NIMBĀRKA (fl. mid-fourteenth century?), a Telugu brahman, also called Mimbāditya or Niyamānanda. It is believed that Nimbārka came from Nimba or Nimbapura in the Bellary district (Mysore state), but tradition associates him mostly with Mathurā, the center of the Vaiṣṇava faith in North India. His date has been a matter of controversy among scholars. Since he refers to Rāmānuja's view in his commentary on the Brahma Sūtra, he must have lived shortly after Rāmānuja (R. G. Bhandarkar's conjecture). But Surendranath Dasgupta (1940) dates him roughly around the middle of the fourteenth century ce. Dasgupta's argument seems convincing, for this date fits well with the tentative chronology of the four Vaiṣṇava Vedānta schools—those that opposed the Advaita Vedānta school of Śaṅkara. Nimbārka was the founder of one of the four traditionally recognized Vaiṣṇava sects or sampradāya s. These sects are known as Śrī Sampradāya (followers of Rāmānuja), Brahma Sampradāya (followers of Madhva), Rudra Sampradāya (followers of Vallabhacarya), and Sanakādi Sampradāya (followers of Nimbārka).
Of the approximately nine works attributed to Nimbārka, the most notable are his commentaries on the Brahma Sūtra and on the Vedāntapārijātasaurabha, and an independent work, the Daśaślokī. Some of the others are neither available in print nor completely preserved, even in their manuscript forms.
Nimbārka's philosophy is usually called dvaitā-dvaita-vāda, "the theory of dualism and nondualism." This description is based upon the main question raised by all the Vedāntins: what is the relation between brahman and the world, or between brahman and man? Is this an absolute nondifference (Śaṅkara) or absolute difference, or both? Unlike Śaṅkara, all the Vaiṣṇava Vedān tins argued that the world is real. Rāmānuja was the first to take the lead in attacking Advaita. But while Rāmānuja called his view "qualified nondualism" Nimbārka called it "both dualism and nondualism." Madh-va asserted the view of "dualism" while Vallabha leaned toward "nondualism." For Nimbārka, brahman was not an impersonal entity, but was identified as a personal, omnipotent God. Unlike Śaṅkara, all of the Vaiṣṇavas talked about a personal god (=brahman = Kṛṣṇa=Hariisnu=Viṣṇu) and supported the cultivation of bhakti ("devotional attachment") toward such a godhead. Nimbārka's Vedānta is very similar to Rāmānuja's in this regard.
According to Nimbārka, the brahman is Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is omniscient, omnipotent, and the ultimate cause. He is all-pervading. He has transformed himself into the material constituents of the world and jīva s ("sentient beings"). Two analogies are cited to emphasize that in spite of this essential nondifference (one interpretation of "transformation") between cause and effects, brahman maintains his independence or difference. Just as the prāṅa ("life force") manifests itself into various activities of the senses and the mind, but still retains its independence and individuality, and just as a spider spins out of its own body the web and yet remains independent, brahman creates sentient beings and the material world out of himself but still remains pure and full and undiminished in his glory and power.
Nimbārka used his dialectical skill in refuting the views of Śaṅkara and other rivals. In spite of the fact that his theory was very similar to that of Rāmānuja, his skill in argumentation and his novelty in presentation earned him a permanent and independent place in the Vaiṣṇava Vedānta tradition. His explanation of the līlā theory (that creation is only a spontaneous sport of the ever-perfect, ever-blissful Hari) had a freshness that captured the imagination of many bhakta s or devotees. His immediate pupil, Śrīnivāsa, wrote a commentary called Vedānta-kaustubha on his Vedānta-pārijāta-sau-rabha. Many other scholars followed Śrīnivāsa. Among them were Keśava Kāśmīrī Bhaṭṭa, Puruṣottama Prasāda, Mukunda, and Vanamāli Miśra, who kept alive the Nimbārka substream of Vaiṣṇava Vedānta.
Bhandarkar, R. G. Vaiṣṇavism, Śaivism and Minor Religious Systems. Varanasi, 1965.
Bose (Chaudhuri), Roma. Vedānta-Pārijāta-Saurabha of Nim-bārka and Vedānta-Kaustubha of Śrīnivāsa. 3 vols. Calcutta, 1940–1943.
Dasgupta, Surendranath. A History of Indian Philosophy, vol. 3. London, 1940.
Bimal Krishna Matilal (1987)