sampradaya – “that which transmits” as opposed to “that which is transmitted” – the act rather than the content of the act (NB: daya in early usage, used in contexts relating to the transfer of goods or legacies). Its primary connotation is that of the ‘repeated performance’ of an act of both giving and taking – i.e. the handing down of knowledge from teacher (upadhyaya) to pupil (sisya).
The terms sampradana – “gift, present, transmission, teaching”; sampratti – “aquisition” – refer to ritual activities by means of which a dying father hands over his legacy (doctrinal, symbolic, material) to his son – with an emphasis on the continuation and preservation of a given order.
sampradaya is now a common term used to denote a specific religious tradition or denomination. Sampradaya is often understood solely in terms of a teaching tradition, but I think that a broader understanding of sampradaya can be achieved by thinking of it in terms of it encompassing both the network of relations that derives from shared teachings – both in terms of the ‘imagined’ (for example, historical or affinitive) and face-to-face interactions and the institutional forms which arise as a consequence.