One of the famous Acharyas who lived in this region of the sacred river Godavari was Acharya Nimbarka, who flourished in the 11th century A.D. His original name was Niyamananda, and he came to be popularly called as ‘Nimbarkacharya’ because the sun appeared again after sunset above the Neem Tree near his Ashram.
Acharya Nimbarka, an Avatara Purusha, like Vallabhacharya and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu after him, dawned like a blazing trail after the days of Sankara and Ramanuja. Like Ramanand of Bengal and Gurunanak of the Punjab, Acharya Nimbarka was a builder of the Telugu country which has produced many great men of learning.
Acharya Nimbarka was born in a village near Vaiduryapattam on the banks of the great river Godavari. His father was Aruna Muni and mother, a very pious woman named Jayanthi Devi. Tradition regarded Nimbarak as the very incarnation of Surya Bhagavan; it is said the sage Narada himself initiated him with the famous ‘Gopala Mantra’ and taught him the mode of worshipping the Divine Lord Sri Krishna.
During his days there were frequent disputations and discussions with Jaina saints who inhabited the Godavari delta. It was in this way that he entered into a heated discussion with a Jaina ascetic of repute, So heated was the debate that neither of them was aware that the sun had set. After the discussion had ended, Nimbarka requested the Jaina Ascetic to share the meal which was kept ready. The Jaina ascetic, only replied, “O Acharya’ Don’t you know that I can’t take food after sunset it’s forbidden.”
Acharya Nimbarka was disappointed and displeased at the reply. Then he meditated for a minute or two. What a miracle happened! Surya Bhagwan once again appeared just above a Neem tree close by his Ashram The Acharya thought within himself that this benign act was all due to the divine grace of Lord Krishna. So much was he delighted that he danced quite long forgetting himself. Then the Jaina ascetic was fed and sent away.
This unusual incident brought such an excellent reputation for the Acharya that his numerous disciples called him ‘Nimbarkacharya’. In recognition of his superhuman powers. Since that day he came to be recognised as an Avatar of the Sun God.
It is said that the greater effort of the Acharya was to weaken Jainism which was rampant in the Telugu country of his days. Like Sankara and Ramanuja before him, Sri Nimbarkacharya was a person of great erudition, and he composed some very important books:
- Vedanta Parijat Saurabh – A commentary on the Brahma Sutras.
- Sadachar Prakash – A commentary on the Bhagavad Gita.
- Prata Smarana Stotram – A treatise on Seeking Refuge with the Supreme.
- Savisesh Nirvisesh Sri Krishna Stavam – Hymns on Lord Krishna.
Besides these, he also composed some more hymns and explanations to certain important mantras. Dvaitadvaita School of Philosophy
He was an exponent of neither the Dwaita nor the Adwaita School of philosophy but a happy mixture of both known as Dwaitadwaita. The followers of the Acharya worship Sri Radha and Krishna and they are found even to this day in Mathura and Brindavan, the places divinely associated with Lord Krishna. Bhagavata is the most important scripture for the followers of the Acharya who always fed his congregation with the divine exploits of the Lord of his heart.
Like Vallabhacharya and Tuka Ram, the only meaning of religious worships for Acharya Nimbarka was the love of God as represented by Radha and Sri Krishna.
Heaven according to him, could be attained through worship with a lofty and pure heart, and by means of acts of love and kindness to living beings.
It is not known how the Acharya lived in his last days. But it must be said that, as always, he lived an exemplary life. Though he lived in an age of chaos and confusion, he frequently travelled on foot and lived on charity.
The prayer of the great Acharya, a movement of learning and wisdom, was:
Allow me to consecrate my life to thy service, O Krishna divine! Let my mind be so filled with Thy love that there may be neither any ebb or any flow to it. Let me utter words of sweet nectar!’
Together with the Acharyas before him and the Acharyas that followed him, the bhakti movement took root and branch and accounted for the renaissance and revival of the religion of the Vedanta.