Prasthanatrayi Swaminarayan Bhashyam (Study)

by Sadhu Gyanananddas | 2021 | 123,778 words

This page relates ‘Aksharabrahman as Parabrahman’s Abode’ of the study on the Prasthanatrayi Swaminarayan Bhashyam in Light of Swaminarayan Vachanamrut (Vacanamrita). His 18th-century teachings belong to Vedanta philosophy and were compiled as the Vacanamrita, revolving around the five ontological entities of Jiva, Ishvara, Maya, Aksharabrahman, and Parabrahman. Roughly 200 years later, Bhadreshdas composed a commentary (Bhasya) correlating the principles of Vachanamrut.

4.3.2. Akṣarabrahman as Parabrahman’s Abode

Akṣarabrahman as the abode (dhāman) is variously described oft-repeatedly in scriptures. Let us take a few references into account to substantiate the standpoint. Puruṣottama resides eternally in the Akṣaradhāma. In the land of purest light of the stuff of consciousness-bliss, the Divine Person of Puruṣottama reigns supreme. On the divine throne, He is seated in Akṣaradhāma. In the center of the effulgent light of Akṣaradhāma, on the divine throne, the super-divine personality of Puruṣottama is reigning (seated) eternally.

Svāminārāyaṇa describes the glory of the divine abode thus as: Imagine, as if the whole earth together with all its objects and individuals was made of clean mirroring glass, and all-stars and heavenly bodies shone like the most effulgent Sun, and all of them together would brighten and reflect and illumine the whole gamut; what a beautiful, dazzling and exceedingly bright and glittering the sight it would be! The divine abode of God shines effulgently in the like manner. It is bright and effulgent as if like the lights of billions and trillions of Suns and Moons put together. Its light is indescribable and incomparably matchless, for it is cool, tranquil, pleasantly bearable (enjoyably), and infinitely bright and luminous. This abode of God is eternal, (nitya) non-material (a-prākrta), of the nature of existence-consciousness-bliss, illimitable, and partless (akhanda). The ekāntika-bhakta (devotee) of God attains it at the end of his body.

Akṣara as an abode is real concrete and qualified. On account of its infinite glory, greatness, and all-pervading vastness, it remains beyond the comprehension of jīvas, yogis, gods, and goddesses of the level of īśvara. Allegorically speaking, in each pore of the body of Akṣaradhāma billions and trillions of universes (brahmāndas) dwell like tiny atoms. The universes (brahmāndas) do not become atomic, but they appear as such on account of the infinite glory and greatness of Akṣara. Of course, each brahmānda (cosmic shell) is sheathed by eightfold enveloping layers of prakṛti, but it appears extremely small and insignificant before the unfathomable greatness of Akṣara. This Akṣarabrahman as the dhāman (abode) is formful-personal, but this form is infinitely vast and ultra-macroscopic, and beyond the comprehension of human intellect in terms of size and dimension.

Just as in the royal hall with the decorative pillars of the palace of the regal authority, the king sits on the throne; so is Puruṣottama seated on the divine throne, attended by innumerable released souls, in his abode. It is in this highest abode called Akṣaradhāma, that the innumerable released souls who have acquired similitude with Akṣarabrahman, are seated around the divine throne of Lord Parabrahman-Nārāyaṇa, and are lost in ceaselessly gazing at His most beatific bliss-radiating figure. The divine forms (bodies) of the brahmanized released souls (Akṣara-muktas) are truly divine and unimaginably effulgent. The stuff of their body is of the nature of effulgent consciousness-bliss alone; the same as that of the Akṣarabrahman.

Svāminārāyaṇa enunciates in Vacanāmṛta Gadhadā II/42 about the term, saguṇa (vast) and sākāra (having a definite shape) form of Akṣarabrahman. It is called Akṣaradhāma, Brahmamahola, Brahmaloka, and Brahmapura the abode Parabrahman. It is their place of ultimate rest, the final destination, the supreme goal.

Svāminārāyaṇa unequivocally asserts in discourses:

“Akṣarabrahman is the abode wherein Parabrahman resides.” (Vacanāmṛta Pancālā 1, p. 352)

In the Katha Upaniṣad phrase:

“That place which all the Vedas extol...” (Katha-upaniṣad 2/15),

The Bhāṣyakāra elucidates:

padaṃtadviṣṇoḥ paramaṃ padaṃ’ (kaṭha. 3/ 9) ittyuttaravākyena aikārthyād divyadeśaviśeṣātmakaṃ paramātmanilayanarūpaṃ ca sthanam” (Katha-upaniṣad 2/15, p.102)

“That is ‘the great abode of Parabrahman’ (Katha-upaniṣad 3/9); due to this upcoming mantra, the word padam reflects the divine place where Parabrahman resides forever.”

To understand in detail about the padam? he explains in Bhagavad-Gītā:

tad yathoktamahimayutamakṣaraṃ padaṃ padyate gamyate brahmarūpaiḥ pratyakṣaparamātmopāsakaiḥ svadehapātottaramarcirādipathena prāpyate iti padam | gantavyasthanabhūtaṃ paramātmanityanivāsarūpaṃ deśaviśeṣātmakamakṣaradhāma-brahmalokādiśabdavyapadiṣṭaṃ padam |” (Bhagavad-Gītā 8/11, pp.484-485)

“The specific paramount place which only the enlightened devotees attain after death through the divine path. Here the padam word indicates the divine abode of Parabrahman, Akṣaradhāma.”

The Brahmasūtra also confirms:

evaṃ brahmākṣaraguṇayogavaiśiṣṭyādevāsya brāhmeṇa vigraheṇa sākṣād mūrtimadakṣarabrahmaṇā saha brahmadeśe parabrahmaparamānandopabhogaḥ saṃgacchate” (Brahmasūtra 4/4/5, p.420)

“Only the liberated, who have acquired qualitative oneness with Akṣarabrahman, attain Akṣaradhāma and there they enjoy the bliss of Parabrahman with Akṣarabrahman.”

Bhadreśadāsa provides a list of references from the Vedas, Upaniṣad, and Bhagavad-Gītā mentioning Akṣarabrahman as the resident of Parabrahman as well as numerous aspects of its nature. We now have the opportunity to go through these features.

Definitely, the most significant aspect of Akṣaradhāma is that at its center sits the human-shaped, transcendental, distinct form of Parabrahman in all his divine and splendid grandeur.

“Nevertheless, he himself is still always present in his Akṣaradhāma.” (Vacanāmṛta Gadhadā II/64, p.517)

A perfect description of this eternally resident form of Parabrahman was provided by Guṇatitanand Svāmī. 186

He states:

“That is Puruṣottama Parabrahman, the supreme Śrī Sahajānanda Svāmī (Svāminārāyaṇa) who forever resides in his Akṣaradhāma being served by countless liberated muktas and divine powers, where he is blissful in and of himself but out of sheer compassion, accepts the service of Akṣara and all others.” (Svāmīnī Vāto 7/27)

Svāminārāyaṇa also illustrates the captivating form of Parabrahman in Akṣaradhāma, providing a special reference to the abode’s extreme effulgent.

“There is an all-transcendent mass of divine light which cannot be evaluated from above, below, or in any of the four directions; that is to say, it is endless. Amid this mass of light lies a large, ornate throne upon which presides the divine form of Śrī Nārāyaṇa Puruṣottama Parabrahman Bhagavān. Countless millions of liberated souls are seated around that throne and enjoy the darśana of Parabrahman.” (Vacanamrut Loyā 14, p.331)

The same narration of the radiant abode of Parabrahman can be found in Mundaka-upaniṣad 2/2/10, Katha-upaniṣad 5/15, Svetāśvatara-upaniṣad 6/14, Bhagavad-Gītā 15/6, and Chāndogya-upaniṣad XII 3/11/1–3.

They assert that even the sun and moon cannot touch Brahman’s luminous glory. For example,

“There shines not the sun. There shines not the moon or stars, nor does shine this lightning. How, then, can this fire (shine there)? By it alone being luminous is all else reflected. By its light is all this world illumined.” (Katha-upaniṣad 5/15, Mundaka-upaniṣad 2/2/10, Svetāśvatara-upaniṣad 6/14).

Svāminārāyaṇa provides a reason in the Vac. for why Akṣaradhāma is unique and transcends other realms.

He analyzes:

“With the exception of Parabrahman’s Akṣaradhāma, the form of Parabrahman in that Akṣaradhāma and his (liberated) devotees in that Akṣaradhāma, all realms, the devas inhabiting those realms, and the opulence of the devas -everything–is perishable.” (Vacanāmṛta Gadhadā II/24, p. 448)

Similarly, in the Taittirīya Upaniṣad’ s Anandavallī, and in the Brhadāraṇyaka-upaniṣad 4/3/33, where Yājñavalkya describes to King Janaka the happiness of various realms in ascending order, each a hundredfold greater than the previous, climaxing ultimately with the supreme bliss of Brahmaloka. Moreover, by quoting the Mokṣadharma[1] Svāminārāyaṇa shows that others realms are so inferior in front of Parabrahman’s abode as far as the ultimate bliss is concerned.[2] It is explicitly mentioned that by the bliss of abode of God all other creatures survive.[3]

This abode-form of Akṣarabrahman is in fact formful-personal; Akṣarabrahman is beyond the comprehension of anyone by his senses and intellect, and hence is at titles described as ‘amurta’ (formless/impersonal) in its narrow/deviate sense. The Akṣarabrahman’s ultra-macroscopic vast form is greatly emphasized in the Vacanāmṛta by Svāminārāyaṇa. It is a form infinitely vaster than the Viśvarūpa (cosmic-universal) form of Virat described in the scriptures. The Bhāgavatam in its 3/11/39-41 elaborates the same fact thus: That Akṣarabrahman, the cause of all causes, in which all such infinite number of universes ensheathed by eight enveloping layers look like tiny atoms, and that is the transcendental abode of the Supreme Person: Puruṣottama, the eternal residence in an embodied form.

The attainment of this Akṣaradhāma, i.e., the attainment of the place in the service of Puruṣottama in Akṣaradhāma is also called the attainment of the ‘paramapada’ (the highest goal), because every seeker has the goal that–I too want to find a place in the community of akşararūpa mukta, to eternally serve Purușottama in Akṣaradhāma. Akṣara is the eternal abode of God and ultimately the abode of all released souls. Therefore; the attainment of Akṣaradhāma means the attainment of Puruṣottama: highest goal (paramapada), i.e., the final release. Also, in the hearts of jīvas and īśvaras, Akṣara is there as the micro-abode (daharakaṣa), wherein Puruṣottama resides as the antaryāmīn Inner Self and Inner Controller with His microform personality.

Akṣaradhāma is the Supreme Abode. (paramadhāma) of Puruṣottama. It transcends an infinite number of worlds born of prakṛti, each of which is ensheathed by fourteen material regions (lokas), and is enveloped by eightfold covering layers (āvaraṇa) and above them encircled by the dark belt of māyā. Puruṣottama eternally resides there in His original form. He is always present there, also when he descends on earth in a manifest form perceptible to human eyes. The abode is never empty without His actual presence there.

The limit of the glory, of Akṣarabrahman, is not measurable. His greatness is so vast that human logic and imagination cannot explore it fully. When this is the case concerning Akṣarabrahman, what should one; ever say of his transcendental Puruṣottama, Who is beyond the ken of even the released souls (muktas) and the uniquely superior Akṣarabrahman? On the contrary, when Parabrahman Himself cannot know the limits of His own excellence and glory, how, can any mortal ever comprehend! When His greatness does not have the limit, how can it be ever known, because just as the totally non-existent thing like sky-flower can never be known, in the like manner the limit of His infinite glory which does not exist, cannot be known.

The abode of God is variously described in the scriptures by the epithets such as Brahmadhāma, Brahmapura, Paramapada, Paramadhāma, Amṛtaloka, Akṣaradhāma, etc. It is the Paramadhāma and Akṣaradhāma, for it survives as eternal abode also after the final dissolution (ātyantika-pralaya) of all universes. It is called paramapada, because having reached there, there is no return into the māyic world (samsara) of bondage and suffering (Bhagavad-Gītā -8/21). It, therefore, is rightly called Amṛtaloka. It is beyond the veil of māyā, of the brightness like a blazing sun. It is beginningless, endless, eternal, imperishable, non-material, divine, of the stuff of ‘existence-consciousness-bliss’ and infinitely illuminating. In short, it is of recallable splendor and grandeur and is self-luminous and bright, and is of wonderful blessed nature beyond finite imagination.

The scriptures sing the glory of such a self-effulgent and all-illuminating abode. In that abode of Brahman, the sun doesn’t shine, nor do the moon and the collectivity of stars. Neither the lightning nor does the fire can ever illumine it, because, by the effulgent light of this Brahmadhāma, the sun, the moon, etc. and the worlds shine. Neither the Sun nor the Moon nor even fire can illumine that highest self-effulgent abode of God, attaining which one never returns to this world of mortality.

Explicitly, Svāminārāyaṇa is not talking here about Cidākāśa. It was the narration of Akṣarabrahman as the abode. In this manner, by its size, finality, bliss, timelessness, exclusivity, purity, imperishability, luminance, and other qualities, we have endeavored to comprehend Akṣaradhāma.

Footnotes and references:

[2]:

Vacanāmṛta Sārangpur 1

[3]:

Brhadāraṇyaka-upaniṣad 4/3/32

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