By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda
Originally, there are four Vaishnava sampradāya: from Lord Brahmā comes the Brahma-sampradāya; and from Lord Shiva, Rudra-sampradāya; and from the goddess of fortune, Lakshmi, Śrī-sampradāya; and from the catuh-sana, Kumāra-sampradāya. So the four sampradāya are coming from time immemorial. We (the Hare Krishna people) belong to the Brahma-sampradāya, the Gaudiya-sampradāya.
Sampradāya means… just like there are political parties, but their aim is to develop the country, nation’s interest, although… Just like in your country there are political parties, Democratic Party and Republican Party. Although they are parties, their aim is “how to develop the country.”
Similarly, these Vaishnava sampradāya, although they appear to be a separate party, but their aim is how to serve Krishna. So don’t think that “party” means some opposite party. No. Everyone has got (a propensity). For the advanced devotees, (their intention is) to serve the Lord in a particular way, so that the Lord may be more satisfied. That is their intention. Sometimes we also have some parties in the temple: someone wants to dress the Deity in a way, another wants to… Of course, they are not transgressing the rules and regulation, but still, everyone wants that “I shall serve the Lord in this particular way.” We cannot change the original rules and regulation, but there is variety. We are not impersonalists. Every person wants to serve the Lord in a particular way, and that is allowed. The central point is Krishna.
So although there are parties, if the central point is Krishna, there is no dissension. It is a competition that “My Godbrother, my Godsister, is serving in such a way. She is so well versed in this art. Why not try myself to do something?” This is variety. That is not this ordinary party strife, if we make Krishna the center.
[An excerpt from a lecture on the Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi Lila 1.15 delivered in Dallas, USA on March 4, 1975]