Source of Authentic Knowledge | Sampradaya | Guru Parampara | Disciplic Succession

Meaning of Sampradaya

Sampradaya means "to hand down" or "to pass down" knowledge. It is also known as Parampara or Guru Parampara or Guru Shishya Parampara or disciplic succession.

Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. -Bhagavad Gita 4.34
Just like water flows from high to low, so does knowledge. We are the seekers, hence we are the ones at the lower level. The highest reservoir of knowledge is God, who is All Knowledgeable. Hence the Sampradaya is a connection between us and God formed by a chain of Guru and Shishya (disciples). Let us say, we have a battery cell and a bulb.  Quite naturally, the bulb will not light up by itself, even if it is in close vicinity of the battery. If we connect a wire to bulb even then it won't work. Until and unless the bulb is connected to a wire and that wire is connected to the electric source (battery cell), the bulb won't glow.

The Bulb glows only when it is in contact with a Wire which is connected to a Battery.
Similarly for us to gain knowledge about God, we have the following two factors 1. We must be connected to a Sampradaya (chain of  guru and disciples) which acts as a wire 2. The wire or sampradaya must be connected back to God

What does connecting back to God mean - Quality Check of Sampradaya?

Disciplic Succession is more like Chinese whispers or Telephone game
Connecting back to God means, getting in connection with the knowledge originating from God Himself. We must be careful to understand, Speaking about God and Originating from God are two different statements. Disciplic Succession is more like Chinese whispers or Telephone game. If the message is not properly received, understood and passed on to the next person, then the entire message becomes distorted.  It is even more dangerous if someone in between decides to speculate and distort the original message.  Hence to retain the original message (quality), it is highly essential to pass message As-It-Is.
Why Sampradaya is so important?
Authentic Sampradaya starts to branch out from God. God imparts Absolute Knowledge to His representatives. Then His representative transfers the exact same message without addition or subtraction to his next disciple and his disciple passes the exact same message to his disciple. And this cycle continues just like the Chinese whispers game. This is a chain that exists for 1000s of years. In an authentic parampara, we can tap any point and we would find the exact same message.
Today's world, especially India, has become a wholesale Guru Manufacturing Factory. We can find so many people claiming their guru is an incarnation of God, with no scriptural evidence. Every now and then we hear someone did meditation or goes into trance and gets spiritual realization. These self-proclaimed spiritual guides are creating a vacuum in society. These misguided people build up large institutions and misguide, cheat and fool innocent people seeking God. These cheating sects are like the wire which aren't connected to the battery. Hence connecting our bulb to them will be of no use.
One such infamous person said "'I reject the Vedas!' is the last word of the Vedanta philosophy. Personally, I take as much of the Vedas as agree with reason." He judges Veda based on his logic. Though it might sound practical to many, we must understand that the fact is, what might sound illogical or unreasonable to our tiny little brain, might actually be true. Simple examples are:
  • we have 4 limbs but insects have multiple,
  • we have 2 eyes but insects have compound eyes,
  • we breathe oxygen but organisms surviving in volcanic gases don't need oxygen
  • we can not live without sunlight but underwater creatures never know what is sunlight
  • some decades back people would have thought it was illogical to think of a gadget which can be carried in a pocket and can help us speak with anyone in another country
Actually logic is a statement that is justified by our intelligence and it keeps changing as we advance or we become more and more intelligent.
Just like a first-grade student, who is taught number systems, knows 0, 1, 2, 3 ... to be the entire set of numbers in the world. If we ask him which number lies between 1 and 3, he would immediately say 2. But if we ask what number comes between 1 and 2, he would find the question illogical, because he would be confident that there is no such number. The more he advances, he learns about negative numbers, decimal number. Then his logic changes.
Think of a condition if a first-grade topper, puffed up by his achievement, attempts to study Engineering Mathematics. He will find everything illogical. That is why in an education system we have grades. Students from the nursery are slowly trained to be able to digest deeper knowledge, like Engineering Mathematics, one day.
But when it comes to spirituality, we tend to study any part of vast subject matter without even having a proper fundamental base. Today's digitally advanced world make it even more difficult, innumerable websites, blogs, lectures on YouTube so many channels of knowledge and so many speakers. Most of them are speaking their own interpretation and not sharing actual knowledge.
If we are serious about seeking God, then we must seek ONLY those Sampradayas which connects back to God, without using our immature intelligence to judge the inconceivable statements ourselves. To understand the inconceivable statements, we need a Guru. Also, we need to progressively advance from basics and not jump directly into higher subject matters.

Why check for genuine Sampradaya?

We have a dog at our home, named Leo. Sometimes when he falls sick, the doctor prescribes him some medicine. But due to the taste, he refuses to eat it. So what my mother does is, she puts the medicine in between the pieces of bread and feeds him. This way he eats the medicine along with the bread and hence gets cured. 
But if he foolishly rejects the medicine thinking that just by eating the bread he got cured, then he is not intelligent. Today's modern spiritual gurus are taking a similar approach. They take the message of scriptures like Bhagavad Gita and preach but they tend to keep Krishna or God out of the picture. They will say everything but not what is actually being said in scriptures. They distort the original message to suit their thinking. In Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says I am the Supreme God and there is no Truth superior to Me, they will say "You must worship the Self in Krishna, not Krishna as Krishna". Sir, Krishna says He is the supreme. How did you come up with the idea that He is possessed by someone? Is it mentioned anywhere in any Scripture? Of course, if he was alive, he would have replied personally, "I take as much of the Vedas as agreeing with reason."
Another pitfall is we tend to think a person expert in Sanskrit is capable of understanding Vedic Scriptures. It is as stupid as expecting an English Teacher to understand Quantum Physics because the book is written in English!!! Scriptures can never be understood just by material qualification. 
Sampradaya might be considered to be analogous to an institution/university in the modern education system.
Let us say, if we want to become a doctor, we must study at an authorized medical university. If we try to practice surgery without the approval of an authorized institution or on our own, chances are that we will create havoc.
Similarly, if we do not gain God Consciousness from an authentic source, we will be a cause of chaos in our lives and other's life. Society today is burdened by hatred and intolerance mainly because it is lacking the true knowledge of God.
One extreme is violence on the body. Terrorism. True spirituality preaches mercy towards even insects, how can it advocate violence to a human?
Another extreme is violence on consciousness. Some preach 
  • "I am God, You are God, Everyone is God"
  • "Man can become like God and acquire control over the whole universe" 
  • "why go to temple and worship when you yourself are God" 
  • "God is the imagination of man, a buffalo thinks God is bigger buffalo so man thinks God is bigger Man"
  • "I have not read the Vedas or the Upanishads. I must confess I have not read the Gita. The only thing that I know is this piece of life, absolutely. If you know this piece of life, absolutely, you know almost everything that is worth knowing. Just by looking inward, nothing else."
Sir, if you haven't studied Veda or Scriptures which are the manual of life, how can you know about life? How do you validate your understanding? These kinds of loose and non-bonafide statements make them achieve goals of attracting many followers. They are like a terrorist in God Consciousness. They create havoc by misleading innocent people. Their followers slowly turn away from Scriptural Injunctions and worshiping God. Their followers are more miserable than an atheist. Because an atheist knows he is an atheist but these poor souls, they think they are following the spiritual path, but are actually an intellectual atheist. 
It is clearly stated in the Vedic Scriptures that
The Supreme Self can never be known by any amount of argument, reasoning, intelligence, or by much hearing.
-(Katha Upanishad 1.2.23)
Thus the only way to know Him is by following a disciplic succession or Parampara
This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way.
(Bhagavad-gita 4.2)
Only unto those great souls who serve the spiritual master and the Lord with implicit faith is the import of the Vedas fully revealed.
(Svetasvatara Upanishad 6.23)
Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Surrender to him and inquire from him and render service at his lotus feet. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you, for he has seen the truth.
(Bhagavad-gita 4.34)
How to know which Sampradaya is authentic?

Scriptures say Kaliyuga is an age of cheaters. Even in the mundane education system, we have challenges of fraud. To a student, fake universities would seem to be similar to genuine universities. That is why we have organizations who take the responsibilities of alerting students and making them aware of cheating or fake universities. For example in India AICTE and UGC do this task. Every year they update their website with the list of fake universities and gives a clear warning; a degree from these universities will just be a piece of paper.
According to the UGC, these colleges are offering engineering and other technical courses without its permission, effectively rendering the educational certificates issued by such colleges as nothing but worthless pieces of paper. 
- IndiaTV, March 20, 2017
Similarly, our Vedic Scriptures has clearly listed the Authentic Sampradaya in the age of Kaliyuga and clearly says ONLY FOUR SAMPRADAYAS ARE GENUINE AND TAKING DIKSHA OR KNOWLEDGE FROM ANY OTHER SAMPRADAYA IS WASTE OF TIME. What to speak of such self-proclaimed God-Men who don't even have a Sampradaya at all. 

What are the bonafide Sampradayas?

Padma Puran clearly states that there are ONLY FOUR AUTHENTIC Sampradaya in Kaliyuga, Brahma, Sri (Laksmi), Rudra and Kumar.
ramanujam srih svicakre madhvacaryam caturmukhah sri-visnu-svaminam rudro nimbadityam catuhsanah Ramanujacharya appear in the Sri (Laksmi) sampradaya; Madhvacharya in the Brahma sampradaya; Vishnu Swami in the Rudra (Shiva) sampradaya and Nimbaditya in the Kumara sampradaya.
- Padma Puran

List of genuine Sampradaya other than the four mentioned in Padma Puran.

sampradaya vihina ye mantras te nisphala matah atah kalan bhavisyanti catvarah sampradayinah If one does not follow the four recognized disciplic successions, his mantra or initiation is useless. In the age of Kali there will be four sampradayas.
- Padma Puran
In other words, if one desires to take up spiritual life, it is imperative that one follows one of the four genuine sampradayas mentioned above.  


Four Genuine Sampradayas: Brahma, Rudra, Sri and Kumar
Therefore in the lights of scriptures, it is understood that sampradaya is an authorized and an empowered spiritual channel of disciplic succession

What to do if my guru isn't from bonafide Sampradaya?

Quite naturally only those who belong to a genuine Sampradaya will dare to speak about the authentic Sampradaya. Others will try to hide it or try to prove it wrong or they will disapprove the scriptures.
So honest seekers get cheated. Many come to know about this quite later. By the time they know about this, they have already taken shelter of a non-bonafide guru.
This causes a state of a dilemma for them. They think since they have already taken shelter of someone, now rejecting or switching his guru will be an offense. But we must know, Veda empowers the serious spiritual seeker with the right of Guru Tyaga or rejecting the bogus or fake Guru.
when Bali Maharaj was doing a huge yagna to conquer heaven, Lord Visnu disguised as a dwarf sage (Vamanadev), comes to him. It is a custom to honor a sage, so Bali Maharaj asks Vamanadev how can He be pleased. Vamanadev asked for 3 feet of land. Bali Maharaj's guru Sukracharya, understood He was Vishnu hence warns Bali Maharaj, " ... do not agree, He is Vishnu and will take everything from you."
In a gross sense, Sukracharya wanted to benefit Bali Maharaj. But Bali Maharaj saw his guru is asking him to refuse Vishnu, while the Vedas teaches us that Vishnu is the benefactor of all sacrifices, He already owns everything in this creation, so how can one refuse Him of anything? If one refuses Him then that person is a thief. So realizing his Guru is cheating / misguiding him, he immediately rejected Sukracharya.
Vamanadev expands himself and measures the entire earthly plane and heavenly plane by his two steps. Bali Maharaj offers his head to Vamanadev's third step.
Bali Maharaj's humility, non-envious dealings with God and taking the courage of rejecting a bogus guru was highly appreciated by Vamanadev. Vamanadev was so pleased that He makes Bali Maharaj the ruler of Patal Loka and He, in turn, offered Himself as a doorkeeper of Bali Maharaj.
Therefore we must have the highest goal of connecting ourselves with God. We must understand the only way to attain God is through proper Disciplic Succession. If our Guru isn't from one, Sastra empowers us to reject such a fake guru and aspire for a genuine guru from a genuine sampradaya.
Genuine Guru Test: Guru - Sadhu - Sastra
Having said that, even though it is understood that one who is strictly following the teachings of the bonafide Sampradaya should be genuine, but again it is Kaliyuga. So we must always be careful to evaluate a guru based on the below 3 parameters:
Guru:    words the person is saying, lifestyle the person is following
Sadhu: check if the same statement or understanding is shared by previous acharyas in the disciplic succession
Sastra: check if Sastra or Scriptures is telling the same things.
If there is a mismatch we are free to reject him.


Our Sampradaya and Guru Parampara

We are receiving our spiritual knowledge from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) or widely famous as Hare Krishna movement because it strictly adheres to the sampradaya system.

Srila Prabhupada, the founder-acharya of The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), represents the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya.

The members of this sampradaya—up to Srila Prabhupada, are listed below:
  1. Krsna
  2. Brahma
  3. Narada
  4. Vyasa
  5. Madhva
  6. Padmanabha
  7. Nrhari
  8. Madhava
  9. Aksobhya
  10. Jaya Tirtha
  11. Jnanasindhu
  12. Dayanidhi
  13. Vidyanidhi
  14. Rajendra
  15. Jayadharma
  16. Purusottama
  17. Brahmanya Tirtha
  18. Vyasa Tirtha
  19. Laksmipati
  20. Madhavendra Puri
  21. Isvara Puri, (Nityananda, Advaita)
  22. Lord Caitanya
  23. Rupa, (Svarupa, Sanatana)
  24. Raghunatha, Jiva
  25. Krsnadasa
  26. Narottama
  27. Visvanatha
  28. (Baladeva) Jagannatha
  29. Bhaktivinoda
  30. Gaurakisora
  31. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati
  32. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda


1. Sampradaya is a means of connecting us to God. Just like a wire connects bulb with battery.
2. God can not be known on our own strength. Even if it was possible in early ages, in Kaliyuga it is highly impossible. So BEWARE of such self-proclaimed, self-enlightened spiritual guru born in Kaliyuga
3. To seek knowledge one must get connected to a bonafide Sampradaya as mentioned in Padma Puran.
4. Padma Puran says there are ONLY and ONLY FOUR authentic Sampradaya in Kaliyuga and REMAINING ALL ARE WASTE. The authentic Sampradaya are Brahma, Rudra, Sri and Kumar Sampradaya.
5. Sastra empowers us to reject bogus gurus.
6. We must check about the speaker or writer before hearing or reading his words. No matter how many followers he has or how expert speaker he might seem to be. If he isn't from a genuine Sampradaya his knowledge is not authentic. Just like to study in a college not approved by UGC is a waste of money, time and energy, it doesn't matter how expert the speakers or lectures might be.
Thank you for reading this article. 
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