Prasthanatrayi Swaminarayan Bhashyam (Study)

by Sadhu Gyanananddas | 2021 | 123,778 words

This page relates ‘Source of All Avataras’ 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.

5.2.2. Source of All Avatāras

[Full title: Sarvoparī: Parabrahman as Supreme (2): Source of All Avatāras]

Guṇatitanand Svāmī, Svāminārāyaṇa’s most prominent pupil, successor and the preacher of the Svāmīni Vāto, explains this ontological distinction more unambiguously with the help of various analogies.

He was once asked in an assembly:

“How should one understand the distinction between the avatāras and the avatārin?”

Someone answered:

“Like that of an actor and his character.”

Guṇatitanand Svāmī remarked:

“No, that is not how the avatārin is distinct from his avatāras. Rather one should understand the distinction as like that between a king and his minister, an archer and his arrow, the moon, and the stars.” (Svāmīnī Vāto 6/33)

The direction of Guṇatitanand Svāmī’s examples seems to be of two ways;

“firstly, that the two sets of analogies are different from each other, i.e., the archer, king, and moon are different from the arrow, minister, and the stars; and secondly that the former is more powerful than the latter. Significantly, he rejects the analogy of the actor and his character, which would imply that it is Parabrahman himself who personally transforms into the avatāras or takes on their role.”

As far as the supremacy of Parabrahman is concerned, we have to take into account that beyond being superior among all māyic objects and minor beings, would be in seeing how he stands in relation to other deities or avatars. The answer to this question lies in the relationship between Parabrahman and the avatāras? Svāminārāyaṇa explains this in Vacanāmṛta Gadhadā II/9, a central discourse for understanding the supremacy of Parabrahman. Svāminārāyaṇa states precisely the belief that a devotee should have after stressing the need for an accurate understanding of Parabrahman’s nature:

“One should also strongly maintain the strength of conviction in Parabrahman’s form, i.e. ‘I have attained the very form of Parabrahman who reigns supreme, who forever possesses a divine form, and who is the avatārin, the cause of all the avatāras.” (Vacanāmṛta Gadhadā II/9, p. 403)

Convincingly, He recaps this point with strong emphasis a little later in the discourse, this time enhancing a stern note of alerting too.

“One should realize the manifest Parabrahman that one has attained to forever possess a divine form and to be the avatārin, the cause of all the avatāras. If, however, one does not realize this and instead realizes Parabrahman to be formless or like the other avatāras, then that is regarded as committing blasphemy against Parabrahman.”[1]

Undoubtedly, this statement reflects that Parabrahman is not the same as the other avatāras. Rather, He is their cause. The term Svāminārāyaṇa uses for Parabrahman in this context is ‘avatārin’, meaning ‘lord or master of the avatāras’.

As we have expounded upon īśvara and the process of creation in the last topics on īśvara and māyā, respectively. Thereby, it becomes clear that avatāras are ontologically distinct from Parabrahman.

In further discussion, Svāminārāyaṇa reveals in Vacanāmṛta Gadhadā II/31 about Virāṭa Puruṣa (sometimes called Vairāja Puruṣa), the very self and executive administrator of each created brahmānda:

“It is said in the scriptures that the avatāras emanate by way of that Virāṭa Puruṣa.” (Vacanāmṛta Gadhadā II/31, p.460)

In the Svāminārāyaṇa Vedanta, it is evident and the essence of the scriptures that only when Parabrahman (referred to in that discourse as Vāsudeva Nārāyaṇa and Vāsudeva Bhagavān) ‘enters into Virāṭa Puruṣa can avatāras be possible. It is when Vāsudeva Nārāyaṇa resides in Virāṭa Puruṣa... that there are said to be avatāras.”[2]

On the other hand:

“When that Vāsudeva Bhagavān withdraws himself and separates from Virāṭa Puruṣa, then it is not possible for an avatāra to originate through Virāṭa Puruṣa alone... In fact, when Vāsudeva the over-soul had not yet entered him, that Virāṭa Puruṣa was not even capable of carrying out any of his own activities.”[3]

And yet, Svāminārāyaṇa adds, because of this special entering by Parabrahman:

“Thus, all those avatāras are Vāsudeva Bhagavāna’s only.”[4]

To make more transparent this avatar-avatārin relationship, the Bhāṣyakāra comments on the Bhagavad-Gītā’s Vibhūti yoga:

lokamaheśvaraṃ lokānāṃ jīvānāmīśvarāṇāṃ muktānāṃ ca maheśvaraṃ mahāpraśāsakam | akṣarabrahmaṇo'pi lokapadavācyajīveśvaramuktānāṃ śāsakatayeśvaratvāt, paramātmanastato'pi mahattvānmaheti viśeṣaṇam | athavā lokaśabdasya nivāsasthanaviśeṣārthatve sarveṣāṃ lokānāṃ purāṇetihāsādiprasiddhatattaddevatāvibhavādidhāmnāṃ maheśvaramityarthaḥ | tattaddhāmādhiṣṭhātṝṇāṃ tadīśvaratve'pi bhagavatasteṣāmapīśvaratvena sarvalokamaheśvaraḥ sa eveti maheti viśeṣaṇam | tathā ca śrūyatetamīśvarāṇāṃ paramaṃ maheśvaraṃ taṃ devatānāṃ paramaṃ ca daivatam | patiṃ patīnāṃ paramaṃ parastād vidāma devaṃ bhuvaneśamīḍyam’ (śve. 6/7 (iti | maheśvaraśabdena paramātmabhinnacetanaviśeṣamīśvaratattvaṃ prasiddhayati |” (Bhagavad-Gītā 10/3, p.223)

“Parabrahman is the Lord of all jīvas, īśvaras and all liberated ātmans. Even Akṣarabrahman, who is greater than jīvas, īśvaras, and controller of all them as well. Thus, Parabrahman is even greater to Akṣarabrahman. If the word ‘loka’ reflects the realm, then Parabrahman is the master of all abodes, which are famous in the Puranas, and He is the greatest of all devas and Akṣaradhāma as well. He is the ultimate controller of all the masters of the different realms. As the Svetāśvatara-upaniṣad echos that Paranbrahman is the deity of all deities and master of all masters, lord of the entire universe. In this manner, the word Maheśvara clearly indicates a different entity (avatāra) which is not Parabrahman (avatārīn).”

Succinctly, we can say that Parabrahman is the master of all master, lord of all lords, and venerable for every being. After explaining the Vibhūti[5] is different from one who says this is my Vibhūti, Bhadreśadāsa makes a clear distinction from īśvara Ram and Kṛṣṇa to Parabrahman.

He states:

anena sarvakāraṇatvaṃ paramātmanaḥ avagamyate” (Bhagavad-Gītā 10/31, p.234)

“Thus, Parabrahman’s supremacy is known.”

sarvaniyāmakasarvātārakāraṇasya paramātmanaḥ saṃkalpaviśeṣeṇa svaniyāmya īśvaracetanāntare vasudevatanayātmanyanupraveśaviśeṣāt” (Bhagavad-Gītā 10/37, p. 236)

“Parabrahman, who is all controller and cause of all avatars reenters in the son of Vasudeva (Kṛṣṇa, īśvara) through his resolve.”

Within the discussions of Parabrahman as one and without the second, the supreme lord, the soul of the entire world, the cause of the avatāras and, as greater even than Akṣarabrahman have been primarily concerned with his supremacy in relation to others, which have been described by us.

Footnotes and references:


Vacanāmṛta Gadhadā II/9, p.403


Vacanāmṛta Gadhadā II/31, p.459, Vacanāmṛta Gadhadā II/10


Vacanāmṛta Gadhadā II/31, p.461


Vacanāmṛta Gadhadā II/31, p.461


Bhagavad-Gītā 10/19, p.230

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