Guru-parampara: The List of 32, Part 4


Srila Prabhupada's Lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam 1.5.12-13, New Vrindavan, June 11, 1969

We find an abbreviated version of the list of Sampradaya Acaryas in Srila Prabhupada's Lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam 1.5.12-13, June 11, 1969:

"Our, this sampradaya, the Gaudiya-sampradaya, is also in the same line--Narada, Vyasadeva. Narada is the disciple of Brahma. It is, therefore, called, this sampradaya... This party is called Brahma-sampradaya. Brahma-madhva-gaudiya-brahma-sampradaya. Originally from Brahma. Brahma instructed Narada. You'll find in the Bhagavata. Brahma is instructing Narada. Now you see Narada is instructing Vyasadeva. Similarly, Vyasadeva instructed Madhva Muni. Now, Madhva Muni, by disciplic succession, Madhavendra Puri. Now, Madhavendra Puri instructed Isvara Puri. Isvara Puri instructed Lord Caitanya. Lord Caitanya instructed the six Gosvamis. The six Gosvamis instructed Krsnadasa Kaviraja. Krsnadasa instructed Narottama dasa Thakura. Narottama dasa Thakura, Visvanatha Cakravarti. Visvanatha Cakravarti, Jagannatha dasa Babaji. In this way, there is a clear line of disciplic succession."


Srila Prabhupada's Appearance Day Lecture in Vrindavan, October 19, 1972:

There are other examples where Srila Prabhupada mentions even shorter extracts from the list, such as during his lecture on Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami's Appearance Day, October 19, 1972 in Vrndavana:

"The first guru is Krsna. Next guru is Lord Brahma. Next guru is Narada. Next guru is Vyasadeva. Next guru is Madhvacarya. And so many others. And their branches. In this way, Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Then the Gosvamis. Then Srinivasa, Srinivasa Acarya, Narottama dasa Thakura. In this way, the parampara is coming. So this is the machine."

While there are some small inconsistencies, these lists of the guru-parampara are all essentially the same. Regardless, the list of 32 Sampradaya Acaryas presented in Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is must be taken as the definitive list.


Spiritual Masters in Perfection in the Disciplic Succession

In Srimad Bhagavatam 2.8.25 we read that Sukadeva Goswami is "as good as Brahma, the original living being". He is also being compared to "previous philosophical speculators", described in the purport as being the founders of the six great schools of philosophy in India. Sukadeva is a perfect transmitter of knowledge because he simply repeats what was spoken by Brahmaji. Srila Prabhupada writes:

"Vedic transcendental knowledge descends directly from the Personality of Godhead. By His mercy, Brahma, the first living being in the universe, was enlightened, and from Brahmaji, Narada was enlightened, and from Narada, Vyasa was enlightened. Sukadeva Gosvami received such transcendental knowledge directly from his father, Vyasadeva. Thus the knowledge, being received from the chain of disciplic succession, is perfect. One cannot be a spiritual master in perfection unless and until one has received the same by disciplic succession. That is the secret of receiving transcendental knowledge." 
(Srimad Bhagavatam 2.8.25 Purport)

It's very interesting that in this purport, Srila Prabhupada has named the original members of the Brahma Sampradaya: Brahma, Narada, and Vyasa. This is the list of original members of the disciplic succession who have perfectly passed the knowledge. Then Srila Prabhupada mentions Sukadeva Goswami as a perfect transmitter. However, Sukadeva is not included on the List of 32.

On a timeline, Sukadeva advented during the gap between his father Vyasa, and Madhva. The Srimad Bhagavatam places Vedavyasa's birth in the yuga-sandhi between Tretha and Dwapara Yugas (SB 1.4.14), and states that Sukadeva was 16 years of age at the time of Pariksit Maharaja's departure (SB 1.19.26 Purport). Of course, Srila Prabhupada has stated that we are not to be concerned with such gaps in the disciplic succession:

"Regarding parampara system, there is nothing to wonder for big gaps. We have to pick up the prominent acarya and follow from him." 
(Srila Prabhupada Letter to Dayananda, December 4, 1968)

In Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur's Jaiva-dharma, the question is asked: "Is there a list of names of spiritual masters in the parampara given without any breaks?" The answer given is that "from time to time, only the more important spiritual masters' names are included in these lists." (Jaiva-dharma, Ch. 13).

In answer to a similar question about gaps in the parampara, Tripurari Swami in a Q&A entitled 'Gaps in Guru Parampara' (Nov 2005) [2] suggests that, "Either there was no one prominent enough to equal the stature of these two devotees [Baladeva Vidyabhusana and Jagannatha dasa Babaji] to warrant listing his or her name or, more likely, the names of the prominent siksa or diksa links for that section of the list have been lost."

We are aware of no information that indicates names were lost, nor does Tripurari Swami offer any citations in this regard. Of course, the idea that names were lost opens the door for arguing precedent for contemporary gurus and disciples adding names to the list. However, Srila Bhaktivinoda gives a clear answer to the dilemma of gaps: "from time to time, only the more important spiritual masters' names are included in these lists."

The clear message here is that the names on the List of 32 following Brahma, Narada, and Vyasa are the topmost perfect transmitters of knowledge in the Brahma Madhva Gaudiya Vaisnava Sampradaya. They are 'spiritual masters in perfection' (SB 2.8.25 P) in the disciplic succession.

This also confirms that Srila Prabhupada was making a very precise statement when he added his own name to the list. It was not a casual act, comparing himself to all Vaisnavas in the line, or to all Acaryas, or to all the godbrothers or well known preachers of his generation. No, the List of 32 is a list of spiritual masters in perfection in the disciplic succession. The descriptive term we use to describe these personalities is, the Sampradaya Acaryas.



[2] Gaps in Guru Parampara: Q & A with Swami B. V. Tripurari, November 8, 2005