Nimbaraka: The Disciple of Ramanujacharya and Pioneer of the Radhamadhav Cult

Nimbaraka: The Disciple of Ramanujacharya and Pioneer of the Radhamadhav Cult
Posted on 31-07-2023

Nimbaraka: The Disciple of Ramanujacharya and Pioneer of the Radhamadhav Cult

Nimbaraka, a revered figure in Hindu philosophy, was a devoted disciple of Ramanujacharya, one of the preeminent theologians of Vaishnavism. He played a crucial role in shaping the spiritual landscape by introducing the Radhamadhav cult, a unique tradition centered around the worship of Radha and Madhav (Krishna).

Founding the philosophical doctrine known as Dwita Advaita, Nimbaraka sought to strike a harmonious balance between two prevailing schools of thought, Advaita (non-dualism) and Visishtadvaita (qualified non-dualism). This profound philosophy elucidated the relationship between the individual soul (atma) and the supreme soul (paramatma) while emphasizing their inseparable connection.

Among his notable contributions, Nimbaraka authored the profound works "Dashasloki" and "Vedanta," which delved into the intricate aspects of theology and metaphysics.

Beyond his philosophical pursuits, Nimbaraka also excelled as an accomplished astronomer, demonstrating the versatility of his intellect and interests.

Central to Nimbaraka's philosophy was the belief that human beings were entangled in physical bodies constrained by prakrti (matter). Liberation from the cycle of rebirth could only be attained through complete surrender to Radha-Krishna, rather than solely through individual efforts. The grace of Radha-Krishna was seen as the essential path to emancipation, allowing the physical body to transcend upon death.

Through his teachings and contributions, Nimbaraka left an indelible mark on the spiritual and philosophical landscape of India, and his legacy continues to inspire seekers of truth and divine wisdom.

The current era can be considered one of the most critical phases the world has ever witnessed. There is a rapid erosion of human values, widespread unrest, insecurity, and violence, along with a growing inability to understand each other, all of which threaten the very existence of the universe. The main problem lies in the estrangement of humanity from God, nature, fellow beings, and, most importantly, from their inner selves. In this period of disorder, Nimbarka philosophy can play a unique and essential role. Its essence can help people realize the importance of universal goodwill, world peace, and humanity.

To understand the significance of Nimbarka philosophy, let us first delve into the meaning of philosophy itself. Etymologically, philosophy is an intellectual quest for truth. The Upanishadic part of Vedic literature, known as Vedanta, contains the profound teachings of ancient sages. To organize these doctrines, Rishi Badarayana composed the Brahmasutra. Nimbarka, one of the five principal commentators on the Brahmasutra, developed a philosophical system known as Dvaitadvaita or Svabhavika Bhedabheda.

In his commentaries, Nimbarka discussed three realities: Brahma (the supreme Reality), soul (cit), and matter (acit). According to him, Brahma is the controller, cit (the sentient) is the enjoyer, and acit (non-sentient) is the object of enjoyment. There is a genuine difference between these three realities. Brahma is the cause, while the soul and the universe are its effects. Consequently, we cannot deny the difference between Brahma on one hand and the soul and matter on the other hand. However, Nimbarka emphasizes that this difference is true while also asserting that the non-difference between Brahma, soul, and the world is not false. He teaches that the soul and matter are as true as Brahma Himself, and the relation between them is one of natural difference and non-difference, thus known as Svabhavika Bhedabheda.

Nimbarka philosophy posits that the Jiva (soul) is a part of God, establishing a relationship of difference in identity between the individual soul and God. They are identical and cannot have separate existence from each other. This relationship is likened to that of an ocean and its waves, where there is both identity and difference, as there is between the sun and its light.

According to Nimbarka, the Jiva is pure knowledge and also the resort of knowledge. It possesses limited power and exists separately in each body, making it innumerable. In his integral philosophy, Nimbarka considers the Jiva as a power of God, and the Supreme self, Lord Krishna, is the ultimate resort of the Jiva. Similarly, the universe is also a part of God, with God being the efficient and material cause of the cosmos.

Liberation, the highest spiritual attainment, leads the soul to its ultimate illumination and union with the Supreme Soul through Love. Love, in its various forms, is a crucial component of human values. True love, with its constancy, provides consolation and peace. Nimbarka asserts that any controversy over love arises from ignorance, which is inherent in the individual soul.

Even in liberation, the individual soul remains subordinate to God. The liberated soul acquires divine powers but does not become almighty like God. The power of creation, preservation, and destruction remains exclusive to God.

The Nimbarka Bhakti Movement encompasses five bhavas (moods) – santa, dasya, sakhya, vatsalya, and madhurya, each corresponding to different types of devotees. These bhavas represent various aspects of devotion to Lord Krishna, with Shanta-rasa exemplified by the conduct of yogis, Dasya-rasa portraying the feeling of being a servant to Lord Krishna, Sakhya-rasa representing friendship with Him, Vatsalya-rasa reflecting the parental love for Krishna, and Madhura-rasa signifying the romantic love between Krishna and His beloved devotees.

In this turbulent society, the role of a Guru (spiritual Master) is of utmost importance for those seeking liberation. The Guru is the one in whom the secret of spiritual knowledge lies hidden. Through a Guru's guidance, individuals can overcome ignorance and the sufferings of the world by dedicating themselves to Lord Krishna and rendering constant service.

The Nimbarka Sampradaya (sect) emphasizes character-building activities and social-service-oriented devotional practices, attracting more and more young individuals and helping them overcome life's hurdles. Devotion to Lord Krishna, living an honest life, practicing a life style in the mode of goodness (sattva-guna), treating all living beings with compassion, practicing non-violence, and engaging in welfare-oriented activities are the characteristics of the Nimbarka Sampradaya.

Nimbarka philosophy offers profound insights and teachings that can lead individuals towards universal goodwill, world peace, and humanity. It emphasizes the importance of true love, devotion to Lord Krishna, and the guidance of a Guru in overcoming the challenges of the modern era and attaining spiritual liberation.

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