Saturday, December 31, 2022

Prameya-ratnavali Release

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In this work, composed at the request of his students, Sri Vidyabhusana presents a summary study of nine major philosophical and theological tenets covered in the Govinda-bhasya. Each of the theorems, or objects of knowledge, is succinctly defined and backed up by quotes from the sruti and the smrti, making this text a perfect outline of the Gaudiya system of thought.

This edition includes the original Sanskrit text critically edited on the basis of 51 manuscripts, its Roman transliteration, the original Sanskrit commentary written by Vedantavagisa, a gloss by the author, an English translation of all of these, and an extensive introduction rebutting false accusations against Sri Vidyabhusana and the legitimacy of the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya-parampara defended by him.


Table of Contents


     Authorship and Time




     Sundarānanda Vidyāvinoda

     Rādhāgovinda Nātha

     Kānāi Lāl Adhikārī

     Akṣaya Kumāra Śāstrī






Prameya 1: Lord Viṣṇu’s Supremacy

Prameya 2: Lord Viṣṇu is to be Known Through all the Vedas

Prameya 3: The Reality of the Universe

Prameya 4: Difference is Real

Prameya 5: The Jīvas’ Servitude to Lord Hari

Prameya 6: The Gradations among Living Entities

Prameya 7: Liberation is the Attainment of Kṛṣṇa

Prameya 8: Pure Devotional Service yields Liberation

Prameya 9: The Three Kinds of Evidence




            The prolific and astounding literary production that characterised Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism in the 16th century was followed by a drastic recess after Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī left this world. Only a few authors were then engaged in writing Bengali compositions, and even rarer were those who wrote in Sanskrit. This picture did not change until late 17th century, when Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī became another luminary, whose writings revived the old scholarly tradition started by Lord Caitanya’s followers. Despite their substantial numbers, Gauḍīya works were mostly within the scope of poetry, dramaturgy, and theology, besides commentaries on prominent Vaiṣṇava texts. Until the beginning of the 18th century, Gauḍīyas had shown little interest in presenting purely philosophical treatises, let alone comment on standard philosophical texts such as the Brahma-sūtra. This made them somewhat alienated from other schools of thought that had established themselves by actively engaging in writing Vedānta commentaries and debating various opposing systems. Each of the four original Vaiṣṇava sampradāyas— Śrī, Brahmā, Rudra, and Kumāra— had one or more Vedānta commentaries to their credit. So was the case with those who claimed affiliation to one of them, such as the Rāmānandīs and the Puṣṭimārgīs. It was possibly with the intention of filling this gap that King Sawai Jai Singh II (1688-1743 AD) commissioned Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa (c.1700-1793 AD) to compose a Gauḍīya commentary on the Brahma-sūtra. In response, Śrī Vidyābhūṣaṇa first presented the Brahma-sūtra-kārikā-bhāṣya in a very condensed format, and years later, the Govinda-bhāṣya, a much more extensive and elaborate work. In order to duly facilitate the comprehension of the latter, he subsequently composed the Siddhānta-ratna, a dense treatise covering major philosophical and theological topics. Being requested by his students, he further penned the Prameya-ratnāvalī, a Vedānta-prakaraṇa in which he succinctly focused on the objects of knowledge or theorems (prameya) dealt with in Vaiṣṇava philosophy.

          Prameya is an essential category in any philosophical system. For instance, in the Nyāya-sūtra (1.1.1), Gautama delineates the Nyāya philosophy in sixteen categories: pramāṇa (means of knowledge), prameya (objects of knowledge), saṁśaya (doubt), prayojana (aim), dṛṣṭānta (example), siddhānta (conclusion), avayava (members of a syllogism), tarka (hypothetical reasoning), nirṇaya (settlement), vāda (discussion), jalpa (wrangling), vitaṇḍā (cavilling), hetvābhāsa (fallacy), chala (quibbling), jāti (sophisticated refutation), and nigraha-sthāna (point of defeat). In sūtra 1.1.9, he acknowledges twelve kinds of prameyas: ātmā (soul), śarīra (body), indriya (senses), artha (sense objects), buddhi (cognition), manaḥ (mind), pravṛtti (activity), doṣa (defects), pretyabhāva (rebirth), phala (results), duḥkha (suffering), and apavarga (liberation). In his commentary, Vātsyāyana defines prameya in the following words: yo’rthas tattvataḥ pramīyate tat prameyam, “Prameya is an object that is accurately known.” Anything that can be known is a prameya, but Indian philosophers occupied themselves only with the prameyas they deemed meaningful to attain liberation.

The following definition appears on the top page of several manuscripts of the Prameya-ratnāvalī: pramātuṁ yāthārthyena jñātuṁ yogyāni prameyāṇi tāny eva ratnāni teṣām āvalī prameya-ratnāvalī, “Worthwhile theorems (prameya), which are to be truly known, are themselves jewels (ratna). A string (āvalī) of such jewels is called Prameya-ratnāvalī.” In this treatise, Vidyābhūṣaṇa delves in the nine prameyas that have been handed down through the Mādhva-paramparā, as highlighted in a famous verse often attributed to Śrī Vyāsa Tīrtha:[1]

śrīman-madhva-mate hariḥ paratamaḥ satyaṁ jagat tattvato

bhedo jīva-gaṇā harer anucarā nīcocca-bhāvaṁ gatāḥ|

muktir naija-sukhānubhūtir amalā bhaktiś ca tat-sādhanam

akṣādi-tritayaṁ pramāṇam akhilāmnāyaika-vedyo hariḥ||

“In the view of the venerable Madhvācārya, 1) Lord Hari is the Supreme; 2) the world is real; 3) difference is real; 4) the living entities are servants of Lord Hari; 5) they attain a low or high state; 6) liberation means to experience bliss in one’s own constitutional form; 7) selfless worship of the Lord is the means to liberation; 8) direct perception, inference, and verbal testimony are the three kinds of evidence; and 9) Lord Hari is to be known through all sacred scriptures.”

In spite of this outward approach, some of these prameyas have been explained by Vidyābhūṣaṇa from a primarily Gauḍīya perspective, rather than what would be considered as an orthodox Mādhva exposition. The first prameya comprises half of the book and presents evidence of the supremacy of Lord Viṣṇu, Who is non-different from Lord Kṛṣṇa or any Viṣṇu-tattva. Similarly, Goddess Lakṣmī is non-different from Śrī Rādhā. The apparent difference between Their avatāras is attributed to the gradation of the potency manifested by each of Them. While the Mādhvas may have reservations regarding the ontological status of Rādhā, they strongly object to seeing difference in the Supreme Lord. The second prameya deals with the knowability of God through the scriptures, something that is universally accepted by Vaiṣṇavas of all designations. The third prameya discusses the reality of the world, which is said to be manifested by the Lord’s energy. This theory of śakti-pariṇāma-vāda does not entail any transformation in the Supreme, which is in conformity with Madhvācārya’s philosophy. The fourth prameya clarifies the difference between God and the individual souls, which remains even after liberation. He is eternally one, and they are eternally many. In this connection, several monistic arguments are rebutted. The emphasis being on difference, there is no conflict with the Mādhva ideology. The fifth prameya describes the jīva as an eternal servant of Lord Viṣṇu. This is a further elaboration on the first prameya, elucidating how even the highest demigods are subordinate to Lord Viṣṇu. Again, this is unarguable among Vaiṣṇavas. The sixth prameya explains that although the jīvas share common attributes such as atomic size and consciousness, there are gradations among them: in the material world, on the basis of their karma; and in the spiritual world, on the basis of their mode of worship. The latter is described in terms of the five major rasas. This is an instance in which the author propounded a primarily Gauḍīya tenet. The seventh prameya defines liberation as the attainment of Lord Kṛṣṇa or any of His forms. The eighth prameya states that bhakti is the means to attain liberation. These two propositions are commonly shared with other schools, although they may differ as to the details. The ninth prameya establishes direct perception, inference, and verbal testimony as the valid means of knowledge (pramāṇa), and Madhvācārya is mentioned as an authority in this regard. In the Tattva-sandarbha and Sarva-saṁvādinī, Jīva Gosvāmī defends this same view and expounds that any further means of knowledge is encompassed within these three. Vidyābhūṣaṇa presented these nine prameyas in a very succinct manner, leaving out much scope for dissension, and thus smoothly highlighted a relatively harmonious connection between the views propounded by Madhvācārya and those propounded by Caitanya Mahāprabhu.

A large part of the Prameya-ratnāvalī consists of ample quotations from the śruti and the smṛti, interspersed by the author’s own verses, and the whole book is concise enough to be easily memorised, as he suggests at the end.

Authorship and Time

Among Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa’s independent works, Prameya-ratnāvalī is by far the most copied, distributed, and published one. This is in great part due to its conciseness and didactical nature as an outline of the Mādhva-Gauḍīya system of thought. The plentiful manuscript copies, the consistency of the text in each copy, the historicity of the earlier copies, the correlation between other of his works, the internal evidence, and the coordination with the commentator leave zero scope to doubt that Vidyābhūṣaṇa is the legitimate author of the original text or that his work was tampered with by an interpolator. The claims to the contrary will be debunked and exposed below as a deliberate and insidious conspiracy.

Out of the multiple manuscript copies consulted for preparing this critical edition, which are described below, two have an enormous historical significance and are decisive evidence to silence naysayers. Manuscript number 20 (described below) was thoroughly penned by Dayānidhi, who was Vidyābhūṣaṇa’s main scribe for many years. We know his name from a manuscript of the Govinda-bhāṣya preserved in Gopiballabhpur, the Śyāmānandi-pīṭha in West Bengal, dated Saṁvat 1815 (1758 AD), in which he identifies himself as a brāhmaṇa and the son of the minister of Kūrmācala. He not only copied most of Vidyābhūṣaṇa’s works but also wrote several of his personal letters. This manuscript includes the Sūkṣmā-ṭīkā, so it can be safely assumed that 1758 AD is the year of its completion, for it would have been unethical to wait for years to gift a copy of the text to the Gosvāmīs in Gopiballabhpur. The Govinda-bhāṣya might have been completed either in the same year or perhaps one or two years earlier. In corroboration to this, despite Sawai Jai Singh’s avid interest in collecting Brahma-sūtra commentaries, there is no copy of the Govinda-bhāṣya in the Khasmohor Collection, his personal library, for he passed away in 1743 AD.

The Kānti-mālā commentary on the first verse explicitly states the purpose for which this book was written: “A commentary on the Brahma-sūtra entitled Govinda-bhāṣya has been composed by Baladeva, also known as Vidyābhūṣaṇa, who is exclusively devoted to Lord Govinda. Having been asked by some students about the objects of knowledge (prameya) in that commentary, and being about to briefly speak about these, he now recites an auspicious invocation.” The commentary also refers to the Vedānta-syamantaka (on 8.8 and 9.1), Govinda-bhāṣya with Sūkṣmā-ṭīkā (on 1.16 and 8.10), and Gītā-bhūṣaṇa (on 8.10). On the basis of all this evidence, the Prameya-ratnāvalī may have been written between 1758 and 1768 AD. The manuscript number 16 indicates that the place of its composition might have been Jaipur, where Vidyābhūṣaṇa resided for many years while managing the Vijaya-Śyāmasundara Temple, which enjoyed the royal patronage for as long as it existed, as recorded in several documents of the period.


At the end of the Kānti-mālā, the author clearly identifies himself as “Vedāntavāgīśa.” He also wrote commentaries on the Govinda-bhāṣya and Siddhānta-ratna. Although his name is not openly mentioned in these two texts, therein it is evident that the commentator was thoroughly familiar with Vidyābhūṣaṇa’s works and could be none other than a close associate. Indeed, the very fact that these three commentaries— which had been just recently written and would be known only to a few individuals— have cross-references to one another, indicates that they were penned by the same person.[2] By a comparative study of these commentaries, it becomes apparent that they share the same explanations, illustrations, vocabulary, and quotations in multiple instances.[3] This could have been possible only if they were composed by the same person or if one of the commentators were a plagiarist. Since these works were not yet available to others, the latter option is totally ruled out. In fact, Govinda-bhāṣya, Siddhānta-ratna, and Prameya-ratnāvalī are a trilogy, the last two being supplementary works on the first. Thus, it is quite expected that Vedāntavāgīśa would have commented not only on one or two, but on all three of them.

In 1925 AD, the Gauḍīya Maṭha published the Prameya-ratnāvalī with Kānti-mālā. Sundarānanda was the editor, and Ananta Vāsudeva undertook the printing work. For reasons better known to them, they decided that the name of the commentator was Kṛṣṇadeva Vedāntavāgīśa, although such a name is not seen in any of the innumerable manuscripts. To make matters worse, henceforth Vedāntavāgīśa has been consistently mistaken for Kṛṣṇadeva Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya, a prominent śiksā disciple of Viśvanātha Cakravartī and a descendant of Jagannātha Cakravartī (Māmu Ṭhākura). Documentary evidence suggests that Bhaṭṭācārya had been initiated in the Advaita-parivāra.[4] Bhaṭṭācārya’s name is mentioned among five of Cakravartī’s disciples in a document dated Saṁvat 1769 (1712 AD) in connection with the Gokulānanda jī Kuñja at Rādhākuṇḍa.[5] Soon after, he settled in Amber and became the mahanta of the Vinodī Lāl Temple. A document dated Saṁvat 1773 (1716 AD) records a grant he received from King Sawai Jai Singh II to be used in the service of the deity.[6] He also played an important role in the Jaipur debates, and ample documentation corroborates his relationship with the King, who commissioned him to compose several treatises, such as Bhakti-vivṛti, Karma-vivṛti, Jñāna-vivaraṇa, Bhakti-phala-viveka, and Siddhāntaikya-prakāśikā, all of which are part of the Khasmohor Collection, preserved at the Mahārāja Sawai Mān Singh II Museum in the City Palace in Jaipur. Most of these works seem to have been written between 1719 and 1723 AD. His best known book is the Padāṅka-dūtam, whose earliest known manuscript is dated Śakābda 1645 (1723 AD).[7] Commentaries on various works of Viśvanātha Cakravartī, such as Alaṅkāra-kaustubha, Kṛṣṇa-bhāvanāmṛta, and Saṅkalpa-kalpa-druma also have the name “Kṛṣṇadeva Sārvabhauma” at the end. Bhaṭṭācārya was a householder, and by 1735 AD, his son Rāmanātha Deva Śarmā was already sharing some of his duties. Kṛṣṇadeva Bhaṭṭācārya passed away either in the mid or late 1740s, as a document[8] dated Saṁvat 1802 (1749 AD) describes that after his demise, his grandson, Vṛndāvana Bhaṭṭācārya, claimed the same grant that had been previously given to his grandfather.

The obvious conclusion from all this is that Kṛṣṇadeva Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya can by no means be the author of the commentaries on the Vedānta works of Vidyābhūṣaṇa, which were likely composed between 1745 and 1770 AD. On the one hand, Vidyābhūṣaṇa would have been about half the age of Bhaṭṭācārya and an absolutely unknown personality when he first arrived in Jaipur. On the other, Bhaṭṭācārya was already reputed as a mahanta and scholar as early as 1715 AD, while Vidyābhūṣaṇa’s name is not seen in any document related to Jaipur before 1741 AD. Moreover, in none of his works has Bhaṭṭācārya signed ‘Vedāntavāgīśa,’ ‘Vāgīśvara,’ or any similar name. We also know from the commentary on the Siddhānta-ratna that its author was a sādhu (ascetic) rather than a householder.

Some believe that Cakravartī had another disciple called Kṛṣṇadeva Sārvabhauma Vedāntavāgīśa, who is the actual author of the commentaries on the Alaṅkāra-kaustubha, Kṛṣṇa-bhāvanāmṛta, and Saṅkalpa-kalpa-druma. Such a claim could be definitely proved if we could actually find manuscripts of these commentaries where the name Vedāntavāgīśa is mentioned, but up to the present day, I have not come across any, despite searching far and wide. This proposition is haunted with too many coincidences to be easily taken for granted. In view of the above dates and facts, both of the above theories are likely to be another distortion of the incidents, so common when hearsay prevails over recorded history. Furthermore, oral tradition says that one Kṛṣṇadeva accompanied Vidyābhūṣaṇa to Jaipur at Cakravartī’s command. If there were two individuals named Kṛṣṇadeva, which one is meant in this case?

At present, there is hardly any known information about Vedāntavāgīśa. Apart from the three mentioned commentaries, no other work seems to be credited to him. Even his first name is not revealed in the commentaries, which appears to be intentional. In the Gītā-bhūṣaṇa (8.24) and Nāmārtha-sudhā (108), Vidyābhūṣaṇa quotes a verse composed by Vedāntavāgīśa (from Sūkṣmā-ṭīkā, 4.3.3) and refers to him as “the commentator” (nirṇetṛbhiḥ). It would be unethical and disrespectful to refer to a contemporary and senior scholar like Kṛṣṇadeva Bhaṭṭācārya in such an informal and vague way. Rather, in the Aiśvarya-kādambinī (7.15), he is directly referred to as “Śrī Sārvabhauma Prabhu.” That casual referral to Vedāntavāgīśa indicates that the commentaries were indeed commissioned by Vidyābhūṣaṇa himself. Ample manuscript evidence confirms that the commentaries were written in coordination with the author. In corroboration to this, very few manuscripts of the three Vedānta works do not include the commentary. In the latter case, some of the scribes might have deliberately copied only the main text due to time and paper constraints. As we know that Vedāntavāgīśa was a sādhu and a scholar, it is natural to conclude that he was probably an associate of the same generation, who, out of humility, preferred to shun the limelight.


Among the large number of extant manuscripts, only number 16 (described below) has a gloss, which although different from the Kānti-mālā, is closely related to it. Unfortunately, the manuscript is incomplete and abruptly ends on paragraph 6.3. No name is mentioned, but nevertheless a few factors corroborate Vidyābhūṣaṇa’s authorship. Firstly, the gloss was noted down by his personal scribe, Dayānidhi. Rather than something written, it seems more like notes the author would have dictated while teaching the text. Being of a very terse nature, the gloss is mostly limited to word equivalents, definitions, syntactic connections, and a few quotations. Had it been written by Vedāntavāgīśa, it is likely that the gloss would thoroughly match its equivalents in the Kānti-mālā. However, this is often not the case, and in several instances sentences were paraphrased and selected vocabulary was replaced by synonyms, while some statements were omitted. This suggests that Vedāntavāgīśa just borrowed from those notes wherever he felt appropriate and was otherwise at liberty to develop his own explanations.


    For anyone who accepts Śrī Vidyābhūṣaṇa’s authority, this exposition of nine prameyas, added to the guru-paramparā given in the very beginning of the book, leaves no scope to doubt that the Gauḍīyas are a branch of the Brahma-Madhva sampradāya. For those who may question Vidyābhūṣaṇa’s word on the matter, there is also extensive earlier evidence that corroborate the same conclusion. There are some who, when faced with all the available evidence, opt for distorting, dismissing, or desecrating it, to the extent of even damaging Vidyābhūṣaṇa’s name and works, in which Madhva is often acknowledged as a previous ācārya. Although there seems to have been a certain amount of confusion for centuries, while investigating such an outrageous plot, we are led to a few individuals who had something peculiar in common— avowed hatred towards Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī and his mission. As bizarre as it may sound, such individuals did not hesitate to turn nearly anything into ammunition in their attempt to malign Sarasvatī Ṭhākura and his words, even at the cost of the previous ācāryas. In their desperate efforts to pose as scholars while criticising an exalted Vaiṣṇava, they simply made fools of themselves, as do those who accept their words instead of verifying the facts as they are. This will become apparent in the following analysis of some of their statements.

[1] Some believe that this verse was composed by Śrīpādarāja, who wrote a commentary on it named Nava-ratna-mālikā-vyākhyā. Its authorship has also been attributed to other Mādhva scholars.

[2] Like Vidyābhūṣaṇa, he also did not directly sign the commentary on the Govinda-bhāṣya but just alluded to his name by a wordplay (vāgīśvara) in the last verse of the commentary.

[3] Vide his gloss on the texts ‘jñātvā devam’ (SR 1.11, PR 1.11); ‘tam ekaṁ govindam’ (SR 1.35, PR 1.12); the explanations on SR 1.18 and PR 1.17, SR 1.20 and PR 2.5, etc.

[4] Vide Prof. Monika Horstmann’s Der Zusammenhalt der Welt, 3.3.3.

[5] Vrindavan Research Institute, microfilm T1:25.

[6] Nusukha Puṇya, vol. 17, pg. 811, Rajasthan State Archives.

[7] Dhaka University, call number 200(A).

[8] Nusukha Puṇya, vol. 19 (Tālukā Havelī) p. 248, and vol.17 p. 813-814, Rajasthan State Archives.