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Lineage

The school of Svami Sadananda Dasa belongs to the GAUDIYA VAISHNAVA SAMPRADAYA.

Each sampradaya or lineage goes back to one eternal form of God or to one of His avatara-s (descents). This sampradaya goes back to the shaper of this universe, to BRAHMA.

SAMPRADAYA means “to pass (da) on (pra) in the proper way (sam)”. This implies the faithful transmission of KNOWLEDGE (jnanam) from teacher to disciple about the mutual interrelations between atma, world and Bhagavan (sambandha jnanam), the method of service (abhideya) and the goal of the bhakti-path (prayojana). This transmission concurs with the conveyance of bhakti-shakti, the divine POWER to serve and to understand, from the teacher to the one who is to be taught (shishya). This transmission and empowerment takes place continually in the living relation between guru and disciple, but is ritually expressed in the act of initiation. Initiation into this lineage takes place by means of initiation into the Great Mantra, the Mahamantra, as well as into certain other mantras for the worship of Bhagavan, His shakti and the guru, specific to this lineage.

The translation “tradition” for “sampradaya” is insufficent, as it is not about (blindly) following a custom or simply bequeathing certain mantras and shastram-s to the next generation. What is passed on in the proper way is the living current of true bhakti from a bona fide guru to the qualified disciple.

The sampradaya in question is a VAISHNAVA sampradaya. A Vaishnava worships VISHNU. God is called “Vishnu” because His nature is “vishnu”, expressing the double meaning of the Sanskrit root “vish”: as the Lord of all atma-s (Paramatma), He enters the limited universe and the “heart” of every single being and thereby becomes apparently limited Himself. Yet He remains transcendent, i.e., unbounded by time or space at the same time. He only makes it impossible for others to perceive His unboundedness. Consequently, a Vaishnava is someone who, having been educated by the Shastram-s, is convinced that God, Bhagavan, is eternal, that His Form is neither restricted by the laws of time nor space and that His nature remains unchanged even when He makes Himself visible on the mundane plane and becomes avatara (i.e., not an “incarnation” in the Christian sense). In a secondary meaning the denotation “Vaishnava“ relates to a worshipper of Vishnu as that aspect of God which is turned towards this world, acts as the immanent and transcendent cause of this universe, and accompanies each atma. This aspect is only a partial aspect of God in His plenitude, Bhagavan, who eternally plays with His entourage in His inner Kingdom, untouched by the evolution and dissolution of countless universes.

The Shastram-s define “Vaishnava” as follows: “Whoever, after having been initiated into the Vishnu-mantra as prescribed by the Shastram-s, worships the murti of Vishnu with shraddha, i.e., with the firm conviction that serving God is both the means and the goal, is called a Vaishnava.” However, as long as this worship is not performed together with sambandha jnanam, i.e., unaware of the fact that neither Bhagavan (Vishnu) nor the bhakta (the Vaishnava) are of mundane (laukika) nature, but of cit- or spiritual nature (cinmaya), this Vaishnava is called a “beginner” or someone motivated by mundane faith (laukika shraddha). (cp. Bha IX.2.47) A further advanced Vaishnava of the middle stage equally worships the Vaishnava and Vishnu. The supreme Vaishnava, though, sees Bhagavan Shri Krishnacandra IN ALL THINGS and all things IN HIM. For this reason he neither discriminates between the Vaishnavas of the different levels nor between Vaishnava and non-Vaishnava. (cp. Bha XI.2.45)

This Vaishnava Sampradaya is called GAUDIYA as it was revived by Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1533) from the region of GAUDA in Bengal. In this way it is set apart from the four great South-Indian Vaishnava samparadaya-s: the Madhva-, Ramanuja-, Vishnusvami- and Nimbarka-sampradaya. These schools differ in regards to a stronger or weaker expression of dualism (up to a qualified monism) concerning the relations between God, atma-s and world. Caitanya, however, proclaimed the principle of the SIMULTANEOUS inconceivable unity AND distinctness of these three. Svami explains in his essay “Gaudiya Sampradaya Tattva” (1950):

“Mahaprabhu and His contemporaries had no intention whatsoever to create a new system in contrast to the prevailing difference between the monistic and dualistic systems, but wanted to show that one violates the Absolute, when one tries to squeeze it into the systems of monism or dualism, and despite the double statements of the Revelation only lets ONE prevail.” It had been Mahaprabu’s task to lead the people to Krishnabhakti: some to Radha-Krishna-bhakti, some to Rama and others to Narasinha. He added, though, that all these (other) forms were not svayam rupa (the very-self form of God) and that the svayam rupa was KRISHNA: “He wanted to lead the genuine bhakti of every group of jiva-atma-s to the respective Forms of HIMSELF; AND lead those, who – according to their atmic nature (svarup) – belong to the bhakti to Vrajendra-Nandana [Krishna] in anugatya gopi-bhava [service under the gopis, in their spirit (bhava)], to this form of bhakti; and out of them again especially those who can appreciate it into the greater intensity of the separation (viraha) between Radha and Krishna and the service of Them in overcoming Their separation.”

Already in the contemporary biography of Caitanya, the Caitanya Caritamritam, the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya is described in the simile of a tree with different main branches and various ramifications. (cp. CC Adi 10-12) The sub-branch of the Sadananda-school branches out of the bigger branch of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada (1874-1937), the guru of Svami Sadananda Dasa and founder of the Gaudiya Math, who, together with his father and guru, Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, initiated a rennaissance and tried to purge the bhakti-cult of sentimentality and pseudo-religion at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Svami writes in “Gaudiya Sampradaya Tattva” about his guru:

“What Prabhupad [Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur] pointed at, but could not change, was the fact that the official Caitanya movement actually has nothing to do with Caitanya, and that a true follower of Caitanya is something else than a sentimental, vague and immoral person, and that a true follower of Mahaprabhu should be able to profess himself as such, without feeling ashamed of himself and without fear that he will be put into the same category as those who wrap the mantle of the scholar, the bhakta and the cult around their own social, intellectual, spiritual and moral inferiority, and who in the name of Mahaprabhu and His cult justify the behaviour of themselves and others while being involved in some more or less shady business.”

In contrast to this there is the genuine spiritual community, the MATH, which Svami describes as an ideal in an article in the “Harmonist” (1936) as follows: “The Math is the spiritual association of those who serve or pray to be allowed to serve in surrendering mood under the Spiritual Absolute Agent and as such it is distinctly different from all sorts of so-called religious communities. Its structure is in the form of a pyramid the augmentation of which is established by new cells which have no other inclination than to be the lowest ingredients of the whole. The entelechia or the moving motive is the longing for being accepted as proper ingredients, […]. A perfect system of service can be built up on the basis on intended, implicit or explicit love for the service of the Absolute without any expectation of return-service at present or at the eschatological future.” (The Harmonist, VOL. XXXII, MARCH 19, 1936, No. 14)

As lowest cells in this pyramid of service we try to serve our guru, Svami Sadananda Dasa, as best as we can and set our hopes on the promise he made to Vamandas: “But you must know, your sacrifices don’t stay with me. Like sunlight passes through wide-open windows they pass through to HIM [Krishna] and HER [Radha].”