Guru-parampara: The List of 32, Part 12

Guru-parampara: The List of 32, Part 12


Srila B.R. Sridhar Swami's Guru-parampara List

In a compilation of instructions from HH Srila Sridhar Maharaja entitled Sri Guru and His Grace, [13] Chapter 10 includes a list of Sampradaya Acaryas entitled "The Disciplic Succession – Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Sampradaya". Srila Sridhar's list is nearly identical to the List of 32 in Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is. The only exceptions are that he has used slightly expanded versions of a few names, e.g., "Bhagavan Sri Krsna" rather than "Krsna", and "Jagannatha dasa Babaji" rather than "Jagannatha".

It is clear that Srila Sridhar specifically modeled his list after Srila Prabhupada's List of 32, which is the only other version that is formatted as an itemized list. The other lists by Kavi Karnapura, Baladeva Vidyabhusana and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta present the names in narrative form, not list form. In addition, Sridhara Maharaja has used exactly the same ordering of parenthetical names that Srila Prabhupada used, and this parenthetical ordering is unique to Srila Prabhupada's List of 32 in the Gita. [Table1/Chart 10]

Where Srila Sridhara departs from Srila Prabhupada's List of 32, however, is at the very end. Srila Prabhupada ends the list with his own name. The list in Srila Sridhar's book, however, offers a very distinct typographical setting for the end of the list. Following Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati's name, Sridhara Maharaja has added lines to represent a branching tree. On the next line down from Bhaktisiddhanta – side by side – are the names "B.R. Sridhara Deva Goswami", and " A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami". Equal successors to the previous Sampradaya Acaryas -- this was Srila Sridhar's conception.



It is well known that in branched lists like this one, when two items appear on the same line, the item to the left is considered most prominent. This is the case because in English, we read from left to right. What this says about the value of the items depends, of course, on what is being listed. In this case, Sampradaya Acaryas are being listed, and B.R. Sridhara Deva Goswami has put his name in the first spot on a shared line, followed by Srila Prabhupada's name.

The lines used to indicate a branching tree in Sridhar Swami's guru-parampara list are quite unique, and we find that a number of ISKCON gurus and disciples have now begun to use a similar format to extend the List of 32, adding their own name or their guru's.

Srila Prabhupada's List of 32 includes several instances where multiple names are paired parenthetically on a single line. There are four such examples:

21. Isvara Puri, (Nityananda, Advaita) 
23. Rupa, (Svarupa, Sanatana) 
24. Raghunatha, Jiva 
28. (Baladeva) Jagannatha

Srila Sridhar's list is nearly identical to the List of 32 in Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is, following it more closely than any other version of the list, including Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana's, which Prabhupada's Gita list followed most exactly. Yet in the case of adding his own name, Srila Sridhar has invented a brand new format, which presumably offers a distinction between the sorts of relationships accounted for in Srila Prabhupada's List of 32, which in some cases employs two names per line and parenthetical pairings.

For example, Nityananda and Advaita were the foremost disciples of Isvara Puri, yet Srila Prabhupada has presented the three on a single line, with the two disciples in parenthesis. Srila Sridhar and Srila Prabhupada both have Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur as their Spiritual Master, yet Sridhar Maharaja does not employ the same method, noting them as: "Bhaktisiddhanta (Sridhar, Bhaktivedanta)", nor does he simply put the two on a single line, like Raghunatha and Jiva, e.g., "B.R. Sridhar, A.C. Bhaktivedanta". Instead, he has created a branching tree format, emphasizing the fact that they are side-by-side, equals.

Now let us consider what Sridhar Maharaja has to say about the nature of sampradaya and the Gaudiya Vaisnava disciplic succession. We begin in Chapter 10 of Sri Guru and His Grace, entitled "Instructing Spiritual Masters" (emphasis added):

Devotee: "Can you explain how the principle of disciplic succession works? I was under the impression that in your teaching there must be an unbroken chain of disciplic succession beginning with God Himself, in order for the knowledge to be properly understood. But when I read Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is, I found that the disciplic succession contains only thirty-eight names, although it says that the system is fifty centuries old. Is this a complete list, or are some names left out? How are we to understand these apparent historical discrepancies?

Srila Sridhara Maharaja: Our guru parampara, disciplic succession, follows the ideal, not the body; it is a succession of instructing spiritual masters, not formal initiating spiritual masters. In a song about ourguru parampara written by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, it is mentioned, mahaprabhu sri caitanya radha krsna nahe anya rupanuga janera jivana : the highest truth of Krsna consciousness comes down through the channel of siksa gurus, instructing spiritual masters. Those who have the standard of realization in the proper line have been accepted in the list of our disciplic succession. It is not a diksa guru parampara, a succession of formal initiating gurus."

Sridhara Maharaja explains the composition of the guru-parampara list as being a siksa, not a diksa lineage. More importantly, he characterizes the members of the list as being qualified by the fact that they "have the standard of realization in the proper line". In other words, this is not a list of all instructing spiritual masters, either diksa or siksa, but only of certain ones.

In the next paragraph, Sridhar Maharaja states that, "There are different gradations of spiritual masters", and "the guru must be qualified in so many ways". He does not explain anything further here about the gradation of those included on the list, in comparison to those not included on the list.

He later writes:

"Suppose we are writing a history: we will note the main figures in the history, set aside those who are not so qualified, and begin the dynasty in order of their importance. Those who are negligible will not be mentioned. In a similar way, those who are really thirsty for spiritual truth like to see the line of pure spiritual heritage. They search out where it is to be found, connect the dynasty of stalwart teachers together, and say "This is our line.'"

And speaking further to the gaps, he writes this:

"They do not understand what is real spiritual truth. For them, the physical continuation is the guru parampara . But those who have their spiritual eyes awakened say, "No. What was there in the first acarya is not found in the second or the third. But again we find the same standard of purity in the fourth acarya. The Gaudiya sampradaya of Mahaprabhu is one, and whoever contributes to that real line will be accepted."

Queried further on the gaps in the list, he goes on to say that, "In the disciplic succession, only the great stalwarts in our line are considered important." This statement immediately follows his presentation of the guru-parampara list with drawn branches including Sridhar and Srila Prabhupada side-by-side.


[Table 1]

[13] From Sri Guru & His Grace by B.R. Sridhar Swami