Shri Nimbarka Sampradaya is the first of the Vedantic Vaishnava traditions. Vaishnavism is a religion within Hindu culture which occurs simultaneously with Sanatana Vaidika Dharma. The main focus is Lord Krishna who is acknowledged throughout the Vedic literature as the Supreme Lord. Within Vaisnavism, there are only FOUR BONAFIDE Vaisnava schools. (Later schools claim authenticity by claiming to be offshoots of these four). Nimbarka Sampradaya is first, followed by 11th Century CE Ramanuja Sampradaya (Shri Sampradaya), 13th Century CE Madhva Sampradaya (Brahma Sampradaya) and 16th Century CE Pushti Maarga / Vallabha Sampradaya (Rudra Sampradaya).
Shri Hamsa Bhagavan – Shri Radha Krishna Bhagavan incarnates to start off the teachings of this Sampradaya.
In the 11th Canto of the Shrimad Bhagavatam, Lord Brahmas sons (Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana and Sanat Kumara – the four Mind-born eldest sons of Brahma) ask him a question pertaining to Shri Krsna. Unable to answer it, Lord Brahma meditates on the Lord, and the gracious Lord incarnates as Shri Hansa Bhagavan, the Swan incarnation of Shri Radha Krsna.
Shri Sanakadi Bhagavan – Sanat, Sanandan, Sanatana and Sanat Kumar Bhagavan
The four mind-born sons of Brahma were created at the very beginning of creation by Brahma Ji, one for each direction. His orders were to go and procreate – however, these beings were enlightened, and instead took a vow to remain five-year-old celibate Brahmacharins and devoted themselves to the Lord.
Brahma Ji was annoyed at first, but afterwards he cooled down. When they asked him a question regarding Shri Radha Krishna in the form of the all-pervading Supersoul, Brahma could not reply. Hamsa Bhagavan incarnated and taught the great sages about the glories of Shri Radha Krishna, their nitya lila (eternal pastimes). He initiated them into Vaishnavism, and gave them the all supreme Shri Gopal Mantra Raja, and the Sharanagati Mantra. He also gave them the Shri Shri Radha Sarveshvara Shaligram Shila Bhagavan to worship and serve. Shri Sanakadi Bhagavan then practised many austerities and had Darshana of the Supreme Lord Shri Shri Radha Sarveshvara through their worship of the Lord in this form. They composed a treatise on worship of the Lord in the feeling of a humble Gopi known as the Sanat Kumar Samhita. They have attained entry into the Nitya Lila and serve as Sakhis of the Lord.
Devarshi Shri Narada Muni Bhagavan
Shri Narada Muni was the younger brother of the quadruplets Shri Sanakadi Bhagavan. When he saw that they were supremely blissful, he realised they had attained enlightenment – Para Bhakti. He requested them to become his Guru; and they assented. Shri Sanakadi Bhagavan initiated Shri Narada Bhagavan. They passed on Shri Sarveshvara Bhagavan (the Original Shaligram Shila) to Narada Muni for him to serve and worship. They also instructed him about the worship of the Lord from the feelings of a Gopi, and also about Vedanta as they had themselves learned from Shri Hansa Bhagvan. Svabhavika Dvaitadvaita – simultaneous unity in diversity is the correct means by which all of the Vedic literature can be understood and they imparted this to Narada Bhagavan. They also initiated him into the highest Mantra – the Shri Gopala Mantra as well as the Sharanagati Mantra. From then, Shri Narada Bhagavan became completely devoted and wanders around the world spreading the glories of Shri Radha Sarveshvara Bhagavan through Kirtan and teachings. He also attained entry into the Nitya Lila.
Jagadguru Aadya Shri Nimbarkacharya Bhagavan
At the VERY beginning of time, Shri Radha Krsna expanded into four emanations called VYUHAS. Of them, Shri Aniruddha later became the Sudarshana Chakra – the discus weapon of Shri Krishna. He always saved devotees from calamities and cut away their ignorance so they could experience devotion to the Lord. One day, he requested the Lord that he too could experience devotion. Shri RadhaKrsna blessed him and told him to spread the devotion of the Lord to those who had lost their way.
He incarnated on the earth on Kartik Purnima,BCE. He was born to Aruna Rishi and Jayanti Mata in Aruna Ashram, Vaidurya Pattanam, Maharashtra, India. He was known as Aruni, Niyamananda and Havirdhana. Within a short period of time, he mastered all the scriptures and set off with his parents at the age of to Govardhan to have Darshan of the Lord. On the way, he visited Dwaraka Dham, where he established the branding of the Shankha and Chakra; and also to Jagannatha Puri in Orissa, where much later on the great 12th Century CE poet Shri Jayadeva Kavi would spread his teachings. When he reached Govardhana, he chose a place in between Barsana Dham and Shri Govardhana called Nimba Grama. In the forest of Neem trees he built his Ashram, and there practised austerities by simply drinking only a mouthful of neem juice every day.
Seeing his austerity, Brahma came on the scene in the guise of a sannyasi who would only eat during the daytime. After being engaged in discussions for sometime, Niyamananda realised he had not offered his guest any food, and already the sun had set. When braught food, the sannyasi said that time had passed – but Niyamananda manifested the Sudarshan Chakra between the neem trees and said that the sun had not yet set. Seeing this wonder, the sannyasi revealed himself as Brahma and blessed Niyamananda saying that from today, you shall be world famous as Nimbarka – the one who produced the sun between the neem trees. You shall spread the devotion of the Lord across the world.
Narada Muni happened to visit the brilliant Nimbarka during his austerities. He initiated Nimbarka into the Shri Gopala Mantra and Sharanagati Mantra, taught him about Svabhavika Dvaitadvaita Vedanta and gave him the Shri Radha Sarveshvara Shaligram Bhagavan. After some more secret instructions, Shri Narada Muni gave him the name Shri Haripriyacharya and left his new disciple to carry on austerities.
Shri Narada Muni passes on the Shri Radha Sarveshvara Shalagrama Shila Bhagavan to Shri Nimbarkacharya for him to serve and worship.
After this, he began to worship the Lord as Shri Radha Sarveshvara (Shri Radha Krishna) and the Lord gave him Darshana. From that time, he preached devotion to Shri Radha Krsna, the importance of worshipping in the humble mood of a devotee Gopi and the correct understanding of Scripture through Svabhavika Dvaitadvaita Siddhanta. He purified many buddhists and jains who realised they had left their Sanatana Dharma wrongly, and gained much respect in Vrindavan and Vraja Mandala at large. He had four main disciples – Shri Gauramukhacharya, Shri Audumbaracharya, Shri Lakshmana Bhatta and Shri Shrinivasa Bhagavan.
Bhagavan Shri Nimbarkacharya is mentioned at the end of the Sutras written by his own Guru, Shri Narada Muni. In these sutras, known as the Narada Bhakti Sutras, Shri Narada Muni says that Shri Aaruneya (the son of Aruna Rishi i.e. Shri Nimbarka) is one of the foremost Acharyas regarding devotion – on a par to Shri Hanuman Ji and Shri Garuda Ji.
Shri Nimbarka Bhagavan wrote many commentaries. The Vedanta Parijata Saurabha was written as a simple elucidation of the Dvaitadvaita Siddhanta of Vedanta. He also wrote a condensed Vedanta Kamadhenu Dashashloki which covers all the subject matter of Vedanta in ten simple stanzas for the devotees. He wrote the Rahasya Mimamsa on ritual of which the Prapanna Kalpavalli and the Mantra Rahasya Shodashi are the only surviving parts of it. They deal with the greatness of the two Mantras that were given to him by Narada Muni – the Shri Gopala Mantra and the Sharanagati Mantra. Both of these mantras are given to disciples at the time of initiation into our Sampradaya. He wrote the Shri Radhashtakam and Pratah Smarana Stotram as well as the Shri Krsnashtakam. These are all available today. His commentary on the Gita, on Manduka and Mandukya Upanishads along with a treatment of the Visnu Purana are lost.
Just to summarise: Shri Nimbarka Bhagavan is singlehandedly responsible for teaching the worship of the divine couple Shri Shri Radha Krishna to the world. HE IS THE FIRST TO DO SO on the earth. No other teacher taught this doctrine on this earth before him. Followers of His teachings and those influenced by the beautiful ideals helped to proliferate the idea in poetry and other literature, such as Jayadev Kavi who wrote the Gita Govinda based on these ideals; and it was itself adopted by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Vallabhacharya into their theology.
Shri Nimbarka Bhagavan, although being the incarnation of the Sudarshana Chakra and thus of Aniruddha Bhagavan was not only pure Krsna tattva. Shri Krsna’s emanations are the Chaturvyuhas, and Shrimati Radhika Devi’s emanations are the Sakhis. Shri Rangadevi Sakhi is one of themain sakhis in the eternal lila, and Nimbarka Bhagavan is a combined incarnation of Shri Aniruddha and Shri Rangadevi Sakhi – in other words, Shri Nimbarka Bhagavan is an incarnation of the complete and full Lord.
Shri Nimbarka Bhagavan propagated Sakhi Bhava/Gopi Bhava/Madhurya Bhava Upasana/Bhakti as the highest form of devotion as per his Gurudev’s instructions. There is no better example of devotion than that of the Vraja Gopis, and Shri Nimbarka says that for the highest devotion, one must resolve to thinking of pleasing the Lord as the Divine Couple whilst carrying out our daily duties.
Devotion to ones Guru and to Shri Radha Krishna, thinking oneself to be serving the Lord at all times and behaving accordingly (just like the Gopis), Japa and Keertana as the main paths of devotion, and just being a nice, compassionate Human being… these are the main (condensed) teachings of Bhagavan Shri Nimbarkacharya.
Bhagavan Shri Shrinivasacharya
Shri Shrinivasacharya is the incarnation of the Panchajanya Shankha of Lord Shri Krsna. At first, Shri Shrinivasa was a challenging Pandita who wanted to challenge Shri Nimbarkacharyas doctrine, but once he saw the perfectness of the solution of Shri Nimbarkacharya, he immediately submitted; and being the incarnation of the Shankha, he inwardly knew that this was none other than his own Brother and fellow servant of the Lord. Having taken initiation from Him, Shri Nimbarkacharya Bhagavan instructed him to go to Radha Kunda in Govardhana to practise his devotional austerities. Shri Shrinivasa asked for something which would please the Lord, and so Shri Nimbarkacharya composed the Shri Radhashtakam. Althought by worshipping either Shri Radha or Shri Krishna alone, one will worship both of them as they are inherent in eachother, Shri Shrinivasa wanted to help teach all other disciples, so Shri Shrinivasa reminded him that we teach the worship of the Conjoined/Unified Lord as Shri Radha Krishna; and so Shri Nimbarkacharya composed the Shri Krishnashtakam aswell.
Having gone to Shri Radha Kunda, he achieved the darshan and blessings of Shri Shri Radha Sarveshvara, and returned to his Guru Maharaj. Shri Nimbarka recognised that his disciple had achieved the darshana of the Lord and could see that he was now ready to take over. He handed him the deity of Shri Shri Radha Sarveshvara Shaligram Bhagavan and anointed him as the next Jagadguru of our Sampradaya. Before Shri Nimbarka Bhagavan re-entered the Vaikuntha Leela as Sudarshana Chakra and the Nitya Lila as Rangadevi Sakhi; Shri Nimbarka asked Shrinivasacharya to expound on his very concise Brahma Sutra commentary so that it could be accessible to all.
He completed this in the famous Vedanta Kaustubha; an indepth analysis of Vedanta, proving that the only sensible way that one can interpret it is through Svabhavika Dvaitadvaita Siddhanta. Indeed, he shows that this is THE philosophy by which Shri Vedavyasa wrote his Brahma Sutras; indeed, it is the philosophy of the Upanishads, Geeta and Veda. He also composed a Laghustavaraja prayer ofverses dedicated to his Guru, Shri Nimbarka Bhagavan.