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Saturday, February 25, 2012

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1. Lord Sri Krishna

Lord Sri Krishna made an earthly appearance in roughly 3220 B.C., and He left this planet in 3102 B.C. However, because He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the cause of all causes, He is eternally existing. Therefore these dates are simply a recording of His incarnation in Dvapara-yuga (the age prior to the present Age of Kali). He spoke the Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna in Dvapara-yuga, but this does not limit His position as the adi-purusha (the original Supreme Person) and the adi-guru (the original teacher). In the Vedic literature Lord Krishna is described as the ultimate source of all knowledge; hence, He is the most reliable source of knowledge. The whole guru-parampara—the disciplic succession—begins with Him because He is the original preceptor.

2. Lord Brahma

Of the tri-murtis (the so-called Hindu trinity)—Brahma, Visnu and Siva—Lord Brahma is the ruler of the mode of passion and the one who, under the direction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, creates the material universe. From him all the species of life within the universe descend. As the first created being, Lord Brahma was personally manifested and initiated into spiritual realization by Lord Krishna Himself, who revealed Vedic knowledge in Brahma's heart at the dawn of creation. Lord Brahma wrote the Brahma-samhita, a poem that glorifies Krishna. The fifth chapter of this book was discovered by Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in South India. These hymns tell of various aspects of Lord Krishna and describes in detail His spiritual form, features, pastimes, and abode.
3. Narada

Narada is the son of Lord Brahma, and he is one of the twelve authorities on Krishna consciousness known as mahajanas. He was present during the time of Lord Krishna's appearance. He is a wandering mendicant, a spiritual preceptor who has imparted knowledge throughout the universe unto great personalities such as Prahlada, Dhruva, and Vyasadeva. Narada wrote the Narada-pancharatra, an exposition on devotional service that offers practical insight on serving the Lord, and the Narada-bhakti-sutra, eighty-four gemlike aphorisms on devotion that reveal the secrets of love of God.

4. Vyasa

Vyasa (also called Krishna Dvaipayana, Badarayana, and Vedavyasa) is the son of Mahamuni Parashara and is a disciple of Narada. He was the guru of the Pandavas and the Kauravas. According to the Vayu Purusa, this Vyasa is the twenty-eighth incarnation of Vyasa, and he resides in Uttara Badri, a transcendental abode in the Himalayas, accompanied by Madhvacharya and many other great saintly devotees. Vyasadeva is known as the literary incarnation of Lord Krishna because he imparted the Vedic wisdom to the world by compiling the Vedas, the Puranas (of which Srimad-Bhagavatam is the foremost), the epic Mahabharata, and the Vedanta-sutra.
5. Madhva

Madhva appeared in this world in Pajakshetra, Karnataka, South India. As a boy he was called Vasudeva, and after receiving initiation he was known as Purna Prajna. At the age of ten or twelve he accepted sannyasa (the renounced order of life) and became known as Ananda Tirtha. Madhva propounded the doctrine of tattva-vada, or suddha-dvaita-vada (purified dualism), which strongly opposes all doctrines of monism. His doctrine discerns five differences: between (1) the soul and God, (2) soul and soul, (3) the soul and matter, (4) God and matter, and (5) matter and matter. Madhva wrote forty-two books, including a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita that he explained before Vyasadeva at Badarikashrama. Madhva left the world in A.D. 1319 in Udupi at the Antanta-shayana temple.

6. Padmanabha


Padmanabha Tirtha (c. A.D. 1199–1278) appeared in Uttara-Karnataka. He was a renowned and distinguished scholar, but his proficiency in fourteen branches of learning was silenced in fourteen seconds by Madhvacharya when they met in A.D. 1265. Consequently, Padmanabha took initiation and sannyasa from Madhvacharya and soon became one of his most trusted disciples. Padmanabha Tirtha left this world in A.D. 1324 at Nava-vrindavana, on the sacred river Tungabhadra.

Padamanabha Tirtha giving Sanyassa to Akshobhya Tirtha

7. Narahari (or Narahari Tirtha)


Narahari (born A.D. 1206) became a king in Kalinga, Orissa, and he was glorified for his statesmanship and swordsmanship. However, even while performing kingly duties, he preached Vaishnavism and made many devotees among the nobility of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. Sri Narahari wrote fifteen books, but only traces of his Gita Bhasya and Bhavaprakasika survive.

8. Madhava (or Madhava Tirtha)

Madhava lived around A.D. 1215–1350. Apart from being recognized as a spiritual preceptor, it is said that from 1333 until 1350 he was a minister of Vijayanagar, the city he founded. Previous to his initiation and sannyasa, he was known as Vishnu Shastri. Madhava wrote a commentary on the Parashara Smriti called Parashara Madhva-vijaya.


9. Akshobhya (or Akshobhya Tirtha)

Akshobhya appeared in this world sometime between 1238 and 1317 in Uttara-Karnataka. Prior to his initiation and sannyasa he was called Govinda Shastri. Akshobhya was known for successfully refuting nondualistic Advaita philosophy. In a historic encounter at Mulbagal, Karnataka, he defeated in debate Vidysiranya, a scholar and descendant in the Advaita line of Sankaracharya, the most important exponent of the Advaita Vedanta school. Akshobhya Tirtha left the world in 1365.

10. Jaya Tirtha (Tikacharya)


Jaya Tirtha appeared (1348) as the son of a high-ranking military man. In 1368, at the age of twenty, Jaya Tirtha was initiated and received sannyasa from Akshobhya Tirtha, who changed the disciple's name from Dhondo Pantraya Raghunatha to Jaya Tirtha. Philosophically a genius, Jaya Tirtha toured all over India refuting Advaita Vedanta philosophy. Jaya Tirtha wrote about twenty books, including commentaries on Ramanujacharya's works. He left this world in 1388. His samadhi (tomb) is beside that of Padmanabha Tirtha in Karnataka.
11. Jnana-sindhu

12. Daya-nidhi

13. Vidya-nidhi (Vidyadhiraja) Tirtha


Vidyanidhi lived from 1348 until 1412. Prior to his becoming a disciple of Jaya Tirtha, his name was Krishnabhatta. In due course he became the successor to the "Vedanta pitha," the seat of office, by which one is recognized as a spiritual preceptor. The only written works accredited to Vidyanidhi Tirtha are a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita and a commentary on Vishnu-sahasra-nama, which is the first recorded commentary written on it from the standpoint of Dvaita philosophy (dualism).

14. Rajendra (Rajendra Tirtha)


Rajendra Tirtha appeared in this world prior to 1375. He was the first disciple of Vidyanidhi, who initiated him at Hevilambi. Because of his seniority, learning, and devotional understanding, Rajendra also became the successor to the "Pitha," or "Pithadhipati," from 1388 until 1412. He is said to have made many disciples in North India. He departed this world in 1440.

15. Jayadharma (Jaya-dharma Tirtha or Vijayadhvaja Tirtha)


Jayadharma appeared prior to 1420. As a boy he took sannyasa and traveled and preached incessantly. Thus in due time he became the seventh heir to the preceptorial seat (1434–48). Jaya-dharma wrote a commentary on the Srimad-Bhagavatam called Bhakti-ratnavali, in which he clarified the seemingly hidden meanings of the original commentator, Sridhara Swami, by bringing out the dualist point of view. To this day, followers of Madhva hold to this devotional work as a standard reference. Jaya-dharma left the world in 1448. His samadhi is at Kanya Tirtha, Vrindavana.

16. Purushottama

Purushottam is Brahmanya Tirtha

17. Brahmanya Tirtha

Purushottama, also known as Brahmanya Tirtha, appeared around 1460. He was the third descendant from Rajendra Tirtha in the line of senior disciples of Vidyadhiraja Tirtha. Purushottama lived mostly at Channapatna or Abbur in Karnataka. He had his own monastery, which he later entrusted to his disciple Sridhara Tirtha. This monastery survives today and is called the Kundapura Mutt. Purushottama's only accredited literary work was a gloss on the Tatparya of Jaya Tirtha. He departed the world in 1476 or 1478.

18. Vyasa Tirtha

Vyasa Tirtha appeared around 1460 to 1478 as Yati-raja Sumati, in Bannur, a village in Mysore. He became a disciple of Brahmanya Tirtha. In South India he established 732 temples of Hanuman and Rama. Vyasa Tirtha was very learned and defeated many leading scholars. His literary contributions include the Nyayamrita (a work on Vedanta philosophy), Sri Vishnu Samhita, and numerous poems and songs based on the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Mahabharata, and Ramayana. He departed the world in 1539.


19. Lakshmipati

Lakshmipati (1420–1487) was the disciple of Vyasa Tirtha and was given the name Lakshmipati Tirtha. Madhavendra Puri—Lakshmipati Tirtha's disciple—is often credited with being the spiritual master of Lord Nityananda. His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada writes in his commentary on Chaitanya-charitamrita (Madhya-lila 3.8.128): "Sri Nityananda Prabhu was initiated by Madhavendra Puri, a sannyasi. According to others, however, He was initiated by Lakshmipati Tirtha."

20. Madhavendra Puri

Madhavendra Puri took initiation in the Madhvacharya sampradaya and had disciples such as Advaita Acharya and Iswara Puri. It was Madhavendra Puri who introduced the conception of madhurya-bhava (conjugal love) into the sampradaya. In this conception, the worship of Radha and Krishna in separation represents the highest level of devotional service. Therefore, according to the Gaudiya Vaishnavas, Madhavendra Puri stands at the beginning of the movement of Lord Chaitanya, who spread love of Godhead in this mood. Madhavendra Puri's samadhi is in Remuna, Orissa.

21 a. Ishvara Puri

Ishvara Puri appeared in Kamarhatta, in what is now West Bengal. He was one of the foremost disciples of Madhavendra Puri, whom he humbly served during Madhavendra Puri's last days. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura writes that Ishvara Puri was the best of sannyasis. To honor Ishvara Puri, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu accepted him as His spiritual master. Ishvara Puri wrote Krishna-lilamrita, "The Nectar of Krishna's Pastimes."

21 b. Lord Nityananda (Nitai)

Lord Nityananda is regarded as being like the elder brother of Lord Chaitanya. He appeared in 1474 in the village of Ekachakra, now in West Bengal. As He entered boyhood, He would play only those sports which Lord Krishna had played. Lord Nityananda is considered identical with Balarama, the elder brother of Lord Krishna. Lord Nityananda always served Lord Chaitanya in any way. His beauty was so enchanting and He was so full of ecstatic love for Krishna that, wherever He moved, crowds of people would follow and become lovers of God.

21 c. Advaita Prabhu (Advaitacarya)


Advaitacharya appeared some sixty years before Lord Chaitanya's own advent. He was the first among the associates of Lord Caitanya to appear within the material world to deliver the conditioned souls. It was Advaitacarya who asked Lord Chaitanya to descend. Before Lord Chaitanya's advent, Advaitacharya had already begun chanting Krishna's names in the streets with devotees and discussing scriptures on devotional service to Krishna. Advaitacharya's name indicates that He is advaita—i.e., nondifferent—from Lord Hari (Krishna), and He is called acharya (spiritual master) because He taught bhakti. Advaitacharya lived in Shantipura and Mayapura, in what is now West Bengal, and was the head of the Vaishnava community of Nadia.

22. Lord Chaitanya

Lord Chaitanya appeared in 1486. Even in His childhood He was renowned as a great saint. Moreover, after renouncing the world at age 24 He traveled throughout India to teach the forgotten essence of the ancient Vedic wisdom. He began a revolution in spiritual consciousness by inaugurating the chanting of the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. He predicted that this mantra would spread to every town and village. He is known as the covered incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, because He appeared as the Lord's devotee, teaching everyone to develop love of God. Lord Chaitanya wrote the Shikshastakam, eight verses glorifying the chanting of the Lord's holy names. He left this world in 1534.

23 a. Rupa Goswami

Rupa Goswami appeared in 1489. Chief among the six Goswamis of Vrndavana who directly followed Lord Chaitanya, he was renowned as a great scholar and devotee of Lord Krishna. Together with his elder brother, Sanatana Goswami, he once served as a high-ranking officer under Hussain Shah. After meeting Lord Chaitanya, however, both brothers abandoned their posts to dedicate themselves to presenting Lord Chaitanya's teachings systematically by (1) uncovering Lord Krishna's lost places of pastimes; (2) installing Deities and establishing Their worship; (3) writing devotional literature; and (4) teaching the rules of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Srila Rupa Goswami wrote many books, including Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu ("The Nectar of Devotion"), which gives the essence of all scriptures regarding bhakti-yoga. He left this world in 1564.

23 a. Rupa Goswami


Rupa Goswami appeared in 1489. Chief among the six Goswamis of Vrndavana who directly followed Lord Chaitanya, he was renowned as a great scholar and devotee of Lord Krishna. Together with his elder brother, Sanatana Goswami, he once served as a high-ranking officer under Hussain Shah. After meeting Lord Chaitanya, however, both brothers abandoned their posts to dedicate themselves to presenting Lord Chaitanya's teachings systematically by (1) uncovering Lord Krishna's lost places of pastimes; (2) installing Deities and establishing Their worship; (3) writing devotional literature; and (4) teaching the rules of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Srila Rupa Goswami wrote many books, including Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu ("The Nectar of Devotion"), which gives the essence of all scriptures regarding bhakti-yoga. He left this world in 1564.

23 b. Swarupa Damodara

Swarupa Damodara was one of the closest associates of Lord Chaitanya. He was also known as Purushottama Acharya (Swarupa); later, Lord Chaitanya Himself added the name Damodara to his name. Whenever any devotee had written a verse, song, or book, it was Swarupa Damodara who would personally check it for philosophical and compositional flaws before presenting it to Lord Chaitanya. He himself wrote a book of music, the Sangita-Damodara, and his memoirs were consulted by Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami in writing Chaitanya-charitamrita, a biography of Lord Chaitanya.

23 c. Sanatana Goswami

Sanatana Goswami appeared in 1488. He was the elder brother of Rupa Goswami and was also a direct follower of Lord Chaitanya. Together with Rupa, Sanatana served as a minister under Hussain Shah but abandoned his post after meeting Lord Chaitanya. Sanatana and Rupa wholeheartedly served Lord Chaitanya by spreading His movement and teachings. Sanatana renounced all worldly pleasures and remained detached and always absorbed in his studies. He excelled in his compassion toward the suffering souls. Among Sanatana Goswami's significant literary contributions are Hari-bhakti-vilasa, Brihad-Bhagavatamrita, and Brihad-Vaishnava-toshani. He left this world in 1558.

24 a. Raghunatha Dasa Goswami

Raghunatha Dasa Goswami (1495–1571) was the only son of a wealthy landowner. At the age of fifteen, however, he met Lord Chaitanya and later became one of the six Goswamis of Vrindavana who were Lord Chaitanya's direct followers. Raghunatha Dasa led a most austere life of pure devotion. He was the very emblem of renunciation. He wrote the three books Stavavali, Muktacharita, and Dana-charita. He was known as the prayojana acharya, he who by example teaches life's ultimate goal. His samadhi stands on the bank of Radha-kunda, Vrindavana.

24 b. Jiva Goswami

Jiva Goswami (1513–1598) was the nephew of Rupa Goswami and Sanatana Goswami. He received initiation from Rupa Goswami and became the acharya (spiritual master) after Rupa and Sanatana. Jiva Goswami was a Sanskrit scholar par excellence. Some contemporary Sanskritists call him the greatest philosopher and scholar who ever lived. The youngest among the six Goswami followers of Lord Chaitanya, Jiva Goswami was also the most prolific writer. He wrote some twenty-five books, including the Sat-sandarbha, Gopala-champu, and Hari-namamrita-vyakaranam. His samadhi stands in the Radha-Damodara temple compound, in Vrindavana.

25. Krishnadasa Kaviraja


Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami appeared in this world near Katwa, West Bengal, but he soon left for Vrindavana. He took initiation from Raghunatha Dasa Goswami, and because of his Govinda-lilamrita, a poetic masterpiece, Srila Jiva Goswami gave him the title Kaviraja (king of poets). He wrote the Chaitanya-charitamrita, a philosophically profound biography of Lord Chaitanya. Despite his exalted position and vast learning, Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami always remained the emblem of humility. His samadhi stands on the bank of Radhakunda, Vrindavana.

26. Narottama

Narottama Dasa Thakura took initiation from Lokanatha Gosvami and was a lifelong brahmachari (celibate). He organized the famous Kheturi festival, at the conclusions of the six Goswamis of Vrndavana were systematized. This resulted in the establishment of a canonical doctrine for future generations of Gaudiya Vaishnavas. Narottama wrote many collections of devotional songs, such as Prarthana and Prema-bhakti-chandrika. His samadhi stands in the courtyard of the Radha-Gokulananda temple in Vrindavana.

27. Vishwanatha

Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura appeared in 1662 in the village of Devagram, Bengal. He received initiation from Ramana Chakravarti, and his name after taking sannyasa was Hari Vallabha Goswami. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, a later acharya in the disciplic succession, writes: "To serve the feet of Narottama dasa Thakura was the only desire of Vishwanatha Chakravarti Thakura, who was the fourth acharya in disciplic succession from Narottama dasa." Srila Vishwanatha Chakravarti Thakura wrote more than forty Sanskrit books, including commentaries on Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and the writings of the six Goswamis of Vrindavana.

28 a. Baladeva Vidyabhushana

Baladeva Vidyabhusana appeared near Remuna, Orissa, and was also known as Govinda dasa. At a very young age he mastered Sanskrit, grammar, poetry, and logic, and he took initiation and sannyasa in the disciplic succession of Madhvacharya. Later he converted to Gaudiya Vaishnavism and served as an assistant to the elderly Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, who taught him the Srimad-Bhagavatam. He became a great scholar, defeated many scholars and wrote more than twenty-four books, such as the Govinda-bhasya commentary on the Vedanta-sutra.

28 b. Jagannatha Dasa Babaji

Jagannatha Dasa Babaji appeared in this world around 1750 in a remote village in Tangail, in the district of Mayaman Singh (Bangladesh). He lived for 144 years. In 1880, Jagannatha Dasa Babaji was visited by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, to whom he gave many valuable instructions on devotional service. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura used to call Jagannatha Babaji the commander-in-chief of the Vaishnavas. Despite old age and physical limitations (he was carried around in a bamboo basket by his servant, Bihari), Jagannatha Dasa Babaji was always enthusiastic in chanting the Lord's holy names and serving the devotees. He confirmed the discovery of the birthsite of Lord Chaitanya.
29. Bhaktivinoda

Bhaktivinoda Thakura appeared in 1838, in Birnagar, West Bengal, as Kedaranatha Datta. After his spiritual initiation, he received spiritual instructions from Jagannatha Dasa Babaji. His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada writes: "He had a responsible government position as the District Magistrate (high court judge), maintained a Krishna conscious family, and wrote almost one hundred books on Krishna consciousness. At the same time, he served the Supreme Lord in so many ways. That is the beauty of his life." Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura wrote many books of poetry and philosophy, such as Sharanagati and Jaiva Dharma, and commentaries on Bhagavad-gita and Chaitanya-charitamrita. In 1896 he sent his book Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu: His Life and Precepts to universities around the world. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura discovered Lord Chaitanya's birthsite in Mayapur in 1888. He left this world in 1914.
30. Gaurakishora

Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji appeared in the 1830s. He left married life after his wife's death and moved to Vrindavana, where he stayed for more than thirty years. In Vrindavana he used to wander through the forests and chant 2,000,000 names of Krishna every day. Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji Maharaja was the emblem of renunciation and humility. He would beg a little food from a few houses and carry with him only two books, written by Narottama Dasa Thakura. Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji had no desire to make disciples; however, seeing the true humility and deep spiritual attachment of the son of Bhaktivinoda Thakura, he accepted that son, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, as his only disciple. Srila Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji departed the world in 1915.
31. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati

Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura (1874–1937) appeared in Jagannatha Puri as Bimala Prasad Datta, the son of Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Young Bimala Prasad was intellectually precocious and later became known as a living encyclopedia. After initiation by Gaurakishora Dasa Babaji, he was known as Varshabhanavi-dayita Dasa. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was his sannyasa name. He was fearless and unyielding in debate, and became known as the "lion-guru." He was also a revolutionary preacher: rather than renounce the latest technology, he used it to attract people to Krishna consciousness. He published many books and periodicals and various writings of the previous Vaishnava acharyas. He excavated Lord Chaitanya's birthsite in Mayapur and built a temple there. He established sixty-four temples, and he initiated many disciples, the most prominent being His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
32. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was born in 1896 in Calcutta, India. At his initiation in 1933, his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, named him Abhay Charanaravinda Dasa. After retiring from household life in 1950, Srila Prabhupada deeply studied and translated the Vedic literature and earned the honorific title Bhaktivedanta. In 1965, on the order of his spiritual master, he went to the West to spread Krishna consciousness. He founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in New York City in 1966. He opened 108 temples and inspired the formation of traditional Vedic farm communities and schools. He also organized festivals worldwide. His most significant contribution is his books, including his translation and commentaries for Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and Chaitanya-charitamrita. In 1972 Srila Prabhupada founded the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust to publish his books. He left this world in 1977.

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