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Saturday, 1 October 2011

Definition of an acharya

1. Acharya is a surname of certain caste-brahmins (like Basudeb Acharia, a Marxist politician). Besides, there are other surnames like Bhattacharya (e.g., Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, another Marxist and former Chief Minister of West Bengal).

2. Acharya is the title you receive upon completing MA degree in Sanskrit (like Acharya Balkrishna, associate of Baba Ramdev). After BA, one is called Sastri (e.g. Lal Bahadur Sastri, who was actually a Kayastha).

3. Acharya is a person who initiates and instructs a shisya in any branch of knowledge. e.g. Sukracharya (teacher of the demons), Gargacharya (authority on Jyotisha), Kripacharya, Dronacharya (authority on Dhanurveda), etc. Even ordinary persons who teach music, pottery, grammar, maths, etc. should be revered as acharyas.

4. Acharya may specifically refer to the teacher of the Veda or one's initiating spiritual master, who may be a traditional caste acharya like Acharya Pundrik Goswami and Vaisnavacharya Chandan Goswami or great brahmin-sannyasis like Jayendra Saraswati, Chinna Jeeyar Swami, Sriji Maharaj or Visvesa Tirtha  or even so-called non-brahmin or mleccha disciples who are authorized by the previous acharya like many gurus in the Gaudiya sampradaya (it is actually offensive to refer to Vaisnavas as non-brahmin or mleccha).

5. Acharya may mean a world teacher or jagat guru, who establishes a new sampradaya by writing commentary on Vedanta (Visnuswami, Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Nimbarkacharya or Madhvacharya) or revives a sampradaya (Keshava Kashmiri Bhattacharya or Vallabhacharya or Bhaktivinoda Thakur) or makes revolutionary transformation in a sampradaya (Ramanandacharya, Madhavendra Puri, Madhusudana Sarswati, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati or Srila Prabhupada) or makes very substantial/ existential contribution to the sampradaya (Six Goswamis and those in their line, Baladeva Vidyabhushan and so many great stalwarts in other sampradayas).

Categories 1 and 2 have no significance. Category 3 has benefit if the teacher is Krishna Conscious like Gargacharya or Dronacharya. Bali Maharaj (a Mahajan) had rejected his guru Sukracharya because he preached against the principles of devotional service. Category 4 have to be revered as social etiquette (in case of non-Vaisnavas) and worshipped if they are Vaisnavas. But that doesn't mean that they are liberated souls (jivan muktas) or empowered incarnations (saktyavesa). They can fall down, in case, they become forgetful of Krishna. However, since they know shastra-sadhu-guru and follow them properly, they are qualified to be acharyas. Category 5 are the rarest of the rare personalities, who are empowered by Krishna to extend His mercy upon fallen souls. It is very offensive even to consider that such acharyas can commit mistakes. Whatever discrepancy may be perceived by us in their character or behaviour is due to Krishna's inconceivable desire, which can only be explained by an authority on a liberated platform.

Another category, I don't know if they can be called non-acharyas:

6. There may be some devotees (even pure devotees: pure means free from desires for mundane or mystic enjoyment and oneness with the Supreme) who may not be well-versed in shastra-sadhu-guru, although they may be serving Krishna within their limited jurisdiction. Ultimately, Krishna may reveal the true import of reality within their hearts. If we are one of them or a shisya of such a devotee, we must know our position. It is better for us to approach those on a higher platform to get proper training. Any genuine devotee would approach or permit his shisya to approach another senior devotee, who understands shastra-sadhu-guru. e.g. Srinivas Acharya, Narottam Das Thakur and Shyamananda Pandit were disciples of great devotees (not only pure, but liberated and also perfectly versed in shastra-sadhu-guru; in fact, they were direct associates of Gauranga Mahaprabhu). Still, to set an example, they placed them under Jiva Goswami, who was the Gaudiya Sampradayacharya at that time.

The Manu Samhita (II.140-143) states: "They call that Brahmana who initiates a pupil and teaches him the Veda together with the Kalpa and the Rahasyas, the teacher (akarya, of the latter). But he who for his livelihood teaches a portion only of the Veda, or also the Angas of the Veda, is called the sub-teacher (upadhyaya). That Brahmana, who performs in accordance with the rules (of the Veda) the rites, the Garbhadhana (conception-rite), and so forth, and gives food (to the child), is called the Guru (the venerable one).He who, being (duly) chosen (for the purpose), performs the Agnyadheya, the Pakayagnas, (and) the (Srauta) sacrifices, such as the Agnishtoma (for another man), is called (his) officiating priest."

ISKCON guru parampara:
1. Kṛṣṇa
2. Brahmā
3. Nārada
4. Vyāsa
5. Madhva
6. Padmanābha
7. Nṛhari
8. Mādhava
9. Akṣobhya
10. Jaya Tīrtha
11. Jñānasindhu
12. Dayānidhi
13. Vidyānidhi
14. Rājendra
15. Jayadharma
16. Puruṣottama
17. Brahmaṇya Tīrtha
18. Vyāsa Tīrtha
19. Lakṣmīpati
20. Mādhavendra Purī
21. Īśvara Purī, (Nityānanda, Advaita)
22. Lord Caitanya
23. Rūpa, (Svarūpa, Sanātana)
24. Raghunātha, Jīva
25. Kṛṣṇadāsa
26. Narottama
27. Viśvanātha
28. (Baladeva) Jagannātha
29. Bhaktivinoda
30. Gaurakiśora
31. Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī
32. A. C. Bhaktivedanta Svāmī Prabhupāda

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