Guru-parampara: The List of 32, Part 22

BY: ROCANA DASA - 24.9 2018

Biographies of the Sampradaya Acaryas


Aksobhya Tirtha, who is 9th on the List of 32, gives us our first opportunity in this comparative survey of Sampradaya Acaryas to consider members of the elite disciplic succession from the standpoint of bhasya.

When using the term 'Sampradaya Acarya' to describe Srila Prabhupada, one of the most commonly heard objections is that this term only refers to the founders of the four main sampradayas, all of whom are distinguished by the fact that they established bhasya for the sampradaya.

As we have previously pointed out, there are numerous examples in our own List of 32 wherein the Sampradaya Acaryas are distinguished by the philosophical arguments they introduced during their lifetimes. Madhavendra Puri and Baladeva Vidyabhusana are two excellent examples, what to speak of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself. Some suggest that Sri Madhvacarya is qualified as a Sampradaya Acarya because he introduced a significant element of bhasya to the Sampradaya. Of course, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and Madhavendra Puri who appeared in advance to set the stage for His Appearance, have introduced the most significant bhasya of all -- worship of Sri Sri Radha-Krsna as the topmost expression of bhakti-yoga. In the final analysis, it is not just semantics, or the nomenclature of 'Sampradaya Acarya' that is central to our argument -- we are most concerned with identifying the rarified, exalted spiritual qualifications of those 32 members of the guru-parampara, whatever name is used to describe them.

In a chapter of the coming Sampradaya Acarya book dealing with the four Vaisnava Sampradayas, we will discuss the topic of Madhvacarya's introduction of new bhasya into the Sampradaya, and to what degree he carried forward the already established siddhanta being preached by his predecessors in the line. But for now, let us consider the similarities between the philosophical contributions and pastimes of Aksobhya Tirtha and those of Srila Prabhupada.

Aksobhya was the last of Madhvacarya's direct disciples to sit on the Pitha, and Madhva gave him a Deity of Aja-Vitthal. As described in Jaya Tirtha Charan's paper on the guru-parampara:

"His main "claim to fame" was the way he refuted the philosophy of "tat tvam asi" - "you are the same as". There is an historic incident which is understood to have taken place at Mulbagal near Kolar. His victim was Vidyaranya, the big, big scholar and guru descendant of the Advaita line of Sankara. Aksobhya Tirtha smashed Vidyaranya so badly that in history this was considered the turning point in the new Madhva faith of Dvaitavada. To this day the philosophy of Dvaita (dualism) has not been defeated; even the Advaita Mayavadis, knowing they are wrong, with stubborn determination they have yearly been coming back to get smashed."

While Jaya Tirtha Charan does not specifically state it in this biographical sketch, we assume that Aksobhya did not introduce new philosophy or bhasya into the sampradaya, so much as he very expertly used the established siddhanta to defeat a challenger from Shankaracarya's line. In similar fashion, Srila Prabhupada brought forward the philosophy and applied it in preaching against Darwinism, the modern form of Mayavadism.

Following his defeat of the Mayavadis, Aksobhya spent his time training his famous disciple Jayatirtha in Dvaita philosophy, teaching him to write and argue against Advaita monism, and personally taking to task other modern day representatives of Shankar Mayavadism. Likewise, Srila Prabhupada trained many thousands of disciples, who became competent in defeating the Mayavadis. Srila Prabhupada's young disciples were often found lecturing at the finest universities in the world, like Oxford and Cambridge, delivering Srila Prabhupada's clear and definitive arguments against modern-day Mayavadis in the form of Darwinists, scientists and politicians. Likewise, he taught his disciples how to preach through writing, which was the hallmark of his own preaching work.