Sri Nimbarka Sampradaya
Shri Golokdham Pithadhishwer Anant Shri Vibhuseit Dharma Ratna
Shri Shri 1008 Swami Shri Gopal Sharan Devacharya Ji Maharaj
The universal tradition of the worship of five demigods as recommended in the Vedic religion goes on since time immemorial. These five demigods are Sri Vishnu, Lord Shiva, Ganesha, Surya and Shakti or Durga. Their worshippers are called respectively Vaishnavas, Shaivites, Ganapatyas, Sauryas and Shaktas and it is possible to find their lineages even nowadays.
In the tradition of those schools where only ten names of sanyasis are awarded Shaivism is still prevalent. Other worshippers like those of Ganesh and of Surya do not exist any more. There are five demigods which are still worshipped and adored everywhere. The demigod who removes all kinds of obstacles; Ganesha is worshipped before all the others. To the Sungod, who provides a long life and good health is still offered a worshipable reception called arghya. He is worshipped as the chief of the planets. The worship of Shakti is relevant not only duing the two Navaratri celebrations, but also on other occasions for every Hindu worships her with a lot of pomp and grandeur for the sake of getting wealth, power, abilities, opulence and other material assets. Here we are mentioning the traditional lineage of worshipping these five gods, which is almost on the edge, is going to scatter.
The five gods are not only related to human beings, but to nature as well. Five pranas, five senses of acquisition, five senses of action, five truths, five great elements and five subtle elements and so forth are all related to the five gods. This is an aggregate which can be explained as unity in diversity. One truth has different forms, "ekam brahma dvityam nasti". This has also been supported by the Shrutis. However, among the five gods one is more important than the others. For instance, we may make a group of five similar qualities and same dharma, still the one who has the highest precentage of qualities will be accepted as the chief. All others are subordinate.
Similarly the supreme truth is Lord Vishnu, who is in all respects the most exceptional, and is replete with perfect qualities. He is the best among all of these gods. In the Bhagavata Purana, Vishnu Purana and Padma Purana it is very clearly mentioned that:
harir hi niggunah sakshat purushah prakriteh parah
sa sarvadrik upadrashta tam bhajan niguno bhaver
(Shrimad Bhagvatam 10.88.5)
"Only Only Shri Vishnu, is not conditioned by the laws of material plane. He knows everything and has perfect vision. One who worships Him also achieves the above mentioned qualities and ultimately reaches him."
In the context of the Shrimad Bhagvatam we find that when the sages wanted to know who is the primordial God, their curiosity was solved by Maharshi Bhrigu. He tested all the demigods. When he reached Sri Vishnu, he found peace, tolerance and the perfect nature of the supreme absolute. Maharshi Bhrigu decided in the assembly of the sages that:
tannishaymyatha munayo vismita mukta samshayah
bhuyamsam shradadhuvishnum yatah shantiryato bhayam
(Shrimad Bhagvatam 10.86.15)
"Hearing the decision of Sri Bhrigu, all the sages were surprised and became doubtless. Although nirguna, still He is fitted with all the qualities. The devotion of the sages for Sri Vishnu grew rapidly because only by the grace of Sri Vishnu, and not by any other, peace and liberation are achieved."
akamah sarvakamo va moksha-kama udaradhih
tivrena bhakti yogena yajeta purusham param
(Shrimad Bhagvatam 2.3.10)
"One may have all kinds of material desires or be devoid of all desires or desire to merge in the impersonal brahman, in all circumstances one should worship Sri Hari, the supreme personality of Godhead Sri Krishna, with loving devotion through any of His names."
All the scriptures are filled with examples which is not possible to mention here in this brief presentation. The Vaishnava tradition is the oldest one and it is coming down since time immemorial. The main goal of human lite is to achieve emanciption by getting out of material life. Only Shri Vishnu has this power. Therefore the goal of the sages was always just to worship Him. This tradition was most famous and adored and this is also mentioned in the scriptures. The Vaishnava theology was preached and spread out. The nirguna paramatma, or Supersoul without material attributes in the form of Shri Vishnu maintains the universe and during His maintenance He has many pastimes and descends many times as Matsya, Varaha, Kurma, Narasingha, Vamana, Rama, Krishna, Buddha and so forth. Therefore the method of worship of Vaishnavism became many aimed, the topmost and accepted by all. Though one tattva has different forms, other methods became inferior. It is mentioned in Padma Purana that,
sampraya-vihina mantraste nishphala matah
sadhanoghaih na siddayanti koti-kalpashtairapi
"If mantras are not received in a traditional lienage or sampradaya are fruitless. By practicing such mantras, one cannot achieve perfection even in a very long period of time."
atah kalau bhavishyanti chatvarah sampradayinah
sri-brahma-rudra-sanaka vaishnava kshiti-pavanah
"In order to get perfection from the matra, one must received initiation from a guru of a traditional lineage or sampradaya. Therefore in Kaliyuga, as far as Vaishnavism is concerned, there are four eternal sampradayas, namely Sri, Brahma, Rudra and Sanaka. These four sampradayas became popular by the name of the four founder acharyas because, in the words of the Lord Himself, "acharyo mamaki tanuh", the form of the acharya is My own form."
Shri Uddhava says, "acharya caityavapusha svagati vyanakti". The Lord in the form of the acharya shows His way to His devotee. That is why these four sampradayas of Vaishnavism became famous as Ramanuja sampradaya, Madhav sampradaya, Vallabha sampradaya and Nimbarka sampradaya. Within these sampradayas there are distinctions.
Sri Nimbarka sampradaya starts from Sri Hamsa. Once the mental sons of Brahma, the most exalted sages Sanaka Kumara and his brothers became confused about the subject of brahma tattva. They questioned their father Brahma. The question was very complex and hard to solve. Brahma meditated on Lord Narayana. Suddenly the Lord appeared there in the form of a white swan who was the very personification of knowledge. He solved their doubt and told them about the topmost path of worship. This initiation given by Lord Hamsa was the beginning of the Sanakadik sampradaya. Still today, in the Nimbarka sampradaya, after glorifying Lord Hamsa, the sages known as the four Sanakadiks are glorified.
Sri Hamsa avatara is one of the 24 incarnations. Sri Narada ji was initiated by the four Kumaras and thereafter he provided this disciplic succession to Sri Nimbarkacharya. Sri Nimbarkacharya appeared in different ages. It is mentioned in Acharya Charitra, Naimisha Khanda, Vamana Purana and Bhavishya Purana Once the devotees prayed to the Lord to protect them and the religious path. Then the Lord told His Sudershan Chakra,
sudarshana! mahabaho! koti-surya-sama-prabhah
ajnana timirandhanam vishnor margam pradarshaya
"O supreme invincible one! Powerful like millions of suns. O My supreme devotee. Show the path of Vishnu, the devotional path, to these people who are suffering in darkness due to ignorance."
Then Sudarshana Chakra decided to take his incarnation by the order of the Lord. He advented himself in the beginning of kali yuga, from today 5094 years ago, in the East-South part of India on the bank of the Godavari river near the city of Vaidurya Pattan at Sudarshana Ashrama in the womb of Sadhvi Jayanti Devi, the wife of Aruna Rishi, who was in the dynasty of Bhrigu at dusk during the karttika month, Shukla Purnima. In his childhood he went on a pilgrimage with his parents and reached Vraja mandala. He performed austerities under Goverdhan hill in a village named Nimbagaon and showed the path of devotion to Radha and Krishna. Once Brahma came in the form of a renunciate in order to take the darshan of Sudarshana who was there as a small boy. Sudarshana wanted to give honour to Brahma. He showed him the darshan of Surya from the middle of a neem tree, though it was already sunset. When Brahma understood that the Lord in the form of Surya gave his darshan through a neem tree, he said, "You will be famous by the name of "Nimbarka" and disappeared.
There is a story among the saints about the descent of Sudarshana. Though he was always situated in the hand of the Lord and always engaged enthusiastically in His service, once prayed to the Lord:
"O Lord, though I am eternally with You and engaged in Your Service, still I have a desire that I also want to take a body and serve You by mind, actions and words, I will be able to worship Your archa vigraha and I shall relish the emotions of separations from You. I shall distribute the flow of eternal madhurya lila to one and all. I shall also taste the mellows of Your madhurya lila. This is my heartfelt desire. That I may achieve completely the mellow taste of the worship of the divine couple."
Listening to the good desire of His devotee, the playful Lord planned a lila for him. He ordered, "In the beginning of the age of kali, you will appear as a Vaishnava acharya in the path of devotion and in the land of vraja where I performed my earthly pastimes, you will realize the service of the worship of My sweetness. In this way you will tread the path of devotion, Your fame will spread everywhere. Many devotees will be initiated into the Vaishnava faith through your followers and will be benefitted. In this way, by the order and mercy of the Lord, Shri Sudarshana incarnated by the name of Niyamananda and became famous. Later on the Nimbarka sampradaya became popular in the Vraja area due to its peculiar way of preaching.
Some scholars, in their view of rasa and worship, consider Shri Nimbarkacharya the manifestation of Shri Rangadevi who is one of the main assistants of Srimati Radharani. In the sampradaya the sadhaka considers himself a girlfriend-companion of Priya Priyatama, Shri Radha and Shri Krishna. In Vraja mandala and the eternal Goloka dhama, Shri Ranga Devi and the eight main sakhis, or ashtasakhis, leaders of the gopis, always engage in the nitya nikunja lila. This is the emotion of madhurya lila. In the mood of opulence or aishvarya lila, he is always placed in the hand of the Lord in the form of Sudarshan chakra. Whenever any trouble befalls the devotees, by the order of the Lord, he goes immediately there to save and protect the devotees and take them out of any kind of danger and unhappiness.
Sri Nimbarka has eight forms. This is proved by the following verse.
shri-vishnu-chakram kila rangadevi, teshah sakha dhusaragaushcha yashti
shri-radhikayashcha naso hi bhushnam, nimbarka acharya-tayashtarupah
1) Shri Sudarshan Chakra
2) Shri Sakhi Ranga Devi
3) Shri Tosha Sakha
4) A cow named Ghusara
5) A stick for herding cows
6) The luster of the limbs of Shri Ji (Shrimati Radharani)
7) The nose ring of Shri Ji
8) Shri Nimbarkacharya
Sri Nimbarka is always engaged in different forms in the intimate service of the Lord. In this sampradaya Sri Goloka Bihari Radha Krishna is considered the topmost essence of life. In Vraja mandala mainly the Nimbarka sampradaya is the most popular one and has the greatest number of worshippers and Acharyas.
In the sampradaya after Shri Nimbarka, Shrinivasacharya and so forth, twelve renounced acharyas became part of the lineage. After that in the path of bhakti eighteen bhaktas brought the line onward. In this very lineage after Shri Bhattaji came Swami Shri Harivyasa Devacharya who through his social and poetic songs spread the path of devotion to Shri Radha and Shri krishna among all the devotees. This devacharya parampara is still going on without any division. After Shri Harivyasa Devacharya, Devacharya became a title for all the most prominent Acharyas.
Thus the Nimbarka sampradaya became a central point for Radha Krishna bhakti. In it, service to the saints, service to the vaishnavas and service to Radha Krishna is the main goal. In the sampradaya there are those who are very renounced ascetics, exalted devotees, those fixed in the bhajana, exalted Vaishnavas, "sarvabhutahite ratah" those who take a vow to live in the Dhama and those who abide by the truth. These kinds of Vaishnavas can occupy the elevated seat of mahanta or religious leader. In the sampradaya, Vaishnavas from all other sampradayas are honoured. However members of the sampradaya follow faithfully their own tradition and the instructions of the previous acharyas.
Five rites at the moment of initiation namely sandalpaste with the lotus feet of Shri Hari, necklace of Tulasi, these are the main symbols. The initiating spiritual master (diksa guru) is considered of divine origin. Every Vaishnava should be considered worshipable as Shri Hari. Chanting of the name of the Lord, rememberance of the Lord and related instructions are distributed by the acharyas of the sampradaya. Nimbarkacharya says in "Dasha Shloki" about the formula of worship of the divine couple-
ange tu vame vrishabhanujam muda, virajmanamanurupasaubhagam
sakhi sahasraih parisevitam sada, smarema devim sakaleshtakamadam
"To the left hand side of Goloka Bihari is the daughter of king Vrishabhanu, Sri Radha, who is as beautiful as the Lord and is worshipped by thousands of handmaidens. She fulfills the wishes of all. Sri Kishori is eternally remembered as Sri Ji. In fact this is the real essence of life. When one gets this conciousness, then only his life is successful. As a formula, Shri Nimbarkacharya has mentioned the topmost essence of the aim of life which was his own emotions and feelings. The Sudarshana chakra, who is always in the company of the Lord, in the form of acharya is instructing us."
In this age of kali this topmost ancient sampradaya maintains everywhere dharma and tradition of worship. In many ancient places of the sampradaya, in this age of modernization, the devotional practice (sadhna) and the emotions of the sampradaya meet at the confluence of the Triveni of this modern age.
Those living entities who follow the instructions of the acharyas eventually achieve salvation. Steady attachment for the holy dhama, the holy name and the spiritual master (guru govinda nishtha) is the topmost announcement of our Vedic sanatana Vaishnava dharma. "acharyam devo bhava". "acharya mam vijaniyat". Consider the acharya as your worshipable deity. The acharya is My own form. Therefore through the passage of this tradition, following the instructions of the acharya, we can achieve the eternal shelter of our goal, the lotus feet of Shri Shri Radha Goloka Bihari. May the Lord bestow upon you spiritual energy, devotion and attachment for Himself so that your human life will be successful. This life should be for the Lord and remain for Him. Ultimately-
radhaya sahito devo madhvo vaishavottamaih
archyo bandyashcha dhyeyashcha shrinimbarkapadanugaih
- Shri Nimbarka-Sudha
"For the followers of Shri Nimbarkacharya the only worshipable Shri Radha along with Madhava, Shri Shri Radha Golok Bihari is the only deity which should be worshipped, which should be prayed to and upon which we should meditate. This is the only goal which is universally accepted by all. In the end, offering respectful obeisances to the lotus feet of all the Devacharyas of the guru parampara and known and unknown Vaishnavas we pray at their holy feet."
vanchha kalpatarubhyashcha kripa sindhubhya eva cha
patitanam pavanebhyo vaishnavebhyo namo namah
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