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Part IV - Rudra Sampradaya
A Early Period
I. Shri Vishnusvami
* Shri Visunsvami is the founder acarya of the Rudra Sampradaya which is supposed to be the oldest of the four recognized Vaishnava sampradayas. Biographical data concerning to him are too few to enable one to reconstruct any history of his life and career. He does not seem to have written many books except his commentary on Vedanta-sutra, Sarvajna-sukta, quoted by Shridhara Svami in his commentaries on Vishnu Purana and Shrimad- Bhagavatam.
* An important consideration is that Bilvamangala Thakura who was a younger contemporary of Shankaracarya belonged to the Vishnusvami sampradaya after his conversion to Vaishnavism. So for this we conclude that Shri Vishnusvami was the earliest of all Vaishnava acaryas.
* Although technically Vallabhacarya religion belongs to Vishnusvami line, we hardly find reference about the acarya in the main books of that sect
* The worshipable deity of in this line is Lord Shri Nrisimhadeva.
1) The Three Vishnusvamis:
* Shrila Bhaktisidhanta Sarasvati Thakura give us some more information. There were three acaryas bearing the same name of Vishnusvami in that line, he says. The first one was Adi Vishnusvami and he is said to born about the 3rd century BC. His father was a minister in the Pandya country. The Pandyam king along with him went to Puri and they rediscovered the deities of Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra who were in the Buddist's hands. They removed the deities back to the main temple and this is said to be the origin of Rathayatra. Shri Vishnusvami was the first Vaishnava to adopt Tridanda Sannyasa and he had seven hundred sannyasi disciples. It was he who introduced the ashtottara-shata-nami sannyasa (108 designations of sannyasi), including the dasha-namis which was adopted by Shankaracarya. After some time this line became practically extinct.
Then, Raja Gopala Vishnusvami revived the old Vishnusvami sect in the beginning of the 9th century, Shrila Bhaktisidhanta says. He began an active propaganda with renewed enthusiasm. He installed the Varadaraja temple in Kanci, the famous Ranchorlal in Dvaraka, and some other deities in different tirthas. The Shuddhadvaita system of Vishnusvami again came to prominence, and the leader was this Vishnusvami king. This revival of the Vaishnavism took place just after the demise of Shankaracarya.
* The third and last revival of this line came under Andhra Vishnusvami in the 14th century and Vallabhacarya would possibly be an effect or consequence of this phase.
* It is said that after the disappearance of Shri Vishnusvami, the shaivite community tried to misappropriate Vishnusvami’s Sarvajna-sukta which they modified to a great extent to suit their concepts.
II. Shridhara Svami
* One of the most important names in the Vishnusvami line is the famous Shridhara Svami. On account of his commentary on Shrimad Bhagavatam, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu accepted it as the most authentic, and introduced it as such in His school. Shrila Jiva Gosvami not only mentions Shridhara Svami among those whose writings influenced him in forming the Gaudiya system of philosophy, but called him ‘the defender of bhakti’ in the beginning of his Krama-sandarba, which is the further elaboration of Shridhara Svami's commentary. Another authentic writer of the Gaudiya system, Shrila Visvanatha Cakravati, offers allegiance to Shridhara Svami in the beginning of his commentary Sarartha-darshini on Shrimad-Bhagavatam. Shrila Rupa Gosvami also quotes several slokas from him and his godbrother Lakshmidhara in his Padyavali. It is therefore quite obvious that Shridhara Svami's writings greatly influenced the Gaudiya thought.
* There are some controversies about Shridhara Svami’s affiliation. Some take him as an impersonalist, as the Madhva’s followers, but this view is unjustified, since he criticizes the Mayavadi philosophy throughout his writings, such as his Bhavarta-dipika, commentary on Shrimad Bhagavatam, Subodhini, commentary on Bhagavad-gita, and Atma-prakasha, on Vishnu Purana. Shridhara Svami accepted the Pancaratra literature while Shankaracarya was hostile to it.
* The proofs that Shridhara Svami belongs to Vishnusvami sampradaya is that he accepts Rudra as the original founder of the his system and Shri Narasimhadeva, the official Deity. He also wrote a poem called Vraja-vihara dealing with the love of Krishna and the gopis, which had some verses included in Rupa Gosvami's Padyavali. The same theme was the subject of the Bilvamangala's Krishna Karnamrita, which belongs to the same line.
* There is nevertheless some difficulty in establishing Shridhara Svami’s position. Vallabhacarya and his followers although theoretically identified with Vishnusvami line do not accept him. Vallabhacarya flourished in the 16th century whereas Shridhara Svami lived in the 14th century, and Vishnusvami was established long before. The Vallabhacarya sect is not a direct continuation of Vishnusvami’s line but a branch of it, so that it might differ from Shridhar Svami or from the main line.
B Shri Vallabhacarya (1481-1533)
I. His Life
* Vallabhacarya was born in a family of brahmanas from South India in a village near Benares. His forefathers are said to have performed one hundred soma-yajnas. He was delivered from the womb in the seventh month underneath a tree, when Lakshmana Bhatöa, his father was fleeing from Benares on hearing about the invasion of that city by Muslims.
* He received initiation from his father in his eighth year, and was handed over to Vishnucitta, with whom he began his early studies. His studies of the Vedas were carried on under several teachers, all of them belonging to the Madhva line.
* After the death of his father, Vallabhacarya started on his first pilgrimage and also started initiating disciples. Hearing of a disputation in the court of the king of Vidyanagara he proceeded to the place along with some of his disciples, carrying the Shrimad Bhagavatam and a Shalagrama sila with him.
* The debate at Vidyanagara was about the nature of Brahman - nirvishesha or savishesha. There Vallabhacarya defeated the great mayavadi Vidyatirtha after a discussion which lasted for many days. In that discussion was also present the great acarya from Madhva sampradaya, Vyasatirtha, who was the pandita and guru of the court.
* From Vidyanagara, he moved towards many places in the south like Kanci, Cidambaram, Rameshvaram, etc. Then he went northwards visiting many tirthas and towns.
* In many occassions he was received with the great respect by the local kings. He visited Udupi, Gokarna, Pandharpur, Nasik, Maöhura, Vrindavana and then proceeded to the extreme West to Dvaraka. From there he went to Badrinath via Kurukshetra and Haridwar. Then downwards to Allahabad, Benares, Gaya and finally Puri, where he met Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Then he proceeded again to Dvaraka, then to Puskar, Vrindavana and again to Badrinath. Returning to Benares he married Maha-Lakshmi. Afterwards he did another trip to Dvaraka, Badrinath and Vrindavana, and when he returned again to Benares he performed a great soma-yajna.
* Vallabhacarya had two sons Gopinatha and Viööhalanatha. In the last phase of his life he renounced the world and became a sannyasi.
* He passed away in 1533 on the banks of the Ganges in Benares.
* Gopinatha, who was very young at that time was appointed his sucessor but it happened that he died soon. Then Viööhalanatha was the actual sucessor of his father.
II. Vallabhacarya's Works
* Shri Vallabha is said to have eighty five main disciples and to have written eighty four literary works. Out of these works, only thirty one are available presently. The main ones are the following:
1) Tattvartha-dipa-nibandha - it contains three parts: The first explains
Bhagavad-gita, the second gives a comparative study of other philosophies,
and the third explains Shrimad-Bhagavatam.
2) Anu-bhashya - commentary on Vedanta-sutra, but incomplete. The remaining
portion was supplied by his son Viööhalavatha.
3) Purva-Mimansa-bhashya - commentary on the Jaimini-sutras.
4) Subodhini - commentary on Shrimad-Bhagavatam (also incomplete).
5) Shodasha Granthas - groups of sixteen books containing the essence of
C Shuddhadvaita Philosophy
I. Basic Philosophical Points
a) According to Shri Vallabhacarya's doctrine of Shuddhadvaita (Pure Non-Dualism), Brahman is a pure unity, free from Maya. It is also free from the three kinds of differences known as svajatiya-bheda, vijatiya-bheda and svagata-bheda. It is omniscient and omnipotent and possesses an infinite number of attributes. It has marvellous powers (aishvarya) by virtue of which it can even hold together things or attributes which are mutually opposed. Thus, it is bothe qualified (saguna) and unqualified (nirguna).
b) Vallabhacarya accepts four works as authority: 1) The Vedas, 2) Bhagavad- gita, 3) Vedanta-sutra, 4) Shrimad-Bhagavatam. The order of these works is based on the fact that the doubts in each preceeding work are removed by the one that follows. The doubts in the Vedas are to be removed by the light of the Gita; those in the Gita in the light of the Vedanta-sutra; those in the Vedanta-sutra in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam. Vedanta-sutra is a commentary on the Upanishads, and Shrimad-Bhagavatam is considered a commentary on Gita, but also Shrimad-Bhagavatam explains and develops all the points of the Vedanta-sutra. Shrimad Bhagavatam enjoys the most important position in the Shuddhadvaita system.
II. Two Types of Brahman
a) Parabrahman - the highest entity is Brahman, Who is sat, cit, ananda and rasa, and is identified with Shri Krishna. He is devoid of worldly qualities; the negation of qualities in Brahman, mentioned in the Upanishads, refer to the absence of material qualities in Him. He possesses a spiritual body made up of ananda, and He is infinite. He creates the universe out of Himself, and He is thus both the efficient and material cause of the universe. Although the world is full of people both happy and unhappy, Brahman cannot be charged with practicing cruelty or partiality, simply because He has created the world out of Himself in lila. Again, He does not undergo any change even when He transforms Himself in this world.
b) Akshara-Brahman - Next to and lower than Parabrahman is Akshara (immutable) Brahman. He possesses sat, cit and limited ananda. He is the dhama or abode of Parabrahman. He appears in this world as antaryami and avataras. He appears in the forms of prakriti (matter) and purusha (soul); and this prakriti develops through different stages into the universe, and is therefore called ‘the cause of all causes’.
III. Jivas and the World
1) Tirobhava and Avirbhava:
a) Jivas and the world are identical with Brahman. Jiva is Brahman with the quality of bliss obscured, and the phisical world is Brahman with the qualities of bliss and intelligence obscured. Creation and destruction in their case mean the appearance (avirbhava) and disappearance (tirobhava) of Brahman in these forms.
b) Brahman is both the material and the efficient cause of jiva and the world, manifesting itself in these forms simply for the purpose of lila. In doing so, It does not undergo any change in essence. It is just like snake forming itself into coil.
2) The Jivas:
a) The Lord was alone, without a second, in the beginning of a cycle. He desired to be many for the sake of pleasure and as he desired millions of souls came instantaneously out of Aksara Brahman like sparks from fire. In special cases the souls may emanate from the Lord Himself. The soul is thus an amsha (part) of Brahman and is eternal.
b) With a view to enjoing lila, the Lord suppressed the element ananda in the soul, who consequently became subject to bondage and wrong knowledge. The Lord, in order to bring about variety which is essential for the sake of pleasure, makes the soul varied in nature.
c) There are three categories of jivas:
c1) shuddha (pure) - those which its divine qualities, such as aishvarya, are not
obscured by avidya.
c2) samsarin - those which its divine qualities are obscured by the will of the
Lord, and come in contact with avidya, identifying themselves with the
gross and subtle bodies.
c3) mukta - those who, by the will of the Lord, are freed from bondage by
vidya and bhakti.
d) The samsarin souls can be grouped into three classes:
d1) pravaha - those that are busy with worldy matters.
d2) maryada - those that follow the Vedic parth according to the letter of
d3) pushöi - those that worship the Lord out of pure love engendered only
through divine grace.
3) The Universe:
a) The universe is the effect of Brahman and is real and non-different from Him.He represents the adhibhautika (material) form of Brahman.
b) The element sat is manifest in it, while cit and ananda are latent.
c) The Lord has created the universe out of His own self for the sake of lila without suffering any change whatsoever and is related to it as the spider is to its web. For the sake of diversity, the Lord makes the souls subject to His power of avidya which is the root cause of the ideas of "I" and "mine".
d) Samsara, which is solely made up of ahanta (I-ness or egoism) and mamata (my-ness or the idea of pleasure), has to be destroyed by means of knowledge, devotion, etc.
1) Concept of Sarvatma-bhava:
a) He who attains the knowledge of Brahman and realizes that everything in this world is Brahman, after attaining moksha, he is absorbed in Akshara Brahman, and not in Parabrahman or Purna Purushottama. But if the knowledge of Brahman is associated with devotion, the knowing devotee is absorbed in Purna Purushottama.
b) The doctrine of regarding the Lord as everything is called sarvatma-bhava (all-in-oneness), which is different from the sarvatma-bhava of the monists (jnanis) which is 'one-in-allness' or seeing Brahman in all things. Yet the devotees see everything in Krishna. The gopis possessed this attitude in highest degree, and Lord Krishna had therefore to remain quite obedient to them. The experience of svarupananda which is definetly superior to that of brahmananda is, therefore, the highest conception of moksha.
2) Concept of Pushöi:
* There is, again, another stage which may be described as the highest. When the Lord desires to favour a particular soul and be it remembered that in showing His favour He is not guided by any other consideration than His own will He brings out the soul from Himself, gives him a divine body like His own and plays with him for all time. In this play, which is called nitya-lila, the Lord, remaining subordinate to the devotee, gives him the pleasure of His company. The divine bliss is purely a gift of the Lord and cannot be attained by any human effort. This gift of divine grace is called pushöi. The best example of pushöi is found in the case of the gopis in Vrindavana. Those who enjoy this divine grace automatically begin to love the Lord and look upon Him not only as their Lord, but as everything.
3) Pushöi and maryada:
a) In maryada-marga, one follows the dictates of the Vedas (yajnas,etc) and practices different types of bhakti, such as shravana, etc, until he begins to love the Lord, who, taking his efforts into consederation, grants him sayujya mukti, or merging into the body of the Lord.
In pushöi-marga, however, through the operation of divine grace only, one starts with loving the Lord and then he practices shravana, etc out of that love, and not with a view to generating it.
b) The maryada-marga is open only to the males of the first three classes - brahmanas, kshatriyas and vaishyas; while pushöi-marga is open to all without consederation. The followers of the pushöi-marga worship the Lord, not because He is the Paramatma but because they ardenly love Him. The Lord is called Gopi-jana-vallabha, a term which is very significant in this system. The gopis are the pioneers in this line, and others who follow them enjoy the same divine bliss. One who follows the pushöi-marga aspires to be a gopi and worships the Lord with that attitude. In fact, all souls represent the feminine principle, and have the Lord as their spiritual husband.
a) The initiation in this system is called Brahma-sambhanda. The devotee receives the sharana-mantra - Shri Krishna sharanam mama, and repeats another mantra (which is said to be given by Shri Krishna to Vallabhacarya) in front of the deity. The guru normally is an descendent of Vallabhacarya. The mantra says that everyone entering in the pushöi-marga is required to dedicate themselves and their belongings to Krishna and declare himself to be the most loyal servant of the Lord.
b) The initiate devotee has to pass his time in worshiping the deity of Krishna like the gopis worshiping Krishna, and in reading or hearing stories about Krishna. The worship of God is of three kinds - with body, with wealth and with the mind. The last is considered the highest form of worship and it accomplishes the realization of God.
c) Those who are connected with the Lord through love enjoy the privilege of participating in the nitya-lila of the Lord and of enjoying bhajana-lila, while others simply get sayujya.
d) If for any reason this kind of seva is not possible, one should not be dissappointed. Shri Vallabhacarya tells us that such a man should throw himself at the feet of the Lord and remain at His mercy. This method is called prapatti or self-surrender.
5) Deity Worship:
a) The form of the Lord that is generally worshiped in this system is Shri Nathaji, whose shrine is situated in Nathadwara, Rajastan. Shri Nathaji is the embodiment of the twelve skandhas of Bhagavatam. The tenth skandha is identified with the head. Shri Nathaji represents the highest form of the Lord known as Purna Purushottama. All other Deities represent the vibhutis (powers) and the vyuhas (manifestations), and not the highest form.
b) Although Shrimati Radharani is worshipped in the company of Krishna in this sampradaya, She does not enjoy as much proeminence as She does in the Gaudiya’s.