The Swaminarayan Faith

Discussion in 'Hinduism' started by celina, Apr 10, 2007.

  1. celina

    celina Member

    The Swaminarayan sect is a monotheistic faith in Vaishnava Hinduism. The Swaminarayan sect itself is divided into many sub-sects. The two most prominent are BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha and the Shree Swaminarayan Sampradaya. The Shree Swaminarayan Sampradaya claims the "original" succession directly from Swaminarayan. They have two archaryas(leaders) and 2 Gadis(diocese) for North and South divisions.

    Shree Swaminarayan Sampradaya Sites
    Shri Kutch Satsang Swaminarayan Temple
    Swaminarayan Temple, Wheeling, IL.
    Shree Swaminarayan Gurukul, USA
    Shree Swaminarayan Temple Oldham
    Shree Swaminarayan Sampraday Willesden, London
    Shree Swaminarayan Temple Cardiff

    Acharya Succession

    Spiritual Guru- Pramukh Swami Maharaj of BAPS Sect
    Pramukh Swami Maharaj - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    It is important to note that BAPS vs. Shree Swaminarayan Sampradaya divide is similar to the Protestant vs. Catholicism divide.
    Video on Swaminarayan Faith

    YouTube Video
    Swamianrayan pt.1
    Swamianrayan pt.2
    Swamianrayan pt.3
  2. celina

    celina Member

    Bhagwan Swaminarayan's Life: Biography - Early Days, Leaving Home

    BAPS is well know for building elaborate mandirs(temple). They're in Guinness Book of World Records for Neason Temple in London. And again for Chicago Mandir. But their biggest attraction is Akshardham Temple Complex. It's a big tourist destination.

    Akshardham Temple Complex

    Swaminarayan Info

    Chicago Mandir

    Neasden Temple
  3. celina

    celina Member

  4. celina

    celina Member

  5. celina

    celina Member

    Info on Hinduism in general:

    Hinduism is a collection of religions, instead of one religion. Hinduism(or Sanatana Dharma, real name) has four major sects Vaishnavism, Saivism, Shaktism, and Smartism. Vaishnavism(most common), the worship of Lord Vishnu, or his avatars, being the biggest. Vaishnavas worship God in the form of Avatars i.e. Vishnu, Rama, Krishna etc...All Vaishnavas subscibe to the belief in a personal God, having form, having shape, and incarnate as a human being. Avatars descend into human form during time of unrighteousness, moral decay, violence, and famine. In Hinduism Avatars are descibed in scripture and predicted. Vaishnavas also believe in Nirguna Brahman or attributeless Brahman(God without form). And all Hindus in general believe in reincarnation, karma, vegetarianism, dharma, ahimsa(non-violence) and accept the Vedas as revealed scripture.

    Vaishnavism, (Vishnu worship[or any of the nine avatars]) majority in North India. Responsible for mainstream Hinduism. Bhagavat Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, Mahabharata, Ramayana etc... In Vaishnavism there are dozens of sects Iskcon, BAPS Swaminarayan, Sri Vaishnava, Gaudiya Vaishnava being only some of many.

    Personal God
    In general Hinduism considers God not just as the Supreme All-powerful Gigantic One, Who commands the humanity to tread the way He/She/It says, but also a personal God Whom the individual can worship out of love and not necessarily out of fear ! The fear brings one only upto certain point and beyond that it repels, but love takes through to the point. Devotion or bhakti as often referred to is a very key concept in Hinduism, even for the philosophically inclined ones. While the shashtras - be it vedas, Agamas, purANas - describe the Glory of God, one finds abundance of stotras that praise the God in love.

    God is Formless or with Form ?
    For Hindus God, as is, is beyond any attributes of form, color, shapes ... That is, God does not have any specific form or name. In this state God is referred to as nirguNa brahman (attributeless god). However God takes forms as perceived by humans and this perceived form is called saguNa brahman (god with (good) attributes). These forms could range from calm to fierce to yogic (1). Each form has its significance. For example when one is depressed and sees the form of God Strong and Powerful, the seeker feels the moral boost that God would definitely be the support for the right thing. Similarly when in an auspicious ceremony would like the God to be the calm provider of boons. In a spiritually elevated state, the choice would be the yogic form of God. The forms provide a basis for the Hindu worshipper to easily pursue the otherwise incomprehensible Supreme. So Hinduism supports both form as well as formless worship of the God. Whether one worships in saguNa or nirguNa way, it is ultimately the same God.

    Hindu Concept of God (saivism)

    Bhagavat Gita-Most Important Vedic Scripture
    Veda Base

    Hindus do not believe in Gods, in a plural sense. They believe in One Supreme God expressed in many forms. Hinduism is monotheistic! Vaishnavism, the largest Hindu denomination, subscribe to Vishnu as Supreme Brahman, and worship him alone. Also it is important to understand the difference between the Ultimate Supreme Godhead(Vishnu(in Avatar form)) or Brahman(formless God) and Devas. A Deva is the equivalent to an Angel in the Abrahamic tradition. Devas are subservient to the Supreme Lord Vishnu Brahman. Devas are gods, like Ganesha, Shiva, Durga, Indra, Hanuman etc... They are eternal servants to the Lord. But are not the Supreme Lord and Vedic scripture says that they shouldn't be worshipped. But of course people do anyways. That's why people view Hinduism as polytheistic. But Hinduism is purely Monotheistic at it's core.

    Devas in Classical Hinduism

    History of Vaishnavism


    In English, the Sanskrit word Deva is usually translated as "god" (though sometimes left as "Deva"), which certainly gives a polytheistic appearance to Hinduism. Many Hindus say that this is a poor practice, because the best word for God in Sanskrit is Ishvara (the Supreme Lord). The Devas may be better translated as angels or demigods. They are celestial beings with supernatural powers, but also weaknesses. They grant material benefits to humans upon praying and sacrificing to them, though they don't carry the message of Ishvara to the humans as in Abrahamic religions (a category of such beings also exist, called "devaduta" or "duta"). Examples of such devas are Indra, Mitra, Ashvins, Varuna, etc. Buddhism and Jainism also use the word "deva", but in different senses.

    Angel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The other major sects in Hinduism, besides Vaishnavism, are Smartism, Shaivism, Shaktism. Shaivism(or Saivism) is followed mainly by South Indians. They worship Lord Shiva as supreme and have their own scripture, besides the most popular Bhagavat Gita.

    All Saivism

    Varnas -The four classes of society/The Original Caste System
    Hindu society has traditionally been divided into four classes, based on profession:
    the Brāhmanas (also anglicised as Brahmins): teachers and priests;
    the Kshatriyas: warriors, kings and administrators;
    the Vaishyas: farmers, merchants, herdsmen and businessmen; and
    the Shūdras: servants and labourers.
    Each of these classes was called a varna, and the system was called Varna Vyavasthā. Some say it is debatable whether the Varna Vyavasthā system is an integral part of Hinduism or not and whether or not it is strictly sanctioned by the scriptures. The Shruti texts make very rare mentions of this system, without providing explicit definitions. But the Bhagavad Gītā (4.13) explicitly mentions that the four varna divisions are created by Bhagavān, the Supreme Lord. And the Smṛiti texts (including the Manusmriti) are more explicit in their categorisation of the classes and framing rather strict rules about this system. During its early development, the social structure was based upon the profession. The Gītā (4.13) explicitly says that one's varna is to be understood from one's qualities and one's work, not one's birth. It is noteworthy that many great sages became Brahmins. Vishvāmitra was a Kshatriya king before he became recognized as a great Brahmin sage. Vālmiki, once a robber, became a great sage while Veda Vyāsa was the son of a fisherwoman. A hymn from the Rig Veda says :

    "I am a bard, my father is a physician, my mother's job is to grind the corn......"
    (Rig Veda 9.112.3).

    Though historians do not agree on the specific period, the social system later became hierarchical and based upon birth, leading to the evolution of several sub-castes (along with a class of outcastes — now known as Dalits — outside the Varṇa Vyavasthā) and the practice of social discrimination of the Shūdra and Dalit classes, eventually forming the caste system as we know of today.
    The religious institution of Varna-ashrama Dharma is followed in most Vaishnava Sects of Hinduism. Varna is simply an occupational structure for society. In varna there are four tiers Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Shudras. All are important for a functioning society. You determine your varna by your skills and ability. Not by birth or race.
    Brahmins are all religious clergy, gurus, saints, sadhus and the intellectual class(anyone with a Ph.D or graduates degree) etc......Kshatriya are the politicians, officers, soldiers etc....Vaishya are the business men, farmers, artists/painters/photographers etc... Shudras are the working class people to poor people. Those are the only four stations in varna ashrama dharma, there is nothing higher or lower. Whether a society labels these position the same or not , they still exist. Every functioning society must have these positions. In hinduism being in one of these stations doesn't carry any negative connotations. It's just something that exist. It's not race based or birth based, it's based on your skill/ability. That's not only fair it's practical, IMO.
    In Hinduism there is no Caste, but there is Varna, which is very different system. There is more mobility and evolution with varna ashrama dharma then there is with the static cultural implementation of caste system, which evolved from varna. But it's not the same system.
  6. celina

    celina Member

    Why the name Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS)?

    Answer: The first mandir of the organization was established in Bochasan, a small town near Anand in the state of Gujarat in India hence the word Bochasanwasi, which means based in Bochasan. The words Akshar Purushottam signify our basic belief in worshiping God, Purushottam, along with his ideal devotee, Akshar. Shri is an adjective used as a prefix to a name to give respect, such as Shri Mohandas Gandhi. Bhagwan Swaminarayan is the God (Purushottam) worshipped by BAPS followers, and His name is part of the organization's name. Sanstha is the Sanskrit word for organization. Thus, the name Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS).

    Things to Know - 27 to 30

    (29) The main beliefs of our Sanatan Vedic Hindu Dharma.
    Ans: 1. Sanatan Hindu Dharma is the oldest religion in the world.
    2. Sanatan Hindu Dharma is based on the Vedas.
    3. Our main incarnations and deities are: Bhagwan Swaminarayan, Shri Ram, Shri Krishna, Brahma, Vishnu, Mahadev, Ganapati, Hanuman, Surya. Main goddeses: Parvati (Durga), Sarasvati and Lakshmi.
    4. The main beliefs are: Avatarvad: (Incarnation of God on Earth) Karmavad: (there are consequences of all actions good or bad) Punarjanmavad: (reincarnation of soul according to karma) murti-puja: (worship of idols.)
    5. Our scriptures: Four Vedas, Upanishads, Ramayan, Mahabharat, Purans, Shrimad Bhagvad Gita, Vachanamrut, etc.

    Things to Know - Hinduism - 29-32
  7. celina

    celina Member

    What is Akshar Deri


    The symbol of Akshar Deri on the home page of Welcome to || B A P S Swaminarayan Sanstha || is the trademark of Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Sanstha. The Akshar Deri is a holy shrine that commemorates the cremation spot of Aksharbrahma Gunatitanand Swami who was the choicest disciple and first successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. According to the Vedic principle of Bhakta and Bhagwan, Gunatitanand Swami is revered as the ideal Bhakta and Swaminarayan as Bhagwan. Akshar Deri is visited by hundreds of thousands of people from throughout the world. Devotees offer prayers, prostrations and perform circumambulations for spiritual elevation, fulfillment of mundane desires and relief from miseries. It is a divine and holy place of pilgrimage in the Swaminrayan Sampraday.

    On 23-5-1934 Brahmaswarup Shastriji Maharaj, the 3rd successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, built a beautiful 3-shikhar mandir above the Akshar Deri and consecrated the murtis of Akshar and Purushottam. The history of how the Akshar Deri and the mandir was built and its glory and significance in as follows.

    Akshar Deri-What is Akshar Deri?

    Divinity of Akshar Deri
    Holy charanarvind of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and Shri Akshar Purushottam Maharaj and Guru Parampara in Akshar Deri

    A poor Patel in Gondal earned his living by selling lemons. In the afternoon he would walk one mile from the town to rest in the serenity of the riverbank by the Akshar Deri. He was aware of the sanctity of Akshar Deri. The fact that the old Swaminarayan School had given it on hire to a person of the Khoja community who grew onions on it worried him. He wondered when would the divine place be developed. Once, while he was going towards Akshar Deri he saw a radiant 16-year-old ascetic. The Patel bowed at his feet and asked, "When will this place get developed?" The ascetic, who was Shriji Maharaj himself, replied, "Patel, don't worry. In a few years time there will be a three-shikhar mandir here. Thakorji will be offered thal and the mandir will have golden kalashas. This place will become divine and will inspire miracles." Then the ascetic disappeared. Patel was amazed and pacified by the incident.
    A couple of years later when Shastriji Maharaj had started building the mandir the Patel narrated the incident of the divine ascetic.
    There was a blacksmith in Gondal who went every evening for darshan at the Ashapuri Mata mandir. On returning home he would always see three balls of light descend upon Akshar Deri. A few years later when the excavation work for the mandir pillars was going on he told Shastriji Maharaj about his experience and asked him as to what the three balls of light were. Shastriji Maharaj replied that Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh came in the form of light to have darshan of Akshar Deri.
    One night, during the mandir construction project in Gondal, Yogiji Maharaj was sleeping near Shastriji Maharaj. In the middle of the night a black cobra bit Yogiji Maharaj on his left index finger. Everybody in the room got up. Shastriji Maharaj immediately instructed, "Take Jogi to the Akshar Deri and chant the dhun." Yogiji Maharaj had become unconscious because of the powerful venom. While the dhun was being chanted Shastriji Maharaj placed his hand on Yogiji Maharaj's head. At 4.00 a.m. Gunatitanand Swami appeared to Mohan Bhagat, who got up from his sleep, and told him that nothing would happen to Jogi. Mohan Bhagat then went to Shastriji Maharaj and narrated what Gunatitanand Swami had told him.
    When Bhagvatsinhji Maharaj came to know of this he sent word to Shastriji Maharaj that he was sending a doctor. Shastriji Maharaj said that there was no need because Jogi would get well by the power of the Swaminarayan dhun. After 12 hours Yogiji Maharaj became conscious. Yogiji Maharaj was saved by the divine power of Akshar Deri and blessings of Shastriji Maharaj.

    Akshar Deri-Divinity of Akshar Deri
  8. celina

    celina Member

    Hindola Utsav


    Every year, during the monsoon months of Ashadh and Shravan (July - August) the mandirs in India and abroad are awash with devotion. The arrival of the Hindola Utsav during these months usher a new breeze of bhakti and festivity in the mandirs of India. For one whole month, the chal (mobile) murti of the Lord is placed in a hindola and pulled to and fro with a string. The sadhus and devotees sing the hindola bhajans with the accompaniment of the mrudang and cymbals. The mandir ambience is charged with the sound and fragrance of bhakti.

    The festival finds its origin in the streets of Vrundavan 5000 years ago where the Gopis rocked Lord Krishna on a decorated swing. Ever since, to experience the divine joy of rocking the mighty Lord in a small swing, the hindola festival became the focus of devotion.

    Even Lord Swaminarayan was revered and entertained by the devotees through their devotion. Once in Vartal, a decorative hindolo was tied to a couple of mango trees, and the devotees rocked the Lord to and fro. In response to their devotion, the Lord, while standing in the hindola, appeared in twelve divine forms and blessed the devotees. History also reveals that Lord Swaminarayan often sat on a swing tied between two tamarind trees at Laxmivadi in Gadhada.
    Today, in memory of the Lord's divine sports, the hindola festival is celebrated with joy and enthusiasm at all Swaminarayan mandirs. It is an aesthetic experience of devotion to the Lord, requiring meticulous preparation by sadhus and devotees to produce hindolas of a variety of colors, shapes and forms. The hindolas are made of vegetables,leaves, flowers, earthen pots, fruits, dry fruits, beans, rakhis, chocolates, steel dishes and cups, etc.

    Photo Gallery of Hindola Utsav, 2006, Page-1
  9. celina

    celina Member

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    celina Member

    Joli Utsav 2007, Amdavad, India

  11. celina

    celina Member

    Akshardham Temple Complex

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    Akshardham Temple
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