Guru-parampara: The List of 32, Part 6

BY: ROCANA DASA - 23.8 2018

Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana's List of the Sampradaya Acaryas

In his purport to Caitanya-caritamrta Adi 6.40, Srila Prabhupada mentioned another source with respect to the members of the disciplic succession, that is, the Prameya-ratnavali by Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana, which states:

"4c. Among them our own succession of teachers is thus: We praise in succession Sri Krsna, Brahma, Devarsi (Narada), Badarayana (Vyasa), Madhva, Padmanabha, Nrhari, Madhava, Aksobhya, Jayatirtha, Jnanasindhu, Dayanidhi, Vidyanidhi, Rajendra, Jayadharman, and also Purusottama, Brahmanya, and Vyasatirtha. Then we worship with devotion Laksmipati, Madhavendra, his disciples -- Isvara (Puri), Advaita, and Nityananda, world teachers all -- and the deity (himself), the disciple of Isvara, Sri Caitanya, by whom, through the gift of love for Krsna, the world has been saved."

Again, as we did above with Kavi Karnapura's list from Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika, let us compare the list given by Baladeva Vidyabhusana to the List of 32 in Bhagavad-gita As It Is. [Table1/Chart 6]

We can see that the list provided by Baladeva Vidyabhusana is the closest yet to Srila Prabhupada's list in the Gita. Two of the entries that have been anomalous in other lists – Dayanidhi (Mahanidhi) and Brahmanya Tirtha (after Purusottama) – in this case are presented just as Srila Prabhupada has given them. In fact, the lists are identical, with a few slight exceptions.

Here we have direct evidence that Srila Prabhupada's version of the list of Sampradaya Acaryas is in line with the list of Baladeva Vidyabhusana, written sometime before his departure in 1768 A.D. – almost 200 years after Kavi Karnapura wrote his Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika, in 1576 A.D.

Today, we often hear devotees say that the List of 32 originated with Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, and this may be true, but only with respect to the list coming forward from the point of Lord Caitanya. Clearly, the majority of the List of 32 pre-existed in its current form by a great many years.

In a biographical sketch of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur from Sri Chaitanya: His Life & Associates[7], the author describes the Thakur's pastimes in the early 1890's, when he was preaching from his Bhakti Bhavana in Calcutta. There, he got into an argument with a member of a Goswami family, who suggested that one of Mahaprabhu's closest associates was a shudra. Srila Bhaktivinoda was very displeased by this comment, and spoke this warning:

aishnava-caritra, sarvada pavitra, jei ninde himsa kari
bhakativinoda, na sambhashe tare, thake sada mauna dhari

"The character of a Vaishnava is always spotless. Bhaktivinoda will not talk to anyone who criticizes a Vaishnava out of spite, but always remains silent."

Right around this time, Srila Bhaktivinoda is said to have written down his guru-parampara, hanging it on the outside of Bhakti Bhavan. We unfortunately do not have a copy of that list, so the degree to which Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's Sri Guru-parampara reflects his father Bhaktivinoda's version, we do not know.

Among various comments that have been made by contemporary devotees regarding Srila Bhaktisiddhanta and the origination of the guru-parampara list is a comment made by Babhru dasa, in his book review of Sri Guru-parampara: Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Heir to the Esoteric Life of Kedarnatha Bhaktivinoda by Swami B.V. Tripurari. [8] In his book review, published in the ISKCON Communications Journal (Dec 1999), Babhru dasa writes:

"This booklet also explores the nature of the sampradaya as conceived by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. In response to the degeneration of many venerable lines of succession, Bhaktivinoda, and, following his explicit instruction, Bhaktisiddhanta, sought to reform the Gaudiya Vaisnava-sampradaya by stressing the substance over apparent form. Therefore, in pursuance of this end, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta fashioned such an essential lineage, consisting of universally acknowledged maha-bhagavatas, thus making the important teachings of the most prominent lines accessible to all sincere devotees. This essential sampradaya may be called a bhagavata- or siksa-sampradaya. The outward form is less important than essential spiritual ideal, the Swami explains. Such is the nature of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's revolution."

Babhru dasa does not make clear in his review that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta did not "fashion" the entire lineage of our disciplic succession, but replicated Kavi Karnapura and Baladeva Vidyabhusana's lists, bringing the list forward from Lord Caitanya to present time. After listing the disciplic succession up to Sri Caitanya, Kavi Karnapura goes on to describe dozens of Mahaprabhu's divine associates, almost none of whom are included on the guru-paramparalist. Again, we have no conclusive proof that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta composed the list forward from Sri Chaitanya without replicating some or all of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur's list, although for the time being we will assume that is the case.



[Table 1]

[7] Sri Chaitanya: His Life & Associates by Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Maharaja

[8] Book Review of Sri Guru-parampara: Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Heir to the Esoteric Life of Kedarnatha Bhaktivinoda by Swami B.V. Tripurari (Harmonist Publishers, 1998). Review by Babhru dasa, ISKCON Communications Journal, Vol. 7, No. 2, December 1999