A Saint & A Scholar
A short Biography
Srila Baladeva Vidyabhushana was great acharya in the lineage of Lord Chaitanya who wrote many scholarly works establishing His philosophy. He was a pure devotee endowed with sublime humility.
Little is known of Srila Baladeva Vidybhushana’s birth except that he was born in Odisha (some say near Remuna in Balasor District) in the early part of the eighteenth century.
He was known as an expert scholar on the in Sanskrit grammar, poetry, rhetoric, and logic from a very early age. After gaining expertise these subjects, he began wandered to different places of pilgrimage. After some time, he happened to stay at a temple of the followers of Sri Madhvacharya.
There, he thoroughly learnt the Tattva vada-Siddhanta, that is, the philosophical and theological conclusions of the followers of Madhva. Then, he took sannyasa, and vigorously preached the tattvavada-siddhanta throughout the length and breadth of India.
In his travels, he landed at Jagganath Puri where he met Pandit Sri Radha-Damodara, one of the foremost disciples of Sri Rasikananda Deva. Srimad Radha-Damodara deva Goswami instructed Baladeva on the subject of Lord Chaitanya’s merciful pastimes and discussed His teachings on Gaudiya Vaishanva siddhanta to Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya.
After hearing the divine wisdom of Lord Gauranga, Baladeva’s heart was deeply moved. After a few days of hearing, he accepted initiation into the Radha-Krishna mantra from Srimad Radha Damodara Deva Goswami and began studying the Sat-Sandarbhas of Jiva Goswami at his feet.
After some time, Radha-Damodara Goswami ordered Baladeva to continue his studies in Gaudiya Vaishnavism at the holy feet of Srila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura in Vrindavana.
Baladeva visited Navadvipa and soon reached Vrindavan. Srila Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakura was pleased with Baladeva’s submission, modesty, learning, and renunciation. He kept Baladeva by his side and taught him the acintya-bheda-abheda philosophy of Sri Chaitanya and many other important siddhantas related to the Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Sri Baladeva dedicated his life and soul to the theistic conclusions of the Gaudiya Sampradaya and began exclusively preaching this philosophy.
Writing of the Govinda Bhashya
His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada dedicated his seminal translation of the Bhagavad-Gita titled ‘Bhagavad-Gita As It Is’ to Srila Baladeva Vidyabhushana. Srila Prabhupada wrote
“To Śrīla Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa who presented so nicely the “Govinda-bhāṣya” commentary on Vedānta philosophy.”
Excerpt From: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. “Bhagavad-gita As It Is – Macmillan 1972 Edition”
Actually, the writing of the Govinda Bhashya by Srila Baladeva Vidyabhushana is a heroic episode in the history of Gaudiya Vaishnavism.
The Ramanandis were followers of Ramanujacharya and they had objected to the worship of Lord Govinda in Jaipur by the Gaudiya Vaishnavas. This happened in the court of the King of Jaipur at Golta near Jaipur in the year 1718 CE. Their prime contention was that the Gaudiya Vaishnavas were not an authorised sampradaya or lineage on account of not having a commentary on the Vedanta Sutra by any of their Acharyas.
All the other sampradayas had a commentary on Vedanta Sutra, like the Sri Bhashya by Ramanujacharya, the Shariraka Bhashya by Shankaracharya, the Purnaprajna Bhashya of Madhvacharya, the Parijata-saurabha-bhashya of Nimbaraka Swami of the Kumara Sampradaya and the Sarvajna-bhashya of Vishnuswami of the Rudra Sampradaya. Lack of a Vedanta commentary according to the Ramanandis disqualified the lineage of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas.
They even objected to the worship of Radha and Govinda together as being unauthorised in scriptures. The King of Jaiupur who was initiated into the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya discreetly sent a message to Vishwanatha Chakravarti Thakura in Vrindavana requesting him to provide a Gaudiya Vaishnava commentary of the Vedanta Sutra for showing the Ramanandis.
Vishwanatha Chakravarti Thakura was invalid due to oldage and he directed his brilliant young scholarly follower, Baladeva Vidyabhushana to represent the Gaudiya Vaishnavas in the debate with Ramanandis.
Baladeva energetically debated with the vociferous Ramanandis so well that None of the Ramanandi pandits could stand before his powerful, scholarly arguments. He convincingly argued that Lord Chaitanya considered Srimad Bhagavatam as the natural commentary on the Vedanta Sutras by the author of the Vedanta Sutra, Vyasadeva Himself and hence there was no need for another commentary. This was confirmed by Srila Jiva Goswami in his Sat Sandarbhas.
The Ramanandis said, “See?! He has no commentary on the Vedanata Sutra. Their sampradaya is bogus.” Faced with this blunt statement, Baladeva promised them that he would show a Gaudiya Vaishnava commentary of the Vedanta Sutras within a few days. The Ramanandis though suspiscious agreed to wait.
Baladeva went before the Deity of Sri Govinda and recounted all the events of the Jaipur court. That night Baldeva had a dream in which Sri Govinda appeared and told Baladeva, “Compose the commentary. I will sanction it and no one will find any fault.”
Next morning happily Baladeva commenced writing, his mind intent in meditation on the lotus feet of Lord Govinda. He completed it in a very short time. Armed with his commentary, he named Govinda Bhashya, Baladeva returned to contend with the Ramanandis.
The Ramamandis were wonderstruck on seeing the Govinda Bhashya. They were rendered incapale of futher argument. The Gaudiya sampradaya was proclaimed victorious. The king and all the Gaudiya Vaishnavas were extremely happy. The Ramanandis submissively offered to accept Baladeva as their spiritual master. Baladeva refused them saying that the Sri Sampradaya was revered and by writing Govinda Bhashya he had no intention of disrespecting the sampradaya. The Ramanandis then awarded him the title “Vidyabhushana” or one whose ornament is knowledge.
When Srila Baladeva Vidyabhushana announced his victory to his Guru Srila Vishwanatha Chakravarti Thakura, and the Gaudiya Vaishnavas in Vrindavana, everyone was greatly delighted.
Srila Baladeva Vidyabhushana wrote many books in which he laid out the philosophy of the Gaudiya Vaishanya Parampara. About the methods of ascertaining truth, he taught that, there were different ways of knowing truth: pratyaskha (direct perception), anumana (inference, hypothesis, and deduction), shabda (the words of the authorities), arthapati (interpretation), anupalabdhi (negative inference), sambhava (the laws of probability) and aitihya (history).
Of all these methods of arriving at truth, shabda, hearing from authorities, was the best. Shruti: truth revealed by Vedic authority was the best source of knowledge about the absolute. Scholars may differ about reality, but the Vedic shastras were eternal and transcendental, free of the four defects of material existence because they sprung directly from the Supreme Lord Himself. Therefore, they were the best evidence for knowing the absolute truth.
Regarding Krishna’s energies Baladeva explains that Krishna has three energies, parashakti, kshetrajna-shakti, and maya-shakti. Parashakti refers to svarupa-shakti or the Lord’s internal potency. Kshetrajna-shakti refers to jiva-shakti or the living beings, and maya-shakti refers to the Lord’s external potency that keeps the living entities in illusion. He explained this on the basis of the Vishnu Purana.
About Krishna Srila Baladeva explained that there was no difference between the body and soul of God. They are one and the same. As Krishna, he has a transcendental form of eternity, knowledge and bliss. He has two hands, he plays the flute, and he is known by the names Govinda and Gopal.
Srila Baladeva taught about Lakshmidevi as being nondifferent from Vishnu, in that He is the Supreme Energetic and She is His Supreme Energy. (sei jaganmata lakshmi vishnur anapayini shakti). This is confirmed throughout the shastra. In every form that the lord appears, Lakshmi appears as His eternal consort. When the Lord appears as a god, Lakshmi appears as a goddess. When the Lord advents as an ordinary human being, Lakshmi also descends upon this earth as an ordinary human being.”
He taught about Radha saying Sri Radhika was the Supreme Goddess. Her very nature was Krishna, for her very existence was permeated by Krishna. Therefore, she is known as Krishnamayi or one who is full of Krishna. She is also known as Paradevata, for she is the Supreme Goddess. All other goddesses are subordinate to her. She is the Supreme Lakshmi and her transcendental effulgence surpasses all conceptions of brilliance. She is the supreme enchantress, for she enchants Krishna Himself, who is capable of charming millions of cupids.
According to Baladeva, the jiva souls are the atomic spiritual energy of the Lord. The souls are indestructible and their eternal nature is to be filled with transcendental knowledge.
Srila Baladeva taught that by surrender to the lotus feet of a pure-devotee spiritual master, one receives his mercy and attains Krishna-bhakti. Attaining Krishna-bhakti one attains Krishna Himself.
Like all the great acharyas in the Gaudiya Vaishnava parampara, Srila Baladeva Vidyabhushana gave many books for posterity to understand Krishan Bhakti. Some of Srila Baladeva Vidyabhushanas books are: Bhasya-pithaka, commentaries on Gopala Campu, Krsna-bhavanamrta, Samsaya-satini and other books of the Six Gosvamis of Vrindavan, Sri Govinda-bhasya, Siddhanta-ratnam, Sahitya-kaumudi, Vedanta-syamantaka, Prameya-ratnavali, Siddhanta-darpana, Kavya-kaustubha, Vyakarana-kaumudi, Pada-kaustubha, Isadi-upanisad bhasya, Gitabhusana-bhasya, Sri Visnunamasahasra-bhasya, Sanksepa-bhagavatamrta- tippani-saranga-rangada, Tattva-sandarbha-tika, Stava-mala-vibhusana-bhasya, Nataka-candrika-tika, Candraloka-tika, Sahitya-kaumudi-tika, Krsna-nandini, Srimad-Bhagavata-tika, Vaisnava-nandini, Govinda-bhasya-siksma-tika, Siddhanta-ratna-tika, and Stava-mala-tika.
Srila Baladeva Vidyabhushana lived to a ripe old age teaching the intricacies of the philosophy of Lord Chaitanya. He attained samadhi in the year 1768 CE. Srila Baladeva Vidyabhushana will forever be remembered as the great Acharya who miraculously wrote the Govinda Bhashya commentary of the Vedanta Sutra and brought great glory to the Gaudiya Vaishnava Parampara of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.