imam rajarsayo viduh
sa kaleneha mahata
yogo nastah parantapa
"This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost."
Parampara, or disciplic succession, is the method by which perfect transcendental knowledge is given directly by the Lord, to be passed down without deviation. When the Lord spoke the Bhagavad-gita to his disciple, Arjuna, on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, he established himself as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Lord informed Arjuna that Bhagavad-gita is a system of yoga that was first spoken by the Lord to the sun-god. The sun-god explained it to Manu, and Manu explained it to Iksvaku. In that way, by disciplic succession, one speaker after another, this system of yoga has been coming down since time immemorial. The Supreme Lord appeared 5,000 years ago to speak Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna because in the course of time, the absolute truth had become lost. The Lord appears periodically to re-establish the truth when the line of succession has been broken. In the case of Bhagavad-gita, the Lord is speaking it to Arjuna on the battlefield, thus making him the first to receive in a new parampara (disciplic succession).
The Lord appears on one planet after another in innumerable universes. The last time He appeared as Krsna was on this planet, five thousand years ago. Five hundred years ago he appeared as Lord Caitanya, and established the chanting of the maha-mantra, Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare | Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. Krsna is the same Lord who is worshipped as Jehovah, Allah, Buddha, and so on. Many religions have appeared, and many branches have grown from the pure disciplic succession periodically established by the Lord Himself. Today, the Vaisnava sampradayas carry forward the absolute truth in its topmost conclusion, as given by Lord Caitanya. The Vaisnavas emphasize bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotional service, which was established by Lord Krsna in Bhagavad-gita as being far superior to other yoga systems, particularly in this age of Kaliyuga.
"Vedic knowledge is infallible because it comes down through the perfect disciplic succession of spiritual masters, beginning with the Lord Himself. Since He spoke the first word of Vedic knowledge, the source of this knowledge is transcendental. The words spoken by the Lord are called apauruseya, which indicates that they are not delivered by any mundane person. A living being who lives in the mundane world has four defects: (1) he is certain to commit mistakes; (2) he is subject to illusion; (3) he has a propensity to cheat others; and (4) his senses are imperfect. No one with these four imperfections can deliver perfect knowledge. The Vedas are not produced by such an imperfect creature. Vedic knowledge was originally imparted by the Lord into the heart of Brahma, the first created living being, and Brahma in his turn disseminated this knowledge to his sons and disciples, who have handed it down through history."
Sri Isopanisad, Mantra One Purport
"Perfect knowledge is called parampara, or deductive knowledge coming down from the authority to the submissive aural receiver who is bona fide by service and surrender. One cannot challenge the authority of the Supreme and know Him also at the same time. He reserves the right of not being exposed to such a challenging spirit of an insignificant spark of the whole, a spark subjected to the control of illusory energy. The devotees are submissive, and therefore the transcendental knowledge descends from the Personality of Godhead to Brahma and from Brahma to his sons and disciples in succession. This process is helped by the Supersoul within such devotees. That is the perfect way of learning transcendental knowledge."
Guest (3):"Your Divine Grace, we can know something about God, either through our sense knowledge or true concept, etc., but how do we know God, if I can make that distinction? You know? God isn't something that can be sensed and He isn't something that can be grasped by the finite mind. The infinite, as you said... But how do we know God?
Prabhupada: Yes. God is unapproachable by your mental concoction. But there is another process: if you understand God by this the parampara system. Just like on this roof there is some sound, and every one of us making some suggestion what is the sound: "This may be like this. This may be like that. This may be like that." This is one process of knowledge, to understand the unseen by speculation. This is one. It may be successful or may not be successful. There is no certainty. But if somebody from the roof says, "The sound is due to this," then our knowledge is perfect. Similarly, if we speculate about God, who is Adhoksaja, who is beyond the range of our mind and speculation, then it is very... Then we can come to the conclusion of Brahman realization, impersonal God, no more than. But if we hear from God or His representative, then we get perfect knowledge of God.
Guest (3): Well even in revealed religion, where we have the scripture, say, a Vedic scripture or Jewish or Christian scripture, it's still being put into human words and therefore become circumscribed again. And so it seems to me that you've still got the same problem even in revealed religion--that it's not God. It's something short of God.
Prabhupada: No. Just like in the Bible it is said, "God said, 'Let there be creation,' and there was creation." Is it not? It is fact. It is fact. Now you find out who created this universe. If you deny this fact, "No. God does not create," then you explain how it was created. So there is no difference between Bible and Vedic literature. We accept also, "God created." But in the Vedic literature you will find how God created. That you'll find. So if you are actually serious to understand how God created, why don't you come to Vedic literature? That is the duty of every student. If you are after the knowledge, why should you stick to one particular place or...? If the knowledge is available in other places, you must have it. That is inquisitiveness, seriousness. But if you say, "No. We are Christian. We have studied Bible. That is all. We do not touch," I don't think that is very nice conclusion. You remain Christian, but what is the harm to study other literatures where more informations are there? That is quite reasonable. We are not asking you to become Hindus. We simply want to, everyone, that you become God conscious. That is our mission. Our mission is not that to convert. What is the use of converting? If my habits are the same... Suppose I am Hindu. I become Christian, but my habits are not changed. Then what is the use of becoming from Hindu or Christian....?"
Srila Prabhupada Lecture, 04-06-72, Melbourne
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.