There are many great devotees of Lord Krishna who try to rescue the conditioned souls like me and you from this deep ocean of material existence. This ocean represents the life we lead, our previous and coming births- full of pain and misery. Lord Krishna is the reservoir of all types of joy and bliss. The souls living in the material universe have forgotten Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, so they have to bear sufferings.
Lord Krishna wants to save us from these miseries, so He descends on the planet to save us. Sometimes he sends great devotees to do this task. These devotees are empowered eternal associates of Lord, who are very dear to Him. They are very merciful, so they try to save us from the sufferings we face in our various lives and the ones we face in hell.
vancha kalpatarubhyas ca
kripa sindhubhya eva ca
vaishnavebhyo namo namah
Translation: I offer my respectful obeisances unto all the Vaishnava devotees of the Lord. They are just like desire trees, who can fulfill the desires of everyone. And they are full of compassion for the fallen conditioned souls.
During the 16th and 17th century A.D., many great Vaishnavas appeared on Earth to propagate Krishna Bhakti, or devotional service to Lord Krishna, which is the only way to escape this material world. Lord Krishna too appeared as His own devotee, in the form of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, to teach us pure devotional service.
Many great Vaishnava Acharyas, or authorized spiritual masters, like Srila Rupa Goswami, Srila Sanatana Goswami, Srila Jiva Goswami, Srila Narottama Dasa Thakura, Srila Vishwanatha Chakravarti Thakura, Srila Baladeva Vidyabhushna, Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, and A.C. Bhaktivedanata Swami Prabhupada preached His message of pure devotion.
Srila Baladeva Vidyabhushana Prabhu, also known as Govinda Dasa, was a great Vaishnava scholar, philosopher and powerful Guru in Gaudiya Sampradaya, which is the lineage of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Lord Caitanya is Krishna Himself, who appeared in 1486 AD. He started Sankirtan movement. After His pastimes, He disappeared in 1534 AD.
I offer my obeisances unto the lotus feet of Srila Baladeva Vidyabhushana, who enhanced the fame of Gaudiya Sampradaya by defeating the Ramanandis and by writing a commentary on Vedanta-Sutra.
Lineage of Baladeva Vidyabhushana
Srila Baladeva is a big milestone in Gaudiya Lineage. Radha Damodara Goswami initiated him into the lineage, thus becoming his Diksha-Guru. Vishwanatha Chakravarti became Baladeva’s Shiksha-Guru or the spiritual master who guides on the path of Bhakti.
- Nityananda Prabhu
- Gauridasa Pandita
- Hridoy Caitanya
- Syamananda Prabhu
- Rasikananda Prabhu
- Nayananda Goswami
- Radha Damodara Goswami
- Baladeva Vidyabhushana
- Caitanya Mahaprabhu
- Rupa Goswami
- Jiva Goswami
- Narottama Dasa Thakura
- Vishwanatha Chakravarti
- Baladeva Vidyabhushana
Early Days and Initiation
Baladeva appeared somewhere near Remuna (a small town in Balasore district of Odisha) in 1670s. He belonged to a Vaishya farmer’s family. He left his home at his very youth to search for God.
He studied the commentaries of Adi Shankara and Madhvacarya and concluded that Madhva’s vision was right. Madhva had given the philosophy of Dvaita-vada or Tattva-vada.
So Baladeva went hundreds of miles far to Udipi (a city near Mangalore, Karnataka) to study more about Madhva’s teachings. Udipi was the main abode of the followers of Madhva. Its Krishna Matha was the headquarters of Tattva-vadis. Baladeva was initiated into Tattva group of Brahma lineage there.
Then he became a Dig-vijai Pandita, a world conquering scholar. He was a master of Sanskrit, scriptures and philosophies, so he easily defeated the scholars he met. He debated and proved the supremacy of his ideas.
He visited many holy places of pilgrimage. In Jagannatha Puri in Odisha, he met an Acharya in the lineage of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, called Srila Radha Damodara Goswami. He was a famous Guru in Syamanandi sect (Syamananda Pandit’s group of Gaudiya Sampradaya). He initiated Baladeva into Syamanandi Gaudiya lineage.
Baladeva studied the authorized Vaishnava texts from Radha Damodara. At last he had found the supreme knowledge. Srila Radha Damodara told Baladeva, “I have imparted my knowledge to you. Now, I suggest you to study under Srila Vishwanatha Chakravarti of Vrindavana. He knows better than I do.”
Meeting Vishwanatha Chakravarti Thakura at Vrindavana
Baladeva set out for Vrindavana. Vishwanatha was the leader of Gaudiya Sampradaya at that time. He was renowned for his great devotion and knowledge. Baladeva approached Srila Vishwanatha in a very humble mood.
He studied the deep concepts of Krishna consciousness under Vishwanatha, and accepted him as his spiritual master. Very soon he became Vishwanatha Chakravarti’s favorite disciple.
Defeating Ramanandis and Compilation of Govinda Bhashya
Sri Sri Radha Govindadeoji deities of Jaipur were served by the Gaudiya Vaishnavas. The king Sawai Jai Singh was also a Gaudiya Vaishnava. He was a great devotee. He had declared that he was not the actual king of Jaipur; the real king is Govindadeoji, or Lord Krishna. He is only a mere servant at the lotus feet of Govinda.
Ramanandi devotees of Sri Sampradaya envied the Gaudiyas. They knew that serving Govinda deity makes the Gaudiyas close to the king. And that means his patronage, which implied power in Jaipur. So they decided to somehow takeover the temple. Actually Gaudiyas did not exploit other Sampradayas but Ramanandis were planning to do so, if they get power.
They complained to the king that Gaudiya Sampradaya is not bona fide, because unlike other Sampradayas, they were worshiping Krishna with Radha. Others worshiped only Krishna as Vishnu.
The King was not willing to stop the worship of Radha as he knew that it would be wrong. But as he was not a scholar, he could not pass such type of judgment of favoring only one Sampradaya. The worship of Radha-Krishna is better than worshiping Vishnu alone.
Ramanandis declared that if Gaudiyas do not prove their sect is authorized, then Radha shall be removed and temple will be mananaged by Ramanandis alone. This was unfair because earlier in Vrinadavana, Gaudiyas established the worship of Radha-Govindadeoji. Then the deities were shifted to Jaipur for safety, because a Muslim ruler had attacked Vrindavana.
Gaudiyas told this problem to their leader Vishwanatha, who was very old by now and was unable to go to Jaipur. So he sent Baladeva there. Jai Singh was worried, as he thought that Baladeva would not be able to defeat the Ramanandis in debate, and the great scholar Vishwanatha will not be present to defend the Gaudiyas. Ramanandis were very happy on not seeing Vishwanatha; Baladeva was not very famous at that time.
Ramanandi leader said, “We won’t debate with a person, who does not belong to either of the four original sampradayas: Madhva, Sri, Nimbarka or Rudra.”
But Baladeva had been initiated into Madhva Sampradaya, besides being a member of Gaudiya sect. At this, the Ramanandi leader replied,”If you belong to Madhva group then you cannot defend Gaudiyas.”
In reply, Baladeva said,”I was initiated by Srila Radha Damodara Gosain of Gaudiya sect. Moreover Srila Chakravartipada is my spiritual master. Actually Madhvendra Puri from Madhva sect initiated Iswara Puri, the Guru of Lord Caitanya, who strarted Gaudiya sect. So both sects are essentially one.”
Ramanandis objected, “Then why don’t you guys worship Vishnu alone as other sects do; it is prescribed in the holy texts.”
Baladeva quoted many scriptures to prove that worship of Radha-Krishna is supreme.
Ramanandis now changed the topic. They said, “All four Sampradayas have commentaries on Vedanta Sutra text, but Gaudiyas do not have any. So your sect is not authorized.”
Actually Lord Caitanya accepted Srimad-Bhagwatam as the genuine commentary, so Gaudiyas didn’t find any need to write further commentary on Vedanta. Vyasa had written Vedanta-Sutra and elaborated it further in Srimad-Bhagwatam. So what else besides Bhagwatam could serve as the true commentary.
Baladeva clearly told them, “A commentary was never needed prior to this event. If it is that much required then, I will write a commentary.”
Ramanandis deliberately gave seven days to generate a commentary. They knew that even Madhva or Nimbarka would take years to write a commentary on Vedanta.
Baladeva was now confused as to how to make it happen. He had taken an impossible task on his shoulders. He went to the temple of Govindadeoji and prayed, “You are the shelter of all. I am only a servant at Your lotus feet. Please help me to maintain the prestige of Gaudiya sect.” Lord empowered Baladeva to generate a commentary.
So Baladeva began to write the commentary. He resided at a place in Jaipur called Galta. Govindadeoji dictated the commentary to Baladeva within his heart and the work was completed within 7 days.
He presented the commentary, which he named Govinda Bhashya to the council. Ramanandis examined the work and they couldn’t find a single flaw. Ramanandis had to admit their defeat.
So it was unanimously decided that the temple will be solely managed by Gaudiyas, and Srimati Radha won’t be removed. On top of all, King accepted Baladeva as his spiritual master.
Ramanandis also begged Baladeva to accept them as his disciples. But Baladeva replied, “You are already the members of an authorized sect, so there is no need to disrespect it by accepting me as your Guru.”
Hence Baladeva emerged victorious and received the title Vidyabhushana.
Establishing Syamasundara Deity
After some years, Baladeva permanently returned to Vrindavana from Jaipur. There he became the leader of Gaudiya Sampradaya, after Vishwanatha’s disappearance.
Syamanandi group maintained the Syamasundara temple. Baladeva was already an initiated member of that sect, so the duty of managing the Radha Syamasundara temple in Vrindavana was given to him by the former head priest, Brajananda Deva Goswami.
Syamasundara deity of Krishna, originally worshiped by Srila Syamananda Pandita, was served in this temple. Baladeva found the deity too small for Darshan. Everyone present in the temple could not see the deity at the same time. The devotees had to go near the deity to have a proper Darshan. And the deity was also small for detailed decoration, such as of Govindadevaji in Jaipur. So Baladeva installed a larger deity of Syamasundara Krishna on the central altar, while the original deity of Syamasundara was moved to the left. You may still see the deities in Syamasundara temple of Vrindavana.
His Other Works
Baladeva Vidyabhishana Prabhu wrote many Vaishnava books such as: Bhagvad-Gita Bhashya, Siddhanta-Ratna, Samhitya Kamudi, Vaishnavanandini-Tika, Kavya Kaustubha, Prameya Ratnavali, Vedanta Syamantaka and others.
He also wrote commentaries on Vedanta-Sutra, Tattva Sandarbha, 11 Upanishadas and the books of previous Acharyas.
His Main Disciples
His main disciples were Sawai Jai Singh, Uddhava Dasa Babaji and Siddha Krishna Dasa Babaji.
Sawai Jai Singh was the ruler of Amber, a Rajput Kingdom. He established the city of Jaipur. He built magnificent forts of Nahargarh and Jaigarh. He was a brave Rajput warrior, who managed to defeat the mighty Mughal Sultanate of Delhi. He was a great devotee of Lord Govinda. He built Govinda, Damodara and Gopinatha temples of Krishna in Jaipur.
Siddha Krishnadasa Babaji and Uddhava were great devotees who led a very simple life. Uddhava initiated Madhusudana, who became the Guru of Srila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji, the Guru of Bhaktivinoda Thakura.
Baladeva Vidyabhushana disappeared in 1768 AD on the auspicious festival of Vijaya Dashmi.
His Samadhi is located in the circle ambulation path of Radha Syamasundara temple in Loi market, Vrindavana.
Srila Baladeva is an Eternal Associate in Krishna’s pastimes in his Spiritual abode, Goloka. He serves as Ratnavali Devi there. He also played the role of Gopinatha Acharya in Caitanya’s pastimes. In addition, he serves as Brahma, the creator of this universe.
JAI BALADEVA VIDYABHUSHANA!