The Charm and Superiority of the Bhagavata-parampara

by Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja

[An Excerpt from "Acarya Kesari Sri Srimad Bhaktiprajnana Kesava Gosvami - His Life and Teachings"]

Nowadays, people are concocting newer and newer doubts about sri guru-parampara in the Gaudiya Vaisnava Sampradaya. Some people believe that Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana was initiated in the Madhva Sampradaya and that he was not actually a Gaudiya Vaisnava. They assert that, although he had the association of Gaudiya Vaisnavas, the influence of the Madhva Sampradaya was so strong that in his own writings he stubbornly included Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His Gaudiya Vaisnava Sampradaya as part of the Madhva Sampradaya. They claim that there is no reasonable justification for this, and that Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana can therefore not be accepted as an acarya of the Gaudiya Vaisnava Sampradaya.

Another group of ignorant people say that Jagadguru Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupadaji created a completely new concept which he called the bhagavata-parampara. According to them, he has explained in this supposedly new doctrine of bhagavata-parampara that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura is a disciple of Vaisnava Sarvabhauma Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja, and that Sri  Gaura Kisora Dasa Babaji Maharaja is a disciple of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Some sahajiya Vaisnavas also present the doubt that Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s guru-parampara cannot be considered bona fide because he accepted the renounced order (sannyasa) from himself. Paramaradhya Srila Gurudeva has shattered all these accusations with powerful logic and solid scriptural evidence, and this article presents his analysis of the subject

The disciples and grand-disciples of Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada are currently preaching Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s suddha-krsna-bhakti and sri harinama through-out the world. Because they have preached extensively all over the world, the streets and avenues in every prominent city—and even in every town and village—are resounding with the sound of the holy name, and young men and women are very enthusiastically applying themselves to the cultivation of suddha-bhakti. They are meeting Vaisnavas from India, and performing harinama-sankirtana and preaching suddha-bhakti together with them. A few ignorant, so-called Vaisnavas of the sahajiya community are agitated by this, and are trying to mislead common people by presenting fraudulent accusations against the Sarasvata Gaudiya Vaisnava lineage. Srila Gurudeva has established the rational and perfect conclusion on this matter in his own essay entitled ‘Gaudiya Vedantacarya Sri Baladeva’. Here we have presented some extracts from that essay.

1) The guru-parampara of the commentator Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana

The historical truth regarding the guru-parampara of the commentator, Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana is as follows. He first acquired specific expertise in the bhakti-sastra under the guidance of Virakta-Siromani1 Pitambara Dasa. After that, he accepted pancaratriki-diksa from a Vaisnava called Sri Radha-Damodara Dasa, who had appeared in a dynasty of brahmanas in Kanyakubja. Radha-Damodara Dasa, who was the grand-son of Rasikananda Murari, accepted diksa from another Kanya-kubjiya brahmana called Sri Nayananandadeva Gosvami.

Rasikananda Prabhu, a disciple of Sri Syamananda Prabhu, is the fourth guru before the commentator Baladeva Vidya-bhusana in the pancaratrika-guru-parampara, and his son was the aforementioned Nayananandadeva Gosvami. The guru of Sri Syamananda was Sri Hrdaya Caitanya, whose guru was Gauridasa Pandita, upon whom Sriman Nityananda Prabhu bestowed His mercy. Even though Syamananda Prabhu was a disciple of Acarya Hrdaya Caitanya, he afterwards accepted discipleship under Sri Jiva Gosvami. Sri Jiva Gosvami was a disciple of Sri Rupa Gosvami, who was a disciple of Sri Sanatana Gosvami, and Sri Sanatana Gosvami was a follower and associate of Sriman Mahaprabhu.

2) The sisya-parampara of Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana

We have given an account of the pancaratrika-parampara from Sriman Mahaprabhu down to Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana. Now we will give an account of his sisya-parampara. Sri Uddhara Dasa, referred to in some places as Uddhava Dasa, was a disciple of the commentator. Some think that these are two different people, but in any case Uddhava Dasa had a disciple named Sri Madhusudana Dasa. Jagannatha Dasa Babaji was a disciple of this very Sri Madhusudana Dasa. Previously, as Vaisnava Sarvabhauma or the prominent leader of the Vaisnava community in Mathura-mandala, Ksetra-mandala and Gauda-mandala, he became famous by the name of Siddha Jagannatha Dasa. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura accepted this very Jagannatha Dasa Babaji Maharaja as his bhajana-siksa-guru by the system of bhagavata-parampara. It was under the direction of Vaisnava Sarvabhauma Srila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji Maharaja that Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura discovered the birthplace of Sriman Mahaprabhu at Sridhama Mayapura. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was the siksa-guru or bhajana-guru of Srila Gaurakisora Dasa Babaji Maharaja. Srila Gaurakisora Dasa Babaji Maharaja accepted my Gurupadapadma Om Visnupada Astottarasata Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada as his own disciple and gave him diksa-mantras and so on. Whoever is incompetent in accepting this parampara is to be counted amongst one of the thirteen types of apasampradayas mentioned in writing by Sri Totarama Babaji Maharaja. Alternatively, he may be regarded as the creator of a fourteenth apasampradaya

From the aforementioned guru-parampara we can easily understand that Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana is a follower of Sriman Mahaprabhu within the spiritual family lineage (parivara) of Sri Syamananda Prabhu. Acarya Sri Syamananda accepted the guidance of Sri Jiva Gosvami, and because Jiva Gosvami is exclusively rupanuga (a follower of Sri Rupa Gosvami), it therefore follows that Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana is also a rupanuga Vaisnava. There are those who acknowledge that Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana is in the line of Sri Syamananda, and yet deny that he is a rupanuga Vaisnava or that he is qualified for the topmost service mood of unnata-ujjvala-rasa. Such people are certainly only deluded offenders. Although Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana was initiated in pancaratrika-diksa by Sri Radha Damodara Dasa, he also accepted siksa in Srimad-Bhagavatam and the literatures of the Gosvamis.

3) Pancaratrika-parampara is included within the bhagavata-parampara

The system of bhagavata-parampara is superior to that of pancaratrika-parampara, and is founded on the degree of proficiency in bhajana (bhajana-nistha). The charm and superiority of bhagavata-parampara is that pancaratrika-parampara is included within it. In bhagavata-parampara there is no obstruction in regard to time. From the viewpoint of suddha-bhakti, the doctrines of pancaratrika and of bhagavata both explain the same teachings with the same objective. In Sri Caitanya-caritamrta it is said, pancaratra bhagavate ei laksana kaya: “These symptoms are described in Vedic literatures such as the pancaratras and Srimad-Bhagavatam.” (Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 19.169). The prakrta-sahajiya sampradaya, while claiming to be followers of Sri Rupa Gosvami, accumulate offences to the lotus feet of Sri Jiva Gosvami. Similarly, nowadays the jati-gosvamis and those who accept their remnants—such as several members of the sahajiya, kartabhaja, kisoribhaja,and bhajanakhaja sampradayas—proudly conceive of themselves as followers of Cakravarti Thakura, but cast calumnies against the commentator Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana. In this way, they are growing excessively hateful and progressing towards hell.

Here is a diagram of the pancaratrika-guru-parampara and the bhagavata-parampara. This will enable readers to properly appreciate the speciality of sri bhagavata-parampara, and also understand how pancaratrika-guru-parampara is included within the bhagavata-parampara. With the help of the diagram below and on the next page we will give an account of the pancaratrika-guru-parampara and bhagavata-parampara of Sri Syamananda Prabhu, Sri Narottama Dasa Thakura, Sri Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami, Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura and other Vaisnava acaryas.

Sri Syamananda Prabhu: In pancaratrika-guru-parampara Sri Nityananda Prabhu’s disciple is Gauridasa Pandita, and his disciple Hrdaya Caitanya is the diksa-guru of Sri Syamananda Prabhu. In bhagavata-parampara Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s disciple is Sri Sanatana Gosvami, the disciple of Sanatana is Sri Rupa Gosvami, and Rupa’s disciple is Sri Jiva Gosvami. Sri Syamananda Prabhu is the siksa disciple of this same Sri Jiva Gosvami. It is no exaggeration to say that Sri Jiva Gosvami was superior to Sri Hrdaya Caitanya in tattva, rasa, bhajana and indeed in all respects. For this reason, Sri Hrdaya Caitanya personally sent Sri Syamananda Prabhu to Sri Jiva Gosvami for advanced instruction in the practice of bhajana, and Sri Syamananda Prabhu accepted the anugatya (guidance) of Sri Jiva Gosvami. Thus the serious question which deserves our consideration here is this: Which is superior, pancaratrika-guru-parampara or bhagavata-parampara?

Sri Narottama Thakura: According to the pancaratrika-guru-parampara, Sri Narottama Thakura’s guru is Sri Lokanatha Dasa Gosvami. However, there is no record anywhere of Sri Lokanatha Dasa Gosvami’s pancaratrika-diksa-guru. Texts such as Sri Gaudiya vaisnava abhidhana have stated that Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Sri Lokanatha Dasa Gosvami’s guru, but it is a well-known fact that Sriman Mahaprabhu did not accept anyone as His disciple according to the pancaratrika-pranali (method). That means that, if Sriman Mahaprabhu is actually the guru of Sri Lokanatha Gosvami, it is only on the basis of bhagavata-parampara. In any case, Sri Narottama Thakura, besides being the pancaratrika disciple of Sri Lokanatha Gosvami, is also the disciple of Sri Jiva Gosvami in bhagavata-parampara. It was in the anugatya of Sri Jiva Gosvami that Sri Narottama Thakura became steeped in bhajana-siksa

Sri Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami: In pancaratrika-parampara Sri Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami is a disciple of Sri Yadunandana Acarya, who is situated in the pancaratrika-sakha (branch) of Sri Advaita Acarya. However, if we consider Sri Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami’s life history deeply from another viewpoint, we find the very clear and indelible influence of the bhajana-siksa of Sri Svarupa Damodara and Sri Rupa Gosvami, who are his gurus in bhagavata-parampara. Here, too, if we compare pancaratrika-parampara with bhagavata-parampara, we find that the superiority of bhagavata-parampara shines as radiantly as the sun.

Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana: According to pancaratrika-guru-parampara, Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana is a pancaratrika disciple of Sri Radha-Damodara in the parampara of Sri Syamananda Prabhu. At the same time, in bhagavata-parampara he is a disciple of Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura with whom he studied Srimad-Bhagavatam and all the various Gosvami literatures, and from whom he received advanced instruction in bhajana. The guidance of Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura in the life of Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana is widely known. Only under this guidance did he defeat the Sri Vaisnavas in the royal court of Galta and keep intact the service and worship of Sri Sri Radha-Govindaji. It was after attaining the mercy of Sri Govindadeva, Sri Rupa Gosvami’s worshipful Deity, that Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana composed Sri Govinda-bhasya. There is no doubt about Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana being a rupanuga Vaisnava, because he is under the guidance of Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, who is himself most assuredly a rupanuga Vaisnava. Furthermore, it is a well-known fact that Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana attained the mercy of Sri Govindadeva, the treasured life-breath of Sri Rupa Gosvami, and ensured His continuing service. From this perspective, too, since he attained the mercy of Srila Rupa Gosvami and his aradhyadeva Sri Govindaji, what doubt could possibly remain about his being a rupanuga Vaisnava?

Sri Bhaktivinoda Thakura: According to the pancaratrika-guru-parampara, the diksa-guru of Sri Bhaktivinoda Thakura is Sri Vipina Bihari Gosvami, who is situated in the pancaratrika-parampara of Sri Sri Jahnava Thakurani. From our other viewpoint, no one can deny that Sri Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s life is imprinted with the stamp of Srila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji Maharaja’s anugatya (guidance). Vaisnava Sarvabhauma Srila Jagannatha Maharaja is a disciple of the famous Madhu-sudana Dasa Babaji Maharaja in the parampara of Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana. It is not necessary to say that Vaisnava Sarvabhauma Srila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji Maharaja is superior to Sri Vipina Bihari Gosvami in tattva-jnana, bhajana-siksa, etc.

Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura: According to pancaratrika-guru-parampara Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura‘s diksa-guru is Sri Gaura Kisora Dasa Babaji Maharaja who is a descendant in the pancaratrika-guru-parampara from Sri Jahnava Thakurani. Srila Babaji Maharaja accepted the attire of a renunciate (vesa) from a disciple of Srila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji Maharaja named Sri Bhagavata Dasa Babaji Maharaja. Thus by bhagavata-parampara, Sri Gaurakisora Dasa Babaji Maharaja is in the branch of Srila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji Maharaja. According to this analysis, by pancaratrika-parampara Srila Sarasvati Thakura is in the parampara of Sri Jahnava Thakurani, and in bhagavata-parampara he has been connected with Srila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji Maharaja.

It is clear from Srila Sarasvati Prabhupada’s life history that Sri Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s practices, precepts and bhajana-pranali were his very life and soul, and that he made the fulfilment of the Thakura’s aspirations the sole aim and object of his life. Thus his guru in bhagavata-parampara was Sri Bhaktivinoda Thakura, whose guru was Srila Jagannatha Dasa Babaji Maharaja. Therefore there is not even the slightest justification for raising a finger against the guru-parampara of Srila Sarasvati Thakura, the Founder-Acarya of the Sri Gaudiya Matha.

Several additional facts are worthy of our consideration on the subject of pancaratrika-guru-parampara and bhagavata-parampara—

(1) The guru of lower rasa

If a pancaratrika-diksa-guru in his siddha-svarupa (constitutional spiritual form) is situated in a rasa which lower than that of his disciple, how can he give bhajana-siksa pertaining to the more elevated rasa? In this situation, the disciple must go elsewhere and take shelter of a Vaisnava who is qualified to give the appropriate superior guidance. For example, Sri Hrdaya Caitanya is an associate in sakhya-rasa in Krsna lila, whereas his disciple Sri Syamananda Prabhu (Duhkhi Krsna Dasa) is an associate in madhura-rasa. Therefore Sri Hrdaya Caitanya personally sent Duhkhi Krsna Dasa to Srila Jiva Gosvami to receive higher bhajana-siksa pertaining to madhura-rasa

(2) The less qualified guru

It may happen that guru and disciple in pancaratrika-guru-parampara are in the same rasa, but that the guru is not so highly qualified as the disciple. Under such circumstances, the disciple must go and take shelter of an uttama Vaisnava for higher bhajana-siksa‚ and this Vaisnava will be called his guru in bhagavata-parampara.

We can see from these two considerations that the pancaratrika process has some inherent defects, whereas the bhagavata-parampara is completely free from these defects, and is flawless in all respects.

(3) Sriman Mahaprabhu is not pancaratrika-guru of anyone

All members of the Gaudiya Sampradaya accept Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as jagad guru, and consider themselves to be His followers. However, on what basis do they maintain this conviction? There is no recorded account anywhere of Sriman Mahaprabhu giving diksa-mantra to anyone. This means that Sriman Mahaprabhu is not the guru of anyone else in pancaratrika-parampara, although He Himself is a disciple of Sri Isvara Puri. Therefore, if the Gaudiya Vaisnava community accepts the anugatya and discipleship of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, it can only be on one basis, and that basis is bhagavata-parampara.

(4) All Gaudiya Vaisnavas are rupanuga on basis of bhagavata-parampara only

Each and every Gaudiya Vaisnava is proud to call himself ‘rupanuga’. But let us consider this point: How many disciples did Sri Rupa Gosvami initiate by the pancaratrika method? The fact is that Sri Jiva Gosvami is his one and only diksa disciple, and he himself is not actually a diksa disciple of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. So on what basis do members of the Gaudiya Vaisnava community accept Sri Rupa Gosvami as their guru? How is it possible to be a follower of Sri Rupa Gosvami and at the same time be a follower of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu? Even Sri Sanatana Gosvami, who is the siksa-guru of Sri Rupa Gosvami, has no second thoughts about calling himself rupanuga.The basis of all these examples is one—bhagavata-parampara. It is only on the basis of bhagavata-parampara that Sri Rupa Gosvami is the disciple of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and that the Gaudiya Vaisnava community considers Sri Rupa Gosvami to be their guru

Who is the pancaratrika-diksa-guru of Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami? We cannot say, because he has not mentioned the name of his pancaratrika-diksa-guru in any of his literatures, but he has named his siksa-gurus in Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi 1.37:

ei chaya guru, siksa-guru ye amara
tan-sabara pada-padme koti namaskara
“These six gurus (the Six Gosvamis of Vrndavana) are my siksa-gurus and I offer countless obeisances at their lotus feet.”

At the end of each chapter of Sri Caitanya-caritamrta he has written:

sri-rupa-raghunatha-pade yara asa
caitanya caritamrta kahe krsna dasa
In these statements he has accepted Sri Rupa Gosvami and Sri Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami as his main siksa-gurus. Thus he has also accepted them as gurus on the basis of bhagavata-parampara

From these facts it becomes thoroughly obvious that bhagavata-parampara, which includes pancaratrika-parampara, always shines forth brilliantly. What can we say, then, about those who ignore these facts, about those who cast aspersions on the guru-pranali of Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and about those who doubt that they are rupanuga Vaisnavas? Such people are certainly staunch opponents of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and secret agents of Kali.

Thus, whatever opinion my most worshipful Srila Gurudeva has written on the subject of the guru-pranali of Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana, and also in regard to pancaratrika-guru-parampara and bhagavata-parampara, is both logical and fully in agreement with the established conclusions of the scriptures (sastra-siddhanta)

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