Śrīla Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa
[May 30, 2023 is the disappearance day of Śrīla Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is an excerpt from a bhāva anuvāda of the kathā given by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja on June 8, 2014. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]
Today is a very special day; it is the appearance day of Gaṅgāmātā Gosvāminī and the disappearance day of Śrīla Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa. It is essential to remember Vaiṣṇavas on their appearance and disappearance days; this act of remembrance is a limb of bhakti and failing to remember them on their tithis is considered an offence.
Śrīla Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa appeared in Odisha in the Khaṇḍayat kula (caste). After completing his initial education there, he proceeded to Karnāṭaka [Mysore], where he studied the Vedānta and other scriptures and then went on to various other places across India continuing his study of scriptures. Eventually, he reached Vṛndāvana, where he studied Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and Bhagavad-gītā under the tutelage of Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, whom he accepted as his śikṣā-guru.
ESTABLISHING THE LEGITIMACY OF THE GAUḌĪYA VAIṢṆAVA-SAMPRADĀYA
Once, the King of Jaipur, who had accepted Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura as his spiritual master, and hence belonged to the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava-sampradāya, was faced with a challenge from the scholars from other sampradāyas like Rāmānuja-sampradāya, Nimbārka-sampradāya and Viṣṇuswāmī-sampradāya, to prove the legitimacy of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava-sampradāya. They did not consider the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava-sampradāya as sātvata [bona fide] as it did not have any commentary on the Vedānta, although it had commentaries on Bhagavad-gītā, the Upaniṣadas and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. [In traditional Vedāntic circles, it is an accepted custom that for any sampradāya to be considered authentic, it should have its own commentary on prasthāna-traya. Prasthāna-traya refers to the three canonical texts of the Vedic philosophy comprising Bhagavad-gītā, the ten principal Upaniṣadas and the Vedānta-sūtras. Thus the Rāmānandīs were contesting that the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas should give up the service of the Deities of Govinda and Gopīnātha, entrusting it to members of a bona fide sampradāya.]
The King of Jaipur was now faced with a predicament. He sent word to his guru pādapadma, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, asking for his intervention. [Playing the part of] Being incapacitated due to his advanced age, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura could not travel to Jaipur in person and hence he sent his scholarly disciple, Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa, in his stead.
It was the opinion of Śrī Caitanya-deva that there is no need to write any commentary on the Vedanta-sūtra as Vedavyāsa, the ādi-guru, has written [in the Garuḍa Purāṇa]:
artho ’yaṁ brahma-sūtrāṇāṁ bhāratārtha-vinirṇayaḥ
gāyatrī-bhāṣya-rūpo ’sau vedārtha-paribṛṁhitaḥ
purāṇānāṁ sāma-rūpaḥ sākṣād-bhagavatoditaḥ
dvādaśa-skandha-yukto ’yaṁ śata-viccheda-saṁyutaḥ
grantho ’ṣṭādaśa-sāhasraḥ śrīmad-bhāgavatābhidhaḥ
["Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the authorized explanation of the Brahma-sūtra (or Vedanta-sūtra), and it is a further explanation of the Mahābhārata. It is the explanation of the Gāyatrī mantra and the essence of all Vedic knowledge. This Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, containing eighteen thousand verses, is known as the explanation of all Vedic literature."]
It is clearly stated herein: vedārtha-paribṛṁhitaḥ i.e. the meaning of the Vedas has been explained elaborately in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.
Hence, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu had asserted that the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam itself is the natural commentary on the Vedas, and so there is no need to write anything anew.
But now, in Jaipur, upon the insistence of the other sampradāyas, Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa contemplated, ‘If I were to write a commentary, will I be going against the instructions of Mahāprabhu and become an offender at His lotus feet? What shall I do in such a situation?’ Then he remembered Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī who had been requested by Śrī Haridāsa Gosvāmī to compose the additional pastimes of Mahāprabhu such as the sannyāsa pastimes, etc. which were left undescribed by Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura in his book, Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata.
Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī was in a dilemma. He considered, ‘In this advanced age, my eyes cannot see properly, my hands shake and my ears are barely functional. In this situation, what shall I do? A Vaiṣṇava is guru and 'ājñā gurūṇāṁ avicāraṇīyā' - guru's instructions must be followed without any deliberation.’ Then Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī went to the temple of Śrī Madana-mohana, who is sambandha-ādideva (the bestower of knowledge of one’s relationship with the Supreme Lord) and fell at His lotus feet, praying for guidance and remained there waiting for His instructions. Then the garland of Śrī Madana-mohana loosened and dropped and the pūjārī, Gosāi Dāsa, gave that prasadī garland to Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī. Accepting this as Madana-mohana's sanction, he later wrote:
ei grantha lekhāya more 'madana-mohana'
āmāra likhana yena śukera paṭhana
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi 8.78)
[Actually Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta is not my writing but the dictation of Śrī Madana-mohana. My writing is like the repetition of a parrot.]
My writing is like śukera paṭhana, the repetition of a parrot. Śuka is a bird which repeats what it hears. So I write what Śrī Madana-mohana speaks to me.
Śrīla Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa went to the temple of Govinda-deva, who is the abhidheya devatā, and fell at His feet in prayer. In sanction, Govinda-deva's garland fell. Thus, he named his commentary on Vedanta-sūtra 'Govinda-bhāṣya' indicating – “These are not my words; I have written whatever Govinda-deva made me write.” He was given a month's time to compose the commentary, but he completed it much sooner, and it eventually became the topmost commentary. Śrīla Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa wrote that the same Lord Śrī Caitanya-deva, who disapproved of writing any commentary on the Vedanta-sūtra, has now, as Govinda-deva, ordered me to write the commentary –'Govinda-bhāṣya'.
So glorious is his writing, that it was even accepted by the Oxford University. A professor from Śāntiniketan, who had been to Oxford mentioned that he found an English translation of the ‘Govinda-bhāṣya’ there, although it was not available in India. Some verses from Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta were also mentioned in it, so he got inspired to read Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta. Later when he acquired a copy and read the Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, he became a Vaiṣṇava. He personally related this incident to us in an assembly which was convened on the occasion of the inauguration of Mahāprabhu’s temple.
Śrīla Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa has also written Gītā-bhāṣya, a commentary on Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā, among numerous other scriptures. Thus, these stalwart Vaiṣṇavas contributed greatly to firmly establish the Gauḍīya conceptions and teachings, like Jīva Gosvāmī did through the Ṣaṭ-sandarbhas.
There is one Deity, [Vijaya Gopāla], at Galtā [whose worship was established by Śrīla Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa].
Śrīla Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa installed the large Deity of Śyāmasundara in the Śyāmasundara temple [Vṛndāvana]. The smaller Deity of Śyāmasundara on the altar there was manifested by Śyāmānanda Prabhu.
STUPENDOUS POWER OF THE MERCY OF THE VAIṢṆAVAS
On today's tithi, Śrīla Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa disappeared from this material realm. So we will remember him, and pray for his mercy, because without the mercy of Vaiṣṇavas, we can never attain hari-bhakti and we can never be liberated from māyā's grip. Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī wrote in Śrī Manaḥ-śīkṣa:
pratiṣṭhāśā dhṛṣṭā svapaca-ramaṇī me hṛdi naṭet
katham-sādhu-premā spṛśati śucir etan nanu manaḥ
sadā tvam-sevasva prabhu-dayita-sāmantam atulaḿ
yathā tām-niṣkāsya tvaritam iha tam-veṣayati saḥ
[O mind, how can pure divine love appear in my heart as long as the shameless dog-eating, outcaste woman of the desire for prestige is audaciously dancing there? Therefore always remember and serve the immeasurably powerful commanders of the army of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the beloved devotees of the Lord. They will at once banish this outcaste woman and initiate the flow of immaculate vraja-prema in your heart.]
As long as the untouchable woman in the form of pratiṣṭhāśā (desire for name and fame) is dancing in my heart, how will the touch of the pure love of sādhus touch me? So is there no solution? Yes, there is. ‘sadā tvam- sevasva prabhu-dayita-sāmantam atulaḿ’, always serve prabhu-dayita-sāmantam. Sāmantam means the senāpati or the commander-in-chief of the army. Their work is to fight and drive out the enemies and make the country free from danger. So they will fight and drive out the enemies, like this unchaste woman sitting in our heart and make the heart a place where prema, love for God, can dwell.
Who are these commanders-in-chief? Rūpa-Sanātana, they are the senāpatis of the Vaiṣṇavas. When one is in the shelter of the Vaiṣṇavas, when one is surrendered to the Vaiṣṇavas, there can be no fear or danger. The three great impediments in hari-bhakti are kanaka, kāmini and pratiṣṭhā. One may give up kanaka and kāmini, but victory over pratiṣṭhā is very difficult. But wherever the mercy of the Vaiṣṇavas prevails, there is no fear or danger. Therefore, it is very essential to surrender to the Vaiṣṇavas.