The guru-disciple relationship, and the lineages through which teachings, rituals, or mantras get passed down through generations have always remained at the heart of all the dharmic traditions of India. When it came
to Vedānta, one of the six schools of Indian philosophy that accepted the sacrosanct nature of the Vedas, a scholastic tradition became formally instituted only when the founder of that tradition wrote a commentary on three sets of texts called the prasthānatrayī: the Bhagavad Gītā, the Vedānta Sūtra and the Upaniṣads. These teachings were then passed down from teacher to disciple, and the longer the institutionalized “passing down” of traditions lasted, the more authentic it appeared in the eyes of adherents. Śaṅkarācārya (8th century) was one of the first philosopher-theologians to set the trend within Vedānta and was followed, over the centuries, by others, such as Rāmānujācārya (11th century) and Madhvācārya (13th century). And although the process of intellectual succession or institutional transition of authority is an organic and complex process, in the present day each tradition derives its authority and authenticity by providing their adherents an apparently well-defined, guru-disciple chain that not only goes back to the beginnings of human history, but to the creation story itself.
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