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Guru and the Parampara
The only recommended and safe way of receiving Vedic knowledge is by the descending process from the Vedas and through the guru. This chain of transmission is called guru parampara,, the disciplic succession. In the Bhagavad-gita (4.2) Krishna tells Arjuna, evamparamparapraptam: "This supreme science (bhakti| yoga, knowledge through devotional service) was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession." Because God, the originator of the parampara, is perfect, He can give perfect knowledge. And because every guru in the parampara simply repeats the words of his predecessor, and ultimately God. the knowledge received through parampara is perfect, even though the gurus themselves may be imperfect. Thus, in the parampara, the student's relationship is not just with his own spiritual master but also with the spiritual master of his spiritual master and the spinj tual master of that master and so on, in an unbroken chain of;masters. This chain of masters in which a particular guru hears and speaks the truth is called his sampradaya.For instance, in the Brahma sampradaya (in which ISKCON is a branch), Vedic knowledge descends from Brahma. Brahma gave this knowledge to Narada, Narada delivered it to Vyasa and so on. This disciplic succession has come down without any break and even today it is continued by the disciples of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder-acharya of ISKCON.
It is mentioned in the Padma Purana:
sampradaya-vihina ye mantras te nisphala matah atah kalau bhavishyanti chatvarah sampradayinah
sri-brahma-rudra-sanaka vaishnava kshiti pavana chatvaras te kalau bhavya hy utkale purushottama
shri vishnuswamino-rudro nimbadityam chatuksanaha
The above verses explain that if one is not connected with one of the four bona fide disciplic successions, namely. Shri. Brahma, Rudra and Kumara sampradayas, whatever mantras one chants will not bring the desired result. Originally the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, delivered the message of the Vedas to Shri (Lakshmi), Brahma, Rudra (Shiva) and the four Kumaras; (Sanaka, Sanatana, Sanat and Sanandaj and this message was; carried on in Kali yuga (the present age) by Ramanujacharya (Shri sampradaya), Madhvacharya (Brahma sampradaya), Vishnuswami (Rudra sampradaya) and Nimbarka swami (Kumara sampradaya). These four sampradayas are the authoritative institutions which deliver the pure unadulterated message of the Vedas, because the source of this knowledge is Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Himself, who is free from all defects or imperfections. So a spiritual master who has taken shelter of any of these four sampradayas and is living according to the teachings of the Vedic scriptures is a bona fide spiritual master. One should therefore hear Bhagavad-gita from such a bona fide spiritual master only.