Click here to load whole tree
NITAAI-Veda.nyf > All Scriptures By Acharyas > Six Philosophies > Four Sampradayas > Part III - Kumara Sampradaya

Part III - Kumara Sampradaya


A Shri Nimbarkacarya


I. His Life


*        Nothing much for certain is known about the life of Shri Nimbarka. Some say that he was born in a Telugo brahmana family somewhere on the banks of the Godadvari. According to a different account, however, he was born in Nimbagrama near Govardhana, and his parents were Aruna and Jayanti, or from another source, Jagannatha and Sarasvati.


*        Nimbarka is also called Nimbaditya or Niyamananda. The name Nimbarka means "the sun of the Nimba tree". It is said that when he was five years old and ascetic came to his house. They were engaged in philosophical discussion till sunset. Then it was offered some food to the ascetic who diclined because the sun had already set. But by his mystic power Nimbarka showed him that the sun was still over a Nimba tree nearby, and the guest took his meal.


*        The date of his birth is also uncertain. The most probable is that he flourished in the period after Ramanuja and before Madhvacarya.


*        Nimbarka was a naishthika brahmacai through his lifetime. He is said to have practiced a severe penance under a Nimba tree, living on the juice of its fruit only. Afterwards, he visited all the holy places and travelled all around preaching the Vaishnava religion wherever he went. Later on he stayed for some years in Naimisharanya.


*        The tradition says that the Supreme Lord as Hamshavatara taught transcendental knowledge to the four Kumaras, who imparted to Narada Muni who, in his turn, personally instructed Nimbarka. In his writings, Nimbarka refers to Narada Muni as his guru.


II. Nimbarka’s Literary Work and Others


*        Nimbarkacarya wrote a short commentary on Vedanta Sutra called Vedanta-parijata-saurabha. He composed also a small work containing ten stanzas called Dasha-shloki. In these verses Nimbarka affirms that Brahman is Shri Krishna, and He is to be meditated upon at all times. Devotion to him is the highest sadhana, and the object of meditation is not Krishna alone, rather Shri Shri Radha-Krishna. Nimbarkacarya also wrote some other compositions as Shri Krishna-stava-raja and Madhva-mukha-mardana.


*        Nimbarka's immediate disciple Shrinivasa wrote a commentary on Vedanta-parijata-saurabha called Vedanta-kaustubha, on which Keshava Kashmiri (31st in his disciplic succession) wrote his Kaustubha-prabha. Purushottamacarya (3rd after Nimbarka) commented on the Dasha-sloki in his Vedanta-ratna-manjusa.




B  Nimbarka’s Svabhavika-Bhedabheda-Vada


I. General Aspects


1) Different Types of Bhedabheda:


* Some other philosophers presented previously to Nimbarka different conceptions of bhedabheda as Audulomi, Yadavaprakasha and Bhaskara (996-1061).

  Bhaskara’s bhedabheda, for example, is called ‘aupadhika-bhedabheda’ because, to him, abheda, non-difference, is real and eternal, while bheda, difference, is unreal and accidental due to the upadhis (‘accidental predicates’ or 'limiting adjuncts' like body and the senses), which disappear on the attainment of moksha.


2) Nirguna Versus Saguna Texts:


a) In the shrutis there are some passages which appear to declare the there is identity between Brahman and the jiva. For example, there are passages like tat tvam asi and aham brahmasmi which appear to declare the said identity. Certainly there are also passages which proclaim the distinction between the two; e.g. nityo nityanam cetanash cetananam; dva suparna sakhaya and so on. What is the truth, whether identity or distinction? And how to reconcile the two-fold passages to assert the truth?


b) Nimbarka considers the bheda and abheda statements from the shrutis equally real. He takes both literally. He reconciles both the points of view, apparently contradictory statements, which sometimes seem to support identity and sometimes difference. He does not do any interpretation, trying to adjust to the particular philosophy, as we have seen in Shankara, Ramanuja, Madhva and Vallabha's works. It is free from any effort to distort their real meaning.


II. Philosophical Points

1) Relation between Brahman, cit and acit


* According to Nimbarka, there exists three equally real and co-eternal realities - Brahman, cit and acit. Brahman is the controller (niyantri), the cit is the enjoyer jiva (bhoktri) and acit is the enjoyable matter (bhogya). The question then is what is the relation between these three?

In the first place, there is one essential difference of nature (svarupa-bheda) between Brahman on the one hand, the soul and the world on the other. Brahman is the cause and the soul His effect, and there is evidently a difference between the cause and its effect, as between the sea and the waves, or the sun and its rays. Also Brahman is the whole and the soul His part, and the part and the whole cannot be identical. Again, Brahman is the object to be worshiped, the object to be known, the object to be attained, while the soul is the knower, the worshiper and the attainer. Further, Brahman, as the inner Controller, dwells within the soul and controls him, therefore the Dweller and the place dwelt in, the controller and the controlled must be different. Other essential differences between Brahman and the soul are that while the former is never subject to avidya, absolute and always free from sins, capable of realizing all His wishes at once. Also He is all pervading and possessed of the power of creation, maintenance and destruction.

Obviously the jiva does not possess these qualities and even the freed soul, who is similar to Brahman in many aspects, differs from Him in these last two points (all-pervasiveness and power of creation).

In the very same manner, there is an essential difference between Brahman and the universe. Brahman is the cause and the universe is the effect. Brahman is sentient, non-gross, non-material, ever pure, but the universe is quite the reverse. One is the Ruler and the other is ruled. Therefore, the difference between Brahman and the souls or the universe is evident - it is eternal, natural and undeniable.

Nevertheless, the non-difference, on the other hand, is no less true. The souls and the universe as effects and parts of Brahman are completely dependent on Him for its very being and existence. In this sense they are non-different.

Therefore the relation between them is neither absolutely distinct nor absolutely non-distinct. It is a relation of natural difference-non-difference (svabhavika-bhedabheda), just like that between a snake and its coil, or between the sun and its rays.

          The conclusion is that the difference (bheda) and non-difference (abheda) between Brahman and the souls or the universe are both equally real, natural and eternal.


2) Kinds of Souls:


* The souls are broadly of two kinds - souls in bondage (baddhas) and those that are free (muktas).

  The baddhas are of two kinds: mumukshus or those who, after having undergone all sorts of pains and miseries in the world, have lost all attachment for it, but wish to get rid of their earthly existence and attain salvation; and bubhukshus, or those who hanker after earthly enjoyment. 

   The mumukshus are of two kinds: bhagavata-bhavapatti, or those who desire to attain the nature of the Lord; and nija-svarupapatti, or those who desire to attain their real nature.

  The bubhukshus also are of two kinds: bhavishreyaskah, or those who hanker after future happiness (going to heaven); and nitya-samsari, or those who hanker after ordinary earthly enjoymets only.

   The muktas are of two kinds: nitya-muktas, or those who are ever-free; and baddha-muktas, or those who were in bondage previously , but are now free.

  The nitya-muktas are of two types: anantaryya, the paraphernalia of the Lord, for example, the flute, dresses, crown, etc, which are considered as living beings; and parshada, or the eternal associates of the Lord.

   In its turn the baddha-muktas are also of two types: bhagavata-bhavapatti, those who have attained supreme bliss consequent on their attaining the very nature of the Lord; and nija-svarupapatti, those who are content with the bliss consequent on their attaining their own nature.


3) Process of Attaining Moksha:


* A man desirous of salvation approaches a guru, and follow the sadhanas as directed by him; this has the effect of pleasing the Lord, Who Himself frees him the shackles of avidya - all karmas, good or bad, which are the causes of bondage. However he has to wait till he has completely exausted the effects of works which have already begun to bear fruit (prarabdha-karmas). After that, when he is completely freed from them and has no more birth to undergo, his soul leaves the body through the vein which passes out of the crown of the head, follow the ‘path of Gods’ (deva-yana - described in the Upanishads) and attains the world of Brahman.

  Then, through the grace of the Lord, he can have a direct vision of the Lord, and attains the nature and qualities of the Lord - and this is salvation.


4) Sadhanas:


* There are five types of sadhanas, according to Nimbarka. Although bhakti is not included, it accompanies each of these.

                   a) karma, which purifies the mind , and makes it fit for knowledge and meditation.

                   b) jnana, or knowledge about God.

        c) meditation on the Lord.

                   d) prpatti, self-surrender to the Lord

                   e) gurupasatti, self-surrender to the guru.


5) Theology:


* The eternal relation between God and men, according to Nimbarka, is a relation between the worshiped and the worshipper. But this relation is not out of awe, but a most intimate relation of love and spontaneous devotion.

          The personal God worshiped by Nimbarka is Gopala-Krishna - the cowerd Krishna, brought up in the house of Nandagopa, engaged in playful pastimes with the gopis, and attended by Shri Radha. Therefore the object of worship in Nimbarka sampradaya is Shri Shri Radha-Krishna.


III. Some Comparisons to Shri Chaitanya’s philosophy


a)       Gaudiya philosophy agrees with Nimbarka in many points. Both give equal importance to identity and difference. The concept of “svabhavika” is acceptable in the sense that both difference and identity are real. Also Nimbarka, for his side, in his commentary on Vedanta-sutra, suggests that the simultaneous presence of identity and difference is due to the acintya-shakti of Brahman.


b)       If there is svabhavika-bhedabheda between Brahman and jiva, the impurities and imperfections of the jiva must also belong to Brahman. But Brahman is by nature pure and perfect. Similarly, the qualities of omniscience and omnipotence found in Brahman must be shared by the jivas, who are by nature limited in their knowledge and power. But Brahman is not affected at all by the impurities and imperfections of the jivas, therefore this relation is not only svabhavika but acintya.


c)       Nimbarkacarya considers acit, the insentient potency of Brahman, of three types: 1) prakrita (product of prakriti), 2) aprakrita (not a product of prakriti) and 3) kala (time). This acit-aprakrita refers to the material cause of everything that exists in the spiritual world - the Supreme dhama of the Lord, including the bodies, dresses, ornaments, etc. of the Lord and his associates. But for the Gaudiyas, the Lord is not different from His body, paraphernalia, and everything else in the dhama.


???IV  Vishishtadvaita Versus Svabhavika -Bhedabheda


1)       Points of Dissimilarity:


   Ramanuja’s Vishishtadvaita


a)       The highest reality is Vishnu.

No mention of Krishna and Radha.


b)       The sentient souls and non-sentient substance are attributes or modes of the Lord.


c)       Difference qualifies non-difference

and is as such subordinate to it.

More emphasis on the principle of identity.


d)       Bhakti means continuous meditation.


e)       The relation between God and man

is a distant relation of reverence.


f)       More intellectual.



Nimbarka’s Svabhavika-Bhedabheda


  The highest reality is Krishna, accompanied by Radha.


          They are power of the Lord, and not His attributes.



          Difference and non-difference are precisely on the same level, none being subordinate to the other. Equal emphasis on both the principles.


          It means intense love.


  The relation between them is an intimate relation of love.


          More religious.



2)       Points of Similarity:


          a)       Brahman is a personal God, endowed with infinite auspicious attributes and prowess and free from all defects, the One identical material and efficient cause of the universe.


          b)       The souls are knowledge by nature, knowers, doers, enjoyers, atomic, innumerable, dependent and real in bondage as well as in release.


          c)       The non-sentient substance is of three kinds - matter, pure matter and time; and is real and dependent on the Lord.


          d)       Difference and non-difference are both real.


          e)       Meditation, based on knowledge and accompanied by proper actions, is the means of salvation.


          f)       Salvation is the full development of the nature of the individual soul, and its attaining similarity with the Lord. There is no jivan-mukti.


          g)       The grace of the Lord is an essential condition of salvation.