Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana was a highly renounced, pure devotee, who had not even a fraction of desire for name or fame. He compiled many literature’s in order to benefit mankind. However he never mentioned his birth place or anything about his family background and therefore the details are not known for sure.
Historians have estimated that he was born sometime in the eighteenth century, most probably in Orissa (possibly near Remuna). At a very early age, he finished his studies of grammar, poetry, rhetoric and logic and then went on pilgrimage. During this time he spent some time with the Tattvavadis of Madhwacarya in South India and thus became conversant with the teachings of Sri Madhwacarya. He became a powerful exponent of this philosophy throughout India.
During his travels he again came to Utkaladesa (Orissa) and met with a grand-disciple of Sri Rasikananda Deva, Sri Radha-Damodara Deva by name, with whom he discussed philosophy. Sri Radha-Damodara Deva explained the conclusions of Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy as expounded by Sri Gaursundara and requested him to consider the unlimited mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. These talks penetrated his heart and awakened divine love within. Thus, after a few days he was initiated with Radha-Krsna mantra and began to study the Sat sandarbha of Sri Jiva Gosvami.
In a very short time he became very expert in Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy. With the permission and blessings of his guru, he moved to Sri Vrindavana Dhama to further study these teachings under Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura.
Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura was extremely pleased to see the humble and gentle nature and the renunciation and profound mastery of the Vedas that characterized Baladeva. He carefully instructed him in acintya-bhedabheda-tattva. Baladeva fully accepted the Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy and began to preach it with great vigor.
Around this time, the members of the Sri sampradaya began to raise some arguments in the court of the king at Jaipur. They complained that as the Gaudiya Vaishnavas had no commentary on the Vedanta sutra, they were not qualified to worship the Deity and therefore the worship should be turned over to the Sri sampradaya. They also objected to the worship of Srimati Radharani along with Sri Sri Govinda-Gopinatha as not being authorised anywhere in the shastras.
The king, Sadacari Raja, was initiated within the Gaudiya sampradaya. Thus he quietly sent word to Vrindavana, informing the devotees there of what had happened. But at the same time the king was obliged to remove Radharani from the Deity room as well as suspend the Bengali Gaudiya Vaishnava pujaris from partaking in the Deity worship.
At that time Srila Viswanath Cakravartipada was very aged, so it was not possible for him to make the journey to Jaipur. In his place he sent his student, Sri Baladeva, who was fully conversant with the shastras and thus able to competently face the challenge. In a great assembly he posed such forceful arguments to the followers of Ramanuja that they could not reply to them. He further explained to them, “The originator of the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, has accepted Srimad Bhagavata as the natural commentary on the Vedanta-sutra, as composed by Srila Vyasadeva Himself. This is proven in the Sat-sandarbha.”
The scholars in the assembly however, refused to accept anything other than a direct commentary on the sutra. Having no other recourse, Baladeva promised to present them with one.
Feeling very aggrieved, Sri Baladeva came to Sri Govindaji’s mandira and after offering his prostrated obeisances, informed Sri Govinda of everything that had happened. That night the Lord appeared to him in a dream and instructed him to write a commentary on the Vedanta-sutra. “I will dictate to you what to write and therefore no one will be able to refuse to accept it.”
Having seen such a wonderful dream, Baladeva was totally enlivened and felt renewed strength flow into his heart. Thus he began to write, and within a few days completed the commentary which was titled ‘Sri Govinda Bhasya’.
Vidya rupam bhusanam me pradaya kyatim nitya tena yo mamudarah
Sri Govinda svapna nirdista bhaso radha bandhubandhurangah sa jiyat:
“May He Who so mercifully and munificently was kind towards me, and bestowed his favour by ordering me in a dream to write down His own commentary, which He would compose, and which attained such renown amongst the learned circles that they bestowed upon me the title ‘Vidyabhusana’; may that dear friend of Srimati Radharani, who holds Him dearer than Her own life, be glorified. May that Sri Govinda be glorified.”
Bringing the commentary with him, Sri Baladeva again came to the assembly of the Ramanandi scholars. After reading the commentary they were simply speechless. Thus the victory of the Gaudiya sampradaya was announced far and wide and the king, as well as the other devotees, began to float in the ocean of bliss. The scholars then bestowed upon Sri Baladeva the title ‘Vidyabhusana’.
This assembly took place in the year 1628 Sakabda, at Golta near the present city of Jaipur. Baladeva Vidyabhusana installed the Deity of Vijaya Gopala there at Golta Mandira, but the whereabouts of this Deity are at present not known. From this day the Maharaja of Jaipur announced that Sri Govinda’s arati would be performed first and then the other temples could perform their aratis.
After accepting defeat, the Ramanandi scholars expressed their desire to accept initiation from Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana. However, he declined their request by stating that amongst the four authorised sampradayas, the Sri sampradaya was highly respectable and the foremost adherent of dasya-bhakti (devotion in servitorship). If there was any cause of loss of respect to the sampradaya this might be considered an offense.
Returning from Jaipur to Vrindavana, Sri Baladeva presented the certificate of victory to Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura and narrated all of the events that had transpired. All of the devotees were in great ecstasy to receive this news and Cakravartipada bestowed his full blessings on Sri Baladeva. At this time, Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana began to write a commentary on Srila Jiva Gosvami’s Sat sandarbha.
Sri Jaya and Sri Vijaya Govinda, residing at Gokulananda Mandira in Vrindavana, were worshipped by Baladeva Vidyabhusana personally. According to the opinion of some devotees, the Deities of Syamananda Prabhu, Sri Sri Radha-Syamasundara, were installed by Sri Baladeva Vidybhusana.
After Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura finished his pastimes in this world, Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana became the next acarya of the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya.
At the end of Vedanta syamantaka, Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana acknowledges his spiritual master thusly: “I have been sent here to Vrindavana by one brahmana guru, Sri Radha-Damodar Deva, to present a composition named Vedanta syamantaka, composed by his mercy for the pleasure of Srimati Radharani.”
Srila Baladeva Vidybhusana became known later as Sri Govinda dasa. He had two well known disciples: Sri Vidya dasa and Sri Nandan Misra.
He is the compiler of the following books: (although there’s a lot more than this: Bhasya pithaka, commentaries on Gopala Campu, Krsna bhavanamrta, Samsaya satini, etc.etc.) Sri Govinda bhasya, Siddhanta ratnam, Sahitya kaumudi, Vedanta syamantaka, Prameya ratnavali, Siddhanta darpana, Kavya kaustubha, Vyakarana kaumudi, Pada kaustubha, Isadi upanisad bhasya, Gitabhusana bhasya, Sri Visnunamasahasra bhasya, Sanksepa bhagavatamrta tippani saranga rangada, Tattva sandarbha tika, Stava mala vibhusana bhasya, Nataka candrika tika, Candraloka tika, Sahitya kaumudi tika, Krsna nandini, Srimad Bhagavata tika, Vaishnava nandini, Govinda bhasya siksma tika, Siddhanta ratna tika, Stava mala tika.
Note: Special thanks to Jaya Tirtha Caran prabhu from NZ for allowing us to use some of the content from his site to compile these pages.