Shrila Baladeva Vidyabhushana was a highly renounced, pure devotee, who had not even a fraction of desire for name or fame. He compiled many literature’s in order to benefit mankind. However he never mentioned his birth place or anything about his family background and therefore the details are not known for sure.
Historians have estimated that he was born sometime in the eighteenth century, most probably in Orissa (possibly near Remuna). At a very early age, he finished his studies of grammar, poetry, rhetoric and logic and then went on pilgrimage. During this time he spent some time with the Tattvavadis of Madhwacharya in South India and thus became conversant with the teachings of Shri Madhwacharya. He became a powerful exponent of this philosophy throughout India.
During his travels he again came to Utkaladesa (Orissa) and met with a grand-disciple of Shri Rasikananda Deva, Shri Radha-Damodara Deva by name, with whom he discussed philosophy. Shri Radha-Damodara Deva explained the conclusions of Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy as expounded by Shri Gaursundara and requested him to consider the unlimited mercy of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. These talks penetrated his heart and awakened divine love within. Thus, after a few days he was initiated with Radha-Krishna mantra and began to study the Sat sandarbha of Shri Jiva Gosvami.
In a very short time he became very expert in Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy. With the permission and blessings of his guru, he moved to Shri Vrindavana Dhama to further study these teachings under Shri Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura.
Shri Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura was extremely pleased to see the humble and gentle nature and the renunciation and profound mastery of the Vedas that characterized Baladeva. He carefully instructed him in acintya-bhedabheda-tattva. Baladeva fully accepted the Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy and began to preach it with great vigor.
Around this time, the members of the Shri sampradaya began to raise some arguments in the court of the king at Jaipur. They complained that as the Gaudiya Vaishnavas had no commentary on the Vedanta sutra, they were not qualified to worship the Deity and therefore the worship should be turned over to the Shri sampradaya. They also objected to the worship of Shrimati Radharani along with Shri Shri Govinda-Gopinatha as not being authorised anywhere in the shastras.
The king, Sadacari Raja, was initiated within the Gaudiya sampradaya. Thus he quietly sent word to Vrindavana, informing the devotees there of what had happened. But at the same time the king was obliged to remove Radharani from the Deity room as well as suspend the Bengali Gaudiya Vaishnava pujaris from partaking in the Deity worship.
At that time Shrila Viswanath Cakravartipada was very aged, so it was not possible for him to make the journey to Jaipur. In his place he sent his student, Shri Baladeva, who was fully conversant with the shastras and thus able to competently face the challenge. In a great assembly he posed such forceful arguments to the followers of Ramanuja that they could not reply to them. He further explained to them, “The originator of the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, has accepted Shrimad Bhagavata as the natural commentary on the Vedanta-sutra, as composed by Shrila Vyasadeva Himself. This is proven in the Sat-sandarbha.”
The scholars in the assembly however, refused to accept anything other than a direct commentary on the sutra. Having no other recourse, Baladeva promised to present them with one.
Feeling very aggrieved, Shri Baladeva came to Shri Govindaji’s mandira and after offering his prostrated obeisances, informed Shri Govinda of everything that had happened. That night the Lord appeared to him in a dream and instructed him to write a commentary on the Vedanta-sutra. “I will dictate to you what to write and therefore no one will be able to refuse to accept it.”
Having seen such a wonderful dream, Baladeva was totally enlivened and felt renewed strength flow into his heart. Thus he began to write, and within a few days completed the commentary which was titled ‘Shri Govinda Bhasya’.
Vidya rupam bhusanam me pradaya kyatim nitya tena yo mamudarah
Shri Govinda svapna nirdista bhaso radha bandhubandhurangah sa jiyat:
“May He Who so mercifully and munificently was kind towards me, and bestowed his favour by ordering me in a dream to write down His own commentary, which He would compose, and which attained such renown amongst the learned circles that they bestowed upon me the title ‘Vidyabhusana’; may that dear friend of Shrimati Radharani, who holds Him dearer than Her own life, be glorified. May that Shri Govinda be glorified.”
Bringing the commentary with him, Shri Baladeva again came to the assembly of the Ramanandi scholars. After reading the commentary they were simply speechless. Thus the victory of the Gaudiya sampradaya was announced far and wide and the king, as well as the other devotees, began to float in the ocean of bliss. The scholars then bestowed upon Shri Baladeva the title ‘Vidyabhusana’.
This assembly took place in the year 1628 Sakabda, at Golta near the present city of Jaipur. Baladeva Vidyabhushana installed the Deity of Vijaya Gopala there at Golta Mandira, but the whereabouts of this Deity are at present not known. From this day the Maharaja of Jaipur announced that Shri Govinda’s arati would be performed first and then the other temples could perform their aratis.
After accepting defeat, the Ramanandi scholars expressed their desire to accept initiation from Shri Baladeva Vidyabhushana. However, he declined their request by stating that amongst the four authorised sampradayas, the Shri sampradaya was highly respectable and the foremost adherent of dasya-bhakti (devotion in servitorship). If there was any cause of loss of respect to the sampradaya this might be considered an offense.
Returning from Jaipur to Vrindavana, Shri Baladeva presented the certificate of victory to Shrila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura and narrated all of the events that had transpired. All of the devotees were in great ecstasy to receive this news and Cakravartipada bestowed his full blessings on Shri Baladeva. At this time, Shri Baladeva Vidyabhushana began to write a commentary on Shrila Jiva Gosvami’s Sat sandarbha.
Shri Jaya and Shri Vijaya Govinda, residing at Gokulananda Mandira in Vrindavana, were worshipped by Baladeva Vidyabhushana personally. According to the opinion of some devotees, the Deities of Shyamananda Prabhu, Shri Shri Radha-Syamasundara, were installed by Shri Baladeva Vidybhusana.
After Shri Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura finished his pastimes in this world, Shri Baladeva Vidyabhushana became the next acharya of the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya.
At the end of Vedanta syamantaka, Shri Baladeva Vidyabhushana acknowledges his spiritual master thusly: “I have been sent here to Vrindavana by one brahmana guru, Shri Radha-Damodar Deva, to present a composition named Vedanta syamantaka, composed by his mercy for the pleasure of Shrimati Radharani.”
Shrila Baladeva Vidybhusana became known later as Shri Govinda dasa. He had two well known disciples: Shri Vidya dasa and Shri Nandan Misra.
He is the compiler of the following books: (although there’s a lot more than this: Bhasya pithaka, commentaries on Gopala Campu, Krishna bhavanamrta, Samsaya satini, etc.etc.) Shri Govinda bhasya, Siddhanta ratnam, Sahitya kaumudi, Vedanta syamantaka, Prameya ratnavali, Siddhanta darpana, Kavya kaustubha, Vyakarana kaumudi, Pada kaustubha, Isadi upanisad bhasya, Gitabhusana bhasya, Shri Visnunamasahasra bhasya, Sanksepa bhagavatamrta tippani saranga rangada, Tattva sandarbha tika, Stava mala vibhusana bhasya, Nataka candrika tika, Candraloka tika, Sahitya kaumudi tika, Krishna nandini, Shrimad Bhagavata tika, Vaishnava nandini, Govinda bhasya siksma tika, Siddhanta ratna tika, Stava mala tika.