ity evaṁ vadanti jana-jalpa-nirbhayā eka-matāḥ kumāra-vyāsa-śuka-śāṇḍilya-garga-viṣṇu-kauṇḍilya-śeṣoddhavāruṇi-bali-hanūmad-vibhīṣaṇādayo bhakty-ācāryāḥ
iti — thus; evam — in this way; vadanti — they speak; jana — of ordinary people; jalpa — of the gossip; nirbhayāḥ — unafraid; eka — of one; matāḥ — opinion; kumāra-vyāsa-śuka-śāṇḍilya-garga-viṣṇu-kauṇḍilya-śeṣa-uddhava-aruṇi-bali-hanūmat-vibhīṣaṇa-ādayaḥ — the Kumāras, Vyāsa, Śuka, Śāṇḍilya, Garga, Viṣṇu, Kauṇḍilya, Śeṣa, Uddhava, Aruṇi, Bali, Hanumān, Vibhīṣaṇa, and others; bhakti — of devotional service; ācāryāḥ — the founding authorities.
Thus say the founding authorities of devotional service: the Kumāras, Vyāsa, Śuka, Śāṇḍilya, Garga, Viṣṇu, Kauṇḍilya, Śeṣa, Uddhava, Aruṇi, Bali, Hanumān, Vibhīṣaṇa, and others—speaking without fear of worldly gossip and sharing among themselves one and the same opinion.
Nārada previously gave definitions of bhakti according to sages like Vyāsa and Garga, and now he gives a longer list. He also adds that there are many other authorities who could also be cited. In this way, although Nārada’s word is sufficient, he increases the authority of his conclusion that bhakti is the best of all paths.
While praising Lord Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Brahman and the God of gods, Arjuna also referred to great sages in order to support his statement:
paraṁ brahma paraṁ dhāma pavitraṁ paramaṁ bhavān
puruṣaṁ śāśvataṁ divyam ādi-devam ajaṁ vibhum
āhus tvām ṛṣayaḥ sarve devarṣir nāradas tathā
asito devalo vyāsaḥ svayaṁ caiva bravīṣi me
“You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the ultimate abode, the purest, the Absolute Truth. You are the eternal, transcendental, original person, the unborn, the greatest. All the great sages such as Nārada, Asita, Devala, and Vyāsa confirm this truth about You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me” (Bg. 10.12-13).
Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, “It is not that because Kṛṣṇa is Arjuna’s intimate friend Arjuna is flattering Him by calling Him the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Absolute Truth. Whatever Arjuna says in these two verses is confirmed by Vedic truth” (Bg. 10.12-13, purport). When Yamarāja wanted to impress upon his messengers, the Yamadūtas, that Lord Viṣṇu is the supreme authority and that bhakti is the supreme path, he also quoted an impressive list of names. These teachers are known as the twelve mahā-janas, or authorities in Kṛṣṇa consciousness:
svayambhūr nāradaḥ śambhuḥ kaumāraḥ kapilo manuḥ
prahlādo janako bhīṣmo balir vaiyāsakir vayam
dvādaśaite vijānīmo dharmaṁ bhāgavataṁ bhaṭāḥ
guhyaṁ viśuddhaṁ durbodhaṁ yaṁ jñātvāmṛtam aśnute
“Lord Brahmā, Bhagavān Nārada, Lord Śiva, the four Kumāras, Lord Kapila [the son of Devahūti], Svāyambhuva Manu, Prahlāda Mahārāja, Janaka Mahārāja, Grandfather Bhīṣma, Bali Mahārāja, Śukadeva Gosvāmī, and I myself know the real religious principle. My dear servants, this transcendental religious principle, which is known as bhāgavata-dharma, or surrender unto the Supreme Lord and love for Him, is un-contaminated by the material modes of nature. It is very confidential and difficult for ordinary human beings to understand, but if by chance a person fortunately understands it, he is immediately liberated, and thus he returns home, back to Godhead” (SB 6.3.20-21).
In his purport, Śrīla Prabhupāda stresses not only the importance of the individual sages but the fact that they are representatives of Vaiṣṇava sampradāyas:
There are four lines of disciplic succession: one from Lord Brahmā, one from Lord Śiva, one from Lakṣmī, the goddess of fortune, and one from the Kumāras. The disciplic succession from Lord Brahmā is called the Brahmā-sampradāya, the succession from Lord Śiva (Śambhu) is called the Rudra-sampradāya, the one from the goddess of fortune, Lakṣmījī, is called the Śrī-sampradāya, and the one from the Kumāras is called the Kumāra-sampradāya. One must take shelter of one of these four sampradāyas in order to understand the most confidential religious system. In the Padma Purāṇa it is said, sampradāya-vihīnā ye mantrās te niṣphalā matāḥ: “If a person does not follow the four recognized disciplic successions, his mantra or initiation is useless.” [SB 6.3.20-21, purport]
Nārada states that the ācāryas of the Absolute Truth were not afraid of criticism. In bygone ages fools criticized pure devotees and even the Supreme Lord Himself. Once the powerful progenitor Dakṣa cursed Nārada because he had convinced Dakṣa’s sons to reject marriage and remain celibate. Dakṣa called Nārada a sinful rascal posing as a devotee. Nārada tolerated Dakṣa’s curse without retaliation, but he continued his preaching.
In his purports, Śrīla Prabhupāda compares the criticism Nārada received to the criticism he himself received from his disciples’ parents. Their accusation was the same as Dakṣa’s—that the spiritual master has unreasonably caused young boys (and girls) to give up the normal life of sense gratification and take to extreme forms of renunciation and devotion to God. The criticism of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement has taken organized shape as part of the “anti-cult movement,” but Śrīla Prabhupāda assured his followers not to be afraid of attacks:
We have no business creating enemies, but the process is such that nondevotees will always be inimical toward us. Nevertheless, as stated in the śāstras, a devotee should be both tolerant and merciful. Devotees engaged in preaching should be prepared to be accused by ignorant persons, and yet they must be very merciful to the fallen, conditioned souls. If one can execute his duty in the disciplic succession of Nārada Muni, his service will surely be recognized…. Preaching can be a difficult, thankless task, but a preacher must follow the orders of the Supreme Lord and be unafraid of materialistic persons. [SB 6.5.39, purport]
Critics deride the Hare Kṛṣṇa movement as a concocted new cult. But just as the Nārada-bhakti-sūtra is supported by venerable authorities and mahā-janas, so the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, created by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, is also authoritative. In fact, the same authorities Nārada has cited also back up the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. Śrīla Prabhupāda comes in the disciplic line of the Brahma-Madhva-Gauḍīya-sampradāya, a line that includes Brahmā, Nārada, Vyāsadeva, Madhva, and Lord Caitanya. In the praṇāma-mantra Śrīla Prabhupāda’s followers chant, the phrase gaura-vāṇī-pracāriṇe means that Śrīla Prabhupāda teaches the message of Lord Caitanya. The saṅkīrtana movement, the congregational chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa, was begun by Lord Caitanya Himself, and so the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement now spreading around the world is not a new religion but a continuation of the original sampradāya. As Śrīla Prabhupāda says, “Actually the original father of this movement is Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself, since it was started a very long time ago but is coming down to human society by disciplic succession” (Bhagavad-gītā As It Is, preface).
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