The ascending and descending process, by Haripada dasa
There are two processes to receive knowledge, the ascending and descending process. I will try to explain them. A person believes that by his mental and intellectual power he will understand everything, who I am, who is God, who is the material creation, etc., this is called the ascending process. In this connection I share a very interesting story, St. Augustine is considered the greatest philosopher of the Christian Church, this saint walked on the beach speculating several philosophical issues, and saw a child with a shovel who was making a hole in the sand. The saint asked the child what he was doing, and the boy replied that I’m going to put all the ocean water in this hole. St. Augustine laughed and said that was impossible, The child then said that it was more impossible to understand things through speculation, and that the only way to understand things is when God is pleased with you and he will will reveal everything. The only way to understand things is by the mercy of God. There St. Augustine understood the essence of spiritual life.
We see that we are all born with four defects, 1- we have the tendency to make mistakes, to err is human, 2- we tend to fall into ignorance, 3- we tend to deceive others and 4- we have imperfect senses. Descending process means that God or Krishna transmits all eternal truths to Brahma, the first creature created, then Brahma transmits it to his son Narada, Narada to Vyasadeva, Vyasadeva to Madhvacharya, etc., this is called guru parampara or disciplic succession. This knowledge comes pure and does not change. That is why Srila Prabhupada, who is the number 32 spiritual master of this guru parampara chain, always said that the philosophy of Krishna consciousness is very easy because we do not have to invent anything, we just repeat the messages that the predecessor spiritual masters have given us.
There are four sampradayas or spiritual schools authorized by God or Krishna that transmit descending knowledge, 1- the Brahma sampradaya whose Acharya or founding Master is Madhvacharya, 2- the Kumara sampradaya, the 4 Kumaras, whose Acharya or founding Master is Nimbarkacharya, 3- the Laksmi sampradaya, whose Acharya or founding Master is Ramanujacharya and 4- the Rudra or Siva sampradaya, whose Acharya or founding Master is Visnuswami. One must receive spiritual knowledge and mantras from these 4 spiritual schools. When Srila Prabhupada’s teacher, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada, preached Krishna consciousness all over India, he once met a guru and he asked him: “Who has authorized you to be a guru?” Then he said that all these manufactured gurus are first class deceivers. That is why Srila Prabhupada says in Srimad Bhagavatam, 4, 8, 54 that one should receive initiation from a guru who is authorized by the guru who preceded him.