Prasthanatrayi Swaminarayan Bhashyam (Study)
by Sadhu Gyanananddas | 2021 | 123,778 words
This page relates ‘Lord and Atman of All Beings’ 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.
5.2.1. Lord and Ātman of All Beings
[Full title: Sarvoparī: Parabrahman as Supreme (1): Lord and Ātman of All Beings]
A frequent keynote found in the Vacanāmṛta conveying Parabrahman’s infinite supremacy is a description of Him as the ‘Lord of all lords’ and the ‘king of all kings’ reigning over the entire universe.
“Moreover, all of the Brahmas, Viṣṇus, and Maheśas of all of the brahmāndas pray to Parabrahman, ‘Mahārāja! Please have compassion on us and visit our brahmānda’ -just as the chief of a village requests the world emperor.” (Vacanāmṛta Pancālā 4, p.369)
A list of conclusions appears from this description. Firstly, Svāminārāyaṇa adds an important element to the understanding of Parabrahman as ‘world emperor’ -as not just lording over a vast dominion of land and wealth but having subjects over whom he reigns. He is not merely a landlord but indeed the sovereign emperor. The perfect relationship between Parabrahman and the world remains that just as the soul is to its body, so is Parabrahman to the world. And, vice versa, just as the physical body is to its soul, so is the world to Parabrahman; Svāminārāyaṇa often drew upon this relationship to explain that Parabrahman is the ‘omni-soul’ (sarvātman) or super ātman (Paramātman) of the entire world while narrating the nature of Parabrahman, That very Parabrahman is the ātman of countless brahmāndas. He is the self (ātman) of all. Applying the body-self analogy, Svāminārāyaṇa firstly explains that Parabrahman Puruṣottama Bhagavān is the ātman of all ātmans.
Moreover, when describing all the material elements of the infinite universe and then adding īśvaras, māyā, the muktas (liberated ātmans of Akṣaradhāma) and even Akṣarabrahman, Svāminārāyaṇa counts:
“All of these constitute the body of Parabrahman.” (Vac. Gad. 1/64, p. 153)
Svāminārāyaṇa acknowledges this to an individual level, mentioning demonstration of what an accurate comprehension of this doctrine would be like just as the ātman resides in the body, Parabrahman resides within the ātman. The ātman is the ‘śarīra’ (body), and Parabrahman is the ‘śarīrin’ (embodied self of selves). But how exactly is Parabrahman the ātman of all these beings and things? Well, Svāminārāyaṇa himself explains that all finite sentient beings (ātman, i.e., jīvas and īśvaras) and Akṣara constitute the body of Puruṣottama Bhagavān in that they are pervaded, dependent and powerless. ”
The Bhāṣyakāra confirms:
“divyamanoharākṛtiḥ paramātmasahajānandaḥ svāntaryamanaśaktyā sarvaṃ niyamayan tattatsthāneśvavatiṣṭhate |” (Brahmasūtra 1/2/14, p.70)
“Parabrahman Sahajānanda who has a divine luminous form remains in every sentient and non-sentient being by his controlling power.”
Bhadreśadāsa discusses in the Brahmasūtra while quoting the subject sentence from the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad of the Yajur Veda, famously known as the Antaryāmī Brāhmaṇa.
“The omni-soul, entering within, is the controller of all beings.” (Brhadāraṇyaka-upaniṣad 3/7/1)
It ends with passages from (Brhadāraṇyaka-upaniṣad 3/7/7) (of the Mādhyandina recension), The Bhāṣyakāra explains:
“sahajānandaparamātmanaḥ sarvavyāpakatvatanniyantṛtvataccharīritvādikaṃ śrūyate” (Brahmasūtra 1/2/18, p.73)
“All-pervading, all controller, embodied self, etc., are qualities of Sahajānanda Parabrahman echoed in the scriptures.”
Parabrahman Puruṣottama Sahajānanda then, as the ātman, becomes the incredibly life-source of the entire world or creation, the cause for its existence and the ontic ground (ādhāra) upon which it can work. Just as a physical body expires and once separated from its soul, so, too, the world of spiritual and material realities cannot continue to exist even transitorily without Parabrahman.
“At the stage of living, the body is thoroughly incapable of doing anything without the will, knowledge, and strength of the inner self. As the Kena Upaniṣad and Aitareya Upaniṣad, both confirm: Parabrahman is the Self (ātman) of the self (jīva) -the ear of the ear, the eye of the eyes, the mind of the mind” (Kena-upaniṣad 1/2)—
By which it can see, hear, smell, speak and taste (Aitareya-upaniṣad 3/1). Consequently, all beings are totally dependent on Parabrahman to enliven, enrich them, and bring them to action. 201
Svāminārāyaṇa describes Parabrahman as ‘ādhāra’ (support) of the other entities emphasizing the utter dependence on Parabrahman in a way that, the essential being undergirding all beings, the final reality underlying all things. When we understand Parabrahman as the ātman with ‘Parabrahman as the support’ that means they are integral to one another.
The Svāminārāyaṇa Bhāṣyakāra explains:
“Just as Parabrahman is the ātman of ‘kṣara’ (i.e. māyā and all finite beings), he is also the ātman of Akṣarabrahman... With his own powers, Parabrahman supports both kṣara and Akṣara.”
Together, these excerpts provide a clearer picture of the relationship between Parabrahman and the other entities.”
Svāminārāyaṇa explains this significant difference in Vacanamrut Loyā 13:
“If Parabrahman (Parabrahman Puruṣottama Nārāyaṇa) wishes, he can eclipse all of the liberated souls of Akṣaradhāma by his own divine light and prevail alone. Also, if he wishes, he can accept the devotion of the liberated souls and reside with them. He can eclipse even Akṣara, in the form of the Akṣaradhāma in which he dwells and presides alone independently. If he chooses, he is capable of supporting the countless liberated souls by his own lordship, without even needing Akṣaradhāma... Through his own lordship, Parabrahman reigns as supreme.” (Vacanamrut Loyā 13, p.327)
In this way, Puruṣottama is greater even than Akṣara, who is greater than all else.
This seems to be a direct translation of the phrase in Mundaka-upaniṣad 2/1/2: While a fuller conversation of this Upaniṣadika passage:
Bhadreśadāsa comments to highlight the difference between Parabrahman and other entities:
“In this way, Akṣara is greater than all the jīvas, īśvaras, māyā, and akṣaramukta (liberated ātmans in Akṣaradhāma)... And with Paramātman being greater (para) even than such a great Brahman by virtue of being his controller, master, inspirer, support, ātman, etc.... it is fitting that Paramātman is also called ‘Parabrahman’ (literally, ‘greater-Brahman’).”
To add to this, Bhadreśadāsa elucidates why the adjective ‘great (mahāntama) found in verse 2/22 of the Katha Upaniṣad is appropriate in qualifying Parabrahman.
“Parabrahman is great, indeed the best (utkṛṣṭa), because he is greater even than Akṣarabrahman, who is greater than prakṛti (i.e., māyā) and its effects, all jīvas and īśvaras, countless emanations such as Matysa, Kaccha, etc., and countless akṣara-muktas who are Brahmarūpa.”
Bhadreśadāsa asserts at several occasions in his commentaries of the Vedanta canon, for example, in commenting on the famous Upaniṣadika text “All this is verily Brahman” (Chāndogya-upaniṣad XII 3/14/1), he explains:
“It is because Paramātman is the controller and soul of everything that statements placing him in identical predication (sāmānādhikaranya) with other things can be reconciled.
Similarly, when explaining another locus classicus from the Upaniṣad, On “Tat tvam asi” (Chāndogya-upaniṣad XII 6/8/7), Bhadreśadāsa writes:
“Both the terms ‘tat’ (that) and ‘tvam’ (you)... are placed in identical predication because ‘tat’ pervades, controls, and is the very ātman of the entire sentient-insentient world, including ‘tvam’.”
Parabrahman thus pervades, empowers, undergirds, and governors -indeed, he enlivens -the entire world or universe, all the while remaining totally unaffected by and distinct from any of the inadequacies of the entities he ensouls. This body-self relationship again upholds the forthright supremacy of Parabrahman in relation to all these other entities. Ontologically, Parabrahman is the highest, most transcendental entity. As the term ‘sarvoparī’ (literally above all), no other being or thing can ever surpass him in any way whatsoever.
The Upaniṣad proclaims:
“There is nothing greater than Param Puruṣa (i.e., Puruṣottama or Parabrahman).”
In this way, Upaniṣads use ‘param’ or Puruṣa (supreme or best). Apart from this other terms found in the Upaniṣad and Bhagavad-Gītā that describe Parabrahman’s pre-eminent position include ‘uttama’ (highest or best), ‘utkṛṣṭa’ (best), ‘śreṣṭha’ (best) and ‘kāstā’ (ultimate). 263
Footnotes and references:
(Vacanāmṛta Gadhadā II/66) (Vacanāmṛta Gadhadā III/37) (Vacanāmṛta Gadhadā III/39)
Vacanāmṛta Gadhadā II/17
Vacanamrut Loyā 7
Vacanāmṛta Gadhadā I/64
on this discussion in the Svāminārāyana-Bhāsya, see Bhagavad-Gītā 13/31–32, p. 290; Katha-upaniṣad 5/11, p.154; and the Ubhayalingādhikarana in Brahmasūtra 3/2/11-25, pp. 291–302.
Bhagavad-Gītā 15/16-18, pp.314-316
Vacanāmṛta Gadhadā I/64
Mundaka-upaniṣad 2/1/2, p.260
Katha-upaniṣad 2/22, p.118
Chāndogya-upaniṣad XII 3/14/1, p.133
Chāndogya-upaniṣad XII 6/8/7, p.278
Katha-upaniṣad 3/11, Svetāśvatara-upaniṣad 3/9, Praśna-upaniṣad 6/7
Bhagavad-Gītā 7/7, 160