Even as a child, young Vallabh never wore any sewn cloth nor anything on his feet. He travelled wearing only a light cotton dhoti and shawl. The eleven year old’s lotus feet purified the earth wherever he went. He knew that the path of devotion needed to be resurrected. Meanwhile, the teachings of Shri Shankaracharya had swept through India and the young Vallabh felt that Shankar’s teachings wherein the world and ultimately even Shri Krishna were
* both false and that devotion was inferior to knowledge was misleading the people. Shri Vallabh’s mission was to revive the Vedantic truth of the One Joyous God who lives in all things, whose creations are free of fault and maya and who can be known through dedication and self-less devotion. As Shri Vallabh carried his message across India, He became known as the “Remover of the theory that this world is an illusion.” He saw everything as purely Krishna and only Krishna. He is the purest non-dualist.
His divine assignment was manifold and this required the young Master to wander extensively in order to spread the light of devotion according to the Vedic wisdoms, to clarify the paths of practice and most importantly, to find the lost divine souls. He was not interested in mass conversion for he was, “The Uplifter of Divine Souls.”
It is not enough to list the sites he visited or to hear of the miracles he performed to understand Shri Vallabh. He did not consider magical acts important. The real attainment he taught was in becoming God’s unconditional follower and he called himself a “Krishnadas”, a follower of Shri Krishna. He promoted the path of selfless, unconditional surrender to the Beloved of the Gopis, Shri Krishna.
Beloved Vallabh saw Shri Krishna as the essence of the Upanisads. Shri Krishna as comprised of pure nectar, unlimited, devoid of difference, the object of the Vedant, unattainable through meditation, yet He will happily appear and dance for His bhaktas. This lovely Krishna is ineffable, yet described by His lovers. He is unseen, yet appears before those who burn with His joyous rapture. For the benefit of ignited souls, Shri Vallabhacharya spent more than fifteen years of his life traversing the sub-continent of India three times with a small group of followers. He was known as “The one who is surrounded by other accomplished devotional adepts.”
Many people along the way did not agree with the young Vallabh, but after encountering his divine wisdom and words, they left their shallow thoughts and turned towards his lotus feet. He visited most of the sacred places in India and those who came to dispute his view became his true followers. He became known as “The one with brilliant logic”.
Today we find eighty-four seats spread across the Indian subcontinent where the master sat and taught the Shrimad Bhagavatam, the most exalted text on the yoga of devotion. Shrines called Baitaks have been erected at most of the sites where he taught the sacred text. He came to these pilgrimage places to infuse the Eternal Dharma with a new elan and to himself become, as his son Shri Vitthalnathji has said, “Totally immersed in the nectar of Krishna’s lilas, names and teachings.”
After the passing of Shri Vallabh’s father at Balaji’s temple, he set out on his first pilgrimage from the north towards South India. He was eleven years old. The south was then comparatively free from Muslim dominance and religious disturbance. Shri Vallabh was a South Indian Brahmin after all, and South India had a long tradition of learning and piety. His wanderings through Krishna creations brought him to the forests of Chitrakuta, where Lord Ram lived in exile with his wife Sita and brother Laxshman. The bhakti master found the world full of Brahman, a play of His name and forms and every incarnation and sage that promoted the truth of eternal dharma was honored by him.
From there he moved on to his birth place, Champaranya where he gave teachings on the Bhagavat. The exact dates and routes the Beloved took may not be exact, but they always reached deep into the heart of the land and people he visited. We find the accounts of Shri Vallabh’s travels in a book written by his grandson, Shri Gokulnathji, called the Eighty-four seats of Vallabhacharya. Shri Gokulnathji noted many of the events in the master’s life and each account presents us with another level of understanding into Shri Vallabhacharya’s life and mission.
In Mangalprastha, Dhondhi came to argue that the path of sacrifice was the supreme way. When the young Vallabh explained to him that pure devotion to God is the supreme path, Dhondhi attained wisdom and bowed at the master’s feet. From there, Shri Vallabh went to Kundipura where a follower of Shri Shankaracharya was overwhelmed with admiration for him when Shri Vallabh explained, “How can Brahman, who you claim to be totally formless, create a reflection that is unreal?”
At Balaji’s temple in South India, Ravinath tested Shri Vallabh’s knowledge of Vedic mantras and to his surprise, not only did Shri Vallabh correctly recite hundreds of mantras from the beginning to the end of the text, but he also recited them in reverse order. Wherever he went, Shri Vallabh revealed Shri Krishna’s truth and refuted all other mayic theories that contradict the true spirit of the Upanisadas. Shri Vallabh became know as, “The one who established the teaching of Brahmavada, where everything is Brahman and nothing but Brahman.”
The Beloved extracted the essence of all teachings and wherever he went, he implanted a divine view in the minds and hearts of the people. He always retreated to isolated places and became known as “A lover of solitude”. In the inner recesses of the world and the heart, he contemplated the movements of the Beloved of the Gopis. He understood Shri Krishna’s inner essence and passed that priceless gift to others. No qualified person was barred from his path of loving devotion. He was the uplifter of all and gave his followers something even beyond liberation and enlightenment. He gave them Shri Krishna’s nectar.