Bonafide sanatan dharma sampradayas

The goal of these bonafide sampradayas is to attain loving devotion and become an eternal associate of Lord in His spiritual planets.

Padma puran states:

sampradāyavihīnā ye mantrāste niṣphalā matāḥ|
ataḥ kalau bhaviśyanti catvāraḥ sampradāyinaḥ||
Śrī-brahmā-rudra-sanakā vaiṣṇavā kṣitipāvanāḥ|
catvāraste kalau bhāvya hyutkale puruṣottamāt||
rāmānujaṃ śrī svicakre madhvācaryaṃ caturmukhaḥ|
śrīviṣṇusvāminaṃ rudro nimbādityaṃ catuḥsanāḥ||

All mantras which have been given (to disciples) not in an authorised Sampradāya are fruitless. Therefore, in Kali Yuga, there will be four bona-fide Sampradāyas. One of them were inaugurated by Śrī Devī and known as the Śrī Sampradāya, one by Lord Brahmā and known as the Brahmā Sampradāya,one by Lord Rudra and known as the Rudra Sampradāya; one by  the Four Kumāras and known as Sanakādi Sampradāya. Śrī Devī made Rāmānujācārya the head of that lineage. So too Lord Brahmā appointed Madhvācārya, Lord Rudra appointed Viṣṇusvāmī and the four Kumaras chose Nimbāditya (an epithet for Śrī Nimbārkācārya).

The great Gaudiya acarya, Baladeva Vidyabhusana quotes these two verses in his book, Prameya-ratnavali, citing the Padma Purana as their source. In the 1927 edition of the Prameya-ratnavali, two commentaries were published: Kanti-mala by Krsnadeva Vedanta-vagisa and Prabha by Aksaya Kumara Sastri.(Calcutta (Shyam Bazar): Sanskrit Sahitya Parishad, 1927.) Both these commentaries confirm that they come from the Padma Purana.

Narahari Cakravarti (also known as Ghanasyama Dasaa), the son of Jagannatha Cakravarti, a disciple of Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, also quoted these two verses in his Bhakti-ratnakara (5.2111-2) and attributed them to the Padma Purana.

Finally, there is the testimony of Kavi Karnapura,  the youngest son of Mahaprabhu’s intimate associate Sivananda Sena, who paid his obeisances to Mahaprabhu, calling him the ‘the family’s worshipable Deity’ (kuladhidaivata7). In his Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika (21-22), Karnapura both quotes a part of these verses and attributes it to the Padma Purana:

Gopala Guru Gosvami, an associate of Mahaprabhu and disciple of Vakresvara Pandita, also accepted this concept of the disciplic line and the principle of four distinct Vaisnava sampradayas.


Many present day scholars have claimed that many current editions of the Padma Purana don’t include that verse. That may be due to the influence of other sects they have been tampered. But the fact that it was quoted by Madhavacharya and many other early writers centuries ago and is accepted by all sampradayas proves that the verse was later tampered and removed . Well it is the virtue to receiving knowledge in disciplic succession. Believers will accept the verdict of their teachers, as it comes down through tradition,the parampara system. This statement is accepted by all the 4 sampradayas and references have been provided. What we have presented above is their acceptance as per Gaudiya Vaishnava literatues and their approval by others.

However this information is also present in Garga Samhita  written by Garga Muni who was the teacher of Nanda baba (Father of Sri Krishna ) . Thus proving its authenticity.

Garga Samhita, Canto 10, chapter 61, verses 23, 24, 25, 26 also states :

vamanas vidih sesah sanako visnu vakyatah
dharmartha hetave caite bhavisyanti dvijah kalau

Vamana, Brahma, Ananta Sesha and Sanaka Kumara will appear as brahmanas by the order of Visnu, for the preservation of eternal righteousness in kali yuga.

visnuswami vamanangsastatha madhvastu brahmanah
ramanujastu sesangsa nimbaditya sanakasya ca

Visnuswami, Madhvacarya, Ramanuja and Nimbaditya will appear respectively as a portion of Vamana, Brahma, Ananta Sesha and Sanaka Kumara.

ete kalau yuge bhavyah sampradaya pravartakah
samvatsare vikrama catvarah ksiti pavanah

These four saviours will be the establishers of the four authorised and empowered spiritual channels of disciplic succession in the period calculated from the reign of King Vikrama in 54 B.C. subsequently through the 432,000 year cycle  of kali yuga.

sampradaya vihina ye mantraste nisphalah smritah
tasmacca gamanang hyasti sampradaya narairapi

These four authorized and empowered spiritual channels of disciplic succession are to be fully accepted by all beings; as any word, combination of words or formulation of sound frequencies, invoked or addressed, audible or inaudible, secret or revealed, ancient or contemporary outside their auspices prove to have absolutely no efficacy.


Note: It is NOT mentioned in the above verses that these are authenticated VAISHNAVA sampradayas and THERE ARE OTHER authentic sampradayas for the other sects in KALIYUGA . It is specifically mentioned :

“All mantras which have been given (to disciples) not in an authorised Sampradāya are fruitless. Therefore, in Kali Yuga, there will be four bona-fide Sampradāyas.”- Padma purana

“These four saviours will be the establishers of the four authorised and empowered spiritual channels of disciplic succession in the period calculated from the reign of King Vikrama in 54 B.C. subsequently through the 432,000 year cycle  of kali yuga.” – Garga samhita

ajnas casraddadhanas ca
samsayatma vinasyati
nayam loko ‘sti na paro
na sukham samsayatmanah


But ignorant and faithless persons who doubt the revealed scriptures do not attain God consciousness; they fall down. For the doubting soul there is happiness neither in this world nor in the next.  –  Bhagavad-gita 4.40


Sri Sampradaya: The commentary by Srila Ramanujacarya, known as Sri-bhasya, establishes the visisthaadvaita-vada
philosophy. Worship Sri Vishnu as supreme though some of the 12 alwars worshiped Sri Krishna as supreme.

Brahma Sampradaya : Madhvacarya’s Purusaprajña-bhasya establishes suddha-dvaita-vada. Worship Sri Vishnu as supreme.

Kumara-sampradaya or Nimbarka-sampradaya: Sri Nimbarka establishes the philosophy of dvaitadvaita-vada in the Parijata- saurabha-bhashya. Worship Sri Krishna as supreme

Vishnu-svami-sampradaya, or Rudra-sampradaya : Comes from Lord Siva, Vishnu Svami has written a commentary called Sarvajña- bhashya, which establishes suddhadvaita-vada. Worship Sri Krishna as supreme.


Sub Branches of the 4 authenticated sampradayas:

Sri Sampradaya:

1) Ramanandi Sampradaya is one of the largest and most egalitarian Hindu sects India, around the Ganges Plain, and

Nepal today. It mainly emphasizes the worship of Rama, as well as Vishnu directly and other incarnations.
Most Ramanandis consider themselves to be the followers of Ramananda, a Vaishnava saint in medieval India. Philosophically, they are in the Vishishtadvaita tradition.

2) Swaminarayan Sampradaya: Stems from the Ramanuja sampradaya. The founder Sri Swaminarayan Promoted worship of Sri Krishna

Rudra Sampradaya:

1) Vallabhas or Pushtimarg sect, founded by Vallabha worship Sri Krishna as supreme.

Brahma Sampradaya:

1) Brahma Madhava Gaudiya Sampradaya : Founded by Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, an incarnation of Supreme brahman Sri Krishna appeared to promote devotion following the sentiments of Vrajvasis and the process by which one can attain Goloka. He promoted Achintyabhedaabheda- vada. Worship Sri Krishna as supreme.


Other sects : “Goal impersonal liberation”

Note: Please note impersonal liberation is one of the 5 types of liberation attaining which one is never returned in this material world. Though the followers of below sects strongly believe that there is only one kind of liberation i.e. impersonal liberation it is not the correct understanding as per sastra .  Srimad Bhagavatam , Brahmavaivarta Puran and many other scriptures have clearly explained about 5 types of liberation.

It is more unfortunate that many sects does not even believe in scriptures saying that that the aryans brought them during immigration to India which is not integral to Indian culture.



Smartaism is an ancient brahminical tradition reformed by Adi Shankara. The word smarta means one who follows the smriti or dharma sastras. Smartas follow the smriti literature, particularly dharma shastra, Puranas and the Itihasas. They worship
five forms of God and also revere the Vedas and the Agamas. They worship Shiva, Vishnu, Ganapati, Surya and Shakti and this system is called pancayatana (pancopasana). Kumara was further added by Shankara’s reform. Today they are synonymous with Adi Shankara’s monistic, meditative and philosophical theories. The five group system of smartas is there because each deity can be chosen as one’s own personal and preferred deity (ishta devata). Smartas believe in attainment of salvation mainly through jnana yoga. However other yogas like bhakti yoga, karma yoga and raja yoga are recognized as leading to enlightenment. Jnana yoga involves the study of scriptures (shravana), reflection (manana) and sustained meditation (dhyana).

Sri sankaracharya  advocated the philosophy of Advaita-vada found in Sariraka-bhasya, a commentary by Sri Sankaracarya .

Sastric references where advaita-vada is refuted by Lord Shiva himself
It is mentioned in the Padma Purana  that the Supreme Lord instructed His exalted devotee, Lord Shiva to make the general populace of Kaliyuga averse to Him. Therefore Lord Shiva appeared in the form of a brahmana named Shankaracharya to preach  the fallacious theory of Mayavada, which is a disguised form of Buddhism. Since the influence of Buddhism was very strong  at the time, Shankaracharya preached the Mayavada philosophy to divert people from atheism to the Vedas. To achieve this he  had to make compromises in the Vedanta philosophy.

How the  Supreme Lord ordered Lord Shiva to appear in Kali-yuga to delude atheists and produce a philosophy and texts to hide the Supreme Being,is explained in the Padma  Purana (Chapter 235,236). Thus, we find in these verses confirmation that it  was Lord Shiva who appeared in the Age of Kali as  Shankaracharya at the request of the Supreme Vishnu.

In the Padma Purana (6.236.5-12) Shiva explains to his wife, Parvati, that he  will appear in the age of Kali to proclaim that the Buddhist doctrine is a false religion and illusory. He also said that he would propound the mayavada or impersonalist philosophy, emphasizing the  indefinable nature of the Brahman, the great, impersonal spiritual force. He explained, “The philosophy of Maya (mayavada) is a wicked doctrine and is pseudo-Buddhist. In the form of a brahmana, I proclaim this doctrine in Kali-yuga. It makes the words of the holy Vedic texts meaningless and is condemned in the world.
In this doctrine it recommends giving up one’s duties of life [in order to be  free of karma], which is said to be  religiousness for those who have fallen from their duties. I will propound the identity of the Supreme Soul and the  individual soul to be the [one and the same]  Brahman in nature, without qualities. O goddess, I have conceived this  mayavada (impersonalist) doctrine, which resembles a purport of the Ve das, for deluding people in this age of Kali [to  mislead  them toward atheism by denying the personal form of God].”


Taking one away from Vishnu means 4 of the five kinds of liberation is closed for them where one becomes an associate of Lord in one his spiritual planets which is surrounded by Brahman effulgence . However impersonal liberation is still available and one can find divine pleasure by meditating on that brahman and at the end of life merge into that supreme brahmajyoti .

The Kurma Purana (1.30.33-34) states: “In Kali-yuga, Shankara, Nilalohita, will incarnate for the purpose of establishing rites of the Shrauta [Vedic] and Smarta [based on Smriti scriptures], with the  desire for the welfare of his devotees. He will teach his disciples the knowledge of Brahman.”


 Shakta and Shiva practice of an individual is be done in any  one of the Sattva , Rajo and Tamo guna . However the majority of the practice is done in tamo guna . If done with a pure heart then one gets rids of worldly attachment and rajo and tamo guna . The result is asta siddhi  if done properly and impersonal liberation in some cases   but it is extremely  difficult in Kaliyuga. Even if attains powers but has evil heart and harms others then he is guaranteed hellish life as confirmed in tantra sastras. 

It is to be understood that though it appears that shakta and Shiva upasana will lead them as an associate of Shiva and Shakti but actually it is not the case. Majority of the processes in these two sects leads on to impersonal liberation if done properly . However it is very difficult in kaliyuga but not impossible.  However  these are very powerful processes which gives various siddhis and powers  to a sadhaka.



A system of temple mysticism and an enlightened view of man’s place in the universe as well as siddha yoga form the basis of Shaivism. The final goal of Shaivism is realizing one’s identity with Shiva in perfect union and non-differentiation  (monism, kevaladvaita) based on advaita philosophy. The path for Shaivites is divided into four progressive stages of belief and practice called Charya, Kriya, Yoga and  Jnana. Union with Shiva comes through the grace of the satguru and culminates in the soul’s maturity in the state of jnana,  or wisdom. Shaivism values both bhakti and yoga sadhana.

However Shaivism has many different schools showing both regional variations and differences in philosophy. Shaivism has a vast literature that includes texts representing multiple philosophical schools, including non-dualist (abheda), dualist (bheda), and non-dual-with-dualism (bhedābheda) perspectives.

There are six main sub-groups of Shaivism:
1. Shaiva siddhanta
2. Pasupata
3. Kashmir Shaiva or Trika (tantric)
4. Vira Shaiva or Lingayata
5. Siddha Shaiva
6. Shiva Advaita
Sometimes Lakulisa Saivisms is included as well.
A review of Shaivite groups makes a broad distinction into two groups, with further subdivisions within each group:

A) Puranic. Shaivism as a Vedic Origin and Science is the basis of this Religion. The Sections of “Smartha” Brahmins in South and North comprise the Shaivism Practise of Vedic Religion; the Sanatana Dharma. The Shiva Purana is the ultimate resource of the Historical Presence of Shaivism in Society of Modern India.

B) Non-Puranic. These devotees are distinguished by undergoing initiation (dīkṣa) into a specific cult affiliation for the dual purposes of obtaining liberation in this life (mukti) and/or obtaining other aims (bhukti). Sanderson subdivides this group further into two subgroups:

1) Those that follow the outer or higher path (atimārga), seeking only liberation.

1.a. Pashupata Shaivism: The Pashupatas (Sanskrit: Pāśupatas) are the oldest named Shaivite group. The Pashupatas were ascetics.Noted areas of influence (clockwise) include Gujarat, Kashmir and Nepal. But there is plentiful evidence of the existence of Pāśupata groups in every area of the Indian subcontinent. In the far South, for example, a dramatic farce  called the Mattavilāsanaprahasana ascribed to a seventh-century Pallava king centres around a Pāśupata ascetic in the city of Kāñcīpuram who mistakes a Buddhist mendicant’s begging bowl for his own skull-bowl. Inscriptions of comparable date in various parts of South East Asia attest to the spread of Pāśupata forms of Śaivism before the arrival there of tantric  schools such as the Shaiva Siddhanta.

1.b. Lingayatism, also known as Vira Shaivism: Made popular by Basavanna (1105–1167), this version of qualified nondualism, Shakti Vishishtadvaita, accepts both difference and nondifference between soul and God, like rays are to the sun. Shiva and  the cosmic force are one, yet Shiva is beyond His creation, which is real, not illusory. God is efficient and material  cause. Influential primarily in Karnataka and some parts of Andhra Pradesh.

1.c. Shiva Advaita: This monistic theism, formulated by Srikantha (ca 1050), is called Shiva Vishishtadvaita. The soul does not ultimately become perfectly one with Brahman, but shares with the Supreme all excellent qualities. Appaya Dikshita (1554–1626) attempted to resolve this union in favor of an absolute identity—Shuddhadvaita. Its area of origin and influence covers most of Karnataka state.

2) Those that follow the path of mantras (mantramārga), seeking both liberation and worldly objectives.Sub groups:

2.a. kapalika  saivasim (kaula, Trika, Aghori)

Kashmir Shaivism: Kashmir Saivism, a householder religion, was based on a strong monistic interpretation of the Bhairava Tantras (and its subcategory the Kaula Tantras), which were tantras written by the Kapalikas. There was additionally a revelation of the Siva Sutras to Vasugupta. Kashmir Saivism claimed to supersede the dualistic Shaiva Siddhanta. Somananda,  the first theologian of monistic Saivism, was the teacher of Utpaladeva, who was the grand-teacher of Abhinavagupta, who in  turn was the teacher of Ksemaraja. The label Kashmir Shaivism, though unfortunately now widely adopted, is really a  misnomer, for it is clear that the dualistic Shaiva Siddhanta was also in North India at one point in time.

2.b. Shaiva Siddhanta: Considered normative tantric Saivism, Shaiva Siddhanta provides the normative rites, cosmology and theological categories of tantric Saivism. There is a dualistic dimension to Shaivism, as expounded by Meykandar. The pure,  or Shuddha Saivism,however, proclaimed by Rishi Thirumular and his paramparai (guru lineage), is strictly non-dualistic,  and proclaims the soul to be at all times one with Shiva. This tradition was once practiced all over India. For example,  the theologians Sadyojoti, Bhatta Nārāyanakantha and his son Bhatta Rāmakantha (ca. 950-1000 AD) developed a sophisticated  Siddhanta theology in Kashmir. However the Muslim subjugation of north India restricted Shaiva Siddhanta to the south, where it merged with the Tamil Saiva cult expressed in the bhakti poetry of the Nayanars (600 C.E. and 1100 C.E). It is  in this historical context that Shaiva Siddhanta is commonly considered a “southern” tradition, one that is still very much alive.

2.c. Natha Siddha Siddhanta: Founded by Matsyendranatha (ca 800–1000) and expounded by Rishi Gorakshanatha (ca 950), this  monism is known as Bhedabheda, embracing both the transcendent Shiva as well as the immanent Shiva. Shiva is efficient and  material cause. The creation and final return of soul and cosmos to Shiva are likened to bubbles arising and returning to  water. Influential in Nepal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal.



The worship of Mother Goddess in her fierce or gentle form is the basis of Shaktism. Shaktas use mantra, tantra, yantra, yoga and puja to invoke cosmic forces and awaken the kundalini power. They consider the Goddess a manifested form of the  deity whose worship leads to the masculine unmanifested form or Shiva, thus attaining salvation.

There are four different expressions:
1. Devotional
2. Shamanic
3. Yogic
4. Universalists

The devotional Shaktas makes puja rites to invoke  the Goddess.

The Shamanic Shaktas – usually with the help of a medium – use magic, tantra and trance as well as fire walking and animal  sacrifice for healing, fertility and power.

The Shakta yogis seek to awaken the sleeping Goddess Kundalini and unite her with Lord Shiva in the sahasrara chakra.

The Universalists follow the reformed Vedantic teachings and traditions.

The most central and pivotal text in Shakti dharma is the Devi Mahatmya (also known as the Durga Saptashati, Chandi or Chandi-Path, A section of Markendaya Purana ),. Here, for the first time, “the various mythic, cultic and theological elements  relating to diverse female divinities were brought together in what has been called the ‘crystallization of the Goddess tradition.'”
Other important texts include the canonical Shakta Upanishads as well as Shakta-oriented Puranic literature such as the Devi Purana and Kalika Purana, the Lalita Sahasranama (from the Brahmanda Purana), the Devi Gita (from the Devi-Bhagavata Purana), Adi Shankara’s Saundaryalahari and the Tantric scriptures.

The 1o Mahavidyas and Shri Vidya  are very popular in shakta tradition. It is a very broad topic so will be dealt in a different article later.





1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Francisco López-Herrera (a.k.a. Parameswara das)
    Jan 16, 2018 @ 07:05:15

    It is a nice effort…All Glories to Guru & Gauranga!…Shri Shri Radha-Krishna bless you!


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