many hundred leaders, due to interference from foreign invaders.
Nimbarka's philosophical position is known as Dvaitadvaita (duality and nonduality at the same time). The categories of existence, according to him, are three, i.e., cit, acit, and Isvara. Cit and acit are different from Isvara, in the sense that they have attributes and capacities, which are different from those of Isvara. Isvara is independent and exists by Himself, while cit and acit have existence dependent upon Him. At the same time cit and acit are not different from Isvara, because they cannot exist independently of Him. Difference means a kind of existence which is separate but dependent, (para-tantra-satta-bhava) while non-difference means impossibility of independent existence (svatantra-satta-bhava).
Thus Nimbarka equally emphasises both difference and non-difference, as against Ramanuja, who makes difference subordinate to non-difference, in as much as, for him cit and acit do not exist separately from Brahman, but its body or attributes. Thus, according to Nimbarka, the relation between Brahman, on the one hand, and the souls (cit) and universe (acit) on the other, is a relation of natural difference-non-difference (svabhavika-bhedabheda), just like between snake and coil, or between sun and its rays. Just as the coil is nothing but the snake, yet different from it, just as the different kinds of stones, though nothing but earth, are yet different from it, so the souls and the universe, though nothing but Brahman (brahmatmaka), are different from Him because of their own peculiar natures and attributes.
Thus, according to Nimbarka, there are three equally real and co-eternal realities, viz. Brahman, the cit and the acit. Brahman is the Controller (niyantr), the cit the enjoyer (bhoktr) and the acit the object enjoyed (bhogya).
Nimbarka accepts parinamavada to explain the cause of animate and inanimate world, which he says exist in a subtle form in the various capacities (saktis) which belong to Brahman in its natural condition. Brahman is the material cause of the universe in the sense that Brahman brings the subtle rudiments into the gross form by manifesting these capacities.
For Nimbarka the highest object of worship is Krishna and His consort Radha, attended by thousands of gopi's, or cowherdesses, of the celestial Vrindavan. Devotion according to Nimbarka, consists in prapatti, or self-surrender.
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Sri Nimbarka refers to 5 methods to Salvation:
Karma (ritual action)
Performed conscientiously in a proper spirit, with one’s varna (caste) and asrama (phase of life) thereby giving rise to knowledge which is a means to salvation).
Not as a subordinate factor of karma but also not as an independent means for everyone; only for those inclined to spending vast lengths of time in scriptural study and reflection on deeper meanings.
Upasana or dhyana (meditation)
It is of three types. First is meditation on the Lord as one's self, i.e. meditation on the Lord as the Inner Controller of the sentient. Second is meditation on the Lord as the Inner Controller of the non-sentient. Final one is meditation on Lord Himself, as different from the sentient and non-sentient. This is again not an independent means to Salvation for all, as only those qualified to perform the upasana (with Yajnopavitam) can perform this Sadhana.
Prapatti (Surrender to the Lord/Devotion)
Devotion and self-surrender to God as Shri Radha Krsna. This method of attaining Salvation, known as Prapatti Sadhana, contains elements of all the other means, and is most importantly, available to all. Men, women, foreigners, all classes and castes (or non-castes) are permitted to seek liberation through this, the most important Sadhana. It is referred to as Sadhana (or Apara) Bhakti – devotion through regulations. This in turn leads to Para Bhakti – the highest devotion characterised by Madhurya Rasa – the sweet emotions of devotion experienced by those perfected in Sadhana Bhakti.
Devotion and self-surrender to guru. Best realised as a part in Prapatti, and not as an independent means, although it can be so.
Sri Nimbarka made the "Bhasya" (commentary in which alle the words of the verses are used, in contradistinction to a tika, which is a more free commentary) of the Brahmasutra on his Dvaitadvaita Vedanta (Principle of Dualism-Nondualism) in his famous book "Vedanta Parijata Sourabha".
The disciplic tradition today
Upon reaching the leader Svāmī Harivyāsa Devacārya, the 35th leader, the tradition was reformed. He anointed twelve of his senior disciples to lead missions throughout the land. The most famous are Svāmī Paraśurāma Devācārya and Svāmī Svabhūrāma Devācārya.
Svāmī Paraśurāma Devācārya was to remain the leader of the entire movement. He was given the śālagrāma deity known as Śrī Sarveśvara that was handed down through time it is believed from Nimbārka himself. The 48th and current leader of the entire Nimbārka Sampradāya (the disciplic tradition of Nimbārka) is H.D.H. Jagadguru Nimbārkācārya Svāmī Śrī Rādhāsarveśvara Śaraṇa Devācārya, known in reverence as Śrī Śrījī Māhārāja by his followers. He is based in Nimbārka Tīrtha Rajasthan, India. He is the current leader of the Sampradāya, who worships the śālagrāma deity known as Śrī Sarveśvara. His followers are mainly in Rajasthan and Vṛndāvana, Mathura. He established the Mandir at the birth site of Shri Nimbarkacharya in Mungi Village, Paithan, Maharashtra in 2005. In addition, he oversees the maintenance of thousands of temples, hundreds of monasteries, schools, hospitals, orphanages, cow-shelters, environmental projects, memorial shrines, etc., and arranges various scholarly conventions, religious conferences, medical camps & outreach, etc.
Svāmī Svabhūrāma Devācārya was born in Budhiya Village, outside Jagadhri and Yamunanagar near Kurukshetra in modern Haryana, India. He established over 52 temples in Punjab, Haryana and Vraja during his lifetime; his current followers are found mostly in Vṛndāvana, Haryana, Punjab, Bengal, Rajasthan, Orissa, Assam, Sikkim, Bihar, other regions in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.
In his following disciplic lineages, there are many branches, including the line of Kathia Baba. Svami Svabhuram Devacarya was the elder disciple of Swami Shri Harivyasa Devacarya, and Kathiya Baba follows this tradition of saints. Other notable saints of that line of Gurus (Parampara) include the famous Saint Swami Chatur Chintamani Nagaji Maharaj, who started the Vraja Parikrama. This tradition has been continuously maintained over 528 years by the Acharyas of the Svabhurama Dwara (Branch).In this same tradition Swami Sri Ramdas Kathiababa came to Vrindavan and made his first monastery there. Currently this parampara is led by the 57th Acharya of Svabhuram Dwara of Nimbarka Sampradaya, Swami Ras Bihari Das Kathia Baba at Sri Kathia Baba Ka Sthan, Sridham Vrindavan, India. This ashram is known as the Gurugadi, or seat of the Guru, of this sampradaya as a continuation of the lineage of Swami Ram Das Kathia Baba, Swami Santadas Kathiababa and Swami Dhananjaya Das Kathia Babaji Maharaj. Swami Dhananjaya Das Kathia Babaji built several ashrams. The present Acharya Swami Ras Bihari Dasji Kathia Baba has constructed 20 new temples and monasteries in India and abroad. Another Acharya of this lineage is Swami Brindaban Bihari Das Mahanta Maharaj at Kathia Baba ka Ashram, Shivala, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh and Sukhchar, 24-Parganas (North), West Bengal, who has undertaken projects for orphans and aged persons, building schools and elderly care homes. He travels relentlessly to spread Nimbarka Philosophy through world religion conferences held in US, UK, Sweden, Africa, Bangaladesh and other different cities across the globe.
The famous teacher and leader Svāmī Haripriyā Śaraṇa Devācārya, founded the temple and monastery at Bihari Ji Ka Bageecha, Vṛndāvana, sponsored by his disciple, the philanthropic Shri Hargulal Beriwala and the Beriwala Trust in the 19th century. The predecessor of the current successor was Svāmī Lalitā Śaraṇa Devācārya, who died in July 2005 at the age of 103. One of his other disciples is the world-renowned Svāmī Gopāla Śaraṇa Devācārya, who has founded the Monastery and temple known as the Shri Golok Dham Ashram in New Delhi and Vṛndāvana. He has also helped ordinary Hindus who are not Vaiṣṇava to establish temples overseas. Of note are the Glasgow Hindu Mandir, Scotland, UK: the Lakshmi Narayan Hindu Mandir, Bradford, UK; and the Valley Hindu Temple, Northridge, CA. He has also facilitated major festivals at the Hindu Sabha Mandir in Brampton, Canada.
Another of the famous leaders was Sri Radhavallabh Sharan Devacharya who presided at the Baijiraj Temple in Udaipur, Rajasthan. He is succeeded by Mahant Sri Mohansharan Ji. In Abu Road, Swami Shri Yugal Sharan Ji Brahmachari takes care of Shri Pat Narayan Dham, a wondrous centre worshipping an ancient deity of Lord Visnu. He provides top level Ayurvedic care and has thousands of patients visiting daily.
The Mithila Kunj Ashram is operated by disciples in the tradition of Swami Shri Mukund Devacharya, another of Swami Shri Harivyas Devacharya's 12 main disciples. At Vamshi Vata, the site of austerities of Harivyasa's preceptor, Swami Shri Shribhatta, the branch of Swami Shri Uddhava Ghamanda Devacharyaji has its headquarters. Swami Uddhava Ghamanda Devacharya ji, another of the 12 disciples of Swami Shri Harivyasa Devacharya is of note for his establishment of the practise of Rasa Lila performances, which continue today and are performed by devotees initiated in other sects and even folk artists. His disciples are led by Swami Roop Kishor Devacharya based at Shri Chain Bihari Ji Kunj.
- Prof. Roma Bose, Vedanta Parijata Saurabha of Nimbarka and Vedanta Kaustubha of Srinivasa (Commentaries on the Brahma-Sutras) – Doctrines of Nimbarka and his followers, vol.3, Munishram Manoharlal Publishers, Reprint 2004
- R.G.Bhandarkar, Vaisnavism, Saivaism and minor Religious system (Indological Book House, Varanasi, India) page 62-63
- Deliverance from error and mystical union with the Almighty By Ghazzālī, George F. McLean PG 148
- A History of Indian Philosophy (Vol. 3) by Surendranath Dasgupta, (Cambridge: 1921) page 420
- Saiyed A A Rizvi- A history of Sufism in India, Vol.1 (Munshi Ram Manoharlal Publishing Private Limited: 1978), page 355
- Jadunath Sinha-- The Philosophy of Nimbarka, (Sinha Publishing House, Calcutta: 1973) page 2
- Tarachand—Influence of Islam on Indian Culture, (Allahabad, 1936) page 102
- Jones, Constance (2007). Encyclopedia of Hinduism. New York: Infobase Publishing. p. 312. ISBN 0-8160-5458-4.