Four Vaisnava Sampradayas – notes 1

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4 Vaisnava Sampradayas: notes on a seminar given by Atmatattva Prabhu, Gaura
Purnima festival March 1989, in Sridhama Mayapura

Gautama Rsi to his disciple Sadananda: described Kali yuga. Mother earth
comes as a cow to Brahma, who goes to milk ocean to pray. The Lord informs
Brahma he’d appear as a devotee, the Saci-suta in Navadwipa, to teach the
chanting of the Hare Krishna Mahamantra. “I will accept sannyasa and be known
as Sri Krsna Caitanya.” The Lord told Brahma that the devas would also take
birth as His associates. (Vayu Purana, which other Puranas declare has 26000
verses, but which now has only 11-12000 in available editions. This quote is
from the Ananta-samhita section, quoted in a commentary by Ramananda Goswami,
disciple of Gopal Bhatta Goswami.)

Rig means “calling in prayer.”
Yajur means “whispering.”
Sama means “metrical verses.”
Atharva is the maintenance Veda.

The philosophies of the 4 sampradayas do not fully establish the relationship,
process and application of devotional service.

Comparative terminologies: Buddhism and Advaitism

Ajativada = Mayavada (i.e. there is no source of the material existence)
Samvritti-satya = Vyavaharika (conventional truth)
Paramartha-satya = Paramarthika (absolute, inexpressible truth)
Anitya = Mithya (world is temporary and thus false)
Mahasukha = Ananda (the final goal is bliss)
Shunya (void) = Nirvishesha Brahman (absolute oneness without distinction)
Nirvana = Moksha (cessation of miseries; liberation)
Avyakrta Vastuni = Anirvichaniya (inexpressible issues)

Sri Sampradaya:

Alwars = Goswamis

1-3: Poigai Alwar, Bhutap Alwar and Peyaal Alwar lived for 3100 years. They
appeared out of flowers. They arrived at Tirukovilu while it was raining and
one by one entered a veranda. The first laid down, another came and said, “If
one can lay two can sit.” The third came and said, “If two can sit, three can
stand.” They felt the presence of a fourth person – this was Trivikrama, who
declared: “Because you are here, I am here. Now come to My temple.”

4: Bhaktisara was born in the Kali Yuga (beginning) and lived for 2,300 years.
He was born on the bank of the Payasvini River to Satya-yaga Rishi and his
wife, but it was a premature delivery, so his form was just a lump. They left
him in a bush. Hands and legs etc. developed shortly after. The Deity of
Vishnu gave darshana to the crying child, but then disappeared. A carpenter
who was coming to cut cane found him in a bush and took him. The child
refused all food, didn’t speak or see, but still grew.
One shudra begged, “Please take this milk.” So Bhaktisara took the milk,
because he wanted the child of this shudra to become his disciple. He studied
the Vedic philosophies for 700 years, then he threw all his books in a well.
He stayed as a babaji in Sri Rangam, sewing his own cloth while sitting in the
sun. Shiva came in the area with Parvati. Their shadow crossed the ground and
Bhaktisara, sensing inauspiciousness, moved out of their shadow. Parvati
asked Shiva, “Who is this who is so bold as to move out of our shadow?” “This
is Bhaktisara. He is a great Vishnu-bhakta. We don’t have any business with
But Parvati wanted to test him. So Shiva and Parvati came down before him.
“Ask for a boon”, they ordered. “I don’t require anything from you,” he
answered, and continued to sew. He was so poor he didn’t even have a needle;
he was using a broomstraw with thread tied around it. “I’ll give you heaven”,
Lord Shiva then offered, being prompted by his wife. He just kept on sewing.
“I’ll give you the post of Brahma.” He sewed. “I’ll give you my form.” “You
have enough problems,” Bhaktisara answered. “Then you ask for something.”
“Give me complete liberation from material existence.” “I can’t give you
that.” “Then what is the use of my asking you anything? Oh, very well – just
make this thread stick to this straw, because it keeps falling off.” This
made Lord Shiva angry, and fire came from his third eye. Bhaktisara pressed
his toe on the sand, and a fire sprang out of the earth that devoured Shiva’s
fire and chased Lord Shiva, who ran to Ranganatha. Visnu sent a Vaikuntha
cloud that flooded the area, putting out the fire. Bhaktisara just floated on
the surface. Therefore Shiva gave him his name, Bhaktisara (essence of

Another time a shuktihara (magician) came by, flying on a tiger. Bhaktisara
was washing a plate in the river. The Shuktihara’s tiger came to earth – it
could not fly over the head of Bhaktisara. So the S.h. wanted to benedict
him, so he gave him some fancy silk cloth, which turned to an old torn cloth
when Bhaktisara touched it. Then Bhaktisara gave his own torn piece of cloth
to the shuktihara, which became melted diamonds.

5) Kulaksekhara was king of Padmanabhatirtha (Trivandram). He always desired
to go to Sri Rangam. So the ministers arranged for Vaishnavas to come to
visit, so that Kulaksekhara would be engaged in serving them. Once he heard
the devotees having Rama Katha – King Kulaksekhara ordered his ministers to
call out the army, because Rama is now standing on the shore of Lanka with
only His brother and some monkeys, and He needs help. So the ministers became
very worried and thought, “Now he’s become mad.”
While K.K. was worshipping, the ministers stole a necklace to be offered to
Padmanabha and blamed the Vaishnavas. The king asked for a black cobra to be
placed in a clay pot. He said, “If the Vaisnavas have stolen the necklace,
when I put my hand in the pot, the cobra will bite.” But it didn’t. “Now I
am going to Sri Rangam.”

6) Visnucitta Alwar was the gardener at the Srivilliputur temple. The king
of Madurai met a brahmin and told him, “I am unhappy.” The brahmin told him,
“Don’t be concerned for happiness in this life. Happiness only comes when you
are sure of happiness in the next world.” “Then what should I do?” “You
should find out the Supreme Truth.” So the king offered 1000 gold coins for
the person who would come to his court and establish the Supreme Truth. The
Deity told Visnucitta, “Go to Madurai and establish the Supreme Truth.” “But
I am just a gardener – I only know about planting tulasi.” “I am the Supreme
Truth. Therefore only I can establish it. It will be done by Me, not by you.
So don’t worry – just go.” He went there and before hundreds of pandits,
philosophers, and learned teachers of all description, he spoke first. After
he spoke, nobody else spoke, because there was nothing left for them to say.
The king brought Visnucitta on an elephant to the Madurai Mandira. Garuda
carrying Visnu came flying out, and Visnucitta blessed the Lord – “Live long!”

Visnucitta found Godadevi under a Tulasi plant. Her service was to make
garlands for the Lord of Srivilliputur. He had raised her as his daughter
with the help of some matajis from the village. Once he came home early and
found her wearing the garland, smiling in front of the mirror. He became
angry and “fired” her from garland-making. Then he arranged to make another
garland, but while placing it upon the Deity, it broke. So then he made two
more, one right after the other, but the same thing happened. So he cried and
fell unconscious.
In a dream the Deity said, “I’ll only accept garlands worn by Godadevi.” So
Visnucitta asked Godadevi what this could mean; she answered, “I was only
checking how the garland looked because my body is the same size as the Deity.

When her time to be married came, she refused to accept any human being. So
as a joke Visnucitta described Lord Ranganath to her; she fell in love with
Him upon hearing His glories. Soon after a party of priests from Sri Rangam
came and requested Godadevi to come to Sri Rangam, as the Lord had made known
to the head priest that He desired to marry her. Thinking they were mad,
Visnucitta drove them away. Later a procession came – “She should sit in this
palanquin, for the Lord desires her hand in marriage, which is to take place
immediately.” So he relented, thinking them all mad. On the way, she composed
beautiful songs describing the marriage ceremony that would happen. She got
out of the palanquin when it came into the temple, paid her obeisances, and
then walked towards the Deity. Visnucitta tried to stop her, but she walked
into the altar room and climbed up on the Deity and began massaging His lotus
feet. Visnucitta fainted. When he awoke, she had disappeared, having merged
into the Deity.

8) Vipranarayana appeared shortly after the age of Kali began. He was a
gardener at Sri Rangam. He picked flowers for the Deity, and only saw them.
Once a prostitute named Deva Devi came by with her older sister. Kings used
to wait in line to see her, for which they would pay big money. So Deva Devi
was resting with her sister in that garden, and Vipranarayana came by, picking
flowers. He said, as he came upon them, “No flowers”, and moved on by. So DD
and her sis started talking. DD said, “He’ll be my slave in 9 days. Her
sister was horrified and left.
So DD tried by her usual means to attract his mind, but it didn’t work. So
then she dressed like a rishi and came into the garden with a vina, singing
the songs of Vipranarayana himself. He was pleased to hear the glorification
of the Lord. She fell at his feet and said, “My name is Deva Devi. I am born
in a prostitute family, but actually I hate that sinful business. I am a
devotee of the Lord. But now my mother wants to engage me in prostitution on
my next birthday, which is only in nine days. Can you please give me
shelter?” “Yes, you may sing for Lord Ranganatha. You have a very sweet
voice which is most pleasing to Him, I am sure. And otherwise, you can help
in the garden.”
So, once when it was raining, he was in his house and he heard her outside in
the rain, singing beautifully. So he asked her to come in, while he remained
outside. But then the song stopped. He came in and found her crying. She
said, “I’m wet and feverish, I need a change of clothes.” So he gave her his
own cloth to wear. Then she said, “Now that we are together like this, you
might as well accept me as your wife. Otherwise my mother will surely take me
away to become a prostitute.” “Alright, I can see you are a nice girl.”
But after the ninth day, she left him and went home to her mother anyway. He
went mad. Lord Ranganatha sent a gold pot to D.D.’s house as payment for her
services to Vipranarayana. Because of this, when he came to see her, the
mother, thinking he must be rich, let him in, and instructed DD to be nice to
him. “He’s a paying customer.” But then the priests discovered that the pot
was missing, so an investigation was made. The pot was found at the
prostitute’s house. DD accused VN: “He stole the pot to pay me off.” But the
king, knowing VN well, did not believe her. Lord Ranganatha revealed to the
King that He Himself had sent the pot to her house. So she was banished. But
as she was leaving, she really repented and became an ascetic, and came to VN
for her last instructions. He told her, “Now you should become a true devotee
and sincerely glorify the Lord.” Then she left that place forever.

9) Munivahana Alwar was not born from a womb. He was Srivatsa-anga (31/2
circle of gold-colored hair). He appeared in a grain field, was found by a
shudra. There were musicians in the village he grew up in, so he learned
music and composed beautiful songs to Sri Ranganatha. Sri Rangam is an island
surrounded by the Kaveri River. The head priest of Sri Rangam was Lokasaranga
Muni. Ranganatha is a two-handed form of Visnu on Sesa. He has beautiful
While Lokasaranga was gathering water, he saw Munivahana on the other side
singing. So LS threw a stone to shut him up. MV fell crying, “Why am I a
shudra? Why have I disturbed the water-gathering of the Lord?” LS returned
to find the Deity doors closed. He inquired, “Who locked these doors?” Nobody
knew. Then he heard a voice from behind the door: “I closed the door. Bring
MV on your shoulders because he is too humble to touch this island.” So LS
brought MV and the door opened. MV offered a prayer to the Lord and then fell
from LS’s shoulders and left his body. Therefore he is known as muni (Loka
Muni) vahana (vehicle).

10) Kalidvamsa (Nila) was an amsa of Sarnga. Kalidvamsa means destroyer of
Kali. He was born in the 5th class – a black dude. He learned sword/spear
fighting, archery and was excellent at wrestling. In short, a killer. He was
also fully absorbed in sense enjoyment.

Near that village there was a water-tank where heavenly women came to bathe.
One day, one girl stayed. A brahmin doctor saw her and asked, “I know
everybody in this village, and you are certainly a stranger here – who are
you?” She answered, “I don’t know.” So he took her home. His wife said,
“She’ll be our daughter.” She was named Kumuda, which means “lotus.”

Once KD saw her when she was on the roof of the doctor’s house. He came with
money and said, “I want her as my wife.” The doctor answered, “Well, this girl
is actually a foundling. She’s not really my daughter. You’ll have to ask
her if she agrees.” So KD introduced himself to her, bragging that “My fist
can punch and kill 500 people.” She said, “I don’t like this at all. If you
want to marry me, you have to become a Vaishnava.”

Not really knowing what a Vaishnava was, he went to the priest of the temple
and inquired. He explained that a Vaishnava is fully surrendered to Vishnu
and always depends upon Him for everything. KD said, “Sounds right on to me.”
So the priest gave him a garland and said, “You are a Vaishnava.”

KD came back to the girl but she said, “Official Vaishnavism is not good
enough. You must daily feed 1008 Vaishnavas and drink the caranamrta from
their lotus feet for one year.”

So he called the leaders of his gang together: he had a dude who could hide in
his own shadow, a cat who could break any lock and restore it after the theft
was completed, and a mean mutha who was expert in silent murder. KD told
them, “Be catchin’ me 1008 Vaishnavas every day, and be feedin’ them. Be
washin’ their feet, and be givin’ me that wash water. I’ll be drinkin’ it.”
They asked, “What’s wrong with you?” He said: “Be something going wrong with
YOU, you all don’t be doing what I ask right now.”

By doing this seva, Nila changed – he got real humble-like, and forgot that he
was doing this seva for the girl. Soon all his wealth was used up, so since
he was the tax collector (since he was the baddest dude around), he started
using the tax money, which angered the king so much he sent his head honcho
(C. in C.) with a guard of soldiers to wail on Nila’s haid. Trouble was, Nila
beat all their buns. He tole the C. in C., “Be tellin’ you king I can pay him
the same kind o’ tax I paid you.” That king was MAD. He came with he whole
army, but Nila kicked their buns all over the map. Dig – he was standin’ on
the king’s chest, sayin’ “I’ll be takin’ that tax money as a loan from you,

But the king had some ministers, and they said to Nila, “Slow down, Slim, slow
down. Now check it out – you done WRONG, and so you gotta do time in the
slammer. It don’t matter if the king can’t whip your buns – you still be
wrong, dig?” He said, “Cool.” He did time. While in the big house, he prayed
“I want to serve.” The Lord said, “Go to Kanchipuram and you’ll get money.
Give the king his due, and use the rest for seva.”

So he convinced the king to let him out, he got treasure at Kanchi under the
direction of the Deity. He offered to pay off the king, but the king, seeing
how tight Nila was with the Lord, said, “Hey, no dice. Keep it all, Slim!”
Nila, who was tall, slim and blacker’n’the ace of spades, said “You the boss,

But it wasn’t too long before his seva exhausted that stash too. So then he
decided to plunder businessmen. He got his gang together and said, “Dig – we
hittin’ the merchants. But we gonna be righteous about it. We’ll stop a
caravan of merchants and tell’em, ‘Yo, we be servants of Vaisnavas, and we
need cash. So do a little punya and give.’ If they welsh, we’ll just take
it, see?” So in the beginning the businessmen would say “No”, and he’d tie
them up and plunder them. After a while, he got the name “Paratala”, which is
a name for Yamaraja.

So once Lord Visnu Himself came with Laxmi as a merchant and wife leading 30
bullock-carts of goods, with His eternal associates as the attendants. Nila
and gang accosted them on a lonely stretch of road. “You look quite rich,
sir!” Nila began. “I’m not just rich, I’m the owner of all wealth. I use my
wealth for Vaisnava-seva.” “OK, that’s a gas, because we BE Vaisnavas, and we
here to collect our share.” “That’s alright, but I won’t give it. You just
take it.”

So Nila and crew plundered. He even went after Laxmi’s toe ring, by biting it
so that it would come off he got all kinds of realizations but still grabbed
that ring. This was the start of Laxmi sampradaya. But then he couldn’t lift
the riches. The merchant was smiling. “Hey”, said Nila, “you must be havin’ a
mantra for movin’ this loot.” Lord said, “Sure, Slim, here it is”, and gave
him a mantra. Then Nila realized the merchant and his wife were
Laxmi-Narayana. He just said, “Wow! I gotta go – but thanks a lot. Can I see
you tomorrow?” “Sure thing”, said Vishnu, “catch you on the rebound.”

The next day Nila inquired, “What can I do to always have wealth to serve the
Vaishnavas?” The Lord told him, “Just attack the Buddhist temples and take
their gold murtis and ornaments.” He attacked and either converted or killed
the Buddhists. KD wrote in DP: “One who does not accept Vishnu does not
deserve to live.”

One night he and his men cracked a heavily protected Buddhist vihara. To open
the temple one had to turn a wheel, but by turning the wheel a big bell would
also ring and thus all the monks would come running. So he sent shadow man in
with the lock breaker. They dismantled the wheel. But still the bell rang,
so the Buddhist dudes spilled out of their sacks. Nila was slammin’ and
jammin’ dudes while his men were trying to rip off the big golden Mahanirvana
Buddha murti. But because of tantric spells the murti started moving all
around as they tried to seize it. Nila yelled an order for them to just take
a leak, and when they did, the murti was still. So they loaded up and split
with a horde of Buddhist dudes right behind them. The gang came to Sri Rangam.

The Buddhists went to the king, and so the king summoned Nila – “Hey, Slim,
you rip off these dudes?” “Right, Jim Dandy. But dig – gimme till the next
full moon night, and I return the murti not less a finger.” The Buddhist
dudes were there on the next purnima, and Nila came with a golden finger of
the Buddha. There was a big fight, the Buddhist dudes got their tails kicked,
and Sri Rangam got covered with gold. During processions he used to walk in
front of the Deity with a sword. When asked why, he answered, “Offenders will
get chopped.” He wrote many prayers and poems.

11, 12) Madhu Kavi was a brahmin, and Shatakopa was a shudra. When S. was in
the womb he remembered the Lord, so when the wind (shata) which causes birth
and also forgetfulness started pushing him, he got angry at Shatavayu, and was
therefore known as Shatakopa. He wouldn’t drink milk or pass after he was
born, and showed no sensual functions. But he grew. His parents went to a
temple and gave him to a tamarind tree which had Ananta-shakti. He crawled
within a hole in the tree and stayed in the lotus position for 16 years.

MK was in Ayodhya and saw a light, followed it and came to that village. Upon
inquiring he found out there was a boy in the tree. MK threw a stone at the
tree and the boy opened his eyes. MK asked, “In the womb of the dead, where
will it live and what will it eat?” SK answered, “There it will live, that
it will eat.” MK became his disciple. Deities would come to the tree to give’
SK darshana. While describing the mercy of the Lord, SK left his body.

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