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Prameya Ratnavali

Prameya Ratnavali of Baladeva Vidyabhushana (1720 – 90 CE) is a Vaishnava treatise and it occupies an important place in Gaudiya Vaishnavism. A perusal of the genealogy of preceptors as recorded in this work suggests a line of transmission as follows – Bhagavan Sri Krishna – Brahma – Narada – Vyasa – Madhava – Akshobhya – Jayadharma – Purushottama – Brahmanya – Vyasatirtha – Lakshmipati – Madhavendra Puri – Iswara, Advaita and Nityananda – Chaitanya.

Thus Chaitanya (1486 – 1533 CE) who was actually a disciple of Ishvarapuri and has left an everlasting impact on the Krishna Bhakti movement, is shown in this list as falling in the line of succession of disciples of Madhava. This explains why Sri Krishnadeva Sarvabhauma, in his commentary on the Prameyaratnavali, says that though Chaitanya is God Himself, He took initiation in the Brahma Sampradaya of Madhava.

It appears that Chaitanya, during the brief span of His life, became conversant with a number of Vaishnava schools, namely, Sri Vaishnavism of Ramanuja, Prapatti Vaishnavism of Vallabha, Alwars etc. But, in spite of initial vacillation, he came to terms with Madhava’s Dvaitism on account of its uncompromising dualism between God and the individual self – an ingredient so vital for genuine bhakti. But he could not reconcile this stark dualism with His professed doctrine of Acintya Bhedabheda, which laid stress on a simultaneous and incomprehensible identity-difference between God and Being. This He left to his successive Gosvamins to cope with, who found in the uncompromising dualism of Madhava a strong bulwark against the onslaughts of the Mayavada of Shankara.

Prameya Ratnavali elaborates basic tenets (prameyas) of Madhva School. They are –

  • Supremacy of Srihari
  • Reality of the world
  • Difference of the individual beings from the Supreme Bhagavan
  • Mutual gradation
  • Liberation as a state of attainment of Bhagavan’s lotus feet
  • Pure devotion as the means of liberation
  • Validity of three means of cognition – sense perception, inference and scripture
  • Comprehensibility of the Bhagavan through Vedic Agamic knowledge texts 

Baladeva explains how the juice of madhura (loving devotion) can satiate our spiritual thirst after we break the coconut shell of vaidhi or formal devotion laden with excessive ritualism. The act of breaking, however, does not undermine the significance of the coconut’s exterior, for according to Baladeva, rough and hard though it is, it protects the divine juice of bhakti from falling into the hands of deriders and unbelievers.