Nimbarka Sampradaya

Nimbarka Sampradaya

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The Nimbarka Sampradaya (IAST: Nimbārka Sampradāya, Sanskrit निम्बार्क सम्प्रदाय), also known as the Hamsa Sampradāya, Kumāra Sampradāya, Catuḥ Sana Sampradāya and Sanakādi Sampradāya, is one of the four authorised Vaiṣṇava Sampradāyas (philosophical schools characterised by leaders in disciplic succession) as according to the Padma Purāṇa, one of the eighteen main Purāṇas. The verse says:

The Shankha-Chakra-Tilaka emblems of the Śrī Nimbārka Sampradāya.

sampradāyavihīnā ye mantrāste niṣphalā matāḥ|
ataḥ kalau bhaviśyanti catvāraḥ sampradāyinaḥ||
Śrī-brahmā-rudra-sanakā vaiṣṇavā kṣitipāvanāḥ|
catvāraste kalau bhāvya hyutkale puruṣottamāt||
rāmānujaṃ śrī svicakre madhvācaryaṃ caturmukhaḥ|
śrīviṣṇusvāminaṃ rudro nimbādityaṃ catuḥsanāḥ||[1]

All mantras which have been given (to disciples) not in an authorised Sampradāya are fruitless. Therefore, in Kali Yuga, there will be four bona-fide Sampradāyas. Each of them were ignaugurated by Śrī Devī and known as the Śrī Sampradāya, Lord Brahmā and known as the Brahmā Sampradāya,Lord Rudra and known as the Rudra Sampradāya; and the Four Kumāras and known as Sanakādi Sampradāya. Śrī Devī made Rāmānujācārya the head of that lineage. So too Lord Brahmā appointed Madhvācārya, Lord Rudra appointed Viṣṇusvāmī and the four Kumaras chose Nimbāditya (an epithet for Śrī Nimbārkācārya).

As seen from the above verses in the Padma Purāṇa, the four Sampradāyas are at least documented, though the date of this quotation is questionable. According to the literature available through the Śrī Nimbārka Sampradāya and documents from other sources (such as the Bhaktamāla by Nābhadāsa) of the Vaiṣṇava community.


The Origins - Śrī Hansa Bhagavān

Śrī Haṃsa Bhagavān, the originator of the Śrī Nimbārka Sampradāya

Amongst the 25 lila (Kalpa) avatars of Śrī Kṛṣṇa[2], there is mention of His incarnation as the Holy Swan, Śrī Haṃsa Bhagavān. The entire 13th chapter of Canto 11 of the Bhagavata Purana is devoted to the incarnation of Śrī Haṃsa Bhagavān. According to the traditions of the Śrī Nimbārka Sampradāya, He is supposed to have incarnated at the beginning of Satya Yuga, on the very first day (the ninth lunar day in the bright half of the Vedic month of Kārtika, known as Akṣaya Navamī). The main cause of this incarnation was due to an inanswerable question posed by the four Kumāras to their father, Lord Brahmā regarding the method of renouncing sense objects[3]. When Lord Brahmā was thus unable to answer, he meditated upon Śrī Kṛṣṇa, upon which the Bhagavata Purana records that urje site navamyāṃ vai haṃsa jātaḥ svayaṃ hariḥ - on the ninth lunar day of the bright half of the month of Kārtika, the Lord Hari (Śrī Kṛṣṇa) incarnated Himself as Śrī Hamsa Bhagavān. His form as a swan is significant, as according to tradition, a swan is able to separate milk from water[4]. This incarnation eliminated the doubt of the four brothers and their father, and initiated the brothers into the famed Gopāla Mantra, the mantra of initiation in Śrī Nimbārka Sampradāya. Lord Brahmā then explained this to them in detail and that discourse forms the body of the Śrī Gopālatāpinī Upaniṣad. Thus completing his task, Śrī Haṃsa Bhagavān then vanished. It would seem from this that the entire purpose of this particular bona-fide incarnation was to start the Śrī Nimbārka Sampradāya and deliver the famed Śrī Gopāla mantra, especially meant for the worship of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, to the four brothers. By doing this, He ensured that these teachings would be passed on to all disciples.

The Four Kumāras

Sri Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana and Sanat Kumara - the four Kumaras

The Four Kumaras namely: Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanātana, and Sanat Kumāra are traditionally the four mind-born sons of Lord Brahmā. Famous throughout the Puranic literature, they are found also in the Upaniṣads[5]. They are renowned yogis, who requested their father for the boon of remaining perpetually five years old. They were created by their father in order to advance creation, however, they chose to undertake lifelong vows of celibacy (brahmacarya). After obtaining initiation into the Śrī Gopāla Mantra, these four brothers then left meditations into an impersonal God, and realised the truth lies beyond the impersonal, in the Highest Person, the Supreme Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa[4]. Having obtained his grace and being initiated into Vaiṣṇava tradition, they began to spread the teachings of the path of renounciation. During initiation into this Vaiṣṇava tradition, they received the Śrī Śāligrāma Śilā known as Śrī Śarveśvara Bhagavān, which has been passed on from each Guru to disciple since their time. The Supreme Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, in His conversation with Uddhava in the 11th Canto of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa declares:etāvān yoga ādiṣṭo macchiṣyaiḥ sanakādibhiḥ[6] - 'I taught this yoga to my disciples, the four brothers headed by Sanaka'.

During initiation, the most holy 18-syllabled Śrī Gopāla Mantra was given to them, a fact recorded in the Viṣṇu Yāmala:
Āvirbhūtaḥ kumāraistu gṛhītvā nāradāya ca||[7]

The holy eighteen-syllabled mantra comes from the lotus-like mouth of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa (Śrīman Nārāyaṇa). It was accepted by the Four Kumāras and also by their disciple, Śrī Nārada Muni.

This mantra is the Vaidika mantra from the Gopālatāpinyupaniṣad of the Atharva Veda. This is the initiatory mantra still used in the Sampradāya today.

As indicated by the quoted verse, their disciple is the renowned devotee, and younger brother Śrī Nārada Muni. Their relationship as Guru and disciple is validated in the Chāndogya Upaniṣad.


Śrī Sanat Kumāra Samhitā is a famous treatise on the worship of Śrī Rādhā Kṛṣṇa authored by the brothers, and they have also produced the Śrī Sanat Kumāra Tantra, part of Pancarātra literature. Their teachings can be found throughout all Vedic literature[8]. It is due to the tradition coming into contact with the Four Kumāras that it came to be known as the Sanakādi Sampradāya or the Kumāra Sampradāya.

Nārada Muni

The next recipient of the Śrī Gopāla mantra is Śrī Nārada Muni as indicated in the above sanskrit verse (see note 8). In the creation of this universe according to Paurāṇika literature, Śrī Nārada Muni is the younger brother of the Four Kumāras and son of Brahmā. He also rejected his father’s orders of increasing the population, and chose devotion to the Lord. He was thus present before all of the demigods, along with his elder brothers. He was blessed with the ability to travel to any part of creation according to tradition and he took initiation from his older brothers and their discussions as guru and disciple are recorded in the Upaniṣads with a famous conversation in the Chāndogya Upaniṣad; also with their discourses in the Śrī Nārada Purāṇa and the Pañcarātra literature. He is found in most of the religious scriptures always passing on knowledge of an event or teaching the path of Bhakti to all. He was the inspiration for the writing of the greatest Purāṇa – the Bhagavata Purana.

Nārada Muni and Nimbarka

Nārada Muni is recorded as main teacher in all four of the Vaiṣṇava Sampradāyas. But according to tradition at around 5100 years ago, he passed by Nimbagrāma near Govardhana in Vraja, and being pleased with the devotions of Śrī Nimbārkācārya, Śrī Nārada Muni initiated him into the sacred 18-syllabled Śrī GopālaMantra and introduced him to the philosophy of the Yugala upāsana – the devotional worship of the divine couple Śrī Rādhā Kṛṣṇa in accordance with the teachings of the Four Kumāras understanding of the Vedas. This was the first time that Śrī Rādhā Kṛṣṇa were worshipped together by anyone on earth other than the Gopis of Vṛndāvana. Śrī Nārada Muni then taught him the essence of devotion in the Śrī Nārada Bhakti Sūtras. Śrī Nimbārkācārya already knew the Vedas, Upaniṣads and the rest of the scriptures, but perfection was found in the teachings of Śrī Nārada Muni.[9]

Guru Parampara

  • Sri Nimbarkacarya
  • Sri Srinivasacarya
  • Sri Dvadasacaryas
  • Sri Astadasabhattacaryas
  • Sri Harivyasadevacarya
  • Sri Svabhuramadevacarya
  • Sri Parasuramadevacarya
  • Sri sri ji maharaj


  1. ^ Badarayana,Padma Purana, Kashiraj Publications, 2002 reprint.
  2. ^ Badarayana, Bhagavata Purana, Kashiraj Publications, Reprint 2000
  3. ^ Badarayana,Srimad Bhagavatam-Canto 11, translated and commented upon by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, published by Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
  4. ^ a b Sri Govindadasa Santa, Sri Nimbarkacarya aur Sri Nimbarkacarya Pitha, published by Akhila Bharatiya Nimbarkacarya Tirtha, Salemabad, 1997
  5. ^ the Chandogya Upanisad
  6. ^ Badarayana, Srimadbhagavatam - 11th Canto, translated and commented upon by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and disciples, Published by Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, Juhu Mumbai.
  7. ^ Sri Govindadasa Santa, Sri Nimbarka Sampradaya evam Sri Nimbarkacarya Pitha, Akhila Bharatiya Nimbarkacarya Pitha, Saemabad, Rajasthan, 1997.
  8. ^ Sri Sarvesvara,Sri Nimbarkacarya Aur Unka Sampraday, Akhila Bharatiya Nimbarkacarya Pitha, Salemabad, Rajasthan, India, 1972
  9. ^ Guy L. Beck (2005). "Krishna as Loving Husband of God". Alternative Krishnas: Regional and Vernacular Variations on a Hindu Deity (SUNY Press). ISBN 9780791464151. Retrieved 2008-04-12. 

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