Pushtimarg (The Path Of Grace) is a sect of the Hindu religion, founded by Shrimad Vallabhacharya (known as Mahaprabhuji.)
Shri Vallabhacharya is one of the five main Acharyas of the Hindu Religion. (The other four being Shankaracharya, Shri Ramanujacharya, Shri Madhavacharya and Shri Nimbarkacharya.)
These acharyas have made significant contribution to the bhakti movement and led to the medieval rise in popularity of the Hindu Religion. The devotional movement is based on the idea that love of God should be seen as an end in itself, not as a means to something else.
Shri Vallabhacharya was born into a very noble and learned Brahmin family in South India in what is today called Andhra Pradesh. His ancestors had a very staunch religious background and included learned Brahmins like Shri Yagnanarayan Bhatt and Shri Ganapati Bhatt. They wrote several books on religion and devotion. Shri Vallabhacharya was the second son of Lakshman Bhatt and Yallammagaru. Their ancestors had performed several Soma-yagnas and Shri Lakshman Bhatt completed 100 Somyagnas. Shri Yagnanarayan was blessed by Lord Vishnu, that on completion of 100 Soma-yagnas, God himself would incarnate in his family.
Thus when 100 Soma-yagnas were complete, Lakshman Bhatt went to Kashi to accomplish his vow of feeding 125,000 Brahmins. He could not complete this task as there were political disturbances in Kashi. He took his pregnant wife Yallammagaru and on his way southwards he halted at a place called Champaranya. There, his wife gave birth to a still baby which they kept under a tree and proceeded ahead. On the same night Lakshman Bhatt heard a celestial voice ordering him to go back to the baby and pick it up as it was misunderstood to be a still born. That baby was no ordinary one, but by the grace of God, Shri Vallabh had taken birth through Yallammagaru's womb. On reaching the spot where they had kept the baby, they found the baby encircled by a divine fire as a protecting spirit.
Shri Vallabh was a brilliant and extra-ordinary child. He finished studying all the Vedas and all the prominent scriptures at a very early age. At the age of 11 he started his all India pilgrimage. During this tour he came to Vijaynagar where he came to know about a sensational debate that was being conducted in the court of King Krishnadevraya. The debate was between the different Acharyas over the question whether the relationship between the world and God is dualistic or non-dualistic. Shri Vallabh entered the court and with his unopposed arguments proved that God is pure and non-dualistic i.e. Shuddhadwait. His philosophy thenceforth came to be known as Shuddhadwait Brahmvaad. The details of which can be found in a book named "Vallabh Digvijay"
During the second pilgrimage, Lord Krishna appeared in the form of Lord Shrinathji in front of him and ordered him to reestablish Pushti Marg and propagate the pushti kind of devotion among the chosen ones and bring them back to their original state in God's own domain. i.e. Vaikuntha or Golok-dham . But the question in Shri Vallabh's mind was that the divine souls in this world too are highly influenced by the materialistic world and their souls and body have lost the kind of purity that is needed for their reunion with the Supreme entity i.e.. Lord Krishna.
Lord Shrinathji assured him that with "brahamasambandha", (relationship with God) whichever soul is admitted into the Pushti marg, all its impurities will refrain from obstructing the soul's relation with Himself and the soul will be eligible to pursue His bhakti. That was the night of Prabodhini Ekadashi (Four days before the new moon day) of the auspicious month of Shravana. Lord Shrinathji taught him the Brahamasambandha mantra and asked him to bring back the divine souls back to him.
On the following day Shri Vallabahcharya initiated his first disciple Shri Damodardas Harsani with this mantra along with the principles of Pushtimarga. This was how Pushtimarga was established
Brahmsambandha - The Formal Initiation into The Path Of Grace
The absolute and exclusive rights to grant "Brahmsambandh" in the path of grace, in order to transform an Ordinary jiva (soul) into a Pushti "Jeev" lie only with the descendants of Shri Vallabhacharya, known as Goswami Balaks Vallabhkul(The word "Goswami" literally means - the protector of cows), who Vallabh Vaishnavas respectfully and lovingly refer to as: "Goswami","Bawa" or "Jeje". They are the actual and direct descendants of Shreemad Vallabhacharya Mahaprabhu. Goswamies are responsible for the "pushti"(literally means spiritual nourishment) of all the disciples initiated by them.
Brahmsabandha is a process, where after fasting for one full day(consuming fruits and milk only) one is given the Krishna "Gadhya Mantra" in front of a Deity "Swaroop" by a Vallabhkul Goswami after which tulsi leaves (Indian Basil) are offered to the lotus feet of the Lord. The Adhikaar(right) to perform daily "seva" comes only after one is initiated into Pushtimarg by means of formally granting Brahmsambandh by a Goswami Balak. Without brahmsambandh one does not hold the right to perform seva of a Pusht (alive) Swaroop
The Three Pillars of Pushtimarg
The three pillars of Pushtimarg are:
1. Raag (playing and hearing traditional Haveli music)
2. Bhog (offering pure vegetarian food that does not contain any meat or such vegetables as onion, garlic, cabbage, carrots, and a few others)
3. Vastra & Shringar (decorating the deity with beautiful clothes and adorning the deity with jewellery)
All of the above three are included in the daily seva (devotional service) which all followers of Pushtimarg offer to their Thakurji (personal Krishna deity), and all of them have been traditionally prescribed by Goswami Shri Vitthalnathji almost five hundred years ago. Shri Vitthalnathji is also called Gusainji (Vallabhacharya's second son). The raag, bhog, and vastra and shringar offerings vary daily according to the season, the date, and time of day, and this is the main reason why this path is so colourful and alive.
Seva is the most important way to attain Pushti in Pushtimarg and has been prescribed by Vallabhacharya as the fundamental tenet. All principles and tenets of Shuddhadvaita Vaishnavism stem out from here.
• It (Pushtimarg) is spontaneous, selfless & motiveless love for God.
• It is based on pure love for God.
• It is expressed only through service of God - "Seva".
• It is love after realising God's true nature.
• The knowledge gained is not a means of liberation.
• Liberation, is considered secondary to the enjoyment of God's bliss.
• Its aim is God's happiness.
• No caste, creed, color, sex or age prevents one from attaining God's Grace.
• It does not know any boundaries, be it time, place or anything else.
• It does not require a devotee to give up a householder's life. In fact, one can serve Him better, by being a householder. This is different from other philosophies that require a life of contemplation as a monk.
• All the worldly desires are diverted towards God, they are then not required to be suppressed.
• World is not looked down upon but is treated as God's creation and thus as real as God himself.
• Shri Krishna is the Supreme God, all the other deities reside in his form. Therefore total faith is placed in Shri Krishna alone.
• In the state of liberation the entity of the devotee merges into *God's blissful form, but in Bhakti (especially Pushti bhakti) the devotee does not seek liberation but he enjoys God's bliss by participating in it as a separate divine entity.
By the 19th Century, it had become a social exclusive merchant and banker sect and embroiled in a number of scandals.
Mahaprabhu Shri Vallabhacharya ji’s writings
Commentaries and Verses (c 1479-1531)
Mahaprabhuji wrote elaborate commentaries on Sanskrit scriptures, the Brahma-Sutras (Anubhasya), and Shreemad Bhagwatam (Shree Subodhini ji).
Also, in order to help devotees on this path of devotion, he wrote 16 pieces in verse which we know as the Shodasha Granthas. These came about as answers to devotees. The verses define the practical theology of Pushtimarga.
The Shodasha Granthas (doctrines) serve as a lighthouse for devotees. They speak about increasing love for Shri Krishna through Seva (service) and Smarana (remembering). These doctrines are Shri Mahaprabhu ji’s way of encouraging and inspiring devotees on this path of grace. The central message of the Shodasha Granthas is, total surrender to the Lord. A Goswami can initiate an eager soul to this path of Shri Krishna’s loving devotion and service. The verses explain the types of devotees, the way to surrender and the reward for Seva, as well as other practical instructions. The devotee is nurtured by the Lord’s grace.
The Shodash Granthas Shree Yamunastakam: An ode to Shree Yamuna Maharani
Baala Bodhah: A guide for beginners on the path of devotion
Siddhant-Muktavali: A string of pearls consisting of the principles/fundamentals of Pushtimarg
Pusti-Pravaha-Maryadabhedah: The different characteristics of the different types of souls (Receptivity of the Lord’s grace)
Siddhant-Rahasya: The Secret behind the Principles
Navratna : Nine jewels of instructions (Priceless instructions for a devotee)
Antah-Karan-Prabodhah: Consoling one's Heart (Request to one’s own heart)
Vivek-Dhairy-Aashray: Of discretion, patience and surrender
Shree Krushna Aashray: Taking Shree Krushna’s shelter
Chatuhshloki: A Four Verses (Verser) illustrating the four principles of life; Dharma, Arth, Kaam, Moksh
Bhakti-Vardhini: Increase of devotion
Jal-Bhed: Difference in Waters.
Pancha-Padyaani: Five instructive verses
Sannyasa-Nirnayah: Decision on taking Renunciation
Nirodh-Lakshanam: Identifying characteristics of detachment
Seva-Phalam: The reward of performing seva (worship) of the Lord