• Magazine Web Edition
  • October/November/December 2019
  • Educational Insight: Akshar-Purushottam School of Vedanta
  • Educational Insight: Akshar-Purushottam School of Vedanta


    A BAPS Disciple of Guru Pramukh Swami Maharaj and Mahant Swami Maharaj

    A presentation of the Swaminarayan philosophy, which was recently recognized as an authentic school of Vedanta, in line with yet distinct from the philosophies of Shankara, Ramanuja, Madhva, Nimbarka, Vallabha and Chaitanya



    In a special chair that lifted him high in the air, His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj performs the pran-pratishtha (infusing ceremony) for the huge murti of Bhagwan Swaminarayan at the Akshardham temple in New Delhi, India

    This is the story of a rare occurrence in Hindu sacred literature, the appearance of a distinct school of Vedanta. It has been hundreds of years since such a happening, and the Hindu world celebrates. In this Educational Insight, the monks of the Swaminarayan Fellowship share a summary of their philosophy and the amazing events that gave birth to this philosophical revelation, a story inspired by Pramukh Swami Maharaj, captured in a five-volume Sanskrit commentary by his disciple Swami Bhadreshdas and reconciled with academic authenticity by Swami Paramtattvadas. While the subject is technical and complex, readers will find it fascinating to step into this theological realm and watch as history unfolds before our eyes.

    The practice of earnest inquiry has long been embedded in Hindu devotional life and intellectual discourse. For example, the Shvetashvatara Upanishad opens with the following series of questions: “What is the cause? Is it Brahman? From where are we born? By what do we live? And on what are we established? Governed by whom, O you knowers of Brahman, do we live in pleasure and pain, each in our respective situation?” Such lofty questions represent a heartfelt quest to know ourselves, the world around us, and the supreme power by which everything is enlivened, sustained and can be ultimately transcended for eternal freedom and bliss. This perennial seeking of spiritual knowledge and liberation, when grounded in the sacred authoritative texts of the Brahmasutras, Upanishads and Bhagavad-Gita—collectively known as the Prasthanatrayi—is known as the classical system of Indian thought called Vedanta.

    Vedanta as Darshan: The Vedas are considered the highest scriptural authority in Hinduism. Vedanta, as the name indicates—Veda + anta (literally “end”)—refers to the conclusive essence of the Vedas that is enshrined in their final set of treatises, the Upanishads. Together with the Brahmasutras and the Bhagavad-Gita, which further clarify and consolidate the teachings of the Upanishads, these three sets of scriptures comprise Vedanta Darshan.

    Vedanta is classified as a darshan because it is described as the art of seeing. Darshan is derived from the Sanskrit verb-root d®ß, to see,1 which in a deeper sense means to perceive or know.2 Darshan thus literally means seeing, and can also mean “that by which one can see,” i.e., the eyes. In a fuller, cognitive sense, a darshan is a system of wisdom and practice that helps one know, experience and realize the truth; it provides a vision and insight into the reality of ourselves, the world and God. Of the six ancient systems of Indian philosophy, classically called the Shad-Darshan, Vedanta is the most prominent and widely practiced today.

    Darshans within Vedanta: Within Vedanta Darshan itself there emerged several individual schools of thought, each one also identified as a darshan. A tradition arose in which each school established itself according to the teachings of the Prasthanatrayi; only then would it be accepted as an authentic school of Vedanta. Hence, exponents from each of the Vedanta schools formulated commentaries on the Brahmasutras, Upanishads and Bhagavad-Gita, providing their own interpretations of the complex texts to demonstrate that their doctrines were grounded in the original revelatory sources, thus validating their school of thought. [Continued on following page.]



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