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His faith in God was so deep that he felt Him to be an ever-living Reality close at hand, and he made it the sole purpose of his life to please God by serving Him with all the devotion of his heart and soul. This was to him the essence of true Bhakti. He says again and again that all conventions and even religious traditions have to be discarded if a soul wants to possess the Bhakti of the right type. God to him is not some static impersonal Essence but the most dynamic Personality, the Purushottama, the Supreme Person, who is ever ready to manifest His will and good pleasure and to grant His grace in abundance if the human soul is willing to do His bidding. In strict accordance with this, God gave him definite commands appearing in person and speaking to him as one person does to another.
This is something unique in the history of Hindu religion, and one has to go far to find another person who heard the voice of God in the same way.
It is such men as hear the voice of God who revolutionize the course of history.
It was the consciousness on the part of Vallabha's Church that he habitually spoke the word of God that made it speak of him as the Mukhavatara, the Incarnation of the Mouth of God.
The Dispensation of Bhakti is vouchsafed by God through the manifestation of His own Person in the form of Incarnations culminating in that of Sri Krishna. This is the Lila wherein He manifests His own Beauty and Joy, evoking thereby the feelings of admiration, gratitude and love in the hearts of men. This appeals to the heart, the region of feeling, in man, making it easier for him to turn to God. Souls are attracted to Him because of His beautiful and gracious Personality, which proves irresistible. It is this Lila is God which gives rise to Bhakti, which is love for and devotion to God.
This Bhakti is usually divided into nine kinds, all of which Vallabha accepts as true. They are Sravana, hearing : kirtana, praising: smarana,remembering : padasevana, worshipping of the freet of God. archana, ceremonial worshipping of God: vandana, bowing etc. to God: dasya, personal serving of God: sakhya, friendship with God: and atma-nivedana absolute surrender to God. This nine-fold Bhakti is common to all the Sampradayas of Bhakti-Marga.
The specialty of Valabha’s teaching is that he starts with the last three stages of Bhakti mentioned here. He was fully conscious of the fact that he had a special revelation from God to preach an advanced form of the Bhakti Marga, or what was nothing less than a New Dispensation. God had manifested Himself anew to him for the propagation of this path which he called Pusti-Marga. Here God had taken the lead inasmuch as He had invited human souls, especially the elect ones, to Himself. It was out of the fullness of His grace that He had done this, and His grace was all along with men when they walked that Way. The great emphasis that Vallabha put thus on grace is remarkable and unique. Ordinarily not only Karma and Jnana but even Bhakti is supposed to spring from one’s own self, whereas with him it is only a reflex action of the grace of God. The origin, development and perfection of Bhakti, according to him, are dependent almost, if not altogether, on God Himself. God is the beginning, the middle and the end, the alpha and the omega in the work of salvation.
The man’s part, in Vallabha’s view, lies in his total surrender to God is everything, surrender of body, mind and soul, and this to such an extent that all these become inter-penetrated and filled with God. His Brahmavada teaches that man is but a part of God, that he is related to God as a part is to whole. The relationship between the soul and God, however, is closer and more personal than this. God is the Father and the Mother, the Friend and the Lover of the soul, and faith in this relationship is the starting-point of the religious life. In this also God has taken the initiative, for it is He Who has reminded the soul of its true nature and its relationship to Himself through the Scriptures and other special revelations and incarnations. Vallabha’s Pusti-Marga is the last of these, vouchsafed to men for the attainment of the Final Beatitude.
To hear this call and to respond to it is the first step that the soul is required to take in this new Bhakti-Marga or rather Path of Grace. Very significantly Vallabh has called this entrance into the path Brahma-sambandha, relationship with God. The soul becomes conscious of this relationship and enters a new phase of life which is nothing less than divine. A special ceremony bearing this name has been instituted by Vallabha, which everyone who would be a member of his Church has to go through. The mantra i.e. the holy formula given to the neophyte is Sri Krishna Sharnam Mama, Sri Krishna is my refuge, and whosoever, man, woman or child takes this initiation is expected to surrender everything to God. This initiation carries with it the forgiveness on the part of God of all the past sins of the person who takes it. The disciple is supposed to have a new birth, although that word is rarely used by Vallabha or his followers. He explains this change by a simile in these words: “Just as the dirty waters of drains and small streams become the holy river Ganges on their mingling with it, they being no larger distinguishable from it, and their dirt and refuse disappear, so do the sins of those who surrender themselves to God get washed away and they become one with God”. We must remember in this connection that the oneness of the soul which has been thus described is not of the kind which makes the soul completely absorbed in God. Vallabha is emphatically against the belief in complete merging of the soul into God.
Author : Abha Shahra Shyama