The word sampradaya literally means ‘to hand down’. This is also called disciplic succession or parampara, and implies that such instruction in spiritual truth is passed down personally from teacher to disciple in a direct chain.

Sampradaya might be considered to be analogous to an institution / university in modern civilization. Let us say if we want to become a doctor, we must study at an authorized medical university. If we try to practice surgery without the approval of an authorized institution, chances are that we will create havoc.

The topmost knowledge relating to God himself has been kept intact to the present day through the institution of disciplic succession. Outside of the sampradaya, it is highly difficult, if not impossible, to come into contact with these pure teachings.
The Supreme Self can never be known by any amount of argument, reasoning, intelligence, or by much hearing. (Katha Upanishad 1.2.23)

Only unto those great souls who serve the spiritual master and the Lord with implicit faith is the import of the Vedas fully revealed. (Svetasvatara Upanishad 6.23)

Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Surrender to him and inquire from him and render service at his lotus feet. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you, for he has seen the truth. (Bhagavad-gita 4.34)

In the Padma Purāṇa it is said,

sampradaya vihina ye mantras te nisphala matah
atah kalan bhavisyanti catvarah sampradayinah

If one does not follow the four recognized disciplic successions, his mantra or initiation is useless. In the age of Kali there will be four sampradayas.

In other words, if one desires to take up spirtual life, it is imperative that one follows a genuine sampradaya.

Now the question comes in the mind of serious seekers, which sampradayas (disciplic successions) are recognized or considered bonafide. The answer is followed in Padma Purāṇa.

ramanujam srih svicakre madhvacaryam caturmukhah sri-visnu-svaminam rudro nimbadityam catuhsanah

Ramanujacharya appeared in the Sri (Laksmi) sampradaya; Madhvacharya appeared in the Brahma sampradaya; Vishnu Swami appeared in the Rudra (Shiva) sampradaya and Nimbaditya appeared in the Kumara sampradaya. 

Therefore in the lights of scriptures, it is understood that, sampradaya is an authorized and empowered spiritual channel of disciplic succession

The four bonafied sampradaya is pictorially depicted below:

In the present day there are many apasampradāyas, or sampradāyas which are not bona fide, which have no link to authorities like Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva, the Kumāras or Lakṣmī. People are misguided by such sampradāyas. The śāstras say that being initiated in such a sampradāya is a useless waste of time, for it will never enable one to understand the real religious principles.

Since Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu appeared in the Brahma sampradaya of Madhvacharya, this lineage became known as the Brahma-Madhva Gaudiya sampradaya.


  1. Krsna
  2. Brahma
  3. Narada
  4. Vyasa
  5. Madhva
  6. Padmanabha
  7. Nrhari
  8. Madhava
  9. Aksobhya
  10. Jaya Tirtha
  11. Jnanasindhu
  12. Dayanidhi
  13. Vidyanidhi
  14. Rajendra
  15. Jayadharma
  16. Purusottama
  17. Brahmanya Tirtha
  18. Vyasa Tirtha
  19. Laksmipati
  20. Madhavendra Puri
  21. Isvara Puri, (Nityananda, Advaita)
  22. Lord Caitanya
  23. Rupa, (Svarupa, Sanatana)
  24. Raghunatha, Jiva
  25. Krsnadasa
  26. Narottama
  27. Visvanatha
  28. (Baladeva) Jagannatha
  29. Bhaktivinoda
  30. Gaurakisora
  31. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati
  32. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda

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