Teachings of Vaishnava Acharyas – Vishnuswami, Nimbarka ,Ramanuja, Madhva and Sri Chaitanya

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Shuddhadvaita-vada : Philosophy of one of the great Vaishnava acharyas – Sri Vishnu Swami (Rudra Sampradaya) :

Rudradvipa, which is one of the nine islands of Nabadwip, is the residence of all the eleven Rudras. Headed by Nila-lohita Shiva, the Rudras eternally chant over here the glories of Lord Gauranga and dance in ecstasy. Witnessing their ecstatic pastimes, the demigods shower flowers upon them from the heavens.
In ‘Nabadwip Dham Mahatmya’ it is described that Sri Vishnuswami, one of the great Vaishnava Acharyas , had once come to this island of Rudradvipa and stayed here along with his followers. Being pleased with his intense devotion unto Lord Krishna, Nila-Lohita shiva mercifully bestowed his auspicious darsana unto him. On being asked for a boon, Sri Vishnuswami humbly begged for a sampradaya (spiritual lineage) that would propagate the science of pure devotion unto Lord Krishna. Nila Lohita Shiva consented and named the sampradaya after himself. This is how the ‘Rudra Sampradaya’, which is one of the four bonafide Vaishnava sampradayas, came into being.

  1. The jivas (living entities) are parts and parcels of the Absolute Truth. Maya or material energy is also an energy of the Absolute Truth while the material world is a manifestation of the energy of the Absolute Truth.
  2. Although the individual living entities are parts and parcels of the Supreme Lord, yet there is a gulf of difference between them and the Supreme Lord. Sun is fire and a minute spark is also fire. However, there lies a firm difference between the two. Likewise, although both honey and wine are liquids, yet there lies an ocean of difference between the two.The living entities are qualitatively the same as the supreme Lord (sat cit ananda) but there is a gulf of difference between them quantitatively. Although both great fire and the sparks possess the same qualities of heat and light, yet the suffering caused by cold can only be alleviated by fire and not by sparks. The Supreme Lord is the complete whole whereas the living entities are only His part and parcels.
  3. The material world is an effect of the Supreme Lord who is the original cause of all causes. The material world, which is manifested from the energy of the Supreme Lord, is true and not an illusion. Just as the Supreme Brahman is eternal and factual, similarly the material world, which is an effect of the Supreme Lord’s energy, is also eternal and true. By the will of the Lord, it sometimes becomes manifest and visible to all. Again, it is by His sweet divine will that the material world sometimes becomes unmanifested.
  4. Gold can be molded into various ornaments, like bangles and necklaces which can be molded once again into their original condition as gold. Similarly, the Supreme Lord is the immediate cause and creates the material world by transformations of His inconceivable (achintya) energy. Yet, He remains unchanged in spite of all these transformations.
  5. The Supreme Lord is eternal (sat), full of knowledge, and bliss (ananda). He is the controller of Maya (illusory potency) that controls the conditioned living entities. The Supreme Lord is omniscient, omnipotent, the controller of everything, the master of everyone, supremely worshipable for all, the bestower of all fruits of actions, and the only cause of all auspiciousness. The eternally conscious Supreme Lord maintains all the other living entities.
  6. The Supreme Lord is eternally liberated and never comes under the jurisdiction of Maya. The conditioned living entities, under the influence of Maya, forget that the Supreme Lord is their eternal master. Identifying themselves with matter these conditioned living beings are covered by ignorance and are subjected to material miseries.
  7. Sri Vishnuswami accepts the eternity of worship, the worshiper and the object of worship.

vishnu vaishnava acharya

Cintya-dvaita-dvaita : Philosophy of one of the great Vaishnava acharyas – Sri Nimbarka Acharya (Kumara Sampradaya) :

In the ‘Nabadwip Dham Mahatmya’ it has been stated that the village of Bilvapaksha (in Nabadwip), also known as Belpukuriya, is non-different to the forest of Bilvavana in Vrindavana. Here some brahmanas had worshipped Lord Shiva, offering him his beloved Bael (or Bilva) leaves. Becoming satisfied Lord Shiva, who was five headed, bestowed upon these brahmanas the supreme science of Krishna consciousness. Sri Nimbaditya was one of them, who was very attentive in his worship. Lord Shiva blessed him and directed him to a sacred Bilva forest at the edge of the village. Lord Shiva revealed that the four kumaras (Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana, and Sanat) were sitting there in meditation. He instructed Nimbaditya to surrender himself unto them, accept them as his spiritual masters and learn the supreme science of devotion from them. Sri Nimbaditya surrendered himself unto the lotus feet of the Kumaras, who were meditating in that forest unseen by others. They happily accepted Nimbaditya as their disciple and instructed him from their book Sanat-Kumara samhita, which enunciated the path of pure devotional service unto Lord Krishna. Nimbaditya thus learned to worship Sri Radha and Krishna filled with sentiments of ecstatic love. Later Nimbarka obtained the darsana of Lord Gauranga in Bilvapaksha and was astounded beholding the wonderful form of the Lord. Nimbarkacharya went on to become the founding Vaishnava acharya of one of the four bonafide Vaishnava sampradayas – Kumara sampradaya.

  1. Both the living entity and the Supreme Lord are unborn and eternal. The individual spirit soul and the Supreme Lord are simultaneously one and different from each other. The living entities are fragmental parts of the Supreme Lord who is the complete whole.
  2. The living entities are eternal and fully cognizant. However, the living entities possess minute consciousness whereas the Supreme Lord is supremely conscious. Everything is related to the Supreme Lord. The minute living entities always act under the direction of the Supremely conscious Lord.
  3. Maya is eternal. The conditioned souls have been entrusted to Maya due to their hostility towards the service of the Supreme Lord. Only by the mercy of the Supreme Lord can the conditioned souls become liberated from the clutches of ignorance.
  4. The entire material creation including the gross and subtle forms of the conditioned souls is an outcome of inert matter. Matter is inferior to spirit and material nature is a perverted reflection of the spiritual nature.
  5. The Supreme absolute truth is stainless and He is devoid of the eighteen defects including illusion, laziness, and the tendency to commit mistakes. He is supremely independent, omnipotent, supreme controller, possessor of inconceivable energies, and is worshiped by great demigods beginning with Brahma and Shiva.
  6. Sri Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and is the source of all beauty and sweetness. The quadruple forms of Lord Hari in Vaikuntha, Goloka, etc are either His direct expansions or expansion of expansions. Krishna is continually served by His internal potency, Radharani. She is assisted by thousands of Gopis who are all Her expansions. Lord Krishna possesses a transcendental form and is the eternal object of worship for all living entities.

krishna vaishnava acharya

Visistadvaita : Teachings of Vaishnava acharya Sri Ramanuja (Sri Sampradaya) :

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In ‘Nabadwip dham mahatmya’ it has been stated that when Ramanuja acharya visited Jagannatha Puri, Lord Jagannatha revealed to him the glories of Lord Gauranga and instructed him to visit the transcendental abode of Nabadwip. ‘Sri Rangam, Sri Venkata, and Yadavachal are simply minor parts of Nabadwip’, the Lord explained. ‘You came to the earth to preach devotion. May your birth be successful by the mercy of Gauranga. See Nabadwip and then go to Kurma Sthan. You will meet your disciples there’, the Lord added. Receiving Jagannatha Swami’s instructions, Ramanuja secretly came to Nabadwip. Ramanuja received darsana of Lord Narayana in Nabadwip. Then the Lord revealed to Ramanuja the enchanting form of Lord Gauranga, beholding which Ramanuja became overwhelmed with divine ecstasy. ‘Ramanuja fainted beholding the luster of the Lord’s form, and Sri Gaura put His feet on Ramanuja’s head’. Ramanuja wanted to stay back at Nabadwip. Lord Gaurahari blessed Ramanuja, and said, ‘When My Pastimes in Nadia manifest, you will be born in Nabadwip once again’. ‘Saying this, Gaurahari disappeared. Satisfied, Ramanuja departed’. After meeting with his disciples, Ramanuja continued to preach Dasya-rasa (love in servitude unto the Supreme Lord) while internally always meditating upon Nabadwip and Sri Gauranga.

  1. ‘Cit’, ‘acit’ and ‘isvara’ – these three eternal truths have been accepted by the visistadvaita Siddhanta. The words ‘cit’ refers to spirit soul, ‘acit’ refers to matter and ‘isvara’ refers to Narayana, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is the controller of both spirit and matter.
  2. The spirit soul or ‘cit’ is distinct from material objects such as the gross body, senses, mind, and life air. He is self-illuminated, unalterable, blissful, eternal, infinitesimal, and is not seen by the blunt material eyes. The soul cannot be cut, pierced, or killed. The spirit soul is fully reliant on the Supreme Lord and is meant to be enjoyed by the Supreme Lord.
  3. The Supreme Lord is the complete whole whereas the individual living entities are His fragmental parts and parcels. As light cannot be separated from its source, similarly the living entities are inseparable from the Supersoul, who is their source.
  4. Because the non-dual Supreme Brahman alone is the cause and effect, all qualities found in the effect are present in Him. Both spirit and matter are the qualities of the effect of the Supreme Brahman, who is their ultimate cause. The body is meant to be regulated for it is the shelter of the spirit soul. In their constitutional positions, there is no difference between spirit souls. The designations of ‘demigod’, ‘human being’, etc are mere adjectives that are conferred, depending upon the particular type of body the soul has received based on his previous Karma (activity).
  5. ‘Acit’ or matter is inert, devoid of knowledge, and changeable. Matter is of three types – suddha sattva, misra tattva, and sattva sunya. ‘Suddha-sattva’ is devoid of the modes of passion (raja) and ignorance (tama). It is eternal, full of knowledge, bliss and devoid of fruitive activities. ‘Suddha-sattva’ is sometimes manifested as the airplanes, palaces, courtyards and the interiors of Vaikuntha (spiritual world). Some people refer to it as matter while some call it ‘anti-matter’.
    ‘Misra-sattva’ is a combination of the three modes of material nature – goodness, passion, and ignorance. It covers the spiritual reality.
    Another name of ‘Sattva-sunya’ is Kala or time. It is a perverted form of material nature and material objects. ‘Kala’ is eternal and assists the pastimes of the Supreme Lord.
    The ‘Suddha-sattva’ is meant for the enjoyment of the Supreme Lord while ‘Misra-sattva’ is meant to be enjoyed by the conditioned living entity. They manifest as ingredients (such as eyes) as well as places (such as the fourteen worlds) for their enjoyment.
  6. Lord Narayana is the Supreme Personality of Godhead who is the cause of creation, maintenance, and destruction of the material worlds. Lord Narayana remains unchanged while transforming Himself into the material worlds or the living entities. Lord Narayana is free from all evil. He is all-auspicious, a reservoir of unlimited transcendental qualities, the life and soul of everyone, pleasant and the proprietor of everything material and well as spiritual. He is the Supreme Brahman, the supersoul and the ultimate goal of all Vedic literatures. He is the master of the potencies known as Sri, Bhu and Nila. Lord Narayana always resides along with His wife Lakshmi devi within the hearts of fully devoted.
  7. In the visistadvaita conclusion of Sri Ramanuja, the complete oneness, the complete difference as well as formal oneness and difference are all refuted.

vaishnava acharya japa

Dvaita vada or Tattva vada: Teachings of Vaishnava acharya Sri Madhvacharya (Brahma Sampradaya) :

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In the ‘Nabadwip dham Mahatmya’ it has been described that Mahatpur of Nabadwip is non-different to the Kamyavan forest of Vrindavana. The Pandavas had visited Bengal, during the period of their exile, when they had to stay incognito. While residing in Ekachakra (birthplace of Lord Nityananda) , Yudhisthira Maharaja, had a dream in which the wonderful glories of Navadvipa dham were revealed to him. Being anxious to behold Navadvipa, the Pandavas soon arrived here and stayed for some time. While living here, they killed many demons. Then another day, Yudhisthira Maharaja had a dream in which Lord Gauranga appeared and bestowed His enchanting mesmerizing darsana unto him.He revealed to him that He is none other than Krishna, the supreme personality of Godhead and Navadvipa is the topmost abode within the entire creation. Thereafter, the Lord ordered the Pandavas to proceed to Jagannatha Puri and alleviate the sufferings of the living entities over there.The Lord assured that the Pandavas shall reunite with Him, in the age of kali, when He will be manifesting His earthly pastimes.

Mahatpur is also the sacred place where Madhvacharya had once come, along with his followers. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu appeared in his dream and revealed to him that he is His eternal servant. The Lord also added that He would be accepting initiation in Madhva’s sampradaya, when He descends to this world in future. The Lord instructed Madhvacharya to worship Him secretly and assured him that he would surely achieve His lotus feet. Madhvacharya then went on with great resolution and defeated the Mayavadi philosophers.

  1. Lord Vishnu alone is the Supreme absolute truth. He is omnipotent, supremely independent, and the objective of all Vedic knowledge. He is unlimited, perfect, and full of transcendental qualities. He is the controller of all controllers.
  2. The material world is real.
  3. The living entities are separate from Lord Vishnu and are His eternal servants.
  4. Attainment of Lord Vishnu’s lotus feet alone is the liberation for the conditioned souls.
  5. Pure worship of Lord Vishnu is the cause of conditioned souls’ liberation.
  6. The three types of evidence are direct perception, hypothesis and the Vedas.

Achintya Bheda-abheda: Teachings of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Sampradaya) :

All the four Vaishnava sampradayas are bonafide and there is a very minute difference between them. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the founder of the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya, accepted two essential principles from each sampradaya and incorporated them into His own sampradaya. In this way He harmonised all the four bonafide sampradayas into a single lineage (Brahma Madhva Gaudiya Sampradaya).

chaitanya mahaprabhu vaishnava

From the Sri Sampradaya, He accepted the following :

  1. The concept of unalloyed devotion free from karma and jnanaananya-bhakti.
  2. Service to the devotees – bhakta-jana-seva.

From the Brahma Sampradaya, He accepted the following :

  1. The complete defeat of the Mayavadi philosophyKeval-advaita-nirasana.
  2. The worship of the deity of Krishna and understanding it to be eternal – krishna-murti-sevana.

From the Rudra Sampradaya, He accepted the following :

  1. The sentiment of total dependence on Krishna – tadiya-sarvasva-bhava
  2. The path of spontaneous devotional service – raga-marga.

From the Kumara sampradaya, He accepted the following :

  1. The need of taking exclusive shelter of Radhika – ekanta-radhikasraya.
  2. The exalted mood of the gopis’ love for Sri Krishna – gopi-bhava.

The principal acharyas of these sampradayas later took birth as Lord Chaitanya’s associates during His manifest pastimes. Ramanuja acharya was born as the devotee named Ananta who lived near Vallabhacharya’s house. Vishnuswami was reborn as Vallabha Bhatta who perfected his own sampradaya by Gauranga’s mercy. Nimbarka of the Kumara-Sampradaya was reborn as the Gaura-bhakta named Keshava Kashmiri.

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu introduced the notion of ‘Achintya Bheda Abheda’ tattva which refers to the inconceivable oneness and difference of the Supreme Person and His various energies. The Lord and His creation are essentially one and different. He is one, in that He is the origin of, and pervades all beings, and He is different, in that His energies have their own independent existence and identity. This independent existence and individual identity accounts for the world of many-ness and variegatedness. The living entities are one with God qualitatively but are different as He is infinite while the living entities are infinitesimal. The individual souls and supersoul are same in quality but different in quantity just like the sun and it’s rays or gold and it’s particles.

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