The Nimbarka Sampradaya (IAST: Nimbārka Sampradāya, Sanskrit निम्बार्क सम्प्रदाय), also known as the Hamsa Sampradāya, Kumāra Sampradāya, Catuḥ Sana Sampradāya and Sanakādi Sampradāya, is one of the four Vaiṣṇava Sampradāyas. It was founded by Nimbarka (c.7th century CE), and teaches the Vaishnava theology of Dvaitadvaita (dvaita-advaita) or "dualistic non-dualism." Dvaitadvaita states that humans are both different and non-different from Isvara, God or Supreme Being, and is also known as Bhedābheda (bheda-abheda) philosophy.
According to tradition, the Nimbarka Sampradaya Dvait-advait philosophy was revealed by Śrī Hansa Bhagavān to Sri Sankadi bhagwan, one of the Four Kumaras; who passed it to Sri Narada Muni; and then on to Nimbarka. The Four Kumaras, Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanātana, and Sanat Kumāra, are traditionally regarded as the four mind-born sons of Lord Brahmā. They were created by Brahmā in order to advance creation, but chose to undertake lifelong vows of celibacy (brahmacarya), becoming renowned yogis, who requested from Brahma the boon of remaining perpetually five years old. Śrī Sanat Kumāra Samhitā, a treatise on the worship of Śrī Rādhā Kṛṣṇa, is attributed to the brothers, just like the Śrī Sanat Kumāra Tantra, which is part of the Pancarātra literature.
In the creation-myth of this universe as narrated by the Paurāṇika literature, Śrī Nārada Muni is the younger brother of the Four Kumāras, who took initiation from his older brothers. Their discussions as guru and disciple are recorded in the Upaniṣads with a famous conversation in the Chāndogya Upaniṣad, and in the Śrī Nārada Purāṇa and the Pañcarātra literature.
Nārada Muni is recorded as main teacher in all four of the Vaiṣṇava Sampradāyas. According to tradition, he initiated Śrī Nimbārkācārya into the sacred 18-syllabled Śrī Gopāla Mantra, and introduced him to the philosophy of the Yugala upāsana, the devotional worship of the divine couple Śrī Rādhā Kṛṣṇa. According to tradition, this was the first time that Śrī Rādhā Kṛṣṇa were worshipped together by anyone on earth other than the Gopis of Vṛndāvana. Śrī Nārada Muni then taught Nimbarka the essence of devotional service in the Śrī Nārada Bhakti Sūtras. Śrī Nimbārkācārya already knew the Vedas, Upaniṣads and the rest of the scriptures, but perfection was found in the teachings of Śrī Nārada Muni.
According to the Bhavishya Purana, and his eponymous tradition, the Nimbārka Sampradāya, Śrī Nimbārkāchārya appeared in the year 3096 BCE, when the grandson of Arjuna was on the throne. Nimbarka is conventionally dated at the 12th or 13th century, but this dating has been questioned, suggesting that Nimbarka lived somewhat earlier than Shankara, in the 6th or 7th century CE.
According to Roma Bose, Nimbarka lived in the 13th century, on the presupposition that Śrī Nimbārkāchārya was the author of the work Madhvamukhamardana. Bhandarkar has placed him after Ramanuja, suggesting 1162 AD as the date of his demise. S.N.Dasgupta dated Nimbarka to around middle of 14th century, while S. A. A. Rizvi assigns a date of c.1130–1200 AD.
According to Satyanand, Bose's dating of the 13th century is an erroneous attribution, Malkovsky notes that in Bhandarkar's own work it is clearly stated that his dating of Nimbarka was an approximation based on an extremely flimsy calculation; yet most scholars chose to honour his suggested date, even until modern times. According to Malkovsky, the latest scholarship has demonstrated with a high degree of clarity that Nimbarka and his immediate disciple Shrinivasa flourished well before Ramanuja (1017–1137 CE), arguing that Shrinivasa was a contemporary, or just after Sankaracarya (early 8th century). According to Ramnarace, summarising the available research, Nimbarka must be dated in the 7th century CE.
According to tradition, Nimbārka was born in Vaidūryapattanam, the present-day Mungi Village, Paithan in East Maharashtra. His parents were Aruṇa Ṛṣi and Jayantī Devī. Together, they migrated to Mathurā and settled at what is now known as Nimbagrāma (Neemgaon), situated between Barsānā and Govardhan.
The Nimbarka Sampradaya is based on Nimbarka's Dvait-advait philosophy, duality and nonduality at the same time, or dualistic non-dualism.
According to Nimbarka, there are three categories of existence, namely Isvara (God, Divine Being); cit (jiva, the individual soul); and acit (lifeless matter). Cit and acit are different from Isvara, in the sense that they have attributes (Guna) and capacities (Swabhaava), which are different from those of Isvara. At the same time, cit and acit are not different from Isvara, because they cannot exist independently of Him. Isvara is independent and exists by Himself, while cit and acit exist in dependence upon Him. Difference means a kind of existence which is separate but dependent, (para-tantra-satta-bhava); while non-difference means impossibility of separate existence (svatantra-satta-bhava).
According to Nimbarka, the relation between Brahman, on the one hand, and the souls (cit) and universe (acit) on the other, is a relation of natural difference-non-difference (svabhavika-bhedabheda). Nimbarka equally emphasises both difference and non-difference, as against Ramanuja, who makes difference subordinate to non-difference, in as much as, for him cit and acit do not exist separately from Brahman, but are its body or attributes.
Nimbarka accepts parinamavada, the idea that the world is a real transformation (parinama) of Brahman, to explain the cause of animate and inanimate world, which he says exist in a subtle form in the various capacities (saktis), which belong to Brahman in its natural condition. Brahman is the material cause of the universe, in the sense that Brahman brings the subtle rudiments into the gross form, by manifesting these capacities.
For Nimbarka the highest object of worship is Krishna and His consort Radha, attended by thousands of gopi's, or cowherdesses, of the celestial Vrindavan. Devotion, according to Nimbarka, consists in prapatti, or self-surrender.
The Highest Reality, according to Nimbarka, is Brahman, Krishna or Hari, a personal God. There is nothing that is equal to Him, nothing that is superior. He is the Lord of all, and Controller of all. He is called Brahman because of the unsurpassed greatness of His nature and qualities, because He is beyond any limit of any kind of space, time or thing.
Brahman is the sole cause of creation, maintenance and destruction of the Universe. All beings arise from Him, nothing is superior to Him. The Lord alone is the first cause, the manifestor of all names and forms, and none else.
This Brahman is both the upadana (material cause) and the Nimitta (efficient cause). It is the material cause in the sense that it enables its natural saktis, viz. the cit and the acit in their subtle forms, to be manifested in gross forms; and it is the efficient cause in the sense that it unites the individual souls with their respective fruits of actions and means of enjoyments.
Nimbarka discusses two aspects of Brahman. On one hand, Brahman is eternal and great, the greatest of the great, the highest of the high, the creator, etc. of the Universe, high above the individual soul, of which He is the Lord and the ruler. But, on the other aspect He is the abode of infinite beauty, bliss and tenderness, and in intimate connection with the soul. He is the abode of supreme peace, supreme grace, and the ocean of all sweetness and charms.
Thus, Brahman possessed of attributes and adorable by all, has four forms or vyuhas (i.e., Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha) and appears under various incarnation as Matsya, Kurma etc.
The cit or individual soul is of the nature of knowledge (jnana-svarupa); it is able to know without the help of the sense-organs and it is in this sense that words like prajnana-ghanah svayamjyotih jnanamayah etc. as applied to jiva are to be understood. The jiva is the knower also; and he can be both knowledge and the possessor of knowledge at the same time, just as the sun is both light and the source of light. Thus the soul, who is knowledge, and his attribute, knowledge, though they are both identical as knowledge, can be at the same time different and related as the qualified (dharmin) and the quality (dharma), just as the sun and his light, though identical as light (taijasa), are still different from each other. Thus there is both a difference and a non-difference between the dharmin and dharma; and the extreme similarity between them implies, not necessarily their absolute identity, but only a non-perception of their difference.
The jiva is also ego (ahamarthah). This ego continues to persist not only in the state of deep sleep, (because our consciousness immediately after getting up from sleep has the form slept happily or knew nothing) but also in the state of liberation. It even belongs to the Parabrahman. Hence it is that Krishna refers to Himself so frequently in the first person in the Gita, of which the chief object is thus Purusottama, who is omniscient and at the same time non-different from the ego or asmadartha.
The jiva is also essentially active (kartr). This quality belongs to it in all its conditions, even after release. But the kartrtva is not independent. The jiva is also enjoyer (bhoktr) essentially in all its conditions.
For his knowledge and activity, however, the jiva depends on Hari; thus, though resembling Him in being intelligent and knower, he is at the same time distinguished from him by his dependence. This quality of dependence or of being controlled (niyamyatva) is the very nature of jiva even in the state of release, just as niyamyatva or the quality of being the controller, forms the eternal nature of Isvara.
The jiva is atomic in size; at the same time his attribute, knowledge, is omnipresent, which makes it possible that he can experience pleasure and pain in any part of the body, just as, for instance, the light of a lamp can spread far and wide and illumine objects away from the lamp. The Jivas are different and in different bodies, and so are infinite in number.
The acit is of three different kinds: viz. prakrta, aprakrta, and kala. Prakrta, or what is derived from Prakrti, the primal matter, aprakrta is defined negatively as that which is not the product of prakrti, but its real nature is not clearly brought out. These three categories in their subtle forms are as eternal as the cit or the individual souls.
[Nimbarka does not explain what exactly the aprakrta is, nor does he define kala more precisely, beyond noticing, as pointed out above, that the aprakrta and the kala are species of the acit. But, Purusottamacarya of the Nimbarka school has, in his Vedantaratna-manjusa, described acit aprakrta as the material cause of the dhama(celestial abode) of Brahman and the bodies and ornaments etc.of Brahman and his associates.]
Prakrti, or the primal matter-the stuff of the entire universe is real and eternal like the individual souls, and like them, though eternal and unborn, has yet Brahman for its cause. It consists of the three qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas, such as prakrit, mahat, ahankara etc. (just similar to 24 principles of the Sankhyas).
The jiva has his true form distorted and obscured owing to his contact with karma resulting from ignorance, which is beginningless, but which can come to an end, by the grace of God, when its true nature is fully manifested. Ignorance is a part of God and is the basis of cosmic manifestation i.e. the arising of God with attributes.
To attain deliverance, the jiva has to commence with a complete submission to the Paramatman, or prapatti, whose six constituents are:
God's grace extends itself to those who are possessed of these 6 constituents of prapatti, i.e., who are prapanna; and by that grace is generated bhakti consisting of special love for him, which ultimately ends in the realisation (saksatkara) of the Paramatman. For a devotee knowledge of the following 5 things is quite necessary:
The basic practice consists of the worship of Sri Radha Madhav, with Sri Radha being personified as the inseparable part of Sri Krishna. Nimbarka refers to five methods to salvation, namely karma (ritual action); vidya (knowledge); upasana or dhyana (meditation); prapatti (surrender to the Lord/devotion); Gurupasatti (devotion and self-surrender to God as Shri Radha Krsna).
Performed conscientiously in a proper spirit, with one's varna (caste) and asrama (phase of life) thereby giving rise to knowledge which is a means to salvation).
Not as a subordinate factor of karma but also not as an independent means for everyone; only for those inclined to spending vast lengths of time in scriptural study and reflection on deeper meanings.
It is of three types. First is meditation on the Lord as one's self, i.e. meditation on the Lord as the Inner Controller of the sentient. Second is meditation on the Lord as the Inner Controller of the non-sentient. Final one is meditation on Lord Himself, as different from the sentient and non-sentient. This is again not an independent means to Salvation for all, as only those qualified to perform the upasana (with Yajnopavitam) can perform this Sadhana.
Devotion and self-surrender to God as Shri Radha Krsna. This method of attaining Salvation, known as Prapatti Sadhana, contains elements of all the other means, and is most importantly, available to all. Men, women, foreigners, all classes and castes (or non-castes) are permitted to seek liberation through this, the most important Sadhana. It is referred to as Sadhana (or Apara) Bhakti – devotion through regulations. This in turn leads to Para Bhakti – the highest devotion characterised by Madhurya Rasa – the sweet emotions of devotion experienced by those perfected in Sadhana Bhakti.
Devotion and self-surrender to guru. Best realised as a part in Prapatti, and not as an independent means, although it can be so.
Sri Nimbarka made the "Bhasya" (commentary in which alle the words of the verses are used, in contradistinction to a tika, which is a more free commentary) of the Brahmasutra on his Dvaitadvaita Vedanta (Principle of Dualism-Nondualism) in his famous book "Vedanta Parijata Sourabha".
Sri Nimbarkacharya, on the worship of the divine couple, in, Dasha Shloki
Sri Nimbarkacharya wrote the following books:
Svāmī Harivyāsa Devacārya (c.1470-1540 CE), the 35th leader, reformed the tradition. He was given the śālagrāma deity known as Śrī Sarveśvara that was handed down through time it is believed from Nimbārka himself. He anointed twelve of his senior disciples to lead missions throughout the land. The most famous are Svāmī Paraśurāma Devācārya (c.1525-1610 CE) and Svāmī Svabhūrāma Devācārya (fl. 16th century).
Svāmī Svabhūrāma Devācārya (fl.16th century CE) was born in Budhiya Village, outside Jagadhri and Yamunanagar near Kurukshetra in modern Haryana, India. He established over 52 temples in Punjab, Haryana and Vraja during his lifetime; his current followers are found mostly in Vṛndāvana, Haryana, Punjab, Bengal, Rajasthan, Orissa, Assam, Sikkim, Bihar, other regions in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, also in significant numbers in Nepal.
In his sub-lineage, there are many branches. Notable saints of this sub-branch include:
The famous teacher and leader Svāmī Haripriyā Śaraṇa Devācārya, founded the temple and monastery at Bihari Ji Ka Bageecha, Vṛndāvana, sponsored by his disciple, the philanthropic Shri Hargulal Beriwala and the Beriwala Trust in the 19th century.
The predecessor of the current successor was Svāmī Lalitā Śaraṇa Devācārya, who died in July 2005 at the age of 103. One of his other disciples is the world-renowned Svāmī Gopāla Śaraṇa Devācārya, who has founded the Monastery and temple known as the Shri Golok Dham Ashram in New Delhi and Vṛndāvana. He has also helped ordinary Hindus who are not Vaiṣṇava to establish temples overseas. Of note are the Glasgow Hindu Mandir, Scotland, UK: the Lakshmi Narayan Hindu Mandir, Bradford, UK; and the Valley Hindu Temple, Northridge, CA. He has also facilitated major festivals at the Hindu Sabha Mandir in Brampton, Canada.
The 48th leader of the Nimbārka Sampradāya is H.D.H. Jagadguru Nimbārkācārya Svāmī Śrī Rādhā Śarveshavara Śaraṇa Devācārya, known in reverence as Śrī Śrījī Māhārāja by his followers. His followers are mainly in Rajasthan and Vṛndāvana, Mathura. He established the Mandir at the birth site of Śrī Nimbārkācārya in Mungi Village, Paithan, Maharashtra in 2005. In addition, he oversees the maintenance of thousands of temples, hundreds of monasteries, schools, hospitals, orphanages, cow-shelters, environmental projects, memorial shrines, etc., and arranges various scholarly conventions, religious conferences, medical camps & outreach, etc.
The 49th and current leader of the entire Nimbārka Sampradāya is H.D.H. Jagadguru Nimbārkācārya Svāmī Śrī Shyām Śaraṇa Devācārya, known in reverence as Śrī Śrījī Māhārāja by his followers. He is based in Nimbārka Tīrtha Rajasthan, India. He is the current leader of the Sampradāya, who worships the śālagrāma deity known as Śrī Sarveśvara. His followers are mainly in Rajasthan and Vṛndāvana, Mathura.