The fourth guru of this sampradaya was Sri Nimbarka Bhagwaan. He was born in southern India in a Brahmin family almost five thousand years ago at the beginning of Kaliyuga. He was the incarnation of the Sudarshana chakra of Lord Vishnu. At the end of the Dwapara Yuga the earth and the humans living in it were engulfed in a virtual sea of ignorance, vice and sin. Sri Narada was filled with pity for the miserable condition of the human race. At his request Sri Brahma and the other devatas approached Sri Hari and asked him to provide some spiritual solace tu humans by taking an avatar. Sri Hari asked his companion and divine weapon, the Sudarshana chakra to born as a human being. In the Bhavishya Purana it is mentioned thus, “On the instruction of Sri Krishna at the end of the Dwapara Yuga, his dear companion, the Sudarshana Chakra will be born in human form, He will be known as Nimbaditya and he will stop the spread of Adharma on the earth.”    Sri Krishna gave Sudarshana instructions about his mission as his incarnation and added, “You will establish the rule of Dharma on earth and work towards the spiritual well being of humans. The Sampradaya currently known as Hamsa Sampradaya will become famous by your name.

As was willed by Sri Hari Sudarshana was born to a Brahmin couple, Rishi Aruna and his wife Jayanti, who lived in a village called Vaiduryapattanam in the Telangana region of South India. The couple had been childless and had prayed to Sri Hari for the birth of a son. A divine incident occurred one time when Rishi Arun had gone to visit his in laws. One night the couple saw a divine light enter their sleeping quarters and then entered the womb of Jayanti. A heavenly voice informed the couple that, “Sri Hari’s companion Sudarshana Chakra will be born as your son.” It was the month of Magha in the winter season. The couple returned to their home soon after and after nine months, during the tenth month, Jayanti gave birth to a son. It was the day of Raas Poornima in the month of Kartik.  The couple named their son – Niyamananda.

Sri Narada had appeared to the couple before the birth of their son and said, “The Sudarshana Chakra of Sri Krishna will be born as your son. I will give him e diksha sometime after his birth.” At the appropriate time Niyamananda received his Upanayana (sacred thread) and shortly after that Arun and Jayanti, along with their young son, left Telangana on the advice of Sri Narada and settled down in Brajadham. They chose a place called Nimbgaon (now called Neemgaon) near the foothills of the Govardhana Mountains. It was here that Niyamananda began to studt the scriptures. He was taught by his father. Niyamananda had the extraordinary ability to remember anything that he read or heard for the first time. As he had prophesied, Narada arrived in Neemgaon to give diksha to Niyamananda. Niyamananda saw Sri Krishna standing beside Sri Narada. He was so overwhelmed with emotion on seeing the Lord that he lost consciousness. He regained his consciousness after some time and then proceeded to pay his obeisance to both of them. Sri Narada gave diksha to Niyamananda in presence of Sri Krishna and instructed him in Brahmavidya. He also received sanyaas from Sri Narada at this very young age. Niyamananda began severe penances and austerities to realize the scriptural truths which had been told to him by his Guru. During his austerities his diet was limited to the fruit of the neem tree. He gave up all other food and remained immersed in his austerities day and night. After years of penances he attained spiritual enlightenment and transformed into a powerful and extremely knowledgeable saint who proposed the BhedaBhed philosophy to interpret the scriptures like Upanishads, and Vedanta darshan.

He went to various pilgrimages after that and started to initiate disciples by giving them diksha. His face was aglow with the light of spiritual enlightenment and people soon began to be attracted to him like iron filings are attracted to a magnet. Not everyone however, was benevolent towards him. There were people who were jealous of his fame. In the city os Padmanabhapuri, the locals welcomed him showed him great reverence and respect. Many were initiated by him. However, a group of people could not bear the thought that he was attaining fame and decided to conspire against him. Niyamananda was unaffected by these petty squabbles and moved to a Tapovan outside the village to avoid any controversy. The conspirators then decided to do away with him in a dastardly manner. He was sitting in Samadhi when they surrounded him and placed heaps of dry wood all around him. They then lit the dry wood and soon Niyamananda was engulfed by flames on all sides. When the fire died down, Niyamananda emerged unscathed from the heap of ashes which surrounded him. Seeing him unscathed and alive the conspirators tried to run away but the Lord Sri Hari appeared in his Narsingha (man-lion) form and ran after them as if to eat them up. The conspirators then fell at the feet of Niyamananda and sought his forgiveness. Sri Hari then withdrew his Narasingha form and disappeared. How he received the name Nimbarka is an intriguing story.

Niyamananda lived in Neemgaon in the Brajbhoomi and he had gained fame as a powerful yogi. A yati (ascetic) who ate food only before sunset came to Niyamananda’s ashram to test his spiritual powers. In some places it is said that the yati was a Brahmin but in the Bhavishya Purana it is mentioned that it was the creator Lord Brahma who had arrived in the guise of a yati. He arrived just when the sun was about to set on the western horizon. Niyamananda used his yogic powers to arrange for a variety of tasty and sumptuous meal. His guest meanwhile was busy performing his daily rituals at the banks of a nearby river. The sun was about to set but the guest did not come for his meal. Niyamananda thought that his guest would go hungry if the sun set before he could eat and God in the form of his guest would go hungry. He called upon the Sudarshana Chakra, the divine weapon of Lord Vishnu, and instructed the Chakra to take its place above a neem tree in the ashram. The divine glow of the Chakra made it look like a second sun and when the guest returned to the ashram after his puja rituals he thought that the sun had still not set. The yati ate to his heart’s content. After his guest had finished his meal Niyamananda instructed the Sudarshana Chakra to return. As soon as the Chakra left the yati saw that a quarter of the night had passed. The yati was very impressed by the yogic powers of Niyamananda and prostrated himself before this ascetic. Acharya Niyamananda had placed the sun (called Arka in Sanskrit) on a neem tree (called Nimb in Sanskrit). That is why the yati gave him the name – Nimbarka (Nimb +Arka). From then on yogi Niyamananda came to be known as Nimbarka Bhagwaan. This sampradaya which was previously known as Hamsa sampradaya and later san (pronounced -sun) sampradaya then came to be called by its present name –Nimbarka sampradaya.

Nimbarkacharya’s fame had spread far and wide in India. As an extraordinary scholr and yogi, he was revered almost everywhere. Once a learned Brahmin decided that he would defeat Nimbarkacharya in a verbal contest on the meaning of the scriptures. His name was Vidyanidhi and he came to Neemgaon to challenge Nimbarkacharya in a debate. Nimbarkacharya pointed to his disciple Audumbaracharya and said, “This is my disciple. Defeat him first in a debate and then only will I debate you.” Vidyanidhi was defeated easily by Audumbaracharya and so impressed was he by the disciple’s knowledge of the scriptures that he decided to seek diksha from Sri Nimbarkacharya. He received diksha and sanyaas and his new name was Sri Nivasacharya.

Sri Nivasacharyaji succeeded Sri Nimbarka as the next guru of this sampradaya. After that we see a line of almost 53 saints who in succession took on the mantle of sadguru and each one passed on Brahmavidya to their disciples. Many branches of the sampradaya also sprouted in between. However, the basic structure and tenets of the sampradaya largely remained unchanged. Of the many acharyas of the sampradaya, I will give a brief biography of some of them who became relatively more famous during their lifetimes. They are still held in reverence by the disciples of this sampradaya.

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