What Is Pustimarg?
Pushtimarg (The Path Of Grace) is one of the many sects in the Hindu religion. Pushtimarg was founded by Shrimad Vallabhacharya Mahaprabhu. Shri Vallabhacharya is one of the five main Acharyas of the Hindu Religion . The other four being Shankaracharya, Shri Ramanujacharya, Shri Madhavacharya and Shri Nimbarkacharya. These acharyas have a very significant contribution towards the revival of the Bhakti movement and upbringing of the Hindu Religion.
Shri Vallabhacharya was born into a very noble and learned Brahmin family in South India in what is today called Andhra Pradesh. His ancestors had a very staunch religious background and included learned Brahmins like Shri Yagnanarayan Bhatt and Shri Ganapati Bhatt. They wrote several books on religion and devotion. Shri Vallabhacharya was the second son of Lakshman Bhatt and Yallammagaru. Their ancestors had performed several Soma-yagnas and Shri Lakshman Bhatt completed 100 Somyagnas. Shri Yagnanarayan was blessed by Lord Vishnu, that on completion of 100 Soma-yagnas, God himself would incarnate in his family.
Thus when 100 Soma-yagnas were complete, Lakshman Bhatt went to Kashi to accomplish his vow of feeding 1.25 lakhs Brahmins. He could not complete this task as there were political disturbances in Kashi. He took his pregnant wife Yallammagaru and on his way southwards he halted at a place called Champaranya. Where his wife gave birth to a still baby which they kept under a tree and proceeded ahead. On the same night Lakshman Bhatt heard a celestial voice ordering him to go back to the baby and pick it up as it was misunderstood to be a still born. That baby was no ordinary one, but by the grace of God, Shri Vallabh had taken birth through Yallammagaru’s womb. On reaching the spot where they had kept the baby, they found the baby encircled by a divine fire as a protecting spirit.
Shri Vallabh was a brilliant and extra-ordinary child. He finished studying all the Vedas and all the prominent scriptures at a very early age. At the age of 11 he started his all India pilgrimage. During this tour he came to Vijaynagar where he came to know about a sensational debate that was being conducted in the court of King Krishnadevraya. The debate was between the different Acharyas over the question whether God is dualistic or non-dualistic. Shri Vallabh entered the court and with his unopposed arguments proved that God is non-dualistic. The details of which can be known in a book named “Vallabh Digvijay”
During the second pilgrimage, Lord Krishna appeared in the form of Lord Shrinathji in front of him and ordered him to reestablish Pushti Marg and propagate the pushti kind of devotion among the chosen ones and bring them back to their original state in God’s own domain. i.e. Vaikuntha or Golok-dham . But the question in Shri Vallabh’s mind was that the divine souls in this world too are highly influenced by the materialistic world and their souls and body have lost the kind of purity that is needed for their reunion with the Supreme entity i.e.. Lord Krishna.
Lord Shrinathji assured him that with “BRAHAMASAMBANDHA“, whichever soul is admitted into the Pushti marg, all its worldly impurities will refrain from obstructing the soul’s relation with Himself and will be eligible to pursue His bhakti. That was the night of Prabodhini Ekadashi ( Four days before the new moon day) of the auspicious month of Shravana. Lord Shrinathji taught him the Brahamasambandha mantra and asked him to bring back the divine souls into his seva.
“Brahmsambandh” – The Formal Initiation into The Path Of Grace
The absolute and exclusive rights to grant “Brahmsambandh” in the path of grace, in order to transform an Ordinary “jeev”(soul) into a Pushti “Jeev” lie only with “Vallabhkul Goswami Balaks”(The word “Goswami” literally means-The protector of cows), who Vallabh Vaishnavas respectfully and lovingly refer to as: “Goswami”,”Bawa” or “Jeje”. They are the actual and direct descendants of Shreemad Vallabhacharya Mahaprabhu. Goswamies are responsible for the “pushti”(literally means spiritual nourishment) of all the disciples initiated by them. Brahmsabandh is a process, where after fasting for one full day(consuming fruits and milk only) one is given the Krishna “Gadh Mantra” in front of a Deity “Swaroop” by a Vallabhkul Goswami after which “tulsi” leaves(Indian Basil) are offered to the lotus feet of the Lord. The “Adhikaar”(right) to perform daily “seva” comes only after one is initiated into Pushtimarg by means of formally granting Brahmsambandh by a Goswami Balak. Without brahmsambandh one does not hold the right to perform seva of a “Pusht” (alive) Deity “Swaroop”.
The Three Pillars of Pushtimarg
The three pillars of Pushtimarg are
1)Raag(Traditional Haveli Music),
2)Bhog(Pure Vegetarian Food Offerings excluding Onion,Garlic,Cabbage and Root Vegetables), and,
3)Vastra&Shringar(Dressing up the deity with beautiful clothes,headwear and jewellery adornments).
All the above three are included in the daily “seva”(ritual service) which all Pushtimarg following Vaishnavs offer their “Thakurji”(Personal Krishna Deity) and all have been traditionally prscribed by Goswami Shri Vitthalnathji also called Gusainji(Vallabhacharya’s younger son) almost five hundred years ago. The Music,Food and Adornment offerings vary daily according to the season, day and time of day; and this is the main reason why this path so colourful and alive compared to any other Vaishnav cult. Seva is the most important way to attain “Pushti” in Pushtimarg and has been prescribed by Mahaprabhuji Shri Vallabhacharyaji as the basic tenet; and all principles and tenets of Shuddhadvaita Vaishnavism stem out from there
Shri Vallabahcharya on the next day taught the same Mantra to his first disciple Shri Damodardas Harsani along with the principles of Pushtimarga. This was how Pushtimarga was established.
To understand Pushtibhakti better, let us now have an overview of its features :-
It is spontaneous, selfless & motiveless love for God. It is based on pure love for God. It is expressed only through service of God – “Seva”. It is love after realising God’s true nature. The knowledge gained is not a means of liberation. Liberation, is considered secondary to the enjoyment of God’s bliss. Its aim is God’s happiness. No caste, creed, color, sex or age becomes the criteria, the only criteria is God’s Grace. It does not know any boundaries, be it time, place or anything else. It does not require a devotee to give up a householder’s life. In fact, one can serve Him better, by being a householder. All the worldly desires are diverted towards God, they are then not required to be suppressed. World is not looked down upon but is treated as God’s creation and thus as real as God himself. Shri Krishna is the supreme God, all the other deities reside in his form. Therefore total faith is placed in Shri Krishna alone. In the state of liberation the entity of the devotee merges into God’s blissful form, but in Bhakti (especially Pushti bhakti) the devotee does not seek liberation but he enjoys God’s bliss by participating in it as a separate divine entity.
Histry & Birth Of Shree Maha Prabhuji
Jagadguru Shree Vallabhachrayaji also known as Shree Mahaprabhuji was born at Champaranya in 1479 A.D. i.e. Vikaram Samvat 1535 on the 11th day of the dark half of lunar month of chaitra. He was born at a time when Hindu religion and culture were in danger of being destroyed by the fanatic invaders. The birth of Shree Vallabhacharyaji heralded a new era in the history of Hindu religion. He saved Hindu religion from the savage attacks of Muslim rulers. He breathed new life into the people of India who had lost all hope of redemption under the rule of sword and terror. He was born into a very noble and learned Tailang Brahmin family in South India in what is today called Andhra Pradesh. His ancestors had a very staunch religious background and included learned Brahmins like Shri Yagnanarayan Bhatt and Shri Ganapati Bhatt. According to devotional accounts, ‘Sri Thakorji’ (Krishna) commanded Yagnanarayana that He would take birth in their family after completion of 100 Somayagnas (fire sacrifices).Shri Vallabhacharya was the second son of Lakshman Bhatt and Illamagaru. Their ancestors had performed several Soma-yagnas and Shri Lakshman Bhatt completed 100 Somyagnas. After the destruction of Kankarkumbh by muslim invaders Shri Laxmanbhattji migrated t o Banaras with a view to settle there.Shri Laxmanbhattji spent most of his time in the worship of Lord krishna and the study of religious scriptures. Once he heard the news of the impending Muslim invasion on Banaras. Admist widespread panic and consternation, it was not possible to stay there peacefully. Besides, his wife, Illamagaru, was pregnant. He decided to leave Kashi for some safer place & started to
wards the South. When they arrived at Champarany, Illamagaru was overcome with fatigue. She began to ex
perience pain in the abdomen and she gave birth to a premature child. Considering the child to be still – born and dead the mother enveloped the babe in leaves and put it in the cavity of a Shami tree. Having gone a little distance, the party resed on the bank of the river. Here the couple had divine vision. They heard the voice of God “I have come to you in the form of a newly born child. The child will protect Hindu religion and Culture.” Having heard this divine voice in a dream the parents immediately went back to the aforesaid Shami Tree where, to their great joy and surprise, the child was sporting about in the midst of the encircling flame of fire ! No body was ever happier or more fortunate than the parents of the child; There was a halo of divine light round its face. Its eyes were radiating grace and nectar as it were ! He was smiling. The wing was blowing gently. The ferocious animals forgot their cruel nature in the presence of the deer and gazed at the child with steady eyes. The moon and the auspicious constellation appeared in the sky. The mother Illamagaru picked and hugged it to her heart.
Education : He spent most of his time in the worship of Lord krishna and the study of religious scriptures. His father paid great attention to his studies & much of his early life in North India, in the holy city of Varanasi . At a very early age, he completed the study of the four Vedas. Since childhood he had deep interest in religion and Hindu Philosophy & born with great innate abilities, Vallabhacharyaji acquired total command over all the Vedas, Purans and Agamas by the tender age of 11 His education commenced at the age of 7 with the study of 4 Vedas. He acquired mastery over the books expounding the six systems of Indian philosophy. He also learnt philosophical systems of Adi Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhva, Nimbarka along with the Buddhist and Jain schools. He was able to recite hundred mantras, not only from beginning to end but also in reverse order. At Vyankateshwar and Lakshmana Balaji, he made a strong impression on the public as an embodiment of knowledge. He was now applauded as Bala Saraswati.
Shree Mahaprabhuji (Vallabhacharyji)
“Acharya” : A sensational debate was conducted at Vijayanagara between the Vaishnavaites of Madhva and Shankarites over the philosophical question whether God is Dualistic or non-dualistic – Vallabhacharyaji participated in the discussion considering it as a divine call. Vijayanagara was an empire in South India with its sovereignty over many states.The ruler of Vijaynagara King Krishnadev was also a scholar of Hinduism.
Shree Vallabhacharyaji who had earned an epithet of Bala Saraswati, was given the opportunity to discuss the question.The discussion continued for 27 days in the conference hall.During the debate he propounded that the universe and the soul
are real and pure essence of the God. His philosophy is knows as Shuddha-Advaita. He reiterated “Everything is
Brahma and Brahma is everywhere. The universe and the soul are part and partial of Brahma, representing His being and consciousness”. Everyone in the assembly praised his views. The views of Mayavadins have distorted the shrutis. Everyone regarded Sri Vallabha as a god sent missionary. The day of victory for Vaishnavas was celebrated with great pomp at Vijaynagara. He was honoured by the kanakabhisheka ceremony. The title of ‘Acharya’ and world preceptor was conferred on him. He was given vessels of gold weighing a hundred maunds (7000 coins). Vallabhacharya declined to acc
ept them politely and distributed them among the poor brahmins and the learned only after keeping only seven gold cioins. They were used for preparing the ornaments of their Lord Govardhananatha.
Jai Shree Krishna