Gaudiya writers' extensive production in the field of Sanskrit poetry has earned them a distinct place in the history of literature, particularly for consolidating bhakti as one of the prominent rasas. From Lord Caitanya's days, their deepest philosophical conclusions were in-built in their poetical expression, either in vernacular or Sanskrit compositions. At that early point, no need was felt to translate the subtleties of the Gaudiya ideology into the conventional technical language adopted by ancient schools of thought, both Vaisnava and non-Vaisriava. Their intricate concepts would naturally spring forth during eloquent discourses on the grimad-Bhagavatam. Taking this lead, Sri Jiva Gosvami was the first Gaudiya to make a substantial effort to vindicate and define the Bhagavata philosophy in terms of the dialectic approach that had been in vigour for many centuries amongst learned circles in India. He thus brought out the Bhagavata-sandarbhas, the six treatises in which he reads the Gaudiya philosophy through the verses from the grimad-Bhagavatam in a thematic and methodical manner. His auto-commentary, entitled Sarva-sariivadini, gave even a further dimension to his work by directly engaging with, and debating on various ancient systems of thought in the light of the Bhagavata view.
The decades that followed were marked by an acute decline in the literary activity that had blossomed in the 16th century and met its acme in the works of Sri Rupa and Sri Jiva. It was not until late 17th century that another prolific author of a similar stature emerged in the form of Sri Vigvanatha Cakravarti, who made up for a long felt dearth in the scholarly tradition started by Mahaprabhu's followers. While his compositions were much alike those of Rupa in his elaborations on bhakti-rasa and the path of devotion, he did not take the same interest as Jiva did in going to great lengths in comparative philosophy. That task was awaiting another eminent personality that would appear about a couple of generations later.
By divine providence, it was through the hand of Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana that the Gaucliya-sampradaya came to be widely accepted as a bona fide school of Vedanta. Under the patronage of Sawai Jai Singh II (1688-1743 AD), King of Amber, Vidyabhusana composed important works and became an exalted saint and scholar both in Vrndavana and Jaipur. The King not only commissioned him to write important treatises but also made him a member of his court, as confirmed at the end of this book. Several documents preserved at the Rajasthan State Archives corroborate Vidyabhasana's lifelong relationship with the royal family. It was King Jai Singh who first request him to present a commentary on the Brahma-sutras, both for his personal studies as well as to appease the claims raised against the authenticity of the Gaucliya lineage. In response, Vidyabhusana shortly produced the Brahma-sutra-karika-bhasya, which starts by declaring that he is thereby fulfilling the King's order to have such a commentary. Although the manuscript is undated, related documentation seems to indicate the text may have been written in the late 1730s. It is not clear when Vidyabhiisana started to work on a more comprehensive commentary that he named Govinda-bhasya,' but many years may have elapsed after the Karika-bhasya. Jai Singh suddenly passed away in 1743, probably many years before the completion of the Govinda-bhasya, a text that has never been added to his large collection of commentaries on Vedanta. Since the copy Vidyabhusana sent to Gopiballabhpur is dated 1758 AD, this is possibly the year in which the Govinda-bhasya was concluded. Aware of the scarcity of philosophical treatises from the Gaucliya perspective, he later envisioned the composition of yet another text that would further elaborate on many of the topics discussed in that commentary but without the structural restrictions imposed by a particular sequence of aphorisms. He also felt appropriate to provide the readers a basis to enable them to derive more benefit from the complex arguments that abound therein. Hence, this treatise came into existence and was named Govinda-bhasya-pithakam, a throne (pithaka) or support for the Govinda-bhasya. Because it presents multiple jewel-like (ratna) philosophical conclusions (siddhanta), it is also named Siddhanta-ratnam.
The earliest dated manuscript available was written down in 1780 AD, when Vidyabhusana was probably in his seventies or early eighties.' The commentary refers to the Vedanta-syamantaka, SCiksma-tika, Gita-bhasanam, and Sahitya-kaumudi. All these indications suggest that the Siddhanta-ratnam may have been one of his latest works, possibly written in the 1760s or 1770s.
At the end, Vidyabhusana acknowledges Sri Govindadeva for giving him knowledge and making him renowned as a scholar. Although for many years he was silent about the matter, here he also reveals that Lord Govinda Himself appeared in his dream and ordered him to write a commentary on the Brahma-sutra. The commentary here hints that this is actually a personal secret that should not be openly revealed, but perhaps now at old age, Vidyabhusana decided to share this fact with others to glorify the Lord's magnanimity. The commentator narrates, "Upon being questioned regarding the conclusive meaning of the Brahma-sutra that the son of Nanda Maharaja is the Supreme Lord Himself the
' Document #117, bundle 34, Toji Dastu Kaumvar, Rajasthan State Archives, dated the fourteenth day of the Bhadra month of Sarinvat 1850 (nineteenth of September, 1793 AD) describes his ceremony of condolence presided by King Pratap Singh (ruled 1778-1803 AD).
author became very dejected because the conclusion was not taken as such. Unable to tolerate his dejection, the Supreme Lord, gyamasundara, wearing yellow garments, a sacred thread, an urdhva-pundra tilaka, and braided hair, appeared in his dream and ordered him three times." Contrary to the flowery versions we hear of the incidents that ensued, this seems to indicate that Vidyabhusana may have been able to prove the legitimacy of the Gaufliya-sampradaya, yet his presentation of Sri Govinda as the avatari, the source of even Lord Narayana, did not meet the approval of the local Vaisnavas and others. Up to the present day, they may not have changed their minds, but at least Vidyabhusana submitted his final answer on the matter by composing the Govinda-bhasya, wherein he unequivocally defends Lord Govinda's supremacy to his best capacity from whomever may question His status.
In composing the Siddhanta-ratnam, Vidyabhusana based his arguments and conclusions on what he studied in the works of the previous acaryas. Sri Jiva Gosvami's Sandarbhas, and particularly the Sarva-sathva dini, were a major source of references. The theological views in Sri Rupa Gosvami's Laghu-bha gavatamrta were also extensively adopted here. From beginning to end, Vidyabhusana's allegiance to Madhvacarya is also visible, especially by defining simultaneous difference and non-difference in terms of vigesa.' He also borrowed several arguments from Jayatirtha's Nyaya-sudha, a sub-commentary on Madhvacarya's Anuvyakhyana on the Brahma-sutra. These were great sources of inspiration in the three chapters wholly devoted to the refutation of various brands of Advaitavada. Such extensive elaboration on the topic remains a unique and unsurpassed accomplishment amongst the Gaucliya works ever written.
In his concluding words, Vidyabhusana also acknowledges Pitambara dasa, by whose mercy he was able to compose this treatise. The commentator clarifies that this was Vidyabhusana's vidya -guru' (a preceptor who imparts knowledge) and ‘purnaprajn-guru.’
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