Reconciling the Philosophy and the Predecessor Examples
Posted May 27, 2003<
I have reviewed the recent document, "The Prominent Link: A Response by the Sastric Advisory Council," with keen interest. In this document, some of ISKCON's leading scholars have expertly examined a certain controversial presentation on guru-tattva, reviewing it through the eyes of the teachings of the foundational texts of the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition.
Their expertise in presenting the well-known key passages from the writings of the six Gosvamis is commendable, and their strict adherence to the tradition of pancaratra is evident. They have also emphasized the glory of Srila Prabhupada in terms of his connection with the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya, explaining his empowerment for world-wide preaching as a consequence of the boundless mercy received through his predecessors in guru-parampara, which is a pleasant surprise in a socio-philosophical scenario in which he is sometimes practically elevated to the position of a messiah independent from the tradition.
Theoretically speaking, there is no challenge for their presentation. However, there is another aspect which cannot be neglected, and which has been commonly pointed out by the advocates of the Prabhupada-centered approach both diksa and siksa-wise. This aspect, virtually neglected in the presentation of the SAC, is the guru-parampara presented by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura and his disciples.
In his Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srila Prabhupada presents the following succession (given from Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu downwards): (1) Lord Caitanya, (2) Rupa (Svarupa, Sanatana), (3) Raghunatha, Jiva, (4) Krishnadasa, (5) Narottama, (6) Visvanatha, (7) (Baladeva) Jagannatha, (8) Bhaktivinoda, (9) Gaurakisora, (10) Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. This is commonly accepted as the parampara of the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya-Sarasvata tradition.
A historical examination of the parampara above leaves no doubt over the fact that in this presentation of guru-parampara, diksa-connections are few and far between. It is well known that (1) Sri Caitanya never gave diksa to anyone. (2) Rupa Gosvami received diksa from Sanatana Gosvami; of Svarupa, there is no information. (3) Raghunatha received diksa from Yadunandana Acarya; Jiva received diksa from Rupa.
(4) Krishnadas has not clearly mentioned his diksa-guru, though some have suggested Raghunatha Bhatta. (5) Narottama received diksa from Lokanatha Gosvami. (6) Visvanatha received diksa from Radharamana Cakravarti, who was in the third generation in the diksa-parampara from Narottama Das; there was a gap of roughly one hundred years between their births.
(7) Baladeva received diksa from Radha Damodara Das Gosvami; Jagannatha received diksa from Jagadananda Gosvami (viz. Gaudiya Vaishnava Abhidana). There was a gap of roughly one hundred years between the two. (8) Bhaktivinoda received diksa from Vipina Vihari Gosvami. (9) Gaurakisora received diksa in Santipura (according to some, from Nandakisora Gosvami).
This is the guru-parampara presented by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura from Sri Caitanya downwards. As one may easily observe, there is no consistent diksa-lineage in this presentation. Moreover, what is perhaps more astonishing, and has been occasionally pointed out by the proponents of the ritvik theory, is that there was no physical link, neither diksa nor siksa, between Narottama and Visvanatha, nor between Visvanatha / Baladeva and Jagannatha. It is not a far-fetched idea to state that this lends support to a theory in which the guru-parampara may descend even without the physical proximity of either the initiator or the instructor.
Again, on the other hand, it is evident that the practical application of the theory of the descent of guru-parampara over the decades after the disappearance of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati has been clearly characterized with pancaratrika mantra-diksa as the means of delineating and continuing the succession.
It is my hope that the reflections above would spark further discussions among the learned assembly of devotees, and that the two apparently contradictory considerations, namely the writings of the Gosvamis and the guru-parampara presented by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, could be conclusively reconciled.