Saturday, May 17, 2014

LECTURE


Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa and some Unpublished Manuscripts




Lecture given on the 19th March, 2014, in the Braj Culture Research Institute


govinda-deva-dayitaṁ paramārtha-pūrṇaṁ      vidvatsu hā jayapure jaya-bhūṣitaṁ vai

nyāya-śruti-smṛti-vivāda-samordhva-hīnaṁ      vedānta-riktha-baladeva-yatiṁ namāmi

            “I offer my humble obeisances unto the great sage Śrīla Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa. Being very dear to Lord Govindajī and surcharged with transcendental knowledge, he became decorated with victory in the assembly of learned scholars in Jaipur.  Nobody was equal or superior to him in debates on the śruti, smṛti or nyāya, for he possessed the treasure of fully knowing the conclusion of all Vedic scriptures.

Gauḍīya Vedānta Ācārya Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa was one of the greatest scholars of the 18th century and the most important Gauḍīya philosopher after Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī. There is hardly any available information about his early life, except for several rumors. The Vaiṣṇavas coming in the Śyāmānanda-parivara affirm that he was born in a village nearby Remuṇā, in the Balasore district, Odisha. They do so based on oral tradition and a statement found in Kṛṣṇa-carana dāsas Śyāmānanda-prakāśa (10.22), where it is described that Śyāmānanda Paṇḍita was once wandering in a village in the Kṣīracora Gopīnātha temple area and suddenly summoned Baladeva:

baladeva nāma tina vāra uccārila

mahāprabhu yaiche narottame prakāśila

 “Śyāmānanda Prabhu uttered the name of Baladeva three times, just as Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu had previously done to evoke Narottama dāsa.

 The date of his birth is still unknown, but we may infer that it was either at the end of the 17th century or at the beginning of the 18th century. Kṛṣṇa-carana dāsa was one or two generations older than Baladeva, so it is possible that by the time Śyāmānanda-prakāśa was concluded, Baladeva was already renowned. There is a controversy regarding his family background, and somehow it has been spread that he belonged to the Khaṇḍāyat community. The only authentic evidence found so far consists of a few manuscripts where Baladeva names himself as the son of Gaṅgādhara Māṇikya, as at the end of his Śabda-sudhā:

māṇikya-gaṅgādhara-sūnuneyaṁ vinirmitā śabda-sudhā mitātmā

balena vidyaika-vibhūṣaṇena dhiyaṁ śiśūnāṁ paṭhatāṁ tanotu

 “This brief Śabda-sudhā was composed by the son of Gaṅgādhara Māṇikya, Baladeva, whose sole ornament is knowledge. May it increase the intellect of the students who read it.

Tradition says that in his early years he studied in a pāṭhaśālā on the bank of the Chilka Lake, Odisha, and later went to Mysore, where he joined the Madhva sampradāya. This connection is confirmed by his own words at the end of his Siddhānta-ratna:

ānandatīrtha-plutam acyutaṁ me caitanya-bhāsvat-prabhayātiphullam

ceto’ravindaṁ priyatā-marandaṁ pibaty aliḥ sac-chavi tattva-vādaḥ

 “Absorbed in tattva-vāda, my bee like mind drinks a beautiful lotus which was spread by Madhvācārya and became fully blossomed by the effulgent rays of Caitanya Mahāprabhu and is filled with the nectar of love for Kṛṣṇa.

In the commentary to this verse it is clearly stated that Baladeva was indeed initiated in the line of Madhvācārya. Some claim that he also took sannyāsa, but no evidence to this has been shown so far. On the contrary, mentioning ones fathers name, as seen above, would be unethical for someone who took a sannyāsa vow thus giving up all connections with relatives. Moreover, an 18th century painting of Vidyābhūṣaṇa is seen in the Rādhā-Gokulānanda temple in Vrindavan in which he is depicted wearing a brāhmaṇa thread. If the painting is original and actually drawn by someone who saw him, then it factually disproves the sannyāsa version, as per tradition, Mādhvas give up their thread upon taking sannyāsa. His contact with Lord Caitanyas philosophy happened in Jagannātha Purī when he met Rādhā-Dāmodara Gosvāmī, who was then the sevādhikārī in the Kuñja Maṭha. Baladeva later accepted him as guru, as he states at the end of his commentary on Rādhā-Dāmodaras Chandaḥ-kaustubha:

arcita-nayanānando rādhā-dāmodaro gurur jīyāt

vivṛṇomi yasya kṛpayā chandaḥ-kaustubham ahaṁ mita-vāk

 “All glories to my guru, Śrīla Rādhā-Dāmodara Gosvāmī, who worshipped Śrīla Nayanānanda Gosvāmī as his spiritual master. By his mercy, I am writing this commentary on the Chandaḥ-kaustubha in a few words.

His connection with the Śyāmānanda-parivara is corroborated by the following verse, which appears in the Tattva-dīpikā, Śyāmānanda-śataka-ṭīkā and Sāhitya-kaumudī:

śyāmāṁ rasikān nayanāny ānandayan yaś cakāsti sadā

vismāpaka-dāmodara-līlo vatu naḥ sa govindaḥ

 “Govindajī eternally shines, displaying wonderful pastimes such as the Dāmodara-līlā, and in this way He delights Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, His devotees and the eyes of everyone. May He protect us. 

Here he alludes to four generations of ācāryas preceding him in the Śyāmānanda-parivara, whose disciplic succession is as follows:

1. Lord Caitanya and Nityānanda Prabhu

2. Gaurīdāsa Paṇḍita

3. Hṛdaya-caitanya Ṭhākura

4. Śyāmānanda Paṇḍita

5. Rasikānanda Murāri

6. Nayanānanda Gosvāmī

7. Rādhā-Dāmodara Gosvāmī

Afterwards Baladeva set for Vrindavan, where he studied Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam with Viśvanātha Cakravartī, who is thus acknowledged in the mangalācaraṇa of his commentary on the tenth skandha:

śrīmad-yaśodā-suta-keli-sindhuṁ vigāhamānasya mamālpa-śakteḥ

sanātana-śrīdhara-viśvanātha-dayālavaḥ samprati śakti-rāśiḥ

            “Although I have little strength, I am now diving in the ocean of the glorious pastimes of the son of Mother Yaśodā, and the merciful Sanātana Gosvāmī, Śrīdhara Svāmī and Viśvanātha Cakravartī are a great source of energy for me.”

In those days there was some dispute in the place presently known as Jaipur regarding the credibility of the Gauḍīyas, who had brought Govindadeva from Vrindavan to protect Him from the Muslim desecrators. There are many versions of the incidents that took place, and although there is still a shortage of available historical documentation to put all the pieces of the puzzle together, it is clear that some philosophical controversies arose among the local Vaiṣṇava community and the newcomer Gauḍīyas. It seems that the local Rāmānandīs objected against the mode of worship of the Gauḍīyas, who first worshipped Govinda and then Nārāyaṇa, and also against the worship of Rādhārāṇī, which they did not accept as legitimate. A third objection was regarding the apparent lack of affiliation of the Gauḍīya sect to any of the four recognized Vaiṣṇava sampradāyas coming from Viṣṇu Svāmī, Nimbārkācārya, Rāmānujācārya and Madhvācārya. Baladeva played an essential role in this dispute by writing down his magnum opus called Govinda-bhāṣya, thus establishing the Gauḍīya line as a bona fide school of Vedānta sprung from the Madhva sampradāya. In the beginning of his Prameya-ratnāvalī, he presents the names of the Gauḍīya paramparā as follows:

śrī-kṛṣṇa-brahma-devarṣi-bādarāyaṇa-saṁjñakān

śrī-mādhva-śrī-padmanābha-śrīman-narahari-mādhavān

akṣobhya-jayatīrtha-jñānasindhu-dayānidhīn

śrī-vidyānidhi-rājendra-jayadharmān kramād vayam

puruṣottama-brahmaṇya-vyāsatīrthāṁś ca saṁstumaḥ

tato lakṣmīpatiṁ mādhavendraṁ ca bhaktitaḥ

tac-chiṣyān śrīśvarādvaita-nityānandān jagad-gurūn

devam īśvara-śiṣyaṁ śrī-caitanyaṁ ca bhajāmahe

śrī-kṛṣṇa-prema-dānena yena nistāritaṁ jagat

At the end of the Siddhānta-ratna, Baladeva tells us how he got the title Vidyābhūṣaṇa:

vidyā-rūpaṁ bhūṣaṇaṁ me pradāya khyātiṁ ninye tena yo mām udāraḥ

śrī-govindaḥ svapna-nirdiṣṭa-bhāṣyo rādhā-bandhur bandhurāṅgaḥ sa jīyāt

 “All glories to the handsome Lord Govindadeva, Who stands beautifully in a bent pose and is the friend of Śrīmatī Rādhikā. Having appeared in my dreams, He commanded me to write this commentary and then made me become famous as Vidyābhūṣaṇa.

It is said that this title was given by King Sawai Jai Singh, who ruled from 1699 to 1743, with whom Baladeva kept a lifelong relation. Baladeva then installed a deity called Vijaya Gopala in the Galta gaddi, the main center of the Rāmānandīs. Another deity called Vijaya Govinda, now present in Vrindavan in the Rādhā-Gokulānanda temple, was also installed. The names of these deities corroborate that actually a dispute took place and that Baladeva was the one who won the case on behalf of the Gauḍīyas, who even today conduct the worship of Govindadeva in Jaipur without any hindrance and are recognized as a legitimate sampradāya among other Vaiṣṇava groups. He possibly stayed with Viśvanātha in the Rādhā-Gokulānanda temple until he was appointed as the sevā adhikārī in the Rādhā-Śyāmasundara temple in Vrindavan. According to the present temple authorities, he installed the large Rādhā-Śyāmasundara deities there in 1719 AD. However, some historians find this date too early to be correct. At the end of the Aiśvarya-kādambinī, Vidyābhūṣaṇa wrote a verse clearly dating the conclusion of the text in 1779 AD. We also know from a few records kept in the Jaipur State Archives that he left this world in 1793 AD. If both dates are accurate, he possibly lived for more than a hundred years. His samādhi is located at the back side of the same Rādhā-Śyāmasundara temple, and it was mistakenly dated 1768 AD by the same temple authorities. 

            Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa has more than twenty literary works to his credit, some of which are still unpublished, while others seem to have been lost. Unfortunately, he did not leave a list with the names of his compositions, so we are still eventually coming across manuscripts which were not previously heard of, but whose authorship is beyond doubt, especially if they were transcribed by Dayānidhi, who seems to have been Baladevas personal scribe and possibly his disciple too, as Dayānidhis handwriting style is not that of a professional. He also revised a good number of Baladevas manuscripts transcribed by others. We know his name from a Govinda-bhāṣya manuscript kept in the Śyāmānanda gaddī, Gopivallabhpur, in which Dayānidhi identifies himself as the son of the minister of the King of Kurmācala. Besides books, he also wrote a number of letters which were signed by Vidyābhūṣaṇa.

Brahma-sūtra-kārikā-bhāṣya

            This is an important manuscript found in the collection of King Sawai Jai Singh, who personally ordered Vidyābhūṣaṇa to write it, as clearly stated in the opening verse:

natvā vyāsaṁ sarva-siddhi-pradeśaṁ dattānujñaḥ śrīla-rājādhirājaiḥ

bhāṣyaṁ vidyābhūṣaṇo brahma-sūtreṣv acchārthābhiḥ kāritābhir vidhatte

 “Having bowed down to Śrīla Vyāsadeva, the abode of all perfections, Vidyābhūṣaṇa composes this commentary on the Brahma-sūtras in concise verses with clear meaning, having being ordered by the king of kings.”

The commentary was written in anuṣṭup and briefly gives the meaning of each sūtra. According to the traditional account, Baladeva wrote a Brahma-sūtra commentary in a few days. It is most probable that this commentary was the Kārikā-bhāṣya instead of the Govinda-bhāṣya, which is much longer and complex in all respects, although no date is mentioned on the available manuscripts of either text. Moreover, it would be somewhat futile to compose such a short treatise after having compiled a comprehensive commentary in the form of Govinda-bhāṣya. We dont know the background behind the Kings order, but two major causes seem to be possible. The first cause could be the criticism against the Gauḍīyas for their lack of a Brahma-sūtra commentary. If it is true that there was indeed an urgent need for a commentary and a deadline to present it, the Kārikā-bhāṣya would have come into existence on time to fulfill the demands. A second possible reason would be the personal interest of King Sawai Jai Singh in acquiring a diversity of philosophical texts for his own studies and for reference purposes. The King himself authored several books on religion and philosophy, and his library, which is still well preserved in the city palace in Jaipur, has a significant number of treatises in this field, many of which had been commissioned by him.

In the last verse, the author corroborates the statement made in the beginning:

śrīmad-rājādhirājānām ājñayā racitaṁ mayā

vidyābhūṣaṇa-saṁjñena kārikā-bhāṣyam āśritam

yady apy atra na vaicitrī kācid asti tathāpi te

modiṣyante mudaṁ yaj jñā labhante bāla-bhāṣite

            “By the order of the king of kings, I, Vidyābhūṣaṇa, have composed this Kārikā-bhāṣya and resorted to it. Although there is nothing extraordinary here, still the wise will take pleasure in it just like they do in the words of a child.

By the word “āśrita”, which means “to resort to”, “to have recourse to”, it is suggested that Baladeva indeed utilized this commentary in a moment of need. It is also possible that His Majesty Sawai Jai Singh ordered the composition of a commentary for the particular purpose of establishing the authority of the Gaudīya sampradāya and thus put an end to all the controversies and disruption of the regular worship of Govindadeva. In the last words, the author expresses his humbleness and absolute lack of pretension, something for which he was well known. In the same mood, his main commentary was named Govinda-bhāṣya instead of being named after the authors name as it is usually done.

Only two manuscript copies of this text have been found so far, in contrast to Govinda-bhāṣya, whose copies are available all over India. This fact may corroborate that the book was indeed just meant for the King’s personal studies. Otherwise, Vidyabhūṣaṇa might have written it for some further purpose and did not give copies to others because he was planning to write an extensive commentary which would serve better all purposes.

Tattva-dīpikā

            This is another manuscript found in Maharaj Sawai Jai Singh’s collection and it is also possible that it was meant for his personal studies, although there is no dedication mentioned anywhere in the text. The manuscript was transcribed by Dayānidhi and we have not been able to locate other copies yet. The presentation and contents resemble Mādhavas Sarva-darśana-saṅgraha in many respects, consisting of a brief exposition of a number of different philosophical systems and their respective faults. The author starts with the following verse:

premāspadatvena nirasta-bhedaṁ bhedaṁ svarūpeṇa yad apy ajasram

yo darśayām āsa parātma-tattvaṁ sa no vatāt pīta-vapur mukundaḥ

            “May Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu, Who is Lord Mukunda in a golden form, always protect us. He revealed that He, the Supreme Absolute Truth, as the ultimate object of love, is devoid of difference, and yet, by His original constitutional position, He is perpetually a distinct Supreme Person.”

By the words “nirasta-bheda” and “bheda”, Vidyābhūṣaṇa is referring to the philosophy of acintya-bhedābheda propounded by Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu, which was later extensively described by the Gosvāmīs of Vrindavan in their books. Therefore, in the next verse, the author offers respectful obeisances at the dust of the feet of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī and Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī. The topic of the book is introduced in the following words: There are two kinds of people in this world, divided as believers (āstikas) and non-believers (nāstikas). Non-believers are insane people who despise God and the Vedas, even though They are celebrated in all disciplic traditions, just as one despises his own father. Such people deceive others by means of fallacious reasonings which are concocted according to their own mental illusions. Even among the so-called believers there are some who, resorting to certain scriptural passages, oppose the view presented by Śrī Bādarāyaṇa and propound another philosophy, and in this way they become similar to non-believers. In their case, even if one who desires liberation has acquired a general knowledge of the truth, as long as they are not shown the proper means to attain an established conclusion and how their arguments are inconclusive, the aspiration for the real meaning of the Upaniṣads does not appear. Therefore, first their respective philosophical views will be stated and then it will be shown how they are unsubstantiated. It is indeed quite fair that when the non-believers’ views are stated by someone else’s mouth, they never sound logical.”

            Baladeva then proceeds to discuss about the following philosophical systems: Bauddha, Jain, Cārvaka, Nyāya, Mīmāṁsā, Sāṁkhya, Pātañjala, Bhāskara, Pāśupata, Advaita, etc. In the last portion, the Bhāgavata philosophy is presented as the natural and spotless conclusion of all scriptures, according to which Lord Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Lord and unalloyed devotion for Him is the ultimate goal of life for all living entities.

            At the end, Baladeva offers his respects to several of his predecessor ācāryas with the verse previously mentioned and then to Pītāmbara, who is said to have been his philosophy teacher:

vedānta-dānta-hṛdayai racitaṁ mayaitat saṁgṛhya yukti-nicayaṁ mita-bhāṣitena

pītāmbarasya karuṇā-varuṇālayasya kāruṇyataḥ kṛtam udetu mude budhānām

            “Having collected the writings of those who control their minds by means of the Vedānta philosophy, by the mercy of Pītāmbara, who is an ocean of mercy, I have compiled this book in brief words, but full of logic. May it give joy to the learned.”

This same verse also appears at the end of the Siddhānta-ratna, and therein the commentator affirms that Pītāmbara was a renounced celibate and Baladevas teacher in the Madhva sampradāya. The author then ends the Tattva-dīpikā with a somewhat ambiguous statement:

vidyābhūṣaṇa-kṛtinā prakāśitaḥ so yam adbhuto dīpaḥ

pratikūla-vāta-saṅge py acañcalo yat samullasati

            “This wonderful lamp was lit as a composition of Vidyābhūṣaṇa, and it shines immovable even among unfavorable winds.”

We are left to guess what Baladeva meant by “unfavorable winds”. It may either refer all the different philosophical schools mentioned, which are unfavorable to pure bhakti, or it may suggest that the author himself faced opposing elements while writing the book.

Śabda-sudhā

            This is a didactical book on grammar in which Baladeva presents sūtras from Pāṇini and Vopadeva, but explains the subject in his own words. The pūrvārddha starts with obeisances to Lord Govindadeva followed by the Sanskrit vowels and consonants and their respective classifications. In sequence, the author explains sandhi, the formation of various nouns in the three genders, samāsa, and ends the section with the taddhita-prakriyā. The uttarārddha starts with the ākhyāta-prakriyā, then saṁjñā-prakaraṇa, several verbal formations in different tenses, and it ends with the kṛt-pratyaya rules. He then suggests that those who want to know more about these topics can refer to Pāṇini. As previously quoted, in the last verse Baladeva expresses his wishes that grammar students may benefit by studying this book. To the present moment, only one manuscript copy of this text has been found, dated 1801 saṁvat. The handwriting was professionally done in a good style utilizing high quality ink and paper. It extends on 93 folios.


Pada-kaustubha

            This is a grammatical treatise on Pāṇini’s sūtras. It starts with the following verses:

govindaṁ sac-cid-ānandaṁ natvā pāṇini-nirmitaiḥ

tat-prītyai grathyate sūtraiḥ suvarṇaiḥ pada-kaustubhaḥ

            “Having bowed down to Lord Govinda, Who is eternally full of bliss and knowledge, for His pleasure this Pada-kaustubha is being arranged with the golden aphorisms of Pāṇini.”

guravaḥ śivarāmākhyā jayanti yad-anugrahāt

pāṇinīya-sudhā-sindhur mayakāpy anubhūyate

            “All glories to my teacher named Śivarāma, by whose mercy I got access to the nectarian ocean of Pāṇini’s grammar.”

Here we hear Baladeva naming the teacher from whom he learned Pāṇini’s grammar, although he does not give us any further information such as his lineage and location. The text starts with the māheśvara sūtras, followed by the definitions and sandhi rules. It is mostly a concise compilation of some selected sūtras arranged in an order different than that presented by other authors. Although the explanations are either a verbatim reproduction of Varadarāja’s Laghu-siddhānta-kaumudī, Baladeva sometimes adds or abridges some statements, and brings illustrations using Vaiṣṇava vocabulary. For example, in the sūtra sthāne’ntaratamaḥ (Pāṇini 1.1.50), he illustrates its application: madhu+ari = madhvari. There used to be several copies of this text, but at present only an incomplete manuscript has been found, whose last portion is missing, so we still don’t know the extent of the original text.

Laghu-siddhānta-kaustubha

            In this book, Vidyābhūṣaṇa rearranged the original sūtras of Pāṇini and the commentaries of Varadarāja in his Laghu-siddhānta-kaumudī in a different order and added his own examples utilizing the names of Lord Kṛṣṇa and His incarnations to illustrate various grammatical rules. It basically differs from the Pada-kaustubha by containing more sūtras, which are also presented in a different order here. The maṅgalācaraṇa is as follows:

kṛṣṇaṁ praṇamya sarveśaṁ tat-prītyai grathyate mayā

suvarṇaiḥ pāṇineḥ sūtrair laghu-siddhānta-kaustubhaḥ

            “Having bowed down to the Supreme Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, it is for His satisfaction that this Laghu-siddhānta-kaustubha is now been arranged by me with the golden aphorisms of Pāṇini.”

            The topics are presented in the following order: māheśvara sūtras, definitions, sandhi, nominal formations and declensions in all genders, indeclinable words, verbal formations and conjugations, kṛdanta, kāraka, samāsa, taddhita, and strī-pratyaya. To give an instance, in the taddhita-prakaraṇa we find the sūtra bāhvādibhyaś ca (Pāṇini 4.2.96), “After bāhu, etc. the affix should also be employed.” Baladeva then gives as examples: Bāhavi, Kārṣṇi, Dāśarathi, and Saumitri.

            At the end, the author salutes his grammar teacher:

vandyās te vara-viduṣāṁ jayanti śivarāma-saṁjñakā guravaḥ

            “All glories to my grammar teacher, Śivarāma, who is venerable among the best of scholars.”

            Vidyābhūṣaṇa concludes by saying that those who want to learn more on grammar may read the Bṛhat-siddhānta-kaustubha. We have not been able to locate any copy of this text yet, so it is possible that he just intended to write this book. We are still to find evidence that he ever did it. There are a few manuscript copies of the Laghu-siddhānta-kaustubha in different places, most of which are incomplete. The only complete copy found so far was handwritten by Dayānidhi and contains 145 folios.


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