How many people perk up when they hear the word ‘sampradāya’? They claim that religious conflict destroys society through philosophical differences and divisions created by the various sampradāyas. They think that they are the scholars of society and everyone else is stupid. In fact, many intelligent, thoughtful and scholarly sampradāyas have acknowledged and criticized religion more than they have. Those who are opponents of sampradāyas take a stand against them and consider themselves as non-sectarian. As a result, they have taken this ideology and created a new sampradāya. Deliberating upon this deeply, it can be understood that non-sectarians should be considered to have gross intelligence (sthula-buddhi). We openly acknowledge that people within a sampradāya may accept some narrow viewpoints about the sampradāya, and that sometimes a lack of freedom leads to unfortunate results. But judging things impartially, there are far more good qualities in the sampradāya system rather than faults. Although there are some faults in most of them, they are held in regard by scholars. Is there anything in this world without fault? Then why does a scholar consider existence in this world to be detrimental? Is a world created with happiness and virtue without any fault? In the present state of the jīva, what is the alternative in the world of religion? Consider how beneficial it is to discuss spirituality. It is possible to concentrate on the material world without any effort. It is difficult for many to focus upon the Lord. Having settled in this world, those who remain with the intention of worshiping the Supreme Lord for the sole purpose of living a beneficial existence, form a sampradāya for that purpose. The natural propensity of a sampradāya and the jīva is perfect religion. Straightforward, intelligent people create sampradāyas and this is accepted by all. People who are complex, short-sighted and love to argue can be identified as having created sects that introduce themselves to people as being non-sectarian. By doing so, they simply labour in attaining the unfortunate results of self-deception.
By discussing history, one can see that there was never any opinion against the system of sampradāya in this pure land of Bhārata. Only since India’s connection with Western scholars have people become opposed to sampradāyas. In the Western lands, religion continues in a favorable way, but some have condemned the sampradāya system in order to break free from the bondage of that religion. Our narrow-minded countrymen have become loyal to them and have formed a community condemning sampradāyas. Discussing, listening to their speeches and reading pamphlets has created such a bad impression in the minds of many from an early age, that just the word ‘sampradāya’ inflames them. They never search out the root cause of their own inimical impressions. We sincerely request those who are against such sampradāyas to be impartial and look into the matter.
We have discussed in particular the fact that the sampradāya process is extremely beneficial for the jīva. If anyone wants to attain the result of prema by worshiping the Supreme, they should immediately enter the pure bhajana–sampradāya. If one enters the sampradāya, one can easily take shelter of the feet of a sādhu, learn about dharma, discuss spiritual topics and gradually become renounced. As long as the non-sectarian intellect is strong, the ātmā will never be able to attain divine grace (prasāda), even after arguing for one’s entire life. It is the activity of a useless person to condemn the sampradāya system simply by seeing some people within the sampradāya acting selfishly and misbehaving. It is the duty of an intelligent person to try to purify the sampradāya by joining the sampradāya. Good products are not always available in the market and it may be necessary to reform the market seeing many kinds of fraud going on – but I cannot, in any way, appreciate the intellect of those who try to stop the market structure for all these reasons. The first ācāryas of the sampradāyas created the sampradāyas to provide auspiciousness for the world. If the sampradāya is driven away by the efforts of modern cowards, then where will the auspiciousness be? Some Western scholars have said that the first ācāryas established the sampradāyas, driven by selfishness. This is utterly disrespectful. Did the other great ṛṣis, in order to increase their glory and receive money, establish the sampradāya within their own texts? Where is the self-interest for those who ate only fruits and roots in a secluded hut and recorded all their pure siddhānta for the welfare of the jīvas? Many did not even mention their names and works. It seems that desire was not in their heart. Therefore, in the words of the narrow-minded men of the West, “We cannot ignore the sampradāya system.” Rhetoric and erudition are the main things. Western scholars do not have as much erudition as they do rhetoric. The rhetoric of the Indian writers is less, but the essence is more. Young people are naturally more rhetorical than scholarly. As they get older, their pre-existing bad impressions no longer want to leave them. This is as far as we will deliberate in relation to the sampradāya system. Special discussions will be held later.
(Sampradāya Praṇālī – the Sampradāya System – was published in Sajjana Toṣaṇī, Vol 4, Issue 4 in 1892 by Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and translated into English by Swami B.V. Giri)