The Vaishnava Sampradayas

By Srila BR Sridhara Deva Goswami

There are four Vaishnava Sampradayas; I am only giving a summary here. Nimbarka’s teaching is known as dvaitadvaita; Madhvacarya’s, dvaita; Visnuswami’s, suddhadvaita; and Ramanuja’s, visisthadvaita.

Ramanuja’s sampradaya is known as Sri sampradaya, it is coming from Sri, Laxmidevi; Madhvacarya’s sampradaya is coming from Lord Brahma; Rudra, Siva, is the source of the Visnuswami sampradaya, and Nimbarka’s sampradaya stems from Catuhsana, the four Kumaras. Sridhar Swami, the renowned commentator of Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam, belongs to the teachings of suddhadvaita. And the Vallabha sampradaya also springs up from there; it is a branch from the same.

In the teachings of the Nimbarka sampradaya, known as dvaitadvaita-vada, both difference (dvaita) and oneness (advaita) between the Lord and his energies are accepted, but this is not qualified as acintya, inconceivable. Mahaprabhu’s philosophy is also of bhedabheda, oneness and difference, but the necessary qualification is given: acintya. The demarcation between the two—the oneness and the difference—is not in the hand of anybody, it is reserved with him, with the Lord. Whatever we find, whatever is existing, is, in general, existing as both common with, and different from, him, the Absolute; but that is not a rigid thing. It depends on him; he can change the line of demarcation anytime, anywhere. The line of demarcation is acintya. Where that line may be, where it happens one time, we should not think that it will happen that way every time. It depends on the sweet will of the ultimate reality. So, Nimbarka’s’ dvaitadvaita is very akin to Mahaprabhu’s acintya-bhedabheda, though with this difference.

Another distinction is that though the object of worship in Nimbarka’s line is Radha-Krishna, and up to madhurya-rasa, they do not accept the play of parakiya-bhava, paramour love. Between the Nimbarka and Gaudiya sampradayas, the difference is the acceptance of parakiya, such as is shown in the madhyana-lila, the noontime pastimes of Radha and Krishna.

The Nimbarkas also are more concerned with, and more fond of, arcana, worship, performed strictly according to the scriptures. The viddhi, the laws, regulations, is the principal thing for them. In the Gaudiya sampradaya, the strictness of the viddhi is a little slackened, with affection, love, having the better part.

Such a mood of affectionate worship is there also in the Vallabha sampradaya, the line of suddhadvaita. They do not like to even use the word “arcane”, but they say “seva”, as we do. We speak of seva, that is, raga-marga: that with affection we shall serve, and not according to the strict, scriptural rules. The Vallabha sampradaya has this in common with us also.

And there is also the Ramanandi sampradaya, which though springing from the Ramanuja sampradaya, is yet a deviation, because we find in Ramananda himself, and later in Tulasi das, a greater rigidity in asceticism. Asceticism has a bigger part in them, and also the tendency towards salvation, towards liberation, moksa.

The four sampradayas also have their respective bhasyas, their commentaries, on Vedanta. Nimbarka has his Parijad-bhasya; Madhvacarya has his bhasya; Ramanuja has got his own commentary, Sri-bhasya by name; Visnuswami also has got his bhasya, and Sridhar Swami also follows that line. The Gaudiya sampradaya has got its own commentary, Govinda-bhasya. These are interpretations, different types of interpretation of Vedanta, Brahma-sutra, but all are theistic. These four, and their branches, are all theistic.


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