Baladeva Vidyabhusana, The Gaudiya Vedantist
Their voices rose with the sun. It was early morning in an Indian village school.
The boys sat in neat rows behind palm-leaf manuscripts, committing their lessons to memory.
As they chanted their grammar rules, their rhetoric lessons, and their logic aphorisms, each boy chanted loud enough to hear himself over his neighbour, resulting in a blend of high-pitched voices.
This school, attended by Baladeva early in the eighteenth century, closely resembled village schools that existed in India for thousands of years.
The system had endured because it was effective, producing brilliant and disciplined scholars, and Baladeva was among the best of them.
Before coming to school, Baladeva, the son of a merchant, had lived for several years near the Orissan town of Remuna.
From there he had gone to study with the group of panditas at this school, situated idyllically on the bank of the Cilkahrada River.
The lush Orissan forests and fertile fields provided ample fruits, vegetables, and grains for a wholesome, varied diet.
The boys studied hard, played hard, and grew lean, healthy, and discerning.
When Baladeva graduated from school, he did not want to return home to work in his father’s shop.
He wanted to be a scholar — not an ordinary scholar but a true acarya, one who could teach divine wisdom.
A pandita had to master logic, philosophy, medicine, or cosmology, but an acharya had to know the scriptures that impart the deepest wisdom. Baladeva decided to study philosophy and theology.
He would become a Vedantist, an authority on the ancient Vedic books of knowledge.
He could not think of any greater way to benefit himself or others.
In search of a preceptor, Baladeva went on pilgrimage to the tirthas (holy places), where he would meet monks and scholars.
In Mysore (now Karnataka), in southwestern India, he came upon a hermitage of holy men who were also called Tirthas, followers of the saint and scholar Ananda Tirtha (A.D. 1197-1273), who was known formally as Madhva Acarya.
In the monastery, or matha, Baladeva studied Vedanta and mastered the arts of debate and rhetoric.
These talents would serve him well in a challenge he would later face while still a young man.
The challenge Baladeva would meet is of critical importance to the history of Gaudiya Vaisnavism, the spiritual school to which the modern day Krsna consciousness movement belongs.
The Gaudiyas in Vrndavana
By the time Baladeva was born, the Gaudiya Vaisnavas, or followers of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, were well established in Vrndavana, the town in northern India where Lord Krsna had enacted His childhood pastimes some five thousand years earlier.
But life in that area was often insecure. For thousands of years the Vrndavana-Mathura district had been periodically invaded and pillaged. Yet despite these calamities, Mathura had thrived as a centre of trade and culture. Every ancient religion of northern India considered Mathura an important city.
In 1512 Lord Caitanya arrived in Mathura. He found that the places where Krsna had enjoyed pastimes were now obscured, so He spent two months locating and identifying them. Wanting to reconstruct Vrndavana and rededicate it to Krsna, He sent Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami, two of His chief disciples, to the holy city.
Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami accomplished Lord Caitanya’s mission in Vrndavana.
Not only did they rebuild the sacred places of Krsna’s life, but they also wrote books that presented Lord Caitanya’s doctrine in a way suitable for both scholars and laymen.
Srila Jiva Gosvami, their nephew and disciple, continued their work.
He supervised the construction of magnificent temples for the worship of Krsna, wrote exhaustive philosophical treatises on the philosophy of Krsna consciousness, and distributed the religious manuscripts of the Vrndavana Gosvamis throughout the Vaisnava world.
Largely due to Jiva Gosvami’s efforts, the Gaudiya Vaisnavas succeeded in establishing Vrndavana as the principal seat of Vaisnavism in northern India.
Vrndavana had always been a holy pilgrimage site, but under Gaudiya patronage it flourished as a powerful religious centre for 150 years. Gaudiya gurus and temples held sway in Vrndavana, even at the time of Baladeva’s arrival in the early eighteenth century.
Govinda Leaves Vrndavana
Unfortunately, the peaceful leadership of the Gaudiyas could not last.
In 1669 the Mogul ruler Aurangzeb decreed that Hindu temples and carved images, or Deities, should be destroyed.
Deities, priests, and pilgrims were in danger, and faithful devotees of Krsna stopped visiting Vrndavana.
Many of those who had the courage to express their faith were beaten or killed.
Subsequently, the Vaisnava priests appealed to the Hindu dynasties of Rajasthan for protection for themselves and their Deities.
Protection was guaranteed, and gradually the Deities migrated east, to settle in Mewar and in Amber, the old Jaipur capital.
But without Deities, brahmanas, and pilgrims, Vrndavana-Mathura lost much of its glory.
One of the principal Deities of Vrndavana was Govinda, a twenty-four-inch black marble image of Krsna in His original aspect as a cowherd boy.
Srila Rupa Gosvami had found Him while excavating the holy places of Vrndavana.
Later, warned that Aurangzeb’s army would seek to demolish Govinda’s splendid seven-story temple, the priests secretly moved the Deity to Radha-kunda, a sacred pond widely known as one of the holiest places in the Mathura district.
After a year at Radha-kunda, the priests transferred their divine refugee to Kaman, a fortified city in the Mathura district, where a suitable complex could be built for Govinda.
For more than thirty years He and two other Deities, Gopinatha and Madana-Mohana, remained in Kaman.
But most pilgrims avoided the area because of danger from the ruling Moguls and a clan of people called the Jats, who had risen up against the Moguls.
The Rajput kings of Amber found themselves at the pivot of the conflict between the Moguls and the Jat guerrillas.
The kings allied themselves with the Moguls against the Jats but patronised the Vrndavana Deities, whom the Moguls wanted to destroy.
Ram Singh, the king of Amber, had ordered in 1671 that Govinda be transferred to Kaman, which was then under the jurisdiction of Amber and Jaipur although it was in the Mathura district.
It is said that the transfer was meant to be temporary, the Deity would return to Vrndavana when the political turmoil subsided.
But Govinda did not return to Vrndavana. After thirty-three years in Kaman, He made another trip, this time to Amber.
The Ramanandis’ Challenge
Govinda’s new home had little in common with the forest of Vrndavana, where He had lived so grandly.
In Vrndavana, a Vaisnava holy place, Govinda was the unchallenged Supreme Lord.
His priest, who stood in the direct line of Rupa Gosvami, the acknowledged leader of the Vaisnavas in Vrndavana, had enjoyed unchallenged authority on questions about the philosophy and practice of bhakti, devotional service to Krsna.
In Amber, however, not all the Vaisnavas worshiped Krsna.
During the reign of Prthviraj Singh (1503-1527), a devotee of Lord Ramacandra named Payahari Krsnadasa had settled in Galta, a valley near the present day city of Jaipur.
Payahari was a grand-disciple of Ramananda, the fourteenth century North Indian reformer of the South Indian sampradaya (lineage) of Ramanuja.
Payahari worshiped Sita-Rama, not Radha-Krsna.
Payahari had settled in a cave in the Galta Valley.
He had converted Queen Balan Bai to Ramanandi Vaisnavism, and she in turn had convinced her saintly husband, King Prthviraj, to sponsor the establishment of a Ramanandi monastery in Galta.
Thereafter, Galta had become the northern headquarters for the Ramanuja sect.
For six generations the Ramanandi mahantas (temple heads) had enjoyed a privileged position in the Amber kingdom.
But Govinda’s arrival in Amber and His popularity with the royal family challenged the Ramanandi hegemony.
To Jai Singh the arrival of Govinda was especially significant.
Despite the presence of so many Hindu sects in his kingdom, despite his own royal obligations to maintain Vedic and Puranic ritual sacrifices, and despite the unchallengeable authority of the Ramanandi priests, Jai Singh was ultimately a devotee of Govinda.
The arrival of Govinda in his kingdom was a high point in his personal spiritual quest.
The Ramanandi priests soon realised that if Govinda became the favoured Deity of the king, the Gaudiya priests would assume religious authority in Amber.
What would become of the Ramanandis’ ascendancy?
The Ramanandis then approached Jai Singh with a complaint about the Gaudiyas.
They questioned the Gaudiya lineage.
In India, much is made of one’s parentage.
If one cannot prove natal legitimacy, one may be cast out as a bastard.
The same social standard applies to religious organisations.
If a religious group can not prove its descent from one of the recognised traditions, it risks being dismissed as illegitimate.
Jai Singh wrote to the mahanta of the Gopinatha temple, Syamcaran Sarma, asking him to clarify the matter by explaining the lineage of the Gaudiya devotees.
Syamcaran replied with a letter in Sanskrit, quoting various scriptures and other authorities.
He explained that the Gaudiya lineage had begun with Lord Caitanya, who was the Supreme Godhead.
After all, a spiritual lineage originating with God is unassailable.
Predictably, the Ramanandis were not satisfied.
They said, “There are only four sampradayas, not five.Scholars have ascertained this on the basis of the Padma Purana.”
It is here that our story brings us back to Baladeva.
The Nurturing of Baladeva
Before the Ramanandis had complained in Amber, young Baladeva, living in Mysore, had been instructed in the Vedanta-sutra by the followers of the great Vedantist Madhva Acarya.
The word Vedanta consists of two words:
veda (knowledge) and anta (end).
So Vedanta is the culmination of Vedic knowledge. The Vedas are the oldest of the traditional Sanskrit writings compiled by Srila Vyasadeva.
Vyasadeva later composed the Vedanta-sutra, which contains in terse codes the essence of the Upanisads (the philosophical hymns of the Vedas).
Because the Vedanta-sutra is written in aphorisms, one needs a commentary to understand it.
The oldest and most famous extant commentary is that of Sankara Acarya (A.D. 788-820).
Sankara was a monist; he believed in the ultimate oneness of the jiva (living being) and God, and he interpreted the Vedanta-sutra accordingly.
After Sankara, four learned Vaisnavas stepped forward over the course of several hundred years to write Vedanta-sutra commentaries.
These Vaisnavas wrote to establish the duality of the jiva and God and thus refute the monistic teaching of Sankara.
These four Vaisnava preceptors — Sri Ramanuja Acarya, Sri Nimbarka, Sri Madhva Acarya, and Sri Visnusvami — established the four acknowledged Vaisnava sampradayas.
Subsequently Vaisnava religious leaders belonged to one of these sampradayas and were thus considered legitimate.
Ramananda claimed that his lineage originated with Ramanuja.
We recall again that Baladeva, in Mysore, had stayed in a matha of the Madhva-sampradaya and studied the Vedanta-sutra commentary of Madhva.
He had enjoyed his education, but he enjoyed even more the application of his learning.
He was exhilarated by debates, no challenge was too great for him.
And he was eager for the opportunity to enlighten others.
Now after becoming a skilled lecturer and debater, Baladeva left Mysore and went to Puri, in Orissa, where he again took up residence in a Madhva matha.
At Puri, Baladeva met Radha-Damodara Dasa, a Brahmana from Kanyakubja (now Kanpur), in north central India.
Radha-Damodara was the grand-disciple of Rasikananda, a seventeenth-century preacher who had established the Gaudiya movement throughout Orissa.
Radha-Damodara, a scholar of Gaudiya philosophy, explained to Baladeva the position of Lord Caitanya, supporting his points with quotations from Mahabharata and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Radha-Damodara said, “Sri Krsna Caitanya is the Supreme Godhead Himself. He came to flood the world with Krsna-prema, love of Krsna. Sri Caitanya was not interested in study of many commentaries on Vedanta-sutra, for He considered Srimad-Bhagavatam, written by the same author — Vyasa — to be the natural commentary. So from the Bhagavatam and by His own example, He taught that we must serve the Supreme Lord, Krsna, and absorb ourselves in hearing about Him. Sri Caitanya Himself was always absorbed in Krsna-prema. Thus He saw no need to write any books.”
Radha-Damodara advised Baladeva to study the Bhagavata-sandarbha, by Srila Jiva Gosvami.
For days Radha-Damodara and Baladeva met and discussed Jiva’s work.
Baladeva noted that Jiva did not significantly differ from Madhva.
Indeed, the philosophies of Jiva and Madhva agreed on most essential points.
Still, Jiva’s treatise developed Vaisnava philosophy in an elegant and logical way that deeply impressed Baladeva.
Now convinced that the Gaudiya perspective was true, Baladeva asked Radha-Damodara to initiate him into the Gaudiya-sampradaya.
Baladeva, however, was an already initiated Vaisnava, so Radha-Damodara performed not a formal initiation but a ceremony in which Baladeva agreed to accept and serve Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as the Supreme Lord.
Thus Baladeva became a member of the Gaudiya sampradaya. Mastering Gaudiya Philosophy.
Baladeva then decided to travel to Vrndavana, the spiritual centre of the Gaudiya sect.
But first he went to Navadvipa, where he met the Vaisnavas there and discussed philosophy with them.
They all told him to study under Visvanatha Cakravati Thakura in Vrndavana.
Because Baladeva was so eager to meet Visvanatha, he stayed only a short time in Navadvipa before setting out on foot to travel the eight hundred miles to Vrndavana.
Arriving in Vrndavana, Baladeva soon met Visvanatha Cakravati, introduced himself, and explained his background and the story of his meeting with Radha-Damodara in Puri.
Visvanatha was gratified that Baladeva had come to study Srimad-Bhagavatam, and he suggested a suitable day for them to begin their studies.
He also decided that Baladeva should study the rasa-sastras, texts of advanced devotion, with another scholar, Pitambara Dasa.
Baladeva’s appetite had been whetted by reading Jiva Gosvami’s Bhagavata-sandarbha in Puri.
From Pitambara, Baladeva learned the esoteric meaning of bhagavata philosophy, as found in the rasa-sastras. He then studied the Caitanya-caritamrta, Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami’s biography of Lord Caitanya.
The Caitanya-caritamrta is an advanced text for those who have fully studied other Vaisnava scriptures. By completing his study of this culminating work, Baladeva qualified himself for a brilliant future as a Gaudiya scholar.
Meanwhile, in Amber the Ramanandis continued to wage ideological war against the Gaudiyas. The Ramanandis did not accept the answer that the Gaudiya mahantas had given to King Jai Singh — that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was the Supreme Lord Himself and that His sampradaya was therefore beyond doubt.
The Ramanandis insisted on the principle of sampradaya catvarah, “there are only four sampradayas,” implying, of course, that the Gaudiyas constituted an unauthorised fifth lineage.
Jai Singh prepared himself for the religious confrontation he knew was inevitable. He collected and studied the writings of the Gaudiya sect and compared it with the writings of other Vaisnava sampradayas.
He studied the Bhagavata Purana and its commentaries by Sridhara Swami, Sanatana Gosvami, and Jiva Gosvami. He pored over the Vedanta-sutra and its commentaries by Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhva, Vallabha, and Nimbarka.
He explored the works of Sanatana Gosvami, Rupa Gosvami, Gopala Bhatta Gosvami, Jiva Gosvami, and Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, the principal theologians of the Gaudiya school. And he read Jayadeva’s Gita-govinda, the poetry that had often evoked expressions of ecstatic love in Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Jai Singh wanted to reconcile the differences between the principle sects of Vaisnavas.
He felt that these differences had no philosophical basis, so continual wrangling could serve no purpose.
Having completed his research, he composed a thesis called Brahma-bodhini, advocating the unity of the Vaisnavas.
The king’s attraction to Krsna had been sparked during his first visit to Vrndavana, as a child of seven.
He had been called there by his father, the military commander of the district, who had been deputed to protect the caravans between Agra and Mathura.
From that young age, Jai Singh had considered himself a devotee of Krsna.
Now his study of the writings of the Vrndavana Gosvamis crystallised his sentiments.
But his devotion to Radha and Krsna would be tested by the Ramanandis.
“The Gaudiyas should not worship Radha and Krsna together,” the Ramanandis told him.”Radha and Krsna are not married. There is no precedent for Their being worshiped together! Sita and Rama are together, and Laksmi and Narayana, because they are married. But Radha and Krsna are not married.”
Now the Ramanandis were escalating the quarrel. They not only criticised the Gaudiyas’ lineage but also found fault with the Gaudiya method of worship.
The Ramanandis demanded that Radha be removed from the main altar and be placed in another room, to be worshiped separately.
Jai Singh sent word to the mahantas (religious authorities) of the Gaudiya temples. “You must prepare a response to the criticisms voiced by the Ramanandis of Galta Valley. I am sympathetic to your philosophy and practice, but your response must be adequate to silence the Ramanandi panditas, or I shall be forced to separate Radharani from Krsna.”
The mahantas of the four major Gaudiya temples of Amber submitted their response in writing.
They explained that Rupa, Sanatana, and Jiva Gosvamis shared the same opinion about Radha and Krsna:
They could be worshiped either as married (svakiya rasa) or unmarried (parakiya rasa), since both these pastimes (lila) are eternal.
Worship of Krsna in either lila is adequate to establish a devotee’s eternal relationship with the Supreme.
The Ramanandis rejected these arguments. Fighting for their religious and political power, they again approached Jai Singh.
Because Radha and Krsna were not married, the Ramanandis complained, worshiping Them together condoned Their questionable relationship.
The Ramanandis also criticised the Gaudiyas for worshiping Krsna without first worshiping Narayana.
To appease the Ramanandis, Jai Singh told them he would ask the Gaudiyas to place the Deity of Radharani in a separate room.
He would also ask them to explain their breach of Vaisnava etiquette in neglecting Narayana worship, and he would ask them to prove their link with the Madhva sampradaya.
Visvanatha Deputes Baladeva
Visvanatha Cakravati, a scholar of great repute, lived in Vrndavana at this time. Visvanatha had been born in 1646 in a Bengali village named Saidabad, where he had spent the first years of his life.
Like other aspiring young renunciants, Visvanatha had faced problems with his family, who had betrothed him at a young age to tie him to domestic life.
As a married youth, Visvanatha had studied extensively, and while living with his family in Saidabad he had written brilliant commentaries on Vaisnava scripture.
During his life in Saidabad, Visvanatha had taken initiation from Radharamana Cakravati and studied the Srimad-Bhagavatam and other Vaisnava scriptures with Radharamana’s father, Krsnacarana Cakravati.
Radharamana was three generations removed from the main preceptor in their line, Narottama Dasa Thakura.
Eventually Visvanatha had left his family and gone to to Vrndavana, where he had lived at Radha-kunda. He formally accepted the dress of a renunciant and was then called Harivallabha.
He continued writing and preaching, and eventually he became the leader of the Gaudiya community in Vrndavana.
By the time Govinda moved to Rajasthan in 1707, Visvanatha was more than sixty years old. The aging scholar followed the Amber developments with interest.
How would Govinda and His priest’s fare in that pluralistic environment, at the vortex of the young king’s devotion, the Ramanandis antagonism, and the threatening presence of so many sects?
Visvanatha regularly communicated with the mahantas of the Vaisnava temples in Amber.
Although he had expected trouble from the Ramanandis, the quarrel had stewed for years before threatening the Gaudiya priests or affecting the Deity worship. Now, he knew, they despaired over the growing antagonism of the Ramanandis.
Visvanatha called for Baladeva. “We must refute the points of the Ramanandis,” Visvanatha told his protege. “It will not be easy, but we can defeat them.”
Baladeva was outraged by the presumptuousness of the Ramananadi critics. “Why must we establish the legitimacy of our lineage?” He demanded. “The Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna, appeared as Lord Caitanya to establish the true religion for this age of quarrel. When God Himself originates a religious tradition, who may dare question its legitimacy?”
“The Ramanandis do question it” Visvanatha replied, “and they rest their criticism on the statement in Padma Purana that in this age there are four sampradayas, or lines of disciplic succession. The Purana says:
sri-brahma-rudra-sanaka vaisnava-ksiti-pavanah catvaras te kalau bhavya hy utkale purusottama The meaning is that the four Vaisnava sampradayas–Sri, Brahma, Rudra, and Kumara–purify the earth.”
“Yes,” replied Baladeva, “I know this verse. And the Ramanandis say that the words utkale purusottama mean that these four sampradayas have their monasteries in Orissa, in Purusottama-ksetra, the town of Jagannatha Puri.
“But the real meaning is that the Supreme Lord, Purusottama, is the quintessence of these four sampradayas. And when He appears in Kali-yuga, He lives in Jagannatha Puri as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. So the Gaudiya lineage is not a fifth sampradaya but the essence of the four.”
Visvanatha and Baladeva spent the night discussing the Ramanandis other points of contention about Lord Caitanya’s movement. They developed the strategy by which they would defeat the Ramanandis.
v Visvanatha sent Baladeva with Krsnadeva Sarvabhauma to Amber. Baladeva’s arrival there was unheralded.
He was new to the Gaudiya community, unknown even among the Gaudiya mahantas of Amber.
And he was young. No one, even of his own tradition, suspected that a philosophical giant lived within the unpretentious form of this Gaudiya holyman from Vrndavana.
Baladeva had difficulty gaining audience with the king. And when he was finally able to do so, the Ramanandis in the court were ready for him.
“Sir,” Baladeva said to the king, “I have come to resolve doubts about the Gaudiya-sampradaya and its methods of worship.”
“Your Highness,” a Ramanandi pandita broke in, “we request to speak to him directly!”
Jai Singh turned to Baladeva. “You may speak,” the king said, confident that if Krsna were indeed the Supreme Lord, Krsna would arrange for His own defence.
The Ramanandis opened with an offensive they felt sure would guarantee their authority. “The problem,” they told Baladeva, “is that you do not belong to a proper sampradaya. Therefore we cannot accept the literature written by your panditas.”
“I am from the Madhva-sampradaya,” Baladeva asserted confidently. “I have been initiated in Mysore by a Tirtha of the Madhva order. But Radha-Damodara Gosvami and Visvanatha Cakravati of the Gaudiya-sampradaya are also my gurus. They have taught me Bhagavata philosophy.”
The Ramanandis were surprised. Baladeva’s Madhva initiation meant that they had to accept him as a qualified sannyasi and pandita of an authorised lineage. But they hoped his youth might indicate a lack of skill. They rallied themselves. “You may be from the Madhva-sampradaya, but the other Gaudiyas are not!”
Baladeva retained his dignity and produced a key piece of evidence. “That is the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika, written by Kavi Karnapura more than one hundred years ago. This manuscript details our lineage from Madhva.” Baladeva presented the manuscript for inspection.
The Ramanandis again argued, “If the Gaudiyas claim descent from Madhva, then you must base your arguments on Madhva’s Brahma-sutra commentary. We know the Gaudiyas have no commentary of their own.”
Baladeva thought. The Gaudiyas had never written a commentary on Vedantasutra, because they accepted the Srimad-Bhagavatam as the natural commentary.
Vyasa is the author of both of these works, and Lord Caitanya taught that when the author comments on his own work, his opinion is the best.
Baladeva knew that the Ramanandis would reject this argument. But he also knew that if he used Madhva’s commentary he would have problems, for Madhva’s commentary would not justify the style of worship practiced by the Gaudiyas.
So Baladeva decided he would need to write a Gaudiya commentary himself. This commentary is based on Madhva’s, but could have some allowable differences. “I will show you our commentary,” Baladeva said. “Please allow me to bring it.”
“Indeed, send for it,” granted the Ramanandi spokesman. “That won’t be possible,” replied Baladeva. “It will require several days to write it.”
The Ramanandis were stunned. Could Baladeva produce a commentary within a few days? How audacious! But if Baladeva could indeed produce it, the Ramanandis position might be threatened.
Should they grant him the time he required?
Before they could speak, King Jai Singh interjected. “Yes, the time is granted. Prepare your commentary and notify us when it is ready. You should know that unless you present a suitable commentary, we shall accept the criticisms of the Ramanandis as valid. But I shall not act on any of their demands until you have had an opportunity to present your commentary and your arguments.”
Govindaji Inspires Baladeva
Baladeva left the assembly, followed by Krsnadeva Sarvabhauma. Baladeva saw himself a puppet in the hands of the Lord. He had spoken boldly in the assembly, but would the divine puppeteer guide his pen?
Baladeva went to Govindapura. Presenting himself before Govinda, he knelt and prayed:
“O Govinda, Your devotee Visvanatha has sent me here to defend You and Your devotees, but I cannot do it! I am just a soul fallen in ignorance.
If You wish, You may empower me to write a Vedanta-sutra commentary that will glorify You.
If You wish, I shall write the truths I have learned from Your devotees and Your scripture. And I have faith that by Your mercy these truths will appear most logical.”
Then Baladeva began to write.
Pausing scarcely to rest, he wrote and prayed and wrote again.
Days passed and nights, but he did not stop. Some historians say he wrote for one month.
Others say it took him only seven days.
In any event, Baladeva soon returned from Govindapura. By now, keen expectancy had been aroused in all the various parties.
Jai Singh, hoping to see the Gaudiyas vindicated, was especially eager to see the commentary.
The Ramanandis, however, awaited the commentary with some trepidation, hoping they could defeat it readily.
Baladeva entered the court of debate convened in Galta. He stood on one side with the Gaudiya mahantas.
Facing them were the Ramanandi panditas. King Jai Singh presided, and an audience of nobles and scholars was in attendance.
With the king’s permission, Baladeva rose. “This commentary,” he said, putting forward his work, “is based on Madhva’s, but there are some important differences.
If you examine it, you will find that it upholds the Gaudiya philosophy taught by Lord Caitanya.”
A Ramanandi pandita stepped forward and received Baladeva’s commentary.
“Who is the author of this work?” He asked.
Baladeva replied, “The name of the commentary is Govinda-bhasya. Govinda has inspired this work. I have given the direct meanings of the sutras according to the wish of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.And my comments are based on the teachings of my gurus.”
The learned members of the Ramanandi contingent examined the first portion of the bhasya to determine whether it was as Baladeva had claimed.
A spokesman conceded, “The influence of Madhva is certainly demonstrable in this commentary, but we should examine some of the differences.”
Baladeva then addressed each of the Ramanandis’ objections to Gaudiya worship.
“I have expounded on every aspect of Gaudiya practice in chapter three,” he said. “Since your criticisms concern our style of worship, you should turn to chapter three to see how Vyasa, the author of Vedanta-sutra, has provided for our worship.
“You object to our worship of Radha with Govinda on the superficial grounds that They are not married.
In verses forty through forty-two I have presented the true position of Radha in relation to Krsna.
Radha is the eternal energy of the Krsna and is never separated from Him.
Their relationship may be parakiya or svakiya, but that does not affect the eternality of Their union.
The separation of Radha and Govinda you have effected is artificial and therefore offensive to the Lord, who holds deep affection for His female energy.
“You have criticised our predilection for worshiping only Krsna, neglecting the worship of Narayana, Visnu, which you say is mandatory for all Vaisnavas.
I have addressed that point in my comments to verse forty-three. According to the Vedanta-sutra, Narayana may be worshiped in any of His forms, including Krsna. No scriptural injunction prohibits the worship of Govinda exclusive of Narayana.”
Baladeva continued speaking while the Ramanandis stood defenceless. He spoke eloquently and exhaustively.
A rebuttal from the Ramanandis never developed. At the end of Baladeva’s presentation, King Jai Singh waited, weighing the evidence.
The Ramanandis’ silence confirmed his own opinion.
He delivered his decision in a brief but conclusive statement. “The evidence supporting the Gaudiya legitimacy is unassailable. Hereafter, the Gaudiyas shall be recognised and respected as an authorised religious sect. I order the reunion of Radha with Govinda.”
The Gaudiya mahantas in Amber, free at last from condemnation by the Ramanandis, celebrated by building a temple of victory on the hill overlooking the Galta Valley. The temple Deity was appropriately named Vijaya Gopala, “Victorious Gopala.”
At The Feet of Govinda
Baladeva returned to Vrndavana, where he assumed leadership of the Gaudiya community.
He continued to write. Faithful to Jiva Gosvami and devoted to Lord Caitanya, he produced commentaries on ten principle Upanisads and nine works of the Vrndavana Gosvamis.
He also wrote original works on grammar, drama, prosody, and poetics. He remained the unquestioned authority on Vaisnava theology until his death.
(The date of Baladeva’s demise is unknown. His last known written work, Stavamala, was dated 1764.)
With Baladeva’s victory over the Ramanandis, Jai Singh was satisfied. He had found the synthesis of Vaisnava religions.
And Radha had been reunited with Govinda on the altar, as She is in eternity. Jai Singh dedicated himself to Govinda and passed a long, and productive life as a king and scholar.
In 1714 Jai Singh moved Govinda to the Jai Nivasa Gardens and installed Him in a garden house, where He was worshiped for twenty-one years.
In 1735 the king built a temple for Govinda within the Jaipur palace compound.
Jai Singh later installed Govinda as the king of Jaipur and accepted the position of minister for himself.
From that time his royal seal read, sri govindadeva carana savai jai singh sarana: “Lord Govinda, at whose lotus feet Jai Singh takes refuge.”