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Nimbarka (Śrī Nimbārkācārya श्री निम्बार्काचार्य), was a Hindu philosopher and commentator, known for propagating the Vaishnava doctrine of bhedabheda dvaitadvaita, duality in unity. There is considerable disagreement regarding the dates when Nimbarka lived and taught; according to the Vedic scriptures, he was born in 3096 B.C.E., but modern historical research places him in the thirteenth or fourteenth century. The works attributed to Nimbarka are Vedānta-pārijata-saurabha (a short commentary on the Brahmasutra); Daśa-śloki (Dashashloki), ten verses elucidating his view of the distinctness of jiva (cit, soul), isvara and jagat(acit, matter); and Krsna-stava-rāja (Shrikrsnastavarāja).

Nimbarka’s philosophical position is simultaneous duality and non-duality. He defines three categories of existence, God (Isvara), souls (cit) and matter (acit). God (Isvara) exists independently and by Himself, but the existence of souls and matter is dependent upon God. Souls and matter have attributes and capacities which are different from God (Isvara), but at the same time they are not different from God because they cannot exist independently of Him. God is both the efficient and material cause of the universe. Creation is a manifestation of His powers of soul (cit) and matter (acit). His disciplic tradition, the Nimbarka Sampradāya, continues unbroken till today.

Śrī Nimbārkācārya


There has been much confusion as to the dates when Śrī Nimbārkācārya lived and taught. Within the traditions founded by him, there are two predominant views, the first following the historical traditions of the shastras, and the other attempting to adhere to western historical thought. However, there has not been much debate on the matter, as it is his philosophy, and not his life, that attracts the greatest interest.

View of the Shastras

Members of the Nimbārka Sampradāya, the disciplic tradition founded by Śrī Nimbārkācārya, generally accept the date given in the Vedic Scriptures. There are many sources for this date, but the primary one is the Puranas. According to the Bhaviṣya Purāṇa, the incarnation (birth) of the Sudarśana Cakra occurred, in the month of Kārtika on the evening of the full moon in the year 3096 B.C.E., at the time when the grandson of Arjuna was on the throne. The members of that tradition support this claim with the fact that many verses of the Puranas, which have been evolving since their creation, have disappeared in the modern versions that are available [1].

Historical Dating

Scholars using western methods of historical research have examined internal evidence contained within the scriptures themselves, and the lists of successive teachers of the Nimbārka Sampradāya, to place him somewhere during the fourteenth century. [2]Their estimates place Nimbarka sometime after, or even contemporary with, Ramanuja, because Nimbarka’s philosophy bears a close resemblance to that of Ramanuja, and because Nimbarka makes reference to the “Shri” of Ramanuja. Some believe that he lived after Mādhava (1238 – 1317), who did not make any reference to Nimbarka’s system of thought in Sarva-darsana-samgraha, which mentions all the important systems of thought known at that time. According to scholars headed by Prof. Roma Bose, he lived in the thirteenth century [3].

According to Nimbārka Sampradāya however, Śrī Nimbārkācārya appeared over 5000 years ago, in the year 3096 B.C.E. at the time when the grandson of Arjuna was on the throne. He hailed from the present-day Andhra Pradesh, in South India.


Śrī Nimbārkācārya is believed to be the incarnation of the Sudarshana Chakra (the Discus weapon of Śrī Kṛṣṇa ), Shri Sakhi Ranga Devi, Shri Tosha Sakha, a cow named Ghusara, a stick for herding cows, the luster of the limbs of Shrimati Radharani, and the nose ring of Srimati Radharani. In the Naimiṣa Kaṇḍa of the Bhaviṣya Purāṇa the following is recorded:

At the end of Tretā Yuga, the Brāhmaṇas (Brahmins), being afraid of the Asuras [atheists], prayed to Lord Hari. They also prayed to Brahmā (brahma) who himself prayed to Lord Hari again. Then the Lord summoned his own Sudarśana Cakra-a part of Himself- and commanded him to descend on earth to revive and teach the Vaiṣṇava Dharma (see Vaishnavism) which was waning and which he could learn from Nārada, and spread it all around.

His mother, Jayanti and father, Aruṇa (Sarasvati and Jagannātha, according to the commentary of Harivyasadeva on Dasa Sloki) were Tailanga Brāhmins, who resided on the banks of the Godāvarī at a place known as Telinga, the modern Vaidurya Pattanam in Andhra Pradesh. He was named Niyamānanda at birth. The region was famed for its scholarly learning, and by the age of 16, Niyamānanda had mastered the Vedas and all related philosophical scripture. With the permission of his parents, Niyamānanda then embarked on a search of a true Guru. Upon reaching Govardhan in Mathura,Uttar Pradesh, he began practicing penance under the shade of Neem trees. Pleased with his penance, the Sage Nārada) blessed him with the knowledge of true Vedānta, the doctrine of Dvaitādvaita, or unity in duality. After this, Niyamānanda begged Nārada to accept him as a disciple. The great sage Nārada gave him initiation according to Vaiṣṇava rites, and bestowed him the śālagrāma deity known as Śrī Sarveśvara (the Lord of All). Continuing, Nārada renamed him Haripriyā (one dear to the Lord). He then instructed Niyamānanda on the Gopāla Mantra of the Gopālatāpini upaniṣad. When that was completed, the Sage Nārada instructed him to practice further penance with that Mantra, so that all would be revealed to him.

While Niyamānanda was performing the ritual recitation and meditation upon that mantra, the Lord revealed Himself as Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. Niyamānanda worshipped them, and was blessed with the recollection of his former glory as the Sudarśana Cakra of that very Lord. The Lord instructed him to teach this philosophy to all, and departed.

In a famous incident, having established his āśrama (monastery/hermitage) at a place near Govardhan now known as Nimbagrāma, Niyamānanda began to teach the disciples who dedicated themselves to his mission. Brahmā disguised himself as a renounciate and ventured to this hermitage just before sunset, where the two engaged in philosophical debate. Niyamānanda, being victorious, then offered the guest some refreshments, but he refused, as the sun had set and it would be against the rules of the renounciates. However, Niyamānanda had to make sure the renounciate ate, otherwise the rules for receiving a guest would be broken. The enlightened Niyamānanda projected some of the effulgence of his being over the neem trees and the renounciate agreed to accept the refreshments. Then the renounciate revealed himself as Brahmā, praised him for his knowledge of the Supreme, blessed him and gave him a new name - Nimbārka, meaning "the one who has placed the Sun in the midst of the Neem trees."

It is with this name that he became famous, though his exact date of death is not known. His disciplic tradition continues unbroken till today. Those who believe that Nimbarka lived five thousand years ago, hold that due to interference by foreign invaders the historical information regarding several hundred leaders of the school, who existed between the officially recorded leaders 12 and 13, has been lost.



The works attributed to Nimbarka are Vedānta-pārijata-saurabha (a short commentary on the Brahmasutra); Daśa-śloki (Dashashloki), ten verses elucidating his view of the distinctness of jiva (cit, soul), isvara and jagat(acit, matter); and Krsna-stava-rāja (Shrikrsnastavarāja) and seven other manuscripts, listed in catalogues of Sanskrit literature, which do not appear to be extant. [4] Madhvamukhamardana is attributed to Nimbarka but is probably the work of later followers. Numerous commentaries were written on Nimbarka’s works by his disciples and by other philosophers who supported his system.


Nimbarka’s philosophical position is known as bhedabheda (dvaitadvaita), simultaneous duality and non-duality. Like Ramanuja, he defines three categories of existence, God (Isvara), souls (cit) and matter (acit). God (Isvara) exists independently and by Himself, but the existence of souls and matter is dependent upon God. Souls and matter have attributes and capacities which are different from God (Isvara), but at the same time they are not different from God because they cannot exist independently of Him.

“Difference” or “duality” refers to the separate but dependent existence of soul and matter (para-tantra-satta-bhava), while “non-difference” or “non-duality” means that it is impossible for soul and matter to exist independently of God (svatantra-satta-bhava). Nimbarka perceives the relation between Brahman, and souls (cit) and the universe (acit) as a relation of natural difference-non-difference (svabhavika-bhedabheda), just like the relationship between the sun and its rays, or a snake and its coil. Just as the coil is nothing but the snake, yet different from it; just as the different kinds of stones, though nothing but earth, are yet different from it; so the souls and the universe, though nothing but Brahman (brahmatmaka), are different from Him because of their own peculiar natures and attributes.

According to Nimbarka, Brahman (God), souls (cit) and matter or the universe (acit) are three equally real and co-eternal realities. Brahman is the Controller (niyantr), the soul is the enjoyer (bhoktr), and the material universe is the object enjoyed (bhogya).


God is the highest Brahman, ruler of the universe, and by His nature is free from all defects and the abode of all goodness. God is identified with Krishna, and Radha is his consort. God is both the efficient and material cause of the universe. God is the efficient cause because, as Lord of Karma and internal ruler of souls, He brings about creation so that the souls will be able to reap the consequences of their karma. God is the material cause of the universe because creation is a manifestation of His powers of soul (cit) and matter (acit); creation is a transformation (parinama) of God’s powers. [5]

The relationship between God and the universe is a natural relationship of difference and non-difference (svabhavika-bhedabheda). If the universe were absolutely identical with God, then all of its imperfections, sufferings, and miseries would be part of God, and God would no longer have a pure nature. If, however, the universe were completely separate from God, God could not be its inner ruler and controller.

Nimbarka considers the highest object of worship to be 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 individual soul is of the nature of knowledge (jñãnasvarũpa), and at the same time is the substratum of knowledge, in the same way that the sun is of the nature of light and at the same time is the substratum of light. The soul is the knower, agent and enjoyer, dependent on God, supported by God, pervaded by God and controlled from within by God. Souls are the size of miniscule atoms and are numerous. A soul is eternal, yet it becomes embodied and suffers birth and death because of karma. Liberation of the soul comes about through knowledge, and knowledge itself is brought about by God’s grace, which is due to devotion. [6]

Education of disciple

Nimbarka identifies three “moments” in the education of the soul. First the seeker must study religious texts until he realizes that the benefits which result from performance of all the Vedic duties do not bring about a state of eternal bliss. The seeker then understands that only the realization of Brahman lads to an unchangeable, constant and eternal state of bliss. Anxious to attain this realizaiton, he approaches his teacher with affection and reverence to receive instruction on the nature of Brahman. Krishna, the omnipotent, all-pervasive Being, can only be realized through a constant effort to permeate oneself with his nature by means of thought and devotion. The student listens to his teacher, who has such a direct realization of the nature of Brahman, and tries to understand the meaning of his teacher’s instruction (sravana). Next, the student goes through a process of organizing his thoughts (manana) to facilitate a receptive approach to the truths communicated by the teacher, in order to develop his faith in them. The third step, nididhyāsana, is a process of constant meditation to direct the student’s inner psychical processes to a direct experience of the truths communicated by the teacher, culminating in the revelation of the nature of Brahman in the seeker.

Liberation from bondage

Avidya, the ignorance of one’s true nature and relationship with God, is the cause of karma, and of attachment to the senses, body and matter. Nimbarka identified, as the ultimate ideal, the realization of one’s absolute unity with God, absolutely controlled and regulated by God. In such a state, one would abnegate all actions, desires and motives, feel oneself as an absolute constituent of God. Once achieving this state, a being never again comes within the grasp of mundane bondage, and lives in eternal bliss in devotional contemplation of God. Liberation, therefore, would be unflinching meditation on the nature of God and participation in Him.

Sri Nimbarka referred to four means of eliminating adviya (ignorance) and achieving liberations from bondage:

  • Karma – The performance of ritual action or duty, conscientiously in a proper spirit, according to one’s varna (caste) and asrama (phase of life), thereby giving rise to wisdom and knowledge.
  • Vidya – Knowledge the attainment of which was not subordinate to karma, but also not independent of it.
  • Upasana or dhyana (meditation) – There were three types: meditation on the Lord as one's self, or meditation on the Lord as the Inner Controller of the sentient; meditation on the Lord as the Inner Controller of the non-sentient; and meditation on the Lord Himself, as different from the sentient and non-sentient.
  • Gurupasatti - Devotion and the surrender of the self to a guru, or teacher.

Nimbarka and Ramanuja

Though Nimbarka appears to have borrowed many aspects of Ramanuja’s philosophy, there are some important differences. Nimbarka places equal emphasis on both difference and non-difference, while Ramanuja makes difference subordinate to non-difference, in the sense that soul (cit) and matter (acit) do not exist separately from Brahman, but as its body or attributes.

Nimbarka rejects the concept of matter and soul as attributes, or qualities of God. An attribute, or quality, functions as a means of distinguishing one object from another, or as a means of knowing more about the object. Matter and soul cannot function as attributes or qualities of God in this sense, since there is nothing outside of God and God cannot be distinguished from anything else. Since matter and soul do not constitute the essence of God, they cannot supply any further knowledge about Him.

Nimbarka also rejects the concept of matter and souls as the body of God. If they were, God would be subject to imperfections, suffering, and miseries, and this is a contradiction of God’s essential eternal and perfect nature. Instead, Nimbarka considers soul and matter to be ‘parts’ or ‘powers’ of God. [7]

The Nimbarka Sampradāya

During the period of the 35th leader, Svāmī Harivyāsa Devacārya (c. 1755), the tradition of the Nimbarka Sampradāya (Nimbarka school) was reformed. He anointed 12 of his senior disciples to lead missions throughout the land. The most famous of these were Svāmī Paraśurāma Devācārya and Svāmī Svabhūrāma Devācārya. Svāmī Paraśurāma Devācārya remained the overall leader of the entire movement, and was given the śālagrāma deity known as Śrī Sarveśvara, believed to have been handed down through time from Nimbārka himself. Svāmī Svabhūrāma Devācārya was based at Kurukshetra in modern Haryana, India. Although the monastery he founded no longer remains, his followers are found mostly in Vṛndāvana, India.

The 48th and current leader of the entire Nimbārka Sampradāya (the disciplic tradition of Nimbārka) is H.D.H. Jagadguru Nimbārkācārya Svāmī Śrī Rādhāsarveśvara Śaraṇa Devācārya, known in reverence as Śrī Śrījī Māhārāja by his followers. He is based in Nimbārka Tīrtha Rajasthan, India. His followers are mainly in Rajasthan and Vṛndāvana, Mathura. A second major branch, founded over five hundred years ago by Nagaji Maharaj and called the Kathia Baba, is now under its 57th leader.


  1. Sri Sarvesvara Visesanka. 1972. Sri Nimbarkacarya aur unka sampraday, Sri Nimbarkacarya Pitha, (Salemabad)
  2. Surendranath Dasgupta. 1973. A History of Indian Philosophy, Vol. III (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 8120804120), 400
  3. Prof. Roma Bose. Vedanta Parijata Saurabha of Nimbarka and Vedanta Kaustubha of Srinivasa (Commentaries on the Brahma-Sutras) - Doctrines of Nimbarka and his followers, vol. 3, (Munishram Manoharlal Publishers, Reprint 2004)
  4. Surendranath Dasgupta. 1973. A History of Indian Philosophy, Vol. III. (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 8120804120 ISBN 8120804082), 400
  5. Chandrahar Sharma. 2003. A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy. (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 8120803647 ), 376.
  6. Ibid. 376
  7. Ibid., 377

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Dasgupta, Surendranath. 1973. A History of Indian Philosophy, Vol. III. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 8120804120 ISBN 8120804082
  • Ghate, Vinayak Sakharam. 1960. The Vedānta; a study of the Brahmasūtras with the bhāsyas of Sáṁkara, Rāmānuja, Nimbărka, Madhva and Vallabha. Poona: Bhandharkar Oriental research institute.
  • Khurana, Geeta, Nimbārka, and Giridharaprapanna. 1990. The theology of Nimbārka: a translation of Nimbārka's Daśaślokī with Giridhara Prapanna's Laghumañjūsā. New York: Vantage Press. ISBN 9780533087051
  • Kulshreshtha, Saroj. 1986. The concept of salvation in Vedānta. New Delhi: Ashish Pub. House. ISBN 9788170240549
  • Nimbārka, Roma Chaudhuri, and Śrīnivāsācārya. 2004. Vedānta-pārijāta-saurabha of Nimbārka and Vedānta-kaustubha of Śrīnivāsa: commentaries on the Brahma-sutras. English translation. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers. ISBN 9788121511216
  • Sharma, Chandrahar. 2003. A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 8120803655
  • Tapasyananda. 1990. Bhakti schools of Vedānta: lives and philosophies of Rāmānuja, Nimbārka, Mādhva, Vallabha, and Caitanya. Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math. ISBN 9788171202263

External links

All links retrieved November 14, 2022.


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