Vallabhacharya / वल्लभाचार्य
Sri Vallabhacharya (1479 – 1531) was a devotional philosopher, who founded the Pushti sect in India, following the philosophy of Shuddha advaita (Pure Non-dualism). He is regarded as an Acharya and Guru within the Vaishnava traditions as promulgated and prescribed by the Vedanta philosophy. He is often associated with Vishnuswami, the founder of Rudra Sampradaya. Within Indian Philosophy he is known as the writer of sixteen 'stotras' (tracts) and produced several commentaries on the Bhagavata Purana, which describes the many lilas (pastimes) of the avatar, Krishna. Vallabha Acharya occupies a unique place in Indian culture as a scholar, a philosopher and devotional (bhakti) preacher. He is widely considered as the last of the four great Vaishnava Acharyas who established the various Vaishnava schools of thought based on Vedantic philosophy, the other three (preceding him) being Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya and Nimbarkacharya. He is especially known as a lover and a propagator of Bhagavata Dharma. He was born in Champaranya near Raipur in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh. The ancestors of Vallabha acharya lived in Andhra Pradesh and belonged to a long line of Telugu Vaidiki Brahmins following the Vishnu Swami school of thought. His education commenced at the age of seven with the study of four Vedas. It is believed that when Vallabhacharya entered Gokul, he thought about the important question of restoring people to the right path of devotion. He meditated on Krishna who appeared to him in a vision in the form of Shrinathji, deity discovered by Madhavendra Puri and disclosed the 'Brahma Sambandha' (Sanskrit for - "Relation with Brahman, the supreme Godhead") , a mantra of self dedication or consecration of self to Krishna. Vallabha Acharya related this experience to his worthiest and most beloved disciple, Damodardasa, in the early morning - “Damala, did you hear any voice last night” ? Damodaradasa replied in negative. He became the first Vaishnava initiated by Vallabhacharya. He wanted to preach his message of devotion to God and God’s grace called Pushti - Marga. He undertook three pilgrimages of India. He performed the initiation ceremony of religious rite by conferring on them ‘NamaNivedana’ mantra or ‘Brahma Sambandha’ mantra. Thousands became his disciples, but 84 devoted servants are most famous and their life has been documented in Pushti Marg literature as the ‘Story of 84 Vaishnavas’. He also met Vyas in his Himalayan cave and discussed about Krishna and his flute.