Introduction To The Guru
This chapter 'Introduction to the guru parampara' defines the 'Guru Parampara' (Disciplic Succession) coming in the line of Lord Krsna to Lord Brahma, the first living entity in creation to whom Vedic knowledge was imparted.
Having the faith that Lord Sri Krsna is the One Independent Lord, without a second, and understanding that if He wants something to be achieved it will be successful irrespective of what so many others may think, or do to make it otherwise. In His various forms He remains the same, just like an Original Candle that lights so many candles, each candle having candle power. Those too, who willingly recognise and accept that candle power also remain in the light. In this way under the Lord’s design, we see various personalities appear in functionary roles to assist His mission within the ‘guru parampara’. Sometimes They are directly the Lord Himself, or even a plenary portion or ‘partial incarnation’, other times empowered beings or devotees fill the position ordained by Him. While other times even conditioned souls fill the place of being ‘guru’, their qualification, desipte their own shortcomings being their faithfulness to the ‘guru parampara’.
"Generally the spiritual master comes from the group of such eternal associates of the Lord; but anyone who follows the principles of such ever liberated persons is as good as one in the above mentioned group. The gurus from nature's study are accepted as such on the principle that an elevated person in Krishna Consciousness does not accept anyone as disciple, but he accepts everyone as expansion of his guru. That is very high position, called Maha-bhagavata. Just like Radharani, sometimes thinks a subordinate of hers as her teacher, to understand devotion of Krishna. A person who is liberated ‘acharya’ and ‘guru’ cannot commit any mistake, but there are persons who are less qualified or not liberated, but still can act as 'guru' and 'acharya' by strictly following the disciplic succession."(A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. 26th April, 1968. Letter to Janardana dasa. New York)
So either way, from what ever destination or origin the representitive is coming be he an eternally free liberated associate of the Lord, or be he a devotee who is by the mercy of his ‘guru’ adhering to the process of ‘sadhana bhakti’, thus empowered by that lineage of ‘guru-parampara’ he in turn extends himself to other souls. Either way successful contact with the ‘guru parampara’ may be had. This is the most significant factor.
Some persons stress that the guru must be of the purely liberated nature, but here Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad clearly says that not to be so, but by that devotee, even a ‘kanistha adikari’ (unliberated devotee) strictly adhering to the process of properly maintaining his spiritual status, and avoiding material activities, his performing the function will assist anyone to become linked to the ‘parampara’.
On the basis of man made moral judgements some have suggested that this one or that not be qualified to perform the function of being ‘guru’. It is a fact that as mentioned above in all cases one need to be following the spiritual principles of the ‘sampradaya’ that allows one to be an entrusted canditate for extending oneself unmotivatedly to save Krsna’s other lost souls (who may be dipping in and dipping out of the spiritual and material worlds). Someone who has another interest obviously cannot do it, he has his own agenda. However, it will not stop the over all mission.
This ‘guru parampara’ factualy has devotees who are spontaneously serving the Lord, and others who by dint of clinging to the principles as set by their ‘gurus’, follow in the practical teachings of compassion, and especially positive broadmindedness to see how our fellow ‘jivas’ can come closer to going home. Appreciation for and of such ‘jivas’ will and does knit our family together, what may pull it appart is over emphasising what may be lacking, finding only faults, and contributing little to assisting the reformation of the Lord’s parts and parcels to our natural condition. This is the only thing that can damage a ‘parampara’, for if smoke obscures the purpose of fire, or its function, in due course the fire may appear to go out.
However, we are always hopeful, and trusting that the future of the ‘parampara’ has already been exhumed. As the permenant (spiritual) only natuarally out lives the temporal (mayic) influences. So as spiritual beings we know we have a home somewhere, with loved ones waiting eagerly for our return. Consequently we know that Vedic knowledge will always survive the temporal coverings of the changes during the cyclic yugas, and the manipulations and temporary transformations (deviations), ploys, and games made of it by man. For the Vedic wisdom like it's compiler is eternal, it's literatures, and their truths are eternal, and are eternally applicable. Our challenge is knowing how and where they are applicable, at what time, and to, with or from who.
In the Vedic culture therefore we find four primary disciplic lines
which have come down through countless ages, sometimes appearing manifest,
sometimes not, yet still the pure and unadulterated messages of Veda span
our concepts of the temporal (material realm), and were, and are handed
down from 'guru' to disciple, as men seated among the branches of a huge
mango tree collect and disseminate mangoes carefully, passing the untainted
nectar throughout the branches.
We have seen this graphic example in India today, when it is mango season in the hot summer months, many men of good character, I mean qualified to perform the task, will climb a mango tree and each one exemplary in his own right carefully passes down the fruits of the mango tree, neither adding anything to the mango nor taking anything away. They are themselves connoisseurs of the refined fruits of Vedic culture, and so carefully guarded fruits are in this way passed down through the branches of the tree, each one attached to the main trunk, or sampradaya through 'Vaishnava Diksha', closely supported by the essence of “what is a mango worth” called ‘Vaishnava Shiksha’, understanding. Those realised souls who themselves have tasted pure mango, and who relish living such a culture of devotion know how important it is to hand down only the purest uncontaminated fruit to the next in line. When the fruits are passed down in this way, the result is that those whose desire is for tasting pure mango in it's multifarious forms, can do so by the grace of the lineage or ‘parampara’. From the merciful tree, various authorised vendors have, for the price of one's surrender, gone out and distributed mango produce in various stages of its perfection. As 'guru' is one in rhyme and intent, although the application principle may sometimes differ, in the same way that mango can be used or eaten raw, or put into sweet rice, or blended to make the most nectarean drink, or cooked as a chutney, or pickle. The principles of the Pure Absolute Truth can thus be applied / surplied by these transcendental franchised vendors according to time place and circumstance, sometimes ajusting the presentation to suit the hunger. Such presentations of eternal principles ('nitya') applied to an individual, changable situation ('anitya') 'kala pata desha', according to time place and circumstance ('nitya-anitya'). The glories of mango and the uses of mango, by expert gourmets, are propounded by the works of those who have perfectly realised the benefits of mango fruits, and its by products. (The wanting or the eagerness to get more....'shravana', devotion to the taste......'bhakti', constant reflection upon it........'manana', meditation upon serving it.......'nididhyasana', and direct realisation......'sakshat-kara'.).
At different times different devotees have appeared within the 'parampara' system empowered by the Lord, the Supreme employer to represent Him, and His interest. Within the 'parampara' line there are also many branches and sub-branches and there is the main tree, some of which stay at a certain point of philosophical development under the guidance of their 'acarya' or teacher, whilst others follow the mood of another 'acarya' and preach the same Vaisnavism, but stressing various other points in the philosophy, and pastimes of the Supreme Lord to serve His purpose. The system is whole, the practical application is many fold. Each 'vendor' may be of the same ‘parampara’, but again each is unique and distinct in himself.
In the following pages of this section of this book, I have tried to give brief glimpses into the lives and wonderful pastimes of some of these very important links of the chain of disciplic succession, so they may come alive for you.
Each of the above mentioned vendors is authorised by the Lord, one cannot
become a vendor without being authorised. Authorisation is granted by the
degree of dedication or surrender to the mission of serving the owner of
the fruit. If we are devout, and faithful, without conflicting ideas, we
will be entrusted to carry the goods. If there is any meaning to oneness,
then this is it, to be in union with the mission of the Lord. Generally
this work then is carried out by the associates of the Lord, who decend
to this world and act as though second class 'madhyama adhikaris'. It is
also carried out by the 'madhyama adhikaris', and even by some 'kanistha
"The first-class devotee does not at all see anyone who is not in the service of the Lord, but the second-class devotee makes distinctions between devotees and nondevotees. The second-class devotees are therefore meant for preaching work, they must loudly preach the glories of the Lord. The second-class devotee accepts disciples from the section of third-class devotees or nondevotees. Sometimes the first-class devotee also comes down to the category of the second-class devotee for preaching work."(A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Srimad Bhagavatam 2:3:21 purport.) This is a general principle. However, "A person who is liberated acharya and guru cannot commit any mistake, but there are persons who are less qualified or not liberated, but still can act as 'guru' and 'acharya' by strictly following the disciplic succession."(A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. 26th April, 1968. New York)
"Prabhupad: This same man, he's guru, so long he gives real knowledge of Krsna. And the same man, he's ordinary man, as soon as he cannot give. Same thing, just like a stone doll, when it is worshiped according to the regulative principles-Krsna. And the same doll, kept in the sculptor's showroom, it is stone. So if we keep our movement pure, then you are as strong as Krsna. And as soon as you deviate from it, immediately, ordinary. This is the secret. Now it is up to us, how to keep it pure. Then no enemy can kill us." (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Room Conversation with Siddha-svarüpa -- May 3, 1976, Honolulu.)
Disciplic succession is generally accepted as being of two kinds. Sometimes
it is through the process of direct initiation or 'diksha', whereby the
'guru' takes responsibility for the disciple, relieves him of his previous
'karmas' (the "ksha" in 'diksha' means to absorb sins) relieved and refreshed
the disciple now works under the guidance of that 'guru'. This is where
the disciple of a particular 'guru' and following his instructions (‘shiksha’),
serves that 'guru' to gain answers to the questions of his developing spiritual
life, this is the general process.
So first is the beginning, the initial contact of the merciful life-line ('parampara'), from that time of intial contact and entering into the shelter of by means of 'diksha' initiation material life stops. The example of taking a plug out from an electrical appliance creates a graphic analogy of what happens over the next period of time for the aspiring disciple. The thrust of material energy has become detached from its source, and now a new energy under the direction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is plugged in. Like the material charge we were used to, that we had learned to work with, we now after taking the initial plunge of enetering into the waters of spiritual life, now need to know what it is all about; how to act, and how to get the most benefit from being so linked, and of course how to be a good disciple in extending our hand to franchise others who are becoming ready or ripe to receive fruits. This is ‘shiksha’ or training / teaching.
What we hear is generally what we end up acting upon. Desires in the region of the heart rightfully fulfilled have brought us to the yearning for spiritual life. The repartition of those yearnings brings about a strong desire for fulfillment. As the concept of fulfillment enters the mind, intelligence takes the next step into execution of the idea. Depending on what we've been associating with the intelligence guides us. Irrespective of material bodily age, as a youngster we absorb that which is going on around us - technically this is called 'sisya'. This hearing is what moulds the disciple, and teaches him how to act and so on, and interact with the the desire of the Lord through his 'guru'. Repartition in the mind will in due course manifest externally. Our intelligence really has only two functions to accept or reject. What we accept in due course is acted upon, and generally habit paterns are formed. In time habits, be they good or bad, become like second nature, they shape our character, and mould our behaviour by which we are known. In a nutshell, we need to hear from the right place. Where we associate, and hear from is where we will go, irrespective of goegraphical location - initiation. So best we get it right!!!
"To spread Krsna consciousness, one need only be cognizant of the science of the spirit soul. It does not matter whether one is a 'brahmana', 'kshatriya', 'vaishya', 'shudra', 'sannyasi', 'grhastha' or whatever. If one simply understands this science, he can become a spiritual master… Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura also states that although one is situated as a 'brahmana', 'kshatriya', 'vaishya', 'shudra', 'brahmacari', 'vanaprastha', 'grhastha' or 'sannyasi', if he is conversant in the science of Krsna he can become a spiritual master as 'vartma-pradarsaka-guru', 'diksa-guru' or 'shiksa-guru'. One who first gives information about spiritual life is called the 'vartma-pradarsaka-guru' or spiritual master. The spiritual master who initiates according to the regulations of the 'shastras' is called 'diksa-guru', and the spiritual master who gives instructions for elevation is called 'shiksa-guru'… Sometimes a caste 'guru' says that 'ye krsna-tattva-vetta, sei guru haya' means that one who is not a 'brahmana' may become a 'shiksa-guru' or a 'vartma-pradarsaka-guru' but not an initiator 'guru'. According to such caste 'gurus', birth and family ties are considered foremost. However, the hereditary consideration is not acceptable to 'Vaisnavas'. The word 'guru' is equally applicable to the 'vartma-pradarsaka-guru', 'siksa-guru' and 'diksa-guru'. Unless we accept the principle enunciated by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, this Krsna consciousness movement cannot spread all over the world."(Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrta Madhya lila 8:128 purport.)
We have experienced devout souls, maybe not even so advanced by some
standards going out of their way to assist other 'jivas', by extending
Vedic knowledge to them wherever they are asked to go to distribute it.
However, by their contact as 'vartman-pradarsaka-gurus' others gain the
opportunity to associate with the spiritual nature through the 'parampara'.
sometimes an example might be given of an electric socket in the wall,
or an electric fence - if you are to touch the line that has the power
coming through it, even I may be several people away from you, I still
feel the presence of the charge. The out-reaching 'parampara' is also like
What may have brought you or me here, or after how long wandering in the material world is not so important, the fact of the matter is that by the mercy of 'guru' and by the mercy of Krishna, we have come in contact again with the power and sanctity of the Lord through His merciful life-line. Some devotees emphasise desire, while others emphasise deserve in being what brought us here. But you may remember in the first chapter we discussed a similar matter where Sripad Madhwacarya says that there comes a time in everyone's life where we out of frustration call out, "...there must be something more than this?" Then Paramatma waitin for that sign organises to fulfill that deisre by sending an appropriate 'guru' according to ons'e deserve. Srila Vishvanath Chakravarthi Thakur in his commentary to Bhagavad Gita's, 'tesam satata yuktanam bhajatam pritipurvakam dadami buddhi yogam tam yena upayantite'(B.G. 10:10.) that Mother Yashoda's trying to bind baby Krishna of her own accord was doomed to fail. But, when she pleased Krishna by her sincere show of devotional love toward Him, He then bestowed His mercy upon her and He allowed himself to be bound by her ropes of love.
The point being is that every individual has their story to tell of how the life-line reached them, every sincere member of the 'parampara' can tell their story of the one's they have helped to save. We are not talking of mere esoteric philosophy that rarely one can grasp, no, we are living a legacy, like an ethnographic study of how the process works, you and I are in these pages.
Although in some ways there are so many intangibles in spiritual life, things that maybe it is difficult to explain, that we tend to palm off as being "inconceivable", well here we are revealing how tangibly it works.
In this line, which essentially the Brahma Sampradaya, we find both
'diksha' and 'shiksha' methods used. Herein you will find the most simple
understandings of devotees approaching one person who they accept as their
life and soul, they take 'diksha' initiation from him, and by the training
he gives to the disciple the diciple becomes his 'diksha' and 'shiksha'
disciple. Others, due to various circumstances may receive initiation from
their 'diksha guru' but find that shortly afterwards he passes away, and
they are trained by another, who becomes their 'shiksha guru'. Sometimes
disciples are entrusted to their senior godbrothers for training, thus
their elders become their 'shiksha gurus'. Some are direct disciples of
direct disciples coming down from the previous 'acaryas', but some, although
initiated into the 'parampara' by another 'guru' in the line, have taken
shelter of another pure Vaisnava in the line with his 'gurus' permission
for further development. Others have come down through the 'parampara'
line from outside the 'parampara', or from another 'parampara', or from
an impersonalist background, and by the preaching of the 'acarya' of the
time, have aligned themselves with him as his 'shiksha' disciples after
having taken the necessary permission again from their initiating 'guru'.
Srila Baladev Vidya Bhushana was one such case originally from a Madhwa
background he met Sripad Radha Damodardev Goswami a disciplic descendant
of Rasikananda prabhu, but living in Jaipur he studied under Srila Vishvanath
Chakravarti Thakur, accepting him as his 'shiksha guru'. Srila Bhaktivinoda
Thakura was initiated (took 'diksha') into the 'sampradaya' via Sriman
Bipin Bihari Goswami, but still he (the Thakur) took 'shiksa', instruction
and inspiration from Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji, a great 'paramahamsa'
who was the 'diksha' disciple of Bhagavat dasa babaji maharaj, who was
the disciple of the disciple of the disciple of Baladev Vidya Bhushana
(thre times removed, but te essence was carried through the parampara)
from guru to disciple, and so on, as is the system. We also see this in
the life of Sripad Madhwacarya, externally it appeared that he took initiation
from Sripad Acyutapreksa (AcyutprajnaTirtha), but in his heart (as mentioned
in Madhwa Vijaya) he had thoughts only of Srila Vyasadeva as will be explained
in the following chapters (but still that sacred relationship was there
that he asked permission fom Acutapreksha to go and visit Vyaas). As one
reads this chapter, the links are explained so that one can appreciate
the mood of the devotee involved.
The personal interactions and inter-dependency through love and trust for one's very being that is found as being the very core of the 'parampara' is amazing. Some of the characteristics of such pure devotees have been brought to light in the first chapter of this book.
Humbling myself at the lotus feet of the Vaishnavas in the 'guru parampara',
I pray that they may bless me to understand further the 'tattwa' of 'guru'
and the linking process by which the Vaishnava 'acarya' bestows his blessings
on a devotee and makes him fortunate. For Sripad Madhwacarya emphasised
it is by serving the representative of the Supreme Personality of Godhead
that one gains the mercy. In fact, "the importance of 'Guru-bhakti' has
not been so well brought out as an integral part of Theism of the Brahma-sutras
by any other 'Bhasyakara' than Sripad Madhwacarya."(B.N.K. Sharma. 1986.
Philosophy of Sri Madhwacarya, page 379.) Asking for the blessings of such
an 'acarya' we remember it is only by the mercy of 'guru' one obtains Krsna,
without the mercy of 'guru' one cannot obtain service at the lotus feet
of Lord Sri Krsna.(Visvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur, Guruvasthakam 8.).
As much for myself as for you, the readers' pleasure, I have tried to bring out as much as I could find on each of the major links in the 'parampara', included a few interesting personalities who the over-all 'sampradaya' have heard about from the perspective of the Brahma-Madhwa-Gaudiya-Sampradaya. So let's see where everyone fits in.
TABLE OF THE DISCIPLIC SUCCESSION:
Ritvik - Illuminations on Guru Parampara
A Critical Essay Addressing the Ritvik Misconception in light of bona-fide
Sripad Bhakti Bhavana Visnu Maharaja
"One should not proudly think that one can understand the transcendental
service of the Lord simply by reading books... One must accept a Vaisnava guru
(adau gurv-asrayam), and then by questions and answers one should gradually
learn what pure devotional service to Krsna is. That is called the parampara
system." (Cc. Antya-lila 7.53, purp.) — AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada