Siksa Guru Parampara
BY: MURALIDHAR DAS
Aug 16, BHUBANESWAR, INDIA (SUN) The Parampara list given by Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in the introduction to Bhagavad Gita As It Is is the same list Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur gave in his commentary to Chaitanya Charitamrita. Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj Prabhupada listed the spiritual masters in his Guru Parampara as follows: “26) Narottama, 27) Visvanatha, 28) (Baladeva) Jagannatha”. It is to be noted that Narottama lived some two generations before Visvanatha and that Visvanatha lived two generations before Jagannatha das Babaji. Baladeva was a contemporary of Visvanatha. This list, therefore, is not a list of initiating Gurus and their direct disciples. Rather, it is a list of the most significant spiritual masters in the school of thought of Sri Chaitanya.
Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Maharaj :
"The very gist of the guru parampara, the disciplic succession, is siksa, the spiritual teaching, and wherever it is to be traced, there is guru. One who has the transcendental eye, the divine eye, will recognize the guru wherever he appears. One who possesses knowledge of absolute divine love in purity - he is guru. Otherwise the guru parampara is only a body parampara: a succession of bodies. Then the caste brahmins, the caste goswamis, will continue with their trade, because body after body, they are getting the mantra. But their mantra is dead. We are after a living mantra, and wherever we can trace the living tendency for a higher type of devotional service, we shall find that there is our guru. One who has that sort of vision awakened will be able to recognize the guru wherever he may appear."
(Sri Guru and His Grace, Chapter 3)
It may happen that for a generation or two there may not be a Vaishnava living and preaching in the world who, to use Srila Sridhar Maharaj's words, “possesses knowledge of absolute divine love in purity”. But then after some time another exalted Vaishnava can appear in the world and renew the spiritual tradition.
How are we to understand that there is a Guru-disciple relationship between Visvanatha and Narottam, and between Jagannatha and Visvanatha?
Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur:
"The souls of the great thinkers of the by-gone ages, who now live spiritually, often approach our inquiring spirit and assist it in its development. Thus Vyasa was assisted by Narada and Brahma."
(from The Bhagavat Lecture, 1867)
He reasons ill who tells that Vaishnavas die
When thou art living still in sound
The Vaishnavas die to live and living try
To spread the holy name around!
(from Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur's poem “Thakura Haridasa”)
The Absolute Truth is changeless. Gaudiya Vaishnava Acharyas all speak the same message: we must worship the Lord and surrender totally to Lord Sri Krishna in the mood of loving devotion. For a generation or two no great uttama-adhikari preacher of the Absolute Truth may be present in the visible world, but then after an interval another great spiritual master will appear and present the original message.
Srila Saraswati Thakur's way of presenting his spiritual lineage, a siksa-guru parampara, was not an innovation that he concocted. Baladeva Vidyabusana also presented the Parampara of Sri Chaitanya's lineage in the same way:
sri krsna brahma devarsi, badarayana samjnakan,
sri madhva sri padmanabha, sriman nrhari madhavan
aksobhya jaya-tirtha, sri jnanasindhu dayanidhi, sri vidyanidhi rajendra,
jayadharma kramadvayam purusottama brahmanya,
vyasa-tirthams ca samstumah, tato laksmipatim sriman,
madhavendran ca bhaktitah tac-chisyan srisvaradvaita,
nityanandan-jagat-gurun devam-isvara-sisyam-sri, caitanyan ca bhajamahe
"Sri Krishna's disciple was Brahma, whose disciple was the sage of the demigods, Narada. His disciple was Badarayana (Vyasa) whose disciple was Madhva. His disciple was Padmanabha, whose disciple was Nrihari. His disciple was Madhva whose disciple was Aksobhya, whose disciple was Jaya Tirtha. His disciple was Jnanasindhu, whose disciple was Dayanidhi. His disciple was Vidyanidhi whose disciple was Jayadharma. His disciple was Purusottama and his disciple was Brahmanya whose disciple was Vyasa Tirtha. His disciple was Laksmipati and his disciple was Madhavendra whose disciples were Isvara, Advaita and Nityananda the guru of the whole world. Another of his disciples was Sri Chaitanya who we offer our respects to."
(from Prameya Ratnavali, by Baladeva Vidyabhushana)
The fact is Padmanabha Tirtha, Nrihari Tirtha, Madhava Tirtha and Aksobhya Tirtha were all direct diksha (initiated) disciples of Madhva. They were not successive links in the diksha chain. Yet Baladeva Vidyabhushana states they were disciples of each other. These are all indisputable siksha links; Padmanabha gave siksa (instruction) to Nrihari, Nrihari instucted Madhava, etc.
Proponents of the siddha-pranali doctrine argue that historically a guru-parampara in Gaudiya Vaishnavism is a list of diksa-gurus and their initiated disciples. According to this ideology it is wrong to say Baladeva Vidyabhusana is the successor of Visvanatha Cakravarti since Baladeva was the initiated disciple of Radha Damodara Goswami in the line of Syamananda Thakur. The argument is made that Visvanatha Cakravarti also should not be listed as a disciple of Narottama das Thakura because Visvanatha received diksa from Radharamana Cakravarti. Visvanatha wrote in Sararthadarini that his spiritual lineage was as follows: Narottama das Thakura, Ganganarayana Cakravarti, Krsnacarana Cakravarti and Radharamana Cakravarti. The siddha-pranali proponents argue that it is wrong to say Visvanatha is a disciple of Narottama since Visvanatha himself never presented his parampara in that way. Moreover, the opponents insist, since Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur didn’t list or write the name of the diksa-guru of Srila Gaurkishore das Babaji Maharaj it can be argued that Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur did not have an authentic Guru-parampara at all (the diksa guru of Srila Gaura Kishore das Babaji Maharaj was probably a caste-Goswami in the Advaita-vamsa or the Nityananda-vamsa). Indeed it is a fact Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur did not talk about the diksa guru of Srila Gaurkishore das Babaji Maharaj but instead he gave emphasis to the siksa-connection between Srila Gaurkishore das Babaji Maharaj, Bhaktivinode Thakur and Srila Jagannatha das Babaji Maharaj.
This argument is made. That since Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati never told anyone the names of previous Gurus in the diksa line of Srila Gaurkishore das Babaji that Srila Saraswati Thakur did not have a real Guru-Parampara at all. But the false propaganda presented by these opponents of Srila Saraswati Thakur is based upon their own misconceptions about Guru-tattva. Srila Saraswati Thakur's vision of what constitutes a spiritual lineage is not something he invented, or a misconceived way of understanding Guru-Parampara. The criticisms leveled against Srila Saraswati Thakur by caste Goswamis and members of various sahajiya groups find no support in the core scriptures of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas.
In Chaitanya Charitamrta, in the section where the branches of the tree of Sri Chaitanya's lineage is described, there is a listing for Yadunandana Acharya. We see that the names of Yadunandana Acharya's diksa and siksa gurus are both mentioned:
sri-yadunandanacharya - advaitera sakha tanra sakha-upasakhara nahi haya lekha
vasudeva dattera tenho krpara bhajana sarva-bhave asriyache caitanya-carana
"The fifth branch of Advaita Acharya was Sri Yadunandana Acharya, who had so many branches and sub-branches that it is impossible to write of them. Sri Yadunandana Acharya was a student of Vasudeva Datta, and he received all his mercy. Therefore he could accept Lord Chaitanya's lotus feet, from all angles of vision, as the supreme shelter."
(Chaitanya Charitamrta Adi.12.56-57)
The description of the tree of Sri Chaitanya details the many branches of the Gaudiya Sampradaya. In Chaitanya Charitamrta we read that Yadunandana Acharya was the initiating guru of Srila Raghunath das Goswami. But when describing the branches of the tree Srila Krishndas Kaviraj Goswami has linked the name of Srila Raghunatha das Gosvami with the name of his siksa-guru, Sri Swarup Damodar Goswami. Srila Raghunath das Goswami is not listed as a sub-branch in the lineage of his diksa guru Sri Yadunandana Acharya:
mahaprabhura priya bhrtya - raghunatha-dasa
sarva tyaji' kaila prabhura -tale vasa
prabhu samarpila tanre svarupera hate
prabhura gupta-seva kaila svarupera sathe
"Srila Raghunatha das Gosvami, the forty-sixth branch of the tree, was one of the most dear servants of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He left all his material possessions to surrender completely unto the Lord and live at His lotus feet. When Raghunatha das Gosvami approached Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu at Jagannatha Puri, the Lord entrusted him to the care of Svarupa Damodara, His secretary. Thus they both engaged in the confidential service of the Lord."
(Chaitanya Charitamrta Adi.11.91-92)
Srila Saraswati Thakur was deeply disturbed to see the activities of the prakrita sahajiyas who, in the disguise of caste Goswami gurus, were misleading the people. In his book “Brahmanas and Vaishnavas” Sri Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakura wrote:
"Nowadays in the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya some immature pancaratrika-mantra traders are presenting imaginary names and forms as the goal and the path of perfection (siddha-pranali); in this way they gratify the minds of their disciples as well as disclose their own foolishness and ignorance of the Vaishnava literatures."
Srila Saraswati Thakur completely disassociated himself from these “followers of tradition” and performed worship in solitude in Mayapur while chanting the holy name of Krishna 300,000 times each day. During this time of solitude Sri Chaitanya one day suddenly appeared before him, along with the six Goswamis. The Lord said: “Do not be disheartened, take up the task of re-establishing varnasrama with new vigor. Preach the message of love for Sri Krishna.” After receiving this message Srila Saraswati Thakur was filled with inspiration to preach the glories of the Lord everywhere.
In 1911, while his Guru and father Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur was ill, Srila Saraswati Thakur took up a challenge from some pseudo Vaishnavas who claimed that birth in their caste was the prerequisite for being a Guru. This group of caste Goswami brahmins had aligned themselves with members of the smarta brahmin community and they arranged a discussion at Midnapore in Bengal. Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur decided to send Srila Saraswati Thakur to the meeting as his representative. Srila Saraswati Thakur wrote an essay, “The Conclusive Difference Between The Brahmin And The Vaishnava,” and submitted it to Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur for review. Bhaktivinode Thakur was elated to hear the arguments that would soundly defeat the challenge of the smarta brahmins.
On the request of Madhusudana das Gosvami of Vrindaban and Visvambharananda deva Gosvami of Gopiballavpur, Srila Saraswati Thakur traveled to Midnapore where the pandits had gathered for the three day discussion. Some of the smarta pandits spoke and claimed that anyone born in a lower caste (sudra) family, even though initiated by a spiritual master, could never become pure and perform a brahmin's duties such as worshiping the Deity or initiating disciples. Then Srila Saraswati Thakur delivered his speech. He began by quoting scriptural references glorifying the brahmins. Hearing this the smarta scholars became very pleased. He then began discussing the actual qualifications for becoming a brahmin. Srila Saraswati Thakur conclusively proved that if someone is born in a brahmin family but acts like a sudra then he is not a brahmin, and that if someone is born as a sudra but exhibits the qualities of a brahmin then he should be honoured as a brahmin, despite his birth. Srila Saraswati Thakur spoke about the qualities of the genuine Vaishnavas. He discussed the relationship between the genuine brahmins and genuine Vaishnavas. He discussed what type of person can become a spiritual master and initiate disciples. In all this, he quoted extensively from the Vedic literature. After his speech, the listeners applauded his presentation. Sri Siddhanta Saraswati was congratulated by the president of the conference and thousands thronged around him. They washed his feet and took that water out to the crowd who had assembled there. The people took the water and sprinkled it upon their heads. This was a huge victory for Gaudiya Vaishnavism and a severe defeat for the caste brahmins.
After this, Srila Saraswati Thakur was widely recognized as an Acharya. He was known as a wonderful preacher of the spiritual message of Gaudiya Vaishnavism and a determined opponent of imitationist, cheating gurus.
pranamami sada prabhupada-padam
"Like the moon that delights the stars, he is surrounded by his circle of personal servitors, making their hearts bloom in divine ecstasy. The malicious non-devotees are made to flee in panic by the sound of his thunderous roar, and the simple, inoffensive souls attain the ultimate fortune by accepting his lotus feet. I make my obeisance unto him; perpetually do I make my obeisance unto the brilliance emanating from the toenails of the holy lotus feet of my Lord."
(verse by Srila B.R. Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj)