A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 4

Indian Pluralism

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1949 | 186,278 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of the philosophy of baladeva vidyabhushana: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the eighth part in the series called the “the philosophy of jiva gosvami and baladeva vidyabhushana”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 8 - The Philosophy of Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa

Baladeva was Vaiśya by caste and born in a village near Remuna in the Balesvar subdivision of Orissa; he was a pupil of vairāgī Pītāmvara Dāsa, and was generally known as Govinda Dāga. He was the disciple of a Kanouj Brahmin, Rādhā Dāmodara Dāsa, the author of Vedānta-Syamantaka. Rādhā Dāmodara was a disciple of Nayanānanda, the son of Rādhānanda, and a pupil of his grandfather, Rasikānanda Murāri, who was a disciple of Śyāmānanda, a junior contemporary of Jīva Gosvāmī. Śyāmānanda was a disciple of Hṛdaya Caitanya, who in his turn was a disciple of Gaurīdāsa Paṇḍita, a disciple of Nityānanda. Baladeva himself had two well known disciples, Nanda Miśra and Uddhava Dāsa; he wrote his commentary on Rūpa Gosvāmī’ś Stava-mālā in the Śaka era 1686 (or A.D. 1764).

He is known to have written at least the following fourteen works:

  1. Sāhitya-kaumudī and its commentary, Kṛṣṇānandī;
  2. Govinda-bhāṣya;
  3. Siddhānta-ratna ;
  4. Kāvya-Kaustubha ;
  5. Gītā-bhūṣaṇa, a commentary on the Gītā ;
  6. a commentary on Rādhā Dāmodara’s Chandaḥ-Kaustubha ;
  7. Prameya-ratnāvalī and its commentary, Kānti-mālā ;
  8. a commentary on Rūpa’s Stava-mālā ;
  9. a commentary on Rūpa’s Laghu-bhāgavatā-mṛta;
  10. Nāmārtha-śuddhikā, a commentary on Sahasra-nāma;
  11. a commentary on Jaya Deva’s Candrāloka ;
  12. Siddhānta-darpaṇa ;
  13. a commentary on Tattva-sandarbha ;
  14. a commentary on Rūpa’s Nāṭaka-candrikā.

He also wrote commentaries on some of the important Upaniṣads[1].

Baladeva’s most important work is his commentary on the Brahma-sūtra, otherwise known as Govinda-bhāṣya. This has a subcommentary on it called Sūkṣma ; the name of the author of this commentary is not known, though it has been held by some to be a work of Baladeva himself. Baladeva has also summarized the contents of his Govinda-bhāṣya in the Siddhānta-ratna, to which also there is a commentary. M. M. Gopinath Kavirāja says that the Siddhānta-ratna was written by Baladeva himself. There is nothing to urge in support of this assertion; the natural objection against it is that a Vaiṣṇava like Baladeva should not speak in glowing terms of praise of his own work[2]. Siddhānta-ratna is regarded by Baladeva not as a summary of Govinda-bhāṣya, but as partly a supplementary work and partly a commentary[3]. It is probable that the writer of the Sūkṣma commentary on the Govinda-bhāṣya is also the writer of the commentary on Siddhānta-ratna; for there is one introductory verse which is common to them both[4]. The Siddhānta-ratna contains much that is not contained in the Govinda-bhāṣya.

The eternal possession of bliss and the eternal cessation of sorrow is the ultimate end of man. This end can be achieved through the true knowledge of God in His essence (svarūpataḥ) and as associated with His qualities by one who knows also the nature of his own self (sva-jñāna-pūrvakam). The nature of God is pure consciousness and bliss. These two may also be regarded as the body of God (na tu svarūpād vigrahasya atirekaḥ). His spirit consists in knowledge, majesty and power[5]. Though one in Himself, He appears in many places and in the forms of His diverse devotees. These are therefore but modes of His manifestation in self-dalliance, and this is possible on account of His supra-logical powers, which are identical with His own nature[6]. This, however, should not lead us to suppose the correctness of the bhedābheda doctrine, of the simultaneous truth of the one and the many, or that of difference and unity[7]; just as one actor, remaining one in himself, shows himself in diverse forms, so God also manifests Himself in diverse forms, in accordance with diverse effects and also in accordance with the mental plane and the ways in which diverse devotees conceive of Him[8]. On account of His supra-logical powers the laws of contradiction do not apply to Him; even contradictory qualities and conceptions may be safely associated in our notion of Him. So also llis body is not different in nature from Him: He is thus identical with His body. The conception of a body distinct from Him is only in the minds of the devotees as an aid to the process of meditation; but, though this is imagination on their part, such a form is not false, but as a matter of fact is God Himself (deha eva dehī or vigraha evātmā ātmaiva vigrahaḥ). On account of the transcendent nature of God, in spite of His real nature as pure consciousness and bliss He may have His real nature in bodily form, as Kṛṣṇa. This form really arises in association with the mind of the devotee just as musical forms show themselves in association with the trained ears of a musician[9]. In this connection it may be observed that according to Baladeva even dream-creations are not false, but real, produced by the will of God and disappearing in the waking stage through the will of God[10].

These forms appearing in the minds of the devotees are therefore real forms, manifested by God through His will working in association with the minds of the devotees. In this connection it may also be pointed out that the jīvas are different from God. Even the imagined reflection of Brahman in avidyā, introduced by the extreme monists to explain jīva as being only a reflection of Brahman and as having no real existence outside it, is wrong; for the notion of similarity or reflection involves difference. The jīvas are atomic in nature, associated with the qualities of prakṛti, and absolutely dependent on God. Though Brahman is all-pervasive, yet He can be grasped by knowledge and devotion. A true realization of I Iis nature and even a sensuous perception of Him is possible only through sādhya-bhakti, not through sādhana-bhakti. The consciousness and bliss of God may be regarded either as the substance of God or as His attributes. This twofold way of reference to God is due to the admission of the category of viśeṣa, by which, even in the absence of difference between the substance and the quality, it is possible to predicate the latter of the former as if such a difference existed. Viśeṣa is spoken of as the representative of difference (bheda-pratinidhi); that is, where no difference exists, the concept of viśeṣa enables us to predicate a difference; yet this viśeṣa is no mere vikalpa or mere false verbal affirmation. The ocean can be spoken of as water and waves by means of this concept of viśeṣa. The concept of viśeṣa means that, though there is no difference between God and His qualities, or between His nature and His body, yet there is some specific peculiarity which makes it possible to affirm the latter of the former; and by virtue of this peculiarity the differential predication may be regarded as true, though there may actually be no difference between the two. It is by virtue of this concept that such propositions as “Being exists,” “Time always is,” “Space is everywhere,” may be regarded as true; they are neither false nor mere verbal assumption; if they were false, there would be no justification for such mental states.

There is obviously a difference between the two propositions “Being exists” and “Being does not exist”; the former is regarded as legitimate, the latter as false. This proves that though there is no difference between “being” and “existence” there is such a peculiarity in it that, while the predication of existence to being is legitimate, its denial is false. If it were merely a case of verbal assumption, then the latter denial would also have been equally possible and justifiable. This peculiarity is identical with the object and does not exist in it in any particular relation. For this reason a further chain of relations is not required, and the charge of a vicious infinite also becomes inadmissible. If the concept of viśeṣa is not admitted, then the notion of “qualified” and “quality” is inexplicable[11]. The concept of viśeṣa in this sense was first introduced by Madhva; Baladeva borrowed the idea from him in interpreting the relation of God to His powers and qualities. This interpretation is entirely different from the view of Jīva and others who preceded Baladeva; we have already seen how Jīva interpreted the situation merely by the doctrine of the supra-logical nature of God’s powers and the supra-logical nature of the difference and identity of power and the possessor of power, or of the quality and the substance. Baladeva, by introducing the concept of viśeṣa, tried to explain more clearly the exact nature of supra-logicality (acintyatva) in this case; this has been definitely pointed out in the Sūkṣma commentary[12].

The bliss of God is different from the bliss of the jīvas, both in nature and in quantity, and the nature of their knowledge is different. Brahman is thus different in nature both from the world and from the jīvas. All the unity texts of the Upaniṣads are to be explained merely as affirming that the world and the jīvas belong to God (sarvatra tadīyatva-jñānārthaḥ). Such a way of looking at the world will rouse the spirit of bhakti. The revelation of God’s nature in those who follow the path of vaidhī-bhakti is different from that in those who follow the ruci-bhakti; in the former case He appears in all His majesty, in the latter He appears with all His sweetness. When God is worshipped in a limited form as Kṛṣṇa, He reveals Himself in His limited form to the devotee, and such is the supra-logical nature of God that even in this form He remains as the All-pervasive. It is evident that the acceptance of viśeṣa does not help Baladeva here and he has to accept the supra-logical nature of God to explain other parts of his religious dogmas.

God is regarded as being both the material cause of the world and as the supreme agent. He has three fundamental powers: the supreme power, viṣṇu-śakti, the power as kṣetrajña, the power as avidyā. In His first power Brahman remains in Himself as the unchangeable; His other two powers are transformed into the jīvas and the world. The Sāṃkhyist argues that, as the world is of a different nature from Brahman, Brahman cannot be regarded as its material cause. Even if it is urged that there are two subtle powers which may be regarded as the material cause of the world and the jīvas, their objection still holds good; for the development of the gross, which is different from the subtle, is not explained. To this the reply is that the effect need not necessarily be the same as or similar to the material cause. Brahman transforms Himself into the world, which is entirely different from Him. If there were absolute oneness between the material cause and the effect, then one could not be called the cause and the other the effect; the lumpy character of the mud is not seen in the jug, which is its effect; in all cases that may be reviewed the effect must necessarily be different from the material cause. Such a modification does not in any way change the nature of Brahman. The changes are effected in His powers, while He remains unchanged by the modification of His powers. To turn to an ordinary example as an illustration, it may be pointed out that “a man with the stick” refers to none other than the man himself, though there is a difference between the man and the stick; so though the power of the Brahman is identical with Brahman in association with His powers, yet the existence of a difference between Brahman and His powers is not denied[13]. Moreover, there is always a difference between the material cause and the effect. The jug is different from the lump of clay, and the ornaments from the gold out of which they are made; also they serve different purposes and exist in different times. If the effect existed before the causal operation began, the application of the causal operation would be unnecessary; also the effect would be eternal. If it is held that the effect is a manifestation of that which was already existent, then a further question arises, whether this manifestation, itself an effect, requires a further manifestation, and so on; thus a chain of manifestations would be necessary, and the result would be a vicious infinite.

Still, Baladeva does not deny the pariṇāma or the abhivyakti theory; he denies the Sāṃkhya view that even before the causal operation the effect exists, or that a manifestation (abhivyakti) would require a chain of manifestations. He defines effect as an independent manifestation (svatantrā-bhivyaktimattvaṃ kila kāryatvam), and such an effect cannot exist before the action of the causal operatives. The manifestation of the world is through the manifestation of God, on whom it is dependent. Such a manifestation can only happen through the causal operation inherent in God and initiated by His will. Thus the world is manifested out of the energy of God, and in a limited sense the world is identical with God; but once it is separated out of Him as effect, it is different from Him. The world did not exist at any time before it was manifested in its present form; therefore it is wrong to suppose that the world was at any stage identical with God, though God may always be regarded as the material cause of the world[14]. Thus after all these discussions it becomes evident that there is really no difference of any importance between Baladeva’s views and the Sāṃkhya view. Baladeva also admits that the world exists in a subtle form in God as endowed with His energies. He only takes exception to the verbal expression of the kārikā that the effect exists in the cause before the action of the causal operatives; for the effect does not exist in the cause as effect but in a subtle state. This subtle state is enlarged and endowed with spatio-temporal qualities by the action of the causal operatives before it can manifest itself as effect. The Sāṃkhya, however, differs in overstressing the existence of the effect in the cause, and in asserting that the function of the causal operatives is only to manifest openly what already existed in a covered manner. Here, however, the causal operatives are regarded as making a real change and addition. This addition of new qualities and functions is due to the operation of the causal will of God; it is of a supra-logical nature in the sense that they were not present in the subtle causal state, and yet have come into being through the operation of God’s will. But, so far as the subtle cause exists in God as associated with Him, the world is not distinct and independent of God even in its present form[15].

The jīvas too have no independence in themselves; they are created by God, by His mere will, and having created the world and the jīvas He entered into them and remained as their inner controller. So the jīvas are as much under natural necessity as the objects of the physical world, and they have thus no freedom of action or of will[16]. The natural necessity of the world is but a manifestation of God’s will through it. The spontaneous desire and will that is found in man is also an expression of God’s will operating through man; thus man is as much subject to necessity, as the world, and there is no freedom in man. Thus, though the cow which gives milk may seem to us as if it were giving the milk by its own will, yet the vital powers of the cow produce the milk, not the cow; so, when a person is perceived as doing a particular action or behaving in a particular manner or willing something, it is not he who is the agent, but the supreme God, who is working through him[17]. But the question may arise, if God is the sole cause of all human willing and human action, then why should God, who is impartial, make us will so differently? The answer will be that God determines our action and will in accordance with the nature of our past deeds, which are beginningless. A further objection may be made, that if God determines our will in accordance with our past deeds, then God is dependent in His own determining action on the nature of our karmas ; which will be a serious challenge to His unobstructed freedom. Moreover, since different kinds of action lead to different kinds of pleasurable and painful effects God may be regarded as partial. The reply to these objections is that God determines the jīvas in accordance with their own individual nature; the individual jīvas are originally of a different nature, and in accordance with their original difference God determines their will and actions differently. Though God is capable of changing their nature, He does not do so; but it is in the nature of God’s own will that He reserves a preferential treatment for His devotee, to whom He extends His special grace[18]. God’s own actions are not determined by any objective end or motive, but flow spontaneously through His enjoyment of His own blissful nature. His special grace towards His devotees flows from His own essential nature; it is this special treatment offered to His devotees that endears Him to them and that rouses others to turn towards Him[19].

Bhakti is also regarded as a species of knowledge (bhaktir api jñāna-viśeso bhavati)[20]. By bhakti one turns to God without any kind of objective end. Bhakti is also regarded as a power which can bind God to us[21]; this power is regarded as the essence of the hlādinī power of God as associated with consciousness. The consciousness here spoken of is identical with the hlāda, and its essence consists in a favourable outflow of natural inclination[22]. This is thus identical with God’s essential nature as consciousness and bliss; yet it is not regarded as identical with Him, but as a power of Him[23]. Though bhakti exists in God as His power, yet it qualifies the devotee also, it is pleasurable to them both, and they are both constituents of it[24]. It will be remembered that, of the three powers, samvit is superior to sandhinī and hlādinī is superior to samvit. God not only is, but He extends His being to everything else; sandhinī is the power by which God extends being to all. He is Himself of the nature of consciousness; samvit is the power by which His cognitive action is accomplished and by which He makes it possible for other people to know. Though He is of the nature of bliss, He experiences joy and makes it possible for others to have joyous experiences; the power by which He does this is called hlādinī.[25] True bhakti cannot have any object outside itself, simply for the reason that it is itself an experience of God as supreme bliss. That there is a kind of bliss other than sensuous pleasure is proved by our experience of our own nature as bliss during deep sleep. But, since we are but atoms of God’s energy, it is necessarily proved that God’s nature is supreme and infinite bliss; once that bliss is experienced, people will naturally turn away from worldly sensuous pleasure to God, once for all.

True knowledge destroys all merit and demerit, and so in the jīvan-mukti man holds his body only through the will of God. The effect of obligatory duties is not destroyed, except in so far as it produces meritorious results—admission to Heaven and the like— and it helps the rise of true knowledge; when the true knowledge dawns, it does not further show itself. It is also stated in the KauṣltakI Upaniṣad that the merits of a wise man go to his friends and his demerits to his foes; so in the case of those devotees who are anxious to enter communion with God the meritorious effects of their deeds are distributed to those who are dear to Him, and the effects of their sinful actions are distributed to His enemies[26]. So, as the effects of the fructifying karma are distributed to other persons, the principle that all fructifying karmas must produce their effects is satisfied, and the devotee of God is released from them. The best way for true advancement can only be through the association of saintly devotees. Our bondage is real, and the destruction of the bondage is real and eternal. Even in the state of ultimate emancipation the jīvas retain their separate individuality from God.

In the sixth and seventh chapters of the Siddhānta-ratna Baladeva tries to refute Śaṅkara’s doctrine of extreme monism; but as these arguments contain hardly anything new but merely repeat the arguments of the thinkers of the Rāmānuja and the Madhva Schools, they may well be omitted here. In his Prameya-ratnāvalī Baladeva gives a general summary of the main points of the Vaiṣṇava system of the Gauḍīya School. If one compares the account they give of Vaiṣṇava philosophy in the Bhāgavata-sandarbha with that given in Baladeva’s Govinda-bhāṣya and Siddhānta-ratna, one finds that, though the fundamental principles are the same, yet many new elements were introduced by Baladeva into the Gauḍīya school of thought under the influence of Madhva, and on account of his personal predilections. The stress that is laid on the aspect of difference between Īśvara and the jīva and the world and the concept of viśeṣa, are definite traces of Madhva influence. Again, though Baladeva admires the ruci-bhakti as the best form of bhakti, he does not lay the same emphasis on it as is found in the works of Rūpa, Sanātana or Jīva. His concept of bhakti is also slightly different from that of Jīva; he does not use the older terminologies (antaraṅga and bahiraṅga śakti), and does not seek the explanation of his system on that concept. His Prameya-ratna-mālā has an old commentary, the Kānti-mālā, by one Kṛṣṇadeva Vedānta Vāgīśa. In the Prameya-ratna-mālā he pays his salutation to Ānanda-tīrtha or Madhva, whom he describes as his boat for crossing the ocean of saṃsāra.

He gives also a list of the succession of teachers from whom he derived his ideas, and he thinks that by a meditation upon the succession of gurus one would succeed in producing the satisfaction of Hari. He further says that four sampradāyas or schools of Vaiṣṇavas, the Śrī, Brahma, Rudra, and Sanaka, will spring forth in Orissa (Utkala) in the Kali yuga, which may be identified with Rāmānuja, Madhva, Viṣṇusvāmin, and Nimbāditya.

He enumerates the succession of his teachers, in the following order:

The system of thought represented by Baladeva may well be styled the Madhva-Gauḍīya system; we have had recently in Bengal a school of Vaiṣṇavas which calls itself Madhva-Gauḍīya.

Footnotes and references:


M. M. Gopinath Kavirāja’s introduction to Siddhānta-ratna, Part II. A. K. Sastri, in his introduction to Prameya-ratnāvalī, strongly criticizes the view that Baladeva was a Vaiśya. No satisfactory proofs are available on either side.


sāndrānanda-syandi govinda-bhāṣyaṃ
jīyād etat sindhu-gāmbhīryya-sambhṛt
yasmin sadyaḥ saṃśrute mānavānām
mohocchedī jāyate tattva-bodhaḥ.

      Commentary on Siddhānta-ratna, p. 1.




ālasyād apravṛttiḥ syāt
puṃsāṃ yad grantha-vistare
govinda-bhāṣye saṃkṣipte
ṭippaṇī kriyate’tra tat.
commentary, p. 5,
      and the commentary on Siddhānta-ratna, p. 1.


Siddhānta-ratna, pp. 1—13.


ekam eva sva-rūpam acintya-śaktyā yugapat sarvatrāvabhāty eko’pi san; sthānāni bhagavad-āvirbhāvāspadāni tad-vividha-līlā-śraya-bhūtāni vividha-bhāvavanto bhaktāś ca.
III. 2. 11.


The Sūkṣma commentary on III. 2. 12 says that God’s māyā-śakti has three functions:

  1. hlādinī,
  2. sandhinī,
  3. and saṃvit ;

it is through His māyā-śakti, i.e., the power as māyā, that He can manifest Himself in diverse ways.


dhyāṭr-bhedāt kūryya-bhedāc ca anekatayā pratīto’pi hariḥ svarūpaikyaṃ svasmin na muñcati.
III. 2. 13.


tan-mūrtatvaṃ khalu bhakti-vibhāvitena hṛdā grāhyaṃ gāndharvānuśilitena śrotreṇa rāga-mūrtatvam iva.
III. 2. 17.


Ibid. III. 2. 1-5.


Ibid. III. 2. 31.


tenaiva tasya vastvabhinnatvaṃ sva-nirvāhakatvaṃ ca svasya tādṛśe tad-bhāvojjṛmbhakam acintyatvaṃ sidhyati.
on Govinda-bhāṣya, III. 2. 31.


Ibid. II. 1. 13.


Govinda-bhāṣya, II. 1. 14.


tasmād ekam eva jīva-prakṛti-śaktimad brahma jagad-upādānam tadātmakaṃ ca iti siddham evam kāryāvasthatve’py avicintyatva-dharma-yogād apracyuta-pūrvāvasthaṃ cāvatiṣṭhate.
II. 1. 20.


cetanasyāpi jīvasyāśma-kāṣṭḥa-loṣṭravad asvātantryāt svataḥ kartṛtva-rūpānāpattiḥ.
II. 1. 23.


Ibid. II. 1. 24.


na ca karma-sāpekṣatvena īśyarsya asvātantryam;... anādi-jīva-svabhāvā-nusāreṇa hi karma kārayati sva-bhāvam anyathā-kartuṃ samartho’pi kasyāpi na karoti.
II. 1. 35.


Ibid. II. 1. 36.


Commentary on Siddhānta-ratna, p. 29.


bhagavad-vaśīkāra-hetu-bhūtā śaktiḥ.
p. 35.


hlāda-bhinnā saṃvid, yas tadānukūlyaṃśaḥ sa tasyāḥ sāraḥ.
p. 37.


svarūpānatirekiṇyapi tad-viśeṣatayā ca bhāsate’nyathā tasya śaktir iti vyapedeśa-siddheḥ.
, p. 38.


bhagavat-svarūpa-viśeṣa-bhūta-hlādinyādi-sārātmā bhaktir bhagavad-viśeṣaṇatayā bhakte ca pṛthag-viśeṣaṇatayā siddhā tayor ānandātiśayayo bhavati.
p. 39.


tatra sadātmā’pi yayā sattaṃ dhatte dadāti ca sā sarva-deśa-kāla-dravya-vyāpti-hetuḥ sandhinī, saṃvid-ātmā’pi yayā saṃvetti saṃvedayati ca sā saṃvit, hlādātmā’pi yayā hlādate hlādayati ca sā hlādinī.
pp. 39-40.


Govinda-bhāṣya, IV. 1. 17.


See an earlier list by Kavi-Karnapūra, in his fanciful or legendary treatise Gaura-gaṇoddeśa-dīpikā.

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