This work investigates a figure, Nimbarka, who is famous and yet shadowy as to his identity, his time, his authentic teachings and work. The method followed in this investigation is adequate: First, securing as basis a work whose genuineness is not controvertible, the Vedantaparijata saurabha; second, in its light, investigates the genuineness of other works allegedly historical documents; fourth, ascertains the kind of literary or doctrinal affinity that exists between Nimbarka and Samkara and Srinivasa; fifth, discerns the contrasts and affinities between the teachings of the saurabha and other forms of Vaisnavism; sixth, draws the conclusions of such on historical enquiry with careful discrimination and moderation in claims of certainty or probability.
The author has also provided a close analysis of the Saurabha as the solid basis of his exposition of its philosophy. It has the quality of security, being solidly grounded in a text with which the author is thoroughly familiar and which he has scrutinized in and out. Due to his talent as a Sanskritist, he has drawn all the implications of Nimbarka’s expression, vocabulary and phrasing. All Vedanta scholars will be grateful to have this work in hand.
Dr. Joseph Satyanand IMS, Professor of Indology at Vishwa Jyoti Gurukul, Varanasi, holds a Shastri degree from Sampurnanaand Sanskrit University, Varanasi and a Theological degree from the Jnanadeepa Vidyapitha, Pune. He had his earlier philosophical studies at the Vishwa Jyoti Gurukul. Later he received his M.A. in Sanskrit-Pali and Ph.D. in Sanskrit (Vedanta) from the University of Pune. He teaches Indian Philosophy and Religion in a number of philosophical and theological centres in India.
It may please many that the idea to take up this study on the teachings of Nimbarka came from the late Ma Gangadevi Vedanta Pancatirtha of Varanasi. My contact with the late Mayi introduced me to the Nimbarka Sampradaya, of which she was a great spiritual authority. Her encouraging request took me to study the Vedantaparijata Saurabha of Nimbarka for my doctoral research.
Many pertinent questions concerning Nimbarka and his school of Vedanta continued to ring on my ears. One of them was the question raised by Dr Rasik Vihari Joshi : Why is there no reference to Samkara bhasya in Nimbarka’s commentary and why has Nimbarka not refuted the views of opponents as Samkara, Ramanuja, Vallabha, Sri Kantha and Baladeva Vidyabhusana have done? I have tried to find answers to some of these questions in my Thesis titled ‘Nimbarka and His Philosophy’ submitted to the University of Poona in 1983. The present work is a revision of my doctoral Thesis.
One of the striking features of the intellectual life of our ancient sages, as remarked by R.G. Bhandarkar, was a total lack of historical sense. “Tradition often confuses” says Bhandarkar, “different persons together and attributes to one what belongs to another.” Nimbarka, the author of the Vedantaparijata Saurabha, and his school of thought have also suffered at the hands of the historical confusion. Nimbarka, like the other ancient sages, has persued the contemplation on the mystery Brahman and atman with scant regard for his own personal importance. The ultimate realization of his contemplation has been handed down to us in the form of a commentary on the Brahmasutras called the Vedantaparijata Saurabha. The absence of any historical data about its author in the Saurabha has caused confusion of myths, legends and beliefs with history. I have tried to discuss, to discern and to distinguish facts from beliefs and history from myths. The first six chapters of the present work contain these discoveries of mine.
The bhedabhedavada as unfolded by Nimbarka in the Saurabha is the touchstone for judging the authenticity of any other works attributed to the Acarya. Scholars in the past did not take note of this fact. This failure on their part has really done great disservice to the cause of Nimbarka and to the antiquity of his school. Many works containing doctrines either contradictory to the ones propounded in the Saurabha, the magnum opus of Nimbarka or are in no way in conformity with his general teachings and outlook are attributed to the Acarya. Therefore we have tried to examine the authenticity of many works alleged to be written by Nimbarka and have found them as later additions. This discovery had enabled us to have deeper insight into the bhedabheda philosophy of Nimbarka. Chapters Seven to Eleven of this work present the philosophy of Nimbarka as propounded in the Saurabha.
I take this occasion to express my sincere gratitude to all those who helped me in one way or other in the prosecution of this work. I am very grateful to my guide Dr. S.D. Joshi, M.A Ph D, the then Director of the Centre of Advanced Study in Sanskrit, University of Poona, whose valuable, scholarly and enlightening guidance can be seen in this present work. Pro. Richard De Smet Ph. D. of De Nobili College, Poona and Pro. V. Venkatachalam, the present Vice-Chancellor of Sampurnand Sanskrit University, Varanasi who have helped me see through the many confusing and intriguing situation that crept up from deeper study and meditations on the subjects.
Invaluable help regarding the traditional aspect of the Nimbarka school of thought was given by SriMai Gangadevi panchatirtha of Varanasi, by Sri Vrajavallabha Sharana of Sriji Mandir Vrindavana, and Sri Kathiyababa, the Mahant of Kathiyababa Ashram, Vrindavana.
I have been to various libraries in my effort to collect meaningful material for the study. Many grateful thanks to the librarians of C.A.S.S, University of Poona; Jayakar Library, University of Poona; Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune; Jnana Deepa Vidyapitha (Pontifical Athaneum), Pune; Viswa jyoti Gurukul Library, Varanasi; Anada Devi Gurukul Library, Varanasi; Maitri Bhavan, Institute for the study of Religions, Varanasi; Sriji Mandir Library, Vrindavana; University Library Allahabad; Ganganath Jha Research Institute, Allahabad, Sri Nimbarka Pitha, Allahabad; to mention just a few of them and the dedicated staff of these libraries I thank most sincerely.
My gratitude is also due to my Religious Superiors Rev. Fr. Sila Nath, who initiated me into the field of Indology and Rev. Fr. Prabhuprasad and Rev. Fr. Joseph Dilasa who have taken keen interest in this work. A special mention must also be made of my friends Dr. S.K. Lal MA. Ph.D. of C.A.SS, Poona, Dr. Chacko Valiaveettil SJ, Dr. I. Puthiadom S.J. of Maitribhavan, Varanasi, Fr. Albert of Vidyabhavan, Pune who have rendered me valuable help to clear up many doubts and difficulties. To them and my personal friends and well-wishers I owe a debt of immense gratitude.
My sincere thanks to Missio Aachen for making this publication possible for me.
This is an important book. It embodies a definite achievement in the field of Nimbarka research, a field marked so far by uncertainty and ill-grounded beliefs. Dr. Joseph Satyanand undertook a thorough investigation of all the evidence regarding chiefly the life and work but also the teaching of the Vaisnava Vedantin Nimbarka claimed as their founder by the Nimavant or Nimbarka adherents of the Sanakadisampradaya (the tradition going back to Sanaka and his brothers).
There is no reason to doubt the attribution to a certain Nimbarka of the first extant commentary on the Brahmasutra of Badarayana. This is the Vedantaparijata Saurabha, which is therefore to be taken as the criterion by which to evaluate the authenticity of other works allegedly composed by Nimbarka. The evidence from the Saurabha establishes that its author was a Bhagavata Vasudeva Vaisnava and not a Narayana Pancaratrin or a Radha worshipper.
This destroys the validity of the traditional accounts of Nimbarka’s date and life and of the list of other works traditionally ascribed to him. But is it possible to date the Saurabhakara and his authentic work?
The great discovery of the author is that this work is the unnamed source to which Samkara turned repeatedly for his selection of a prior opinion (purvapaksa) when starting his commentary of several important sutras. This identification of at last one of the purvapaksins of Samkara delighted me. I witnessed its discovery and verified every step of it: Satyanand’s determination of criteria for such an identification, his careful comparison of the relevant texts of the bhasyas of Nimbarka, Samkara, Ramanuja and Srinivasa, his solving of the doubt regarding the direction of the reference (from Samkara to Nimbarka or vice-versal). Satyanand’s method was impeccable. The discovery stamds.
Once established that Nimbarka preceded Sankara, other features of the Saurabha, especially its familiarity with pre-karika Samkhya and early saktism rather than with their well developed forms, led to the conviction that Nimbarka must have flourished during the first quarter of the sixth century A.D. Consequent conclusions concerning the post-Sankara dating of Srinivasa and the even later adoption by the Nimbarka sect of the Radha-Krsna cult were also secured.
Finally, the author could weed out the late accretions to the doctrine of the Saurabhakara and expose in his own terms his genuine bhedabheda (difference cum non-differ-ence) conception of the relationship between creatures and their Cause, the Brahman.
Here now is this worthy work duly published and opened to the critical appreciation of all scholars competent in Vedanta.
One of the basic philosophical questions discussed in India is the relation between the Absolute and the relative, the Cause and the effect, the One and the many, Unity and plurality, God and the world. Even within the Vedanta philosophy diverse and opposing views are accepted. Various schools of Vedanta are well known. Sri. Nimbarkacarya, who is also known under the names of Nimbaditya and Nimba Bhaskara, is universally venerated as founder of the Svabhavika bhedabheda or Bhinnabhinna school of Vedanta. It is wrong to call Nimbarka a dvaitadvaitavadin as many modern authors tend to do. Such terminologies are not at all found in his vrtti (commentary) on the Brahmasutras of Badarayana. The commentary of Nimbarka on the Brahmasutras is known as Vedantaparijata Saurabha, which is free from all dialectical controversies of dvaita (dualism) and advaita (non-dualism).
In the vedantaparijata Saurabha the Acarya gives only a brief explanation of the sutras. His style is aphoristic. Therefore the commentary of Nimbarka on the Brahmasutras is rightly called a vrttirather than a bhasya, Our present study is based on this vrtti of Nimbarka. In this vrtti Nimbarka proposes that the relation between Brahman, jiva (soul) and jagat (the world) is one of both natural difference and non-difference (svabhavika bhedabheda). According to Nimbarka this paradox of difference and non-difference is both natural and metaphysically compatible. He uses many paradigms to explain this relationship between Brahman and jiva-jagat.
There is a natural and metaphysical difference between Brahman, the cause and jiva-jagat, the effects. Brahman is the whole the jiva-jagat is a part. While Brahman is the inner controller and the indweller within the heart of the jiva, the jiva is the controlled, the place dwelt in. Brahman is the object of our worship and the goal of our lives. We as creatures are the worshippers and the knowers of Brahman. In liberation we attain Him. Brahman is always the Infinite, the Omniscient, Omnipresent, Omnipotent, and the Sovereign ruler of the Universe. The soul is always finite, atomic, limited and metaphysically dependent and relative. This distinction between Brahman and the jiva remains even in the state of liberation, wherein the jiva has become similar to Brahman in all other aspects. The creatures can never share the transcendence of the Creator. There is a natural difference between the Creator and the creatures because the Creator transcends the creatures. The creatoer can never be exhausted by the creature. He remains always the’ Beyond.
This difference between Brahman and the jiva-jagat is only one aspect of the Reality. There is equally a metaphysical and natural non-difference between them. Being effects of Brahman both jiva and jagat are non-different from Brahman, their Cause. The effects share the very essence and the esse (being) of the cause. Without the continued support and the immanence of the cause in the effects the effects cease to exist. The dependence of the clay pot (the effect) on the clay (the cause) is total and absolute. There is an absolute and natural non-difference between the pot and the clay, the effects and the cause, the parts and the whole. The cause continues to permeate every aspect of the existence of the effect. Brahman is the Ultimate Cause of the world. The creatures share in His being and existence. Apart from Him, the cause, they (the effect) have no existence at all. He indwells them. He is immanent in every form of existence. According to Nimbarka Brahman both transcends the creatures as also indwells them. There is both a natural identity and a natural difference between the cause (Brahman) and the effects, the jiva-jagat. The non-difference (abheda) between the effects and the cause is thus a metaphysical one. The immanence of the cause in the effect is natural and metaphysically compatible.
According to Nimbarka the basic teachings of the Upanisads on the relationship between Brahman and jiva-jagat is one of both identity (abheda) and difference (bheda). Brahman is the only Absolute Reality. The creatures are the relative, contigent entities, who owe their very existence to the creative activity of Brahman.
As Nimbarka upholds both a natural and metaphysical difference and non-difference between Brahman and the jiva-jagat his view is rightly called the svabhavika bhedabhedavada. Nimbarka explains this profound doctrine in his own simple and a matter-of-fact style. In our study we have tried to present this doctrine of Nimbarka contained in the Saurabha in a simple and a systematic way for your kind perusal.
One of the special characteristics of Nimbarka in the Saurabha is that he has no inclination for controversies with fellow Vedantins. But there are many disputes and controversies concerning Nimbarka. Some of these controversies are concerning his very name, his parents, his time, his works, his religious beliefs and even his very ista devata. We have examined some of these issues involved in these controversies in the first Chapters of the present study. Now, let us enter into the details.
Brahma Sutras (79)
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