BHAGWAN SHREE SWAMINARAYAN
Narayan, Shree Swaminarayan took incarnation on April 2, 1781 CE, (Chaitra Sud
Navami, Vikram Samvat 1837) in Chhapaiya village (near Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh)
in a Sarvaria Brahmin family.
In his early years, he
was known as Ghanashyam. At the age of eleven years His parents attained
liberation. Seeking to lead a life of asceticism for the inspiration to the
human beings, he left His home and became famous as Neelkanth because of His
observance of severe austerities. In the jungles of the Himalayas He performed
Tapascharya at Pulhashram. He decided to proceed to Bengal. On his way, in
Nepal, he met a great Gopal yogi, who taught him yoga. In Bengal, he dissuaded
the monks from performing animal sacrifices. He then proceeded to south India,
then to Maharashtra and finally entered Gujarat (Saurashtra) and met Shree
Ramananda (believed to be an incarnation of Uddhavji, a great devotee of
Bhagwan Krishna). On His request, Shree Ramananda Swami gave Him initiation
(Diksha) and thus Neelkantha became known as Sahajanand Swami and Narayana
After declaring Him, at
the age of 21 years, as the spiritual head of his disciples, Shree Ramanand
Swami recommended Him to protect and propagate Bhagawat Dharma or Ekantika
Dharma as prescribed in Bhagawat (11th Canto) and as in Vasudev Mahatmya of
Skanda Purana. After His guru’s earthly departure He gave the ‘Swaminarayan’
mantra to His followers, henceforth became popularly known as Swaminarayan. He
propagated the path of Bhakti or devotion to God.
preaching transformed the once turbulent Gujarat into a land of peace. As an
incarnation, He tirelessly worked for thirty years and affected a peaceful
revolution by establishing morality and faith.
He deplored violence, and
put an end to the bloody sacrifices in yagnas prevailing at that time. He
eradicated the practices of female infanticide and burning of widows (sati). He
advocated education for all, including women. More importantly, he said, ’I
have incarnated upon this earth, not to kill demons, but to uproot demonic
elements from the human mind; not to liberate man temporarily from the poverty
and pain of this life, but to emancipate him forever from the transmigratory
cycle of births and deaths which lies at the root of all pain and poverty.’
Water was scarce in
Gujarat. The Saints, led by Bhagwan Shree Swaminarayan, dug wells and ponds.
They begged and collected food for distribution to the needy. They taught
people about the glory of God, instructed them to abstain from alcohol,
meat-eating, stealing and adultery.
Swaminarayana set the five vartamans (rules to observe daily) for the saints -
Sadhus to follow: Nir-Lobh (No greed), Nish-Kam (No lust), Nis-Swad (No taste),
Nis-Sneh (No attachment) and Nir-Man (No ego). According to Bhagwan Shree
Swaminarayan, real devotion can flourish only when one realizes one’s nature as
a spiritual being, not just a physical body. To reach this high state, one’s
life has to be grounded in righteousness and chastity, and have a profound
spiritual association with a God-realized guru.
He taught that, there are
five ultimate, ontological, eternally existing categories, namely, Jeeva
(individual soul), Ishwaras(devas),Mmaya (prakriti, primordial material
substance), Brahman (God’s abode), Parabrahman (Supreme God). There are
infinite universes and hence infinite Ishwaras but Parabrahman, the Supreme
God, is one and without second.
Brahman, also known as
Akshara Brahman, is absolutely a unique reality in the metaphysical hierarchy
of the Swaminarayan Philosophy. Akshara Brahman is eternally emancipated,
all-powerful and omniscient. It has the nature of sat, chit and ananda, and has
eternal relation with Parabrahman, both as His ideal devotee in the personal
form and as His limitless ultimate abode in the impersonal form. All the four
distinct categories are below Parabrahman, who is completely independent,
self-existent and the highest reality.
He is transcendent, with
eternal divine form and immanent. This Parabrahman is Bhagwan Swaminarayan.
Ultimate liberation is achieved by attaining Ekantika Dharma.
It consists of Dharma –
the ethical code prescribed by Shrutis and Smrutis (scriptures), Jnan (Gyan) –
the comprehensive knowledge of jeeva, ishwara, maya, Brahman and Parabrahman,
Vairagya – non-attachment to everything except God, and Bhakti (devotion) – the
intense love with the knowledge of greatness and glory of God. Among them
Bhakti is the leading element and other three are necessary supportive
This ultimate liberation
is pursued under the guidance of the God-realized Sadhu. Shree Swaminarayan
enriched humanity by a tradition of sadhus, a legacy of Mandirs – Temples and
spiritual centres, and treasures of spiritual and moral wisdom in two main
texts: Vachanamrutam and Shikshapatri. Bhagwan Shree Swaminarayan established
Mandirs for the propagation of Vedic Dharma at Ahmedabad, Bhuj (Kutchha),
Vadtal, Dholera, Junagadh and Gadhpur. He performed the Pratishtha of the
Murties of Shree Nar-Narayan Dev, Shree Lakshmi-Narayana Dev, Shree Gopinathji
Maharaj, Shree Shree Harikrishna Maharaj (His own Murti), Shree Radha-Raman
Dev, Shree Madan-Mohanji Maharaj and others in these Mandirs.
Swaminarayan’s great disciples, who contributed much to the Sampraday, are
Gopalanand Swami, Muktanand Swami, Gunatitanand Swami, Nityanand Swami,
Brahmanand Swami, Shukanand Swami, Nishkulanand Swami, Premanand Swami and many
others. Four senior sadhus compiled the sermons given by Bhagwan Shree
Swaminarayan, which is known as the Vachanamrutam. In this holy book, the
philosophy of Bhagwan Shree Swaminarayan is stated nicely in the form of
questions and answers. Bhagwan Shree Swaminarayan Himself wrote the
Shikshapatri, a booklet of 212 shlokas in Sanskrit which describes the codes of
conduct for His sadhus and householder disciples. In addition to this, Satsangi
Jivanam by Shree Shatanand Swami, Shree Haridig Vijay & Shandilyasutra
Bhashyam by Shree Nityanand Swami, Brahmamimamsa by Shree Muktanand Swami,
Dasopanishad Bhashyam and Gita Bhashyam by Shree Gopalanand Swami,
Satsangibhushanam by Shree Vasudevanand Brahmachari, and Bhaktachintamani by
Shree Nishkulanand Swami are the most prominent works, which clarify various aspects
of the philosophy and traditions of the Shree Swaminarayan Sampraday.
Swaminarayan left for His divine abode, Akshar Dham at the age of 49 in 1830 CE
at Gadhpur, Gujarat. Before leaving His human body, in 1826 CE, He sat two
acharyas of two piths; (one at each, Shree Lakshminarayan Dev Pith at Vadtal
and Shree Nar-Narayan Dev Pith at Ahmedabad) as His successors.
The first acharyas were
Shree Raghuvirji Maharaj and Shree Ayodhyaprasadji Maharaj, Bhagwan Shree
Swaminarayan’s own nephews. Presently Shree Rakeshprasadji (Vadtal) and Shree
Kaushalendraprasadji (Ahmedabad) are the Acharyas of the original Sampraday