Guru Parampara is the uninterrupted lineage of Acharyas right from the Supreme Lord Sriman Narayana up to one’s own Acharya in the descending order or from one’s own Acharya up to Lord Narayana in the Ascending order. The invocation or utterance of Guru Parampara in both the orders is valid. The invocation is necessary before either starting the study, or reading of the Grantha chatustAyas and also at the end of the day everyday.
In the Guru Parampara Sara the first verse says the word Namaha, which means salutations. It is repeatedly uttered to the Gurus or preceptors and their Gurus and approach the very first Divine Couple, Sriman Narayana and his Divine Consort Mahalakshmi. They are the ones, to be attained, and are also means of attainment. Here, the word Namaha is repeated as a token of Gratitude to the Gurus, who have helped us, by their invaluable teachings.
In the next Tamil verse, the Alwars are praised for their excellent contribution of 4000 Tamil verses, popularly known as Naalayira Divya Prabhandam. Through these Prabhandas the hidden meanings of Vedas could be clearly understood. The ten Alwars
Tondaradi Podi Alwar
Tiru Mangai Alwar
This order of Alwars is as found on the verse. Sri Andal’s Name is included in Peri Alwar’s Name.
In the subsequent Tamil verse, gratitude is expressed to Madhura Kavi Alwar for showing us the path of approaching an Acharya. An Acharya is essential for our liberation from the bondage of samsara.
Madhura Kavi Alwar chose Namm Alwar as his Acharya even though Lord Krishna was there. In his famous prabhandam “Kanninun Ciruthambu” he highlights 10 points and praises sage Nammalwar whom he considers as much more than God himself. The ten points are
Utterance of the Name of Nammalwar causes bliss
Seek refuge under his feet
Ultimate goal is Nammalwar
All my relative is Nammalwar
Renouncing worldly desires
Nammalwar himself graced me
Washing off all my sins
Extending unlimited grace
Teaching inner Truths of his work which contains the essence of Vedas
Making the teachings well consolidated in me
Nammalwar induces his qualities in his disciples. In other words the disciples of Nammalwar become extremely devoted to the service of Bhagwan and Bhagavatas.
Swamy Desikan says that to attain Moksha or Salvation, the grace of an Acharya, is very essential. There are instances of Kshatra Bandhu a great sinner and Pundarika a great doer of good deeds who attained salvation through an Acharya only. So one should become a disciple to an Acharya.
Sriman Narayana became the first Acharya or Guru by teaching the Vedas to the 4 headed Brahma. He also restored the Vedas to him when they were stolen by demons Madhu and Kaitabha by killing them. He then made sages Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanath Kumara and Sanath Sujatha, the sons of Brahma, to pursue the path of renunciation of worldly pleasures and attain Moksha. This is known as Nivrutti Dharma. Through them and through sages Narada, Parasara, Suka and Shounaka, the Vedanta Shastra was propagated to the world.
Vedantha Sastra is known Adhyatma Sastra because it deals with the ways of conferring good to the Souls or Jivatmas and make them attain Moksha.
Sriman Narayana also took the avataras of Hamsa , Matsya, Hayagriva, Nara Narayana and GeetaAcharya for propagation of Vedanta.
He then entered into sage Veda Vyasa and made him compose Brahma Sutras and the great epic Maha Bharata.
Sriman Narayana composed and propagated Pancharatra Sastra also known as Bhagavat Sastra. This Sastra highlights the greatness of Bhagavan and the method of his worship.
At the end of Dwapara Yuga and commencement of Kali Yuga, Lord Narayana ordained Alwars to appear in this world. Their Avataras can be considers as a New DasaAvatara. They composed Naalayira Divya Prabhandam in Tamil and spread the Vedanta Sastra.
Prabhandam can be recited by one and all. As they are in Tamil they can understand the meaning as propounded in the Vedas. This is just like the clouds sucking saltish sea water and give good drinking water through Rains.
The New (Abhinava) DasaAvataram is as follows:
PoygaimUni Alwar Matsya Avataram
Poodoth Alwar Koormma Avataram
PeyAlwar Varaha Avataram
Tirumazihsai Alwar Nrisimha Avataram
Namm Alwar Vamana Avataram
Kulashekar Alwar Parasurama Avataram
Peri Alwar Sri Rama Avataram
Tondaradi Podi Alwar Balarama Avataram
Tiruppan Alwar Sri Krishna Avataram
Tiru Mangai Alwar Kalki Avataram
From the above account it is obvious and clearly established that Sriman Narayana is the first Acharya or Prathama Guru.
He then preached the Dwaya Mantra to his Divine consort Mahalakshmi.
She then preached the Mantra to Senai Mudaliyar or Vishwaksena, the commander-in-chief of Sri Vaikuntam.
Vishwaksenar became the Acharya to Namm Alwar appearing before him under the direction of Lord Narayana in Alwar Tirunagari.
Then sage Nathamuni who was the son of Eshwara Muni proceeded to Alwar Tirunagari to acquire the Naalayira Divya Prabhandam by meditating upon sage Namm Alwar by reciting Kanninun CiruThambu of Madhura Kavi Alwar, 12,000 times.
During the meditation sage Namm Alwar appeared before sage Nathamuni and preached him all the Vedantic scriptures like Upanishads, Brahma Sutras and Bhagavad Geetha, along with the 3 most important mantras and Naalayira Divya Prabhandam. So, By meditation sage Namm Alwar became the Acharya of sage Natha Muni. Madhura Kavi Alwar and his descendants, one among whom was Parankusha Dasar, who taught Kanninun CiruThambu to Nathamuni also, became Acharyas to him.
Sage Nathamuni had a disciple Uyyakondar or Pundarikakshar. Uyya kondar had Mannakkal Nambi or Rama Mishra as his disciple. Mannakkal Nambi had Yammuna Muni, the grand son of sage Nathamuni as his disciple.
There were 8 disciples to sage Nathamuni
There were 5 disciples to Uyyakondar
There were 5 disciples to Mannakkal Nambi
There were 15 disciples to Yammuna Muni popularly known as Alavandar. Periya Nambi was one among them. Nambi was the main Acharya or Pradhana Acharya of Bhagawad Ramanuja. Periya Nambi had also 5 disciples.
Bhagawad Ramanuja studied the meanings of Rahasyas under the feet of Tiru Kkotiur Nambi.
The meanings of Tiruvoy Mozhi of NammAlwar were studied under the feet of Tirumalai Andan.
Bhagawad Ramanuja learnt naalayira divya prabhAndam and Stotras under the feet of Alavandar Alvan.
Bhagawad Ramanuja studied srimad ramayana under the feet of Tirumalai Nambi who was his maternal uncle.
Sage Nathamuni was the author of two works Nyaya Tatvam and Yoga Rahasyam.
Sage Alavandar composed 8 works.
Bhagawad Ramanuja authored 9 works out of which Sri Bhasya is the most important work.
Bhagawad Ramanuja ordained 74 of his disciples who are known as Simhasanadipatis to propagate Sri Vaishnavisam and Visishtadvaita philosophy through his works.
A true disciple should exalt the greatness of his Guru and conceal his teachings, so that it does not reach the undeserving. The extent of acquisition and consolidation of knowledge imparted to him by his Guru depends on the extent of his devotion towards his Guru. This point is clearly established in Jabala Upanishad and Katopanishad.