Prasthanatrayi Swaminarayan Bhashyam (Study)

by Sadhu Gyanananddas | 2021 | 123,778 words

This page relates ‘Components of Ekantiki-Bhakti (a): Dharma’ 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.

11.1. Components of Ekāntiki-Bhakti (a): Dharma

In the Svāminārāyaṇa Vedanta, the ekāntika-dharma system is unique. Without brahmabhāva, it cannot be achieved either. The whole of ekāntiki-bhakti sādhana rests on four complementary virtues, namely dharma, jñāna, vairāgya, and bhakti, which are based on the aspirant’s own interest and inclination. It, therefore, becomes imperative to discuss the nature of each of these component-virtues in detail. So, let us have the analytical exposition of each of them to have a meaningful understanding of the same.[1]

Bhadreśadāsa states:

ājñā harerguroścaiva sadācārādirūpiṇī |
śāstrā''deśā''tmako dharmo vidhiniṣedhalakṣaṇaḥ ||

Dharma is defined as Paramātma’s and the Brahmasvarūpa Guru’s ājñā (command) to live morally and follow guidelines in the form of scriptural injunctions.”

In this manner, words, commands, and directives given by Svāminārāyaṇa and the Parāma ekāntika satpuruṣa (God-possessed, Guru) is defined as dharma. For the followers of Svāminārāyaṇa, the five vows (pañca-vartamāna) included in the basic eleven duties (ekādaśa-niyama) are the stepping stones to dhārmik life. The eleven ethical norms include the abstention from violence (hiṃsā), illicit sex-relation (para-strī-saṅga), non-vegetarianism (matsya-māṃsa-bhakṣaṇa), drinking (madya-pāna), suicide (ātma-ghāta), theft (stenakarma/cori), false accusation (mithyā-apavāda), vilification of any deity or sādhu (deva-nindā), tactual relationship with widows (vidhavā-sparśa), consumption of non-edible & non-potable foods and drinks (abhakṣya-bhakṣaṇa) and listening discourses from speakers who are anti-God.[3]

In addition to these, Svāminārāyaṇa has very clearly spelled out the daily duties, occasional duties, common duties, and the duties specific to one's station in life. He has also prescribed the codes for outer-inner purification and personal sanctity. It contains the codes of conduct for inter-personal dealings and relationships and also a reference concerning expiation and atonement. The precepts concerning religious life and the performance of rituals are included in it.[4]

Svāminārāyaṇa warns them who infringe the commands of dharma:

“If one does not observe dharma, he should be known to be as foolish as one who tries to cross the ocean carrying a stone slab upon his head; he should also be considered to be like an outcast.” (Vacanāmṛta Gadhadā II/35, p.470).

Therefore, bhakti should be strengthened by dharma. For an aspirant, the control of senses and mind and overcoming chronic attachment to fivefold objects of enjoyments (pañca-viṣayas) is possible through dharma. Hence, it is inevitable to be very sincere and cautious in obeying and observing all the norms and regulations (ājñā) established by Parabrahman, the Guru, and the scriptures. It is required for a devotee-seeker ought to know all dharma (niyama), i.e., do's and don’ts applicable to him, and practice them sincerely and unconditionally.

Bhadreśadāsa comments on the Bhagavad-Gītā:

“One who does not know do's and don’ts, acts under the influence of their desires, disobeying scriptures, neither attains perfection nor happiness nor the supreme goal.”[5]

Then he warns:

ehikamāmuṣmikaṃ vā kimapi sukhamayaṃ phalaṃ na labhate” (Bhagavad-Gītā 16/23, p.327)

“He or she will not attain happiness not only here but also in the abode of Parabrahman.”

Moreover, one who recites the name of Parabrahman and yet consistently indulges in deliberate transgression of Parabrahman-ordained moral laws enjoined through scriptures, is an imposter. It is an act of committing the unpardonable sin of betraying one's master, Parabrahman.[6]

Novel Contribution Towards Varṇa-Āśrama

Bhadreśadāsa avers:

vipraḥ kṣatraśca vaiśyaśca śūdraśceti catuṣṭayam |
varṇavibhajanaṃ proktaṃ sarvābhyudayahetukam ||

Varṇa is a fundamental concept underlying Hindu society. In fact, it is not a social arrangement or segregation; it is rather a statement of how any society is arranged. It does not say society should be classified into classes. It says what classes or kinds of people exist in any society.

There are four varṇas,

  1. Brāhmaṇa,
  2. Kṣatrīya
  3. Vaiṣya,
  4. Śūdra.

This classification is based on the functions people perform in any society. Then the four āśramas as Bhadreśadāsa explains:

brahmacaryagṛhasthau ca vānaprasthastathā yatiḥ |
catvāra āśramā hyete vyavasthataḥ prakīrtitāḥ ||

Āśrama in Hinduism is one of four age-based life stages discussed in Indian texts of the ancient and medieval eras. The four āśramas are: Brahmacarya (student), Gṛhastha (householder), Vānaprastha (retired) and Sanyāsa (renunciate). The āśrama system is one facet of the dharma concept in Hinduism. It is also a component of the ethical theories in Indian philosophy, where it is combined with four proper goals of human life (puruṣārtha), for fulfilment, happiness and spiritual liberation.

Although in ancient India there was no discrimination by the name of one’s varṇa (caste) and āśrama (particular period of life). But under foreign rule, this discrimination was at its peak. It was a dark chapter of Indian history. The Śūdra Varṇa faced so many miseries due to this caste system. They were kept away even from spirituality and liberation. Which caste and creed is eligible for brahmavidyā? This question is vastly discussed in Indian philosophy. Among the hundreds of commentaries and expositions on the scriptures, Bhadreśadāsa’s view includes and highlights real humanity with spirituality.

He echoes the ancient voice in the Śugādhiakaraṇa of Brahmasūtras:

yo hi sakaladuḥkhātyantanivṛttipūrvakaṃ paramātmaparamasukhābhilāṣī sa sarvo'pi brahmavidyādhikarayogyaḥ

“One who wants to become free from the miseries and attain the bliss of Parabrahman is eligible for brahmavidyā.”

Bhadreśadāsa clearly mentions that one’s liberation does not depend on one’s caste or āśrama.

He further adds:

varṇādivyavastha hi saṃsārarakṣaikaprayojanā nirvighnaparamapuruṣārthopāyānuṣṭhānasahakāriṇī ca | ato na hi śreyasaḥ pathi brāhmaṇa eva śreṣṭhaḥ śūdraśca kaniṣṭha iti samayaḥ | kadācid vipro'pyajño'sadācāraḥ, śūdro'pi prājñaḥ prakṛṣṭācāro vā syāt | tasmāt sarve varṇāḥ svasvakarmabhiḥ samānamupakāraṃ bhajanta iti sarvādaramātrasaṃrakṣyaḥ sarveṣāmutkarṣaḥ |

Varṇa and āśrama systems are applied in the society not to differentiate the people, like this is important and that is ordinary, but to support to fulfill the goal of attaining the ultimate liberation. Therefore, on the path of liberation, neither Brahmin is great, nor the Sūdra is inferior. Sometimes it is possible that a Brahmin lacks good qualities and a Sūdra may possess those qualities. Thus, each and every caste who wants to attain higher spiritual goal has its significance.”

As far as the Indian philosophical system is concerned, this Svāminārāyaṇa view adds a great contribution in the form of reformation to the entire Indian Vedanta system, which is based on liberty and harmony of society.[9]

Footnotes and references:


SSS, pp.331-332


Svāminārāyaṇa Siddhāntasudhā Kārikā 391


Satsangdiksha 26-43


Mahant Swami Maharaj has included the entire codes of conducts and norms for the devotees of the Svāminārāyaṇa faith in the Satsangdiksha scripture.


Bhagavad-Gītā 16/23, p.327


Vacanāmṛta Gadhadā I/77


Svāminārāyaṇa Siddhāntasudhā Kārikā 393


Svāminārāyaṇa Siddhāntasudhā Kārikā 392


Satsangdiksha 12-17

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