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Baladeva Vidyabhusana, The Gaudiya Vedantist
BTG, Jan/Feb, 1991
Their voices rose with the sun. It was early morning in an Indian villageschool. The boys sat in neat rows behind palm-leaf manuscripts, committingtheir lessons to memory. As they chanted their grammar rules, their rhetoriclessons, and their logic aphorisms, each boy chanted loud enough to hearhimself over his neighbour, resulting in a blend of high-pitched voices.
This school, attended by Baladeva early in the eighteenth century, closelyresembled village schools that existed in India for thousands of years. Thesystem had endured because it was effective, producing brilliant anddisciplined scholars, and Baladeva was among the best of them.
Before coming to school, Baladeva, the son of a merchant, had lived forseveral years near the Orissan town of Remuna. From there he had gone to studywith the group of panditas at this school, situated idyllically on the bank ofthe Cilkahrada River. The lush Orissan forests and fertile fields providedample fruits, vegetables, and grains for a wholesome, varied diet. The boysstudied hard, played hard, and grew lean, healthy, and discerning.
When Baladeva graduated from school, he did not want to return home to work inhis father's shop. He wanted to be a scholar -- not an ordinary scholar but atrue acarya, one who could teach divine wisdom. A pandita had to master logic,philosophy, medicine, or cosmology, but an acarya had to know the scripturesthat impart the deepest wisdom. Baladeva decided to study philosophy andtheology. He would become a Vedantist, an authority on the ancient Vedic booksof knowledge. He could not think of any greater way to benefit himself orothers.
In search of a preceptor, Baladeva went on pilgrimage to the tirthas (holyplaces), where he would meet monks and scholars. In Mysore (now Karnataka), insouthwestern India, he came upon a hermitage of holy men who were also calledTirthas, followers of the saint and scholar Ananda Tirtha (A.D. 1197-1273),who was known formally as Madhva Acarya. In the monastery, or matha, Baladevastudied Vedanta and mastered the arts of debate and rhetoric. These talentswould serve him well in a challenge he would later face while still a youngman.
The challenge Baladeva would meet is of critical importance to the history ofGaudiya Vaisnavism, the spiritual school to which the modern day Krishnaconsciousness movement belongs.
The Gaudiyas in Vrndavana
By the time Baladeva was born, the Gaudiya Vaishnavas, or followers of LordChaitanya Mahaprabhu, were well established in Vrndavana, the town in northernIndia where Lord Krishna had enacted His childhood pastimes some five thousandyears earlier. But life in that area was often insecure. For thousands ofyears the Vrndavana-Mathura district had been periodically invaded andpillaged. Yet despite these calamities, Mathura had thrived as a centre oftrade and culture. Every ancient religion of northern India considered Mathuraan important city.
In 1512 Lord Chaitanya arrived in Mathura. He found that the places where Krishnahad enjoyed pastimes were now obscured, so He spent two months locating andidentifying them. Wanting to reconstruct Vrndavana and rededicate it to Krishna,He sent Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami, two of His chief disciples, to theholy city.
Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami accomplished Lord Chaitanya's mission inVrndavana. Not only did they rebuild the sacred places of Krishna's life, butthey also wrote books that presented Lord Chaitanya's doctrine in a waysuitable for both scholars and laymen. Shrila Jiva Gosvami, their nephew anddisciple, continued their work. He supervised the construction of magnificenttemples for the worship of Krishna, wrote exhaustive philosophical treatises onthe philosophy of Krishna consciousness, and distributed the religiousmanuscripts of the Vrndavana Gosvamis throughout the Vaishnava world. Largelydue to Jiva Gosvami's efforts, the Gaudiya Vaishnavas succeeded in establishingVrndavana as the principal seat of Vaisnavism in northern India.
Vrndavana had always been a holy pilgrimage site, but under Gaudiya patronageit flourished as a powerful religious centre for 150 years. Gaudiya gurus andtemples held sway in Vrndavana, even at the time of Baladeva's arrival in theearly eighteenth century.
Govinda Leaves Vrndavana
Unfortunately, the peaceful leadership of the Gaudiyas could not last. In 1669the Mogul ruler Aurangzeb decreed that Hindu temples and carved images, orDeities, should be destroyed. Deities, priests, and pilgrims were in danger,and faithful devotees of Krishna stopped visiting Vrndavana. Many of those whohad the courage to express their faith were beaten or killed.
Subsequently, the Vaishnava priests appealed to the Hindu dynasties ofRajasthan for protection for themselves and their Deities. Protection wasguaranteed, and gradually the Deities migrated east, to settle in Mewar and inAmber, the old Jaipur capital. But wi thout Deities, brahmanas, and pilgrims,Vrndavana-Mathura lost much of its glory.
One of the principal Deities of Vrndavana was Govinda, a twenty-four-inchblack marble image of Krishna in His original aspect as a cowherd boy. ShrilaRupa Gosvami had found Him while excavating the holy places of Vrndavana.Later, warned that Aurangzeb's army would seek to demolish Govinda's splendidseven-story temple, the priests secretly moved the Deity to Radha-kunda, asacred pond widely known as one of the holiest places in the Mathura district.
After a year at Radha-kunda, the priests transferred their divine refugee toKaman, a fortified city in the Mathura district, where a suitable complexcould be built for Govinda. For more than thirty years He and two otherDeities, Gopinatha and Madana-Mohana, remained in Kaman. But most pilgrimsavoided the area because of danger from the ruling Moguls and a clan of peoplecalled the Jats, who had risen up against the Moguls.
The Rajput kings of Amber found themselves at the pivot of the conflictbetween the Moguls and the Jat guerrillas. The kings allied themselves withthe Moguls against the Jats but patronised the Vrndavana Deities, whom theMoguls wanted to destroy.
Ram Singh, the king of Amber, had ordered in 1671 that Govinda be transferredto Kaman, which was then under the jurisdiction of Amber and Jaipur althoughit was in the Mathura district. It is said that the transfer was meant to betemporary: the Deity would return to Vrndavana when the political turmoilsubsided. But Govinda did not return to Vrndavana. After thirty-three years inKaman, He made another trip, this time to Amber.
The Ramanandis' Challenge
Govinda's new home had little in common with the forest of Vrndavana, where Hehad lived so grandly. In Vrndavana, a Vaishnava holy place, Govinda was theunchallenged Supreme Lord. His priest, who stood in the direct line of RupaGosvami, the acknowledged leader of the Vaishnavas in Vrndavana, had enjoyedunchallenged authority on questions about the philosophy and practice ofbhakti, devotional service to Krishna.
In Amber, however, not all the Vaishnavas worshiped Krishna. During the reign ofPrthviraj Singh (1503-1527), a devotee of Lord Ramacandra named PayahariKrishnadasa had settled in Galta, a valley near the present day city of Jaipur.Payahari was a grand-disciple of Ramananda, the fourteenth century NorthIndian reformer of the South Indian sampradaya (lineage) of Ramanuja. Payahariworshiped Sita-Rama, not Radha-Krishna.
Payahari had settled in a cave in the Galta Valley. He had converted QueenBalan Bai to Ramanandi Vaisnavism, and she in turn had convinced her saintlyhusband, King Prthviraj, to sponsor the establishment of a Ramanandi monasteryin Galta. Thereafter, Galta had become the northern headquarters for theRamanuja sect.
For six generations the Ramanandi mahantas (temple heads) had enjoyed aprivileged position in the Amber kingdom. But Govinda's arrival in Amber andHis popularity with the royal family challenged the Ramanandi hegemony.
To Jai Singh the arrival of Govinda was especially significant. Despite thepresence of so many Hindu sects in his kingdom, despite his own royalobligations to maintain Vedic and Puranic ritual sacrifices, and despite theunchallengeable authority of the Ramanandi priests, Jai Singh was ultimately adevotee of Govinda. The arrival of Govinda in his kingdom was a high point inhis personal spiritual quest.
The Ramanandi priests soon realised that if Govinda became the favoured Deityof the king, the Gaudiya priests would assume religious authority in Amber.What would become of the Ramanandis' ascendancy?
The Ramanandis then approached Jai Singh with a complaint about the Gaudiyas.They questioned the Gaudiya lineage. In India, much is made of one'sparentage. If one cannot prove natal legitimacy, one may be cast out as abastard. The same social standard applies to religious organisations. If areligious group can not prove its descent from one of the recognisedtraditions, it risks being dismissed as illegitimate.
Jai Singh wrote to the mahanta of the Gopinatha temple, Syamcaran Sarma,asking him to clarify the matter by explaining the lineage of the Gaudiyadevotees. Syamcaran replied with a letter in Sanskrit, quoting variousscriptures and other authorities. He explained that the Gaudiya lineage hadbegun with Lord Chaitanya, who was the Supreme Godhead. After all, a spirituallineage originating with God is unassailable.
Predictably, the Ramanandis were not satisfied. They said, "There are onlyfour sampradayas, not five. Scholars have ascertained this on the basis ofthe Padma Purana." It is here that our story brings us back to Baladeva.
The Nurturing of Baladeva
Before the Ramanandis had complained in Amber, young Baladeva, living inMysore, had been instructed in the Vedanta-sutra by the followers of the greatVedantist Madhva Acarya.
The word Vedanta consists of two words: veda (knowledge) and anta (end). SoVedanta is the culmination of Vedic knowledge. The Vedas are the oldest ofthe traditional Sanskrit writings compiled by Shrila Vyasadeva. Vyasadeva latercomposed the Vedanta-sutra, which contains in terse codes the essence of theUpanisads (the philosophical hymns of the Vedas). Because the Vedanta-sutra iswritten in aphorisms, one needs a commentary to understand it. The oldest andmost famous extant commentary is that of Sankara Acarya (A.D. 788-820).
Sankara was a monist; he believed in the ultimate oneness of the jiva (livingbeing) and God, and he interpreted the Vedanta-sutra accordingly. AfterSankara, four learned Vaishnavas stepped forward over the course of severalhundred years to write Vedanta-sutra commentaries. These Vaishnavas wrote toestablish the duality of the jiva and God and thus refute the monisticteaching of Sankara.
These four Vaishnava preceptors -- Shri Ramanuja Acarya, Shri Nimbarka, ShriMadhva Acarya, and Shri Vishnusvami -- established the four acknowledgedVaishnava sampradayas. Subsequently Vaishnava religious leaders belonged to oneof these sampradayas and were thus considered legitimate. Ramananda claimedthat his lineage originated with Ramanuja.
We recall again that Baladeva, in Mysore, had stayed in a matha of theMadhva-sampradaya and studied the Vedanta-sutra commentary of Madhva. He hadenjoyed his education, but he enjoyed even more the application of hislearning. He was exhilarated by debates; no challenge was too great for him.And he was eager for the opportunity to enlighten others. Now after becoming askilled lecturer and debater, Baladeva left Mysore and went to Puri, inOrissa, where he again took up residence in a Madhva matha.
At Puri, Baladeva met Radha-Damodara Dasa, a Brahmana from Kanyakubja (nowKanpur), in north central India. Radha-Damodara was the grand-disciple ofRasikananda, a seventeenth-century preacher who had established the Gaudiyamovement throughout Orissa. Radha-Damodara, a scholar of Gaudiya philosophy,explained to Baladeva the position of Lord Chaitanya, supporting his pointswith quotations from Mahabharata and Shrimad-Bhagavatam.
Radha-Damodara said, "Shri Krishna Chaitanya is the Supreme Godhead Himself. Hecame to flood the world with Krishna-prema, love of Krishna. Shri Chaitanya was notinterested in study of many commentaries on Vedanta-sutra, for He consideredShrimad-Bhagavatam, written by the same author -- Vyasa -- to be the naturalcommentary. So from the Bhagavatam and by His own example, He taught that wemust serve the Supreme Lord, Krishna, and absorb ourselves in hearing about Him.Shri Chaitanya Himself was always absorbed in Krishna-prema. Thus He saw no needto write any books."
Radha-Damodara advised Baladeva to study the Bhagavata-sandarbha, by ShrilaJiva Gosvami. For days Radha-Damodara and Baladeva met and discussed Jiva'swork. Baladeva noted that Jiva did not significantly differ from Madhva.Indeed, the philosophies of Jiva and Madhva agreed on most essential points.
Still, Jiva's treatise developed Vaishnava philosophy in an elegant and logicalway that deeply impressed Baladeva. Now convinced that the Gaudiya perspectivewas true, Baladeva asked Radha-Damodara to initiate him into theGaudiya-sampradaya. Baladeva, however, was an already initiated Vaishnava, soRadha-Damodara performed not a formal initiation but a ceremony in whichBaladeva agreed to accept and serve Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as the SupremeLord. Thus Baladeva became a member of the Gaudiya sampradaya.
Mastering Gaudiya Philosophy
Baladeva then decided to travel to Vrndavana, the spiritual centre of theGaudiya sect. But first he went to Navadvipa, where he met the Vaishnavas thereand discussed philosophy with them. They all told him to study underVisvanatha Cakravati Thakura in Vrndavana. Because Baladeva was so eager tomeet Visvanatha, he stayed only a short time in Navadvipa before setting outon foot to travel the eight hundred miles to Vrndavana.
Arriving in Vrndavana, Baladeva soon met Visvanatha Cakravati, introducedhimself, and explained his background and the story of his meeting withRadha-Damodara in Puri. Visvanatha was gratified that Baladeva had come tostudy Shrimad-Bhagavatam, and he suggested a suitable day for them to begintheir studies. He also decided that Baladeva should study the rasa-sastras,texts of advanced devotion, with another scholar, Pitambara Dasa.
Baladeva's appetite had been whetted by reading Jiva Gosvami'sBhagavata-sandarbha in Puri. From Pitambara, Baladeva learned the esotericmeaning of bhagavata philosophy, as found in the rasa-sastras. He then studiedthe Chaitanya-charitamrita, Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami's biography of LordChaitanya. The Chaitanya-charitamrita is an advanced text for those who have fullystudied other Vaishnava scriptures. By completing his study of this culminatingwork, Baladeva qualified himself for a brilliant future as a Gaudiya scholar.
Meanwhile, in Amber the Ramanandis continued to wage ideological war againstthe Gaudiyas. The Ramanandis did not accept the answer that the Gaudiyamahantas had given to King Jai Singh -- that Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was theSupreme Lord Himself and that His sampradaya was therefore beyond doubt. TheRamanandis insisted on the principle of sampradaya catvarah, "there are onlyfour sampradayas," implying, of course, that the Gaudiyas constituted anunauthorised fifth lineage.
Jai Singh prepared himself for the religious confrontation he knew wasinevitable. He collected and studied the writings of the Gaudiya sect andcompared it with the writings of other Vaishnava sampradayas. He studied theBhagavata Purana and its commentaries by Shridhara Swami, Sanatana Gosvami, andJiva Gosvami. He pored over the Vedanta-sutra and its commentaries by Sankara,Ramanuja, Madhva, Vallabha, and Nimbarka. He explored the works of SanatanaGosvami, Rupa Gosvami, Gopala Bhatta Gosvami, Jiva Gosvami, and KrishnadasaKaviraja Gosvami, the principal theologians of the Gaudiya school. And he readJayadeva's Gita-govinda, the poetry that had often evoked expressions ofecstatic love in Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Jai Singh wanted to reconcile the differences between the principle sects ofVaishnavas. He felt that these differences had no philosophical basis, socontinual wrangling could serve no purpose. Having completed his research, hecomposed a thesis called Brahma-bodhini, advocating the unity of theVaishnavas.
The king's attraction to Krishna had been sparked during his first visit toVrndavana, as a child of seven. He had been called there by his father, themilitary commander of the district, who had been deputed to protect thecaravans between Agra and Mathura. From that young age, Jai Singh hadconsidered himself a devotee of Krishna. Now his study of the writings of theVrndavana Gosvamis crystallised his sentiments. But his devotion to Radha andKrishna would be tested by the Ramanandis.
"The Gaudiyas should not worship Radha and Krishna together," the Ramanandistold him. "Radha and Krishna are not married. There is no precedent for Theirbeing worshiped together! Sita and Rama are together, and Laksmi and Narayana,because they are married. But Radha and Krishna are not married."
Now the Ramanandis were escalating the quarrel. They not only criticised theGaudiyas' lineage but also found fault with the Gaudiya method of worship. TheRamanandis demanded that Radha be removed from the main altar and be placed inanother room, to be worshiped separately.
Jai Singh sent word to the mahantas (religious authorities) of the Gaudiyatemples. "You must prepare a response to the criticisms voiced by theRamanandis of Galta Valley. I am sympathetic to your philosophy and practice,but your response must be adequate to silence the Ramanandi panditas, or Ishall be forced to separate Radharani from Krishna."
The mahantas of the four major Gaudiya temples of Amber submitted theirresponse in writing. They explained that Rupa, Sanatana, and Jiva Gosvamisshared the same opinion about Radha and Krishna: They could be worshiped eitheras married (svakiya rasa) or unmarried (parakiya rasa), since both thesepastimes (lila) are eternal. Worship of Krishna in either lila is adequate toestablish a devotee's eternal relationship with the Supreme.
The Ramanandis rejected these arguments. Fighting for their religious andpolitical power, they again approached Jai Singh. Because Radha and Krishna werenot married, the Ramanandis complained, worshiping Them together condonedTheir questionable relationship. The Ramanandis also criticised the Gaudiyasfor worshiping Krishna without first worshiping Narayana.
To appease the Ramanandis, Jai Singh told them he would ask the Gaudiyas toplace the Deity of Radharani in a separate room. He would also ask them toexplain their breach of Vaishnava etiquette in neglecting Narayana worship, andhe would ask them to prove their link with the Madhva sampradaya.
Visvanatha Deputes Baladeva
Visvanatha Cakravati, a scholar of great repute, lived in Vrndavana at thistime. Visvanatha had been born in 1646 in a Bengali village named Saidabad,where he had spent the first years of his life. Like other aspiring youngrenunciants, Visvanatha had faced problems with his family, who had betrothedhim at a young age to tie him to domestic life. As a married youth, Visvanathahad studied extensively, and while living with his family in Saidabad he hadwritten brilliant commentaries on Vaishnava scripture.
During his life in Saidabad, Visvanatha had taken initiation from RadharamanaCakravati and studied the Shrimad-Bhagavatam and other Vaishnava scriptures withRadharamana's father, Krishnacarana Cakravati. Radharamana was three generationsremoved from the main preceptor in their line, Narottama Dasa Thakura.
Eventually Visvanatha had left his family and gone to Vrndavana, where he hadlived at Radha-kunda. He formally accepted the dress of a renunciant and wasthen called Harivallabha. He continued writing and preaching, and eventuallyhe became the leader of the Gaudiya community in Vrndavana.
By the time Govinda moved to Rajasthan in 1707, Visvanatha was more than sixtyyears old. The aging scholar followed the Amber developments with interest.How would Govinda and His priest's fare in that pluralistic environment, atthe vortex of the young king's devotion, the Ramanandis antagonism, and thethreatening presence of so many sects?
Visvanatha regularly communicated with the mahantas of the Vaishnava temples inAmber. Although he had expected trouble from the Ramanandis, the quarrel hadstewed for years before threatening the Gaudiya priests or affecting the Deityworship. Now, he knew, they despaired over the growing antagonism of theRamanandis.
Visvanatha called for Baladeva. "We must refute the points of the Ramanandis,"Visvanatha told his protege. "It will not be easy, but we can defeat them."
Baladeva was outraged by the presumptuousness of the Ramananadi critics. "Whymust we establish the legitimacy of our lineage?" He demanded. "The SupremeLord, Shri Krishna, appeared as Lord Chaitanya to establish the true religion forthis age of quarrel. When God Himself originates a religious tradition, whomay dare question its legitimacy?"
"The Ramanandis do question it" Visvanatha replied, "and they rest theircriticism on the statement in Padma Purana that in this age there are foursampradayas, or lines of disciplic succession. The Purana says:
catvaras te kalau bhavya
hy utkale purusottama
The meaning is that the four Vaishnava sampradayas--Shri, Brahma, Rudra, and Kumara--purify the earth."
"Yes," replied Baladeva, "I know this verse. And the Ramanandis say that thewords utkale purusottama mean that these four sampradayas have theirmonasteries in Orissa, in Purusottama-ksetra, the town of Jagannatha Puri.
"But the real meaning is that the Supreme Lord, Purusottama, is thequintessence of these four sampradayas. And when He appears in Kali-yuga, Helives in Jagannatha Puri as Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. So the Gaudiya lineage isnot a fifth sampradaya but the essence of the four."
Visvanatha and Baladeva spent the night discussing the Ramanandis other pointsof contention about Lord Chaitanya's movement. They developed the strategy bywhich they would defeat the Ramanandis.
Visvanatha sent Baladeva with Krishnadeva Sarvabhauma to Amber. Baladeva'sarrival there was unheralded. He was new to the Gaudiya community, unknowneven among the Gaudiya mahantas of Amber. And he was young. No one, even ofhis own tradition, suspected that a philosophical giant lived within theunpretentious form of this Gaudiya holyman from Vrndavana. Baladeva haddifficulty gaining audience with the king. And when he was finally able to doso, the Ramanandis in the court were ready for him.
"Sir," Baladeva said to the king, "I have come to resolve doubts about theGaudiya-sampradaya and its methods of worship.""Your Highness," a Ramanandi pandita broke in, "we request to speak to himdirectly!"
Jai Singh turned to Baladeva. "You may speak," the king said, confident thatif Krishna were indeed the Supreme Lord, Krishna would arrange for His owndefence.
The Ramanandis opened with an offensive they felt sure would guarantee theirauthority. "The problem," they told Baladeva, "is that you do not belong to aproper sampradaya. Therefore we cannot accept the literature written by yourpanditas."
"I am from the Madhva-sampradaya," Baladeva asserted confidently. "I have beeninitiated in Mysore by a Tirtha of the Madhva order. But Radha-DamodaraGosvami and Visvanatha Cakravati of the Gaudiya-sampradaya are also my gurus.They have taught me Bhagavata philosophy."
The Ramanandis were surprised. Baladeva's Madhva initiation meant that theyhad to accept him as a qualified sannyasi and pandita of an authorisedlineage. But they hoped his youth might indicate a lack of skill. They ralliedthemselves. "You may be from the Madhva-sampradaya, but the other Gaudiyas arenot!"
Baladeva retained his dignity and produced a key piece of evidence. "That isthe Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika, written by Kavi Karnapura more than one hundredyears ago. This manuscript details our lineage from Madhva." Baladevapresented the manuscript for inspection.
The Ramanandis again argued, "If the Gaudiyas claim descent from Madhva, thenyou must base your arguments on Madhva's Brahma-sutra commentary. We know theGaudiyas have no commentary of their own."
Baladeva thought. The Gaudiyas had never written a commentary on Vedanta-sutra, because they accepted the Shrimad-Bhagavatam as the natural commentary.Vyasa is the author of both of these works, and Lord Chaitanya taught that whenthe author comments on his own work, his opinion is the best.
Baladeva knew that the Ramanandis would reject this argument. But he also knewthat if he used Madhva's commentary he would have problems, for Madhva'scommentary would not justify the style of worship practiced by the Gaudiyas.So Baladeva decided he would need to write a Gaudiya commentary himself. Thiscommentary is based on Madhva's, but could have some allowable differences. "Iwill show you our commentary," Baladeva said. "Please allow me to bring it."
"Indeed, send for it," granted the Ramanandi spokesman. "That won't bepossible," replied Baladeva. "It will require several days to write it." TheRamanandis were stunned. Could Baladeva produce a commentary within a fewdays? How audacious! But if Baladeva could indeed produce it, the Ramanandisposition might be threatened. Should they grant him the time he required?
Before they could speak, King Jai Singh interjected. "Yes, the time isgranted. Prepare your commentary and notify us when it is ready. You shouldknow that unless you present a suitable commentary, we shall accept thecriticisms of the Ramanandis as valid. But I shall not act on any of theirdemands until you have had an opportunity to present your commentary and yourarguments."
Govindaji Inspires Baladeva
Baladeva left the assembly, followed by Krishnadeva Sarvabhauma. Baladeva sawhimself a puppet in the hands of the Lord. He had spoken boldly in theassembly, but would the divine puppeteer guide his pen?
Baladeva went to Govindapura. Presenting himself before Govinda, he knelt andprayed. "O Govinda, Your devotee Visvanatha has sent me here to defend You andYour devotees, but I cannot do it! I am just a soul fallen in ignorance. IfYou wish, You may empower me to write a Vedanta-sutra commentary that willglorify You. If You wish, I shall write the truths I have learned from Yourdevotees and Your scripture. And I have faith that by Your mercy these truthswill appear most logical."
Then Baladeva began to write. Pausing scarcely to rest, he wrote and prayedand wrote again. Days passed and nights, but he did not stop. Some historianssay he wrote for one month. Others say it took him only seven days.
In any event, Baladeva soon returned from Govindapura. By now, keen expectancyhad been aroused in all the various parties. Jai Singh, hoping to see theGaudiyas vindicated, was especially eager to see the commentary. TheRamanandis, however, awaited the commentary with some trepidation, hoping theycould defeat it readily.
Baladeva entered the court of debate convened in Galta. He stood on one sidewith the Gaudiya mahantas. Facing them were the Ramanandi panditas. King JaiSingh presided, and an audience of nobles and scholars was in attendance.
With the king's permission, Baladeva rose. "This commentary," he said, puttingforward his work, "is based on Madhva's, but there are some importantdifferences. If you examine it, you will find that it upholds the Gaudiyaphilosophy taught by Lord Chaitanya." A Ramanandi pandita stepped forward andreceived Baladeva's commentary. "Who is the author of this work?" He asked.Baladeva replied, "The name of the commentary is Govinda-bhasya. Govinda hasinspired this work. I have given the direct meanings of the sutras accordingto the wish of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. And my comments are based on theteachings of my gurus." The learned members of the Ramanandi contingentexamined the first portion of the bhasya to determine whether it was asBaladeva had claimed.
A spokesman conceded, "The influence of Madhva is certainly demonstrable inthis commentary, but we should examine some of the differences."
Baladeva then addressed each of the Ramanandis' objections to Gaudiya worship."I have expounded on every aspect of Gaudiya practice in chapter three," hesaid. "Since your criticisms concern our style of worship, you should turn tochapter three to see how Vyasa, the author of Vedanta-sutra, has provided forour worship.
"You object to our worship of Radha with Govinda on the superficial groundsthat They are not married. In verses forty through forty-two I have presentedthe true position of Radha in relation to Krishna. Radha is the eternal energyof the Krishna and is never separated from Him. Their relationship may beparakiya or svakiya, but that does not affect the eternality of Their union.The separation of Radha and Govinda you have effected is artificial andtherefore offensive to the Lord, who holds deep affection for His femaleenergy.
"You have criticised our predilection for worshiping only Krishna, neglectingthe worship of Narayana, Vishnu, which you say is mandatory for all Vaishnavas.I have addressed that point in my comments to verse forty-three. According tothe Vedanta-sutra, Narayana may be worshiped in any of His forms, includingKrishna. No scriptural injunction prohibits the worship of Govinda exclusive ofNarayana."
Baladeva continued speaking while the Ramanandis stood defenceless. He spokeeloquently and exhaustively. A rebuttal from the Ramanandis never developed.
At the end of Baladeva's presentation, King Jai Singh waited, weighing theevidence. The Ramanandis' silence confirmed his own opinion.
He delivered his decision in a brief but conclusive statement. "The evidencesupporting the Gaudiya legitimacy is unassailable. Hereafter, the Gaudiyasshall be recognised and respected as an authorised religious sect. I order thereunion of Radha with Govinda."
The Gaudiya mahantas in Amber, free at last from condemnation by theRamanandis, celebrated by building a temple of victory on the hill overlookingthe Galta Valley. The temple Deity was appropriately named Vijaya Gopala,"Victorious Gopala."
At The Feet of Govinda
Baladeva returned to Vrndavana, where he assumed leadership of the Gaudiyacommunity. He continued to write. Faithful to Jiva Gosvami and devoted to LordChaitanya, he produced commentaries on ten principle Upanisads and nine worksof the Vrndavana Gosvamis. He also wrote original works on grammar, drama,prosody, and poetics. He remained the unquestioned authority on Vaishnavatheology until his death. (The date of Baladeva's demise is unknown. His lastknown written work, Stavamala, was dated 1764.)
With Baladeva's victory over the Ramanandis, Jai Singh was satisfied. He hadfound the synthesis of Vaishnava religions. And Radha had been reunited withGovinda on the altar, as She is in eternity. Jai Singh dedicated himself toGovinda and passed a long, and productive life as a king and scholar.
In 1714 Jai Singh moved Govinda to the Jai Nivasa Gardens and installed Him ina garden house, where He was worshiped for twenty-one years. In 1735 the kingbuilt a temple for Govinda within the Jaipur palace compound. Jai Singh laterinstalled Govinda as the king of Jaipur and accepted the position of ministerfor himself. From that time his royal seal read, shri govindadeva carana savaijai singh sarana: "Lord Govinda, at whose lotus feet Jai Singh takes refuge."