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What exactly is the Swaminarayan faith?

Discussion in 'Hinduism DIR' started by StarryNightshade, Apr 15, 2013.

  1. StarryNightshade

    StarryNightshade Your favorite Heterodox Jew.
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    What differentiates it from other schools of Hinduism?

    All I know is that the devotees are Vaishnavites and that it is most prevalent in the Gujarat state in India.
     
  2. Sumit

    Sumit Sanatana Dharma

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  3. StarryNightshade

    StarryNightshade Your favorite Heterodox Jew.
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    Yeah, I did check Wikipedia, but I always find it much more coherent and overall better to obtain information from those who have first-hand experience and information. :D
     
  4. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    Did you look at this? || B A P S Swaminarayan Sanstha || Not much better first hand experience than that. I walked around the Akshardham temple complex in Delhi, but it was more an educational/tourist site.
     
  5. bp789

    bp789 Member

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    Swaminarayan Hindu here - there was just a post somewhere either in the Hinduism or Dharmic Religions forum asking for detailed questions about Swaminarayan Hinduism. Wonder what's sparking the interest all of a sudden? :p

    Let's see where to start....(Just to clarify, I'm not that devout, and I don't necessarily believe everything in the sect)

    Really, I'd say the largest difference between Swaminarayan Hinduism and other forms of Hinduism is that Swaminarayan Hindus view and worship Swaminarayan as a form of Krishna. Swaminarayan Hindus justify this through some verses found in the Brahma Purana, Skanda Purana, and somewhere else. In Vaishnavism, Uddhava is the main disciple of Krishna, and it is believed that he would return to the Earth in another birth to spread the religious message. Swaminarayan Hindus believe that Uddhava reincarnated as Ramananda Swami, Swaminarayan's guru.

    Rules of the sect are pretty much basic stuff found in Hinduism: be vegetarian, don't consume intoxicants, don't commit adultery, don't kill, or steal, etc. In addition to the vegetarian thing, just like Hare Krishna members, Swaminarayan Hindus are encouraged to not consume onions or garlic because they're considered tamasic, or impure because they're believed to interfere with meditation (although many members, including myself, are lax when it comes to following this rule).

    The philosophy of the sect is based on Ramanuja's Vishishtadvaita. As far as I know, this is somewhat similar to panentheism, in that the universe is within God, but God is also beyond the universe (I'm not sure if that makes sense haha :cover:). Swaminarayan Hindus don't believe that God is formless, but that God has a divine form (which is similar to other Vaishnava schools).

    The Swaminarayan sect itself has multiple subsects. There are multiple ones, but the two main ones are the Original Swaminarayan Sampraday and the BAPS. BAPS is the more well-known out of the two, although I am part of the Original Sampraday. There is somewhat of a rivalry between the two subsects. While there is some amount of respect when leaders of the two subsects mean, there is kind of an awkward rivalry between some of the laymen.

    In the Original, there are two seats (or gadis) of leadership (one in Ahmedabad to handle north Gujarat and the corresponding parts of India, and another in Vadtal to handle south Gujarat and the corresponding parts of India). Those two seats behave somewhat like a monarchy. The two seats were taken by Swaminarayan's nephews and the current two leaders are there descendants (although the Vadtal Gadi is going through internal strife and politics as to who the real leader should be). Leader of the Ahmedabad Gadi is Koshelendraprasadji and the leader of the Vadtal Gadi is Rakeshprasadji. Those who have the seats are known as Acharyas, and they are responsible for initiating the monks and other male members into the sect. Their wives, Gadiwallas, are responsible for initiating the nuns and the female members into the sect. The temples are gender segregated since the monks can't talk to women (nuns can talk to men, although there aren't that many nuns in the temples outside of India and in general).

    The BAPS broke away from the Original sometime later. They believed that the spiritual successor was supposed to be Gunatitanand Swami. The current leader is Pramukh Swami. He initiates the monks and other male members....I have no idea what happens to the female members. BAPS doesn't have nuns or a female person to take that role, so I have no idea how the female members get initiated.

    There is probably some other stuff too that I'm forgetting, but I can't think of anything right now :p

    Here's two parts of an Al Jazeera documentary that compares the two subsects. Let me know if you want to anything else!
    [youtube]hs3nHaoDjqM[/youtube]
    God's Business - Hinduism Goes Global - 24Sep07 - Ep2 Part 1 - YouTube
    [youtube]tXFDLQ6M_Dg[/youtube]
    God's Business - Hinduism Goes Global - 24Sep07 - Ep2 Part 2 - YouTube
     
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  6. StarryNightshade

    StarryNightshade Your favorite Heterodox Jew.
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    Reviving this thread as I have a few more questions.

    1.) Can one be a Swaminarayan Hindu without believing Swaminarayan is God/an avatar? More akin to a saint/prophet? Or is it like most denominations of Christianity where if you don't believe Jesus is divine, then you aren't a "real Christian"?

    2.) Is this a controversial school? It doesn't seem to have a lot of support outside of the practitioners themselves.

    3.) Even though the school is, technically, Vaishnavite, and has a preference for Vishnu and Krishna, where do other Gods stand? Gods such as Shiva, Ganesha, the Goddess, etc.?
     
  7. bp789

    bp789 Member

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    I'll try to answer to the best of my abilities, although I haven't really studied my family sect that in-depth.

    1. Simply put, no. Most of the pujas, prayers, and rituals that go on inside the Swaminarayan temples are with the belief and perception that Swaminarayan is God. There are some non-Swaminarayan Hindus that visit Swaminarayan temples for various reasons such as curiosity or getting in touch with the Gujarati community, but you'd be viewed as an oddity if you considered yourself as a Swaminarayan Hindu, but didn't believe Swaminarayan to be God.

    2. Somewhat, I suppose. I mean the sect is only around 200 or so years old, so many people outside of the sect would be highly skeptical of worshiping Swaminarayan as God. Plus, many Swaminarayan Hindus follow more strict rules than other Hindus. Not only are Swaminarayan Hindus vegetarian, but they ideally should not eat onions or garlic because they are tamasic, and they should not drink alcohol or consume intoxicants, and there are good number of Gujarati Hindus outside of the Swaminarayan sect that do consume such things (well there are a bunch of people in the Swaminarayan sect that do consume onion and garlic, and there are also a decent number of old uncles and college kids that drink alcohol, so....). But in general Swaminarayan Hindus tend to be more strict about that stuff in comparison to other Hindus, so that's one reason why they might be viewed as odd.

    Another thing is that there is not only one Swaminarayan sect, but multiple. The main ones are the Original Swaminarayan Sampraday, which led by two Acharyas, Koshelendraprasadji and.....I think Rakeshprasadji (but I'm not sure), and BAPS, which is headed by Pramukh Swami and it broke off from the Original. There is a rivalry between the two sects (some posts on other threads here should be proof of that). I forgot where it was written, but there is some scripture or document that says anyone that tries to breakaway from the Original sect and create their own, that sect is not a valid one and should be considered false. BAPS broke away because of some different beliefs about who the successor should be. So there is a rivalry in which the Original members view the BAPS people as following a false philosophy, while BAPS believe that the Original Sampraday is corrupt. Of course, there are something million Swaminarayan Hindus total, so attitudes about the other sects will definitely vary.

    3. Ganesha and the Goddess are just viewed as devas in Swaminarayan Hinduism. Shiva, I'm not exactly sure. In one sectarian scripture, Shikshapatri, it says that Vishnu and Shiva are one, but in the Vachnamrut, another sectarian scripture, it says Shiva is a deva, a mahadeva (great deva), but still a deva. In practice, Shiva seems to be viewed as a deva in comparison to Vishnu and Krishna and such. I need to check on that because I'm not sure myself.

    Let me know if you have any more questions! I myself am still learning and am still confused about my family's sect, so I might not be able to answer everything.
     
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  8. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    1) No. Belief that Swaminarayan is the central 'God' is one of the central concepts.
    2) Totally depends on who you talk to. My personal opinion is no, although the main tenet (from 1) isn't exactly mainstream. It's also very large. Large groups, having more activities, and members, means that someone looking for dirt is more likely to find it. I see them as my brothers.
    3) Indifference, but with respect for the practitioners.
     
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  9. Jainarayan

    Jainarayan ॐ नमो भगवते वासुदेवाय
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    Backing you up:

    I'm down with this. ;)
     
  10. ShivaFan

    ShivaFan Satyameva Jayate
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    Namaste

    I admit that I am not familiar with Swaminarayan, though I did purchase a beautiful book with wonderful art and drawings in it, actually it was written for children and is about the life of Swaminarayan. But I have not read it yet, this thread has my curiousity now since I purchased it at the BAPS Temple in Milpitas California which I visit to have darshan of Siva Parvati.

    All I know is, the Temple is wonderful, and the Murtis are Majestic in beauty and peace.

    Everyone is very nice to me, I don't know why. When I come to the door, as someone is leaving, they always say - Jai Swaminarayan! The Indian women too, they are friendly and not shy to me, so I am not so sure about what is said of women of the sect being coddled. The men are nice. No one cares if you are not "Indian".

    I like this BAPS temple. I bring family and friends, they like this temple too.

    I do not let things bother me, if some say this or that is God. I do think a saint can be God, though I do not belong to the Swaminarayan sect. I know that Trailanga Swami was a Walking Shiva of Varanasi, I believe He has God in him, so why should I criticize but first look at them. All I know is their people are very nice. They have not thrown a shoe at me. They have not told me I am not "pure". They have not closed the door to me. So I love them, too.

    Om Namah Sivaya
     
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  11. Kalicharan Tuvij

    Kalicharan Tuvij Āstika

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    I agree with Eggyolk here. Avatāra-dom is not something that comes so cheap. Despite all their glitter, I will call the puppet a puppet.

    Puppet has its uses, too. It takes us into a fantasy world, least to say, amuses us, even mesmerises us at times..and then the show is over. People scatter away, go back to their homes, sometimes still admiring a blockbuster show on the way back.

    In Hindi we say: AyA rAm, gayA rAm.

    Talking of Narayans, the name that comes to the mind of every Hindu first is that of Jayaprakash Narayana- a sage thinker, great freedom fighter, and a leading light to the democratic thought in India.

    One could say there must be something seriously wrong with people who "lift" such puppets (asaram bapu, and countless like him) up the pedestal, though I will go with my diagnosis: folks need some entertainment, some puppet show, even in the "spiritual" genre.

    Some puppets are discerning enough to recognise this in their lifetimes.

    pranām
    KT



    Edit: no disrespect to the puppet guys, just to clarify. Who can forget the greatest of all, Pinokkio the puppet, who each time when he told a lie found his nose growing a little bit longer, and thus had to cover up, ever more, his lies. I guess this sums up the story of all other puppets too.
    another point: the Hindi word for puppet is pappu. But unlike puppet, "pappu can't dance sa..":)
     
    #11 Kalicharan Tuvij, Oct 1, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2013
  12. ShivaFan

    ShivaFan Satyameva Jayate
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    Well said Kalicharan Tuvij!
    I don't entirely disagree with your points, after all Bhagavan gave us a brain. And yes, there is thoze puppets out their, we need to watch out.
    ... but I still love their Murtis at the BAPS temple I visit in Milpitas! The Parvati-Shiv-Ganesh are truly beautiful, they have Sita-Ram too. :p

    Om Namah Sivaya
     
    #12 ShivaFan, Oct 1, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2013
  13. Yogi1054

    Yogi1054 Shakti

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    Ive been to a Swaminarayan temple they were very welcoming and had a large Shiva lingam - something I was surprised at.
     
  14. eggyolk

    eggyolk Member

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    Only if you are a male. If you are a female you must sit in the back.
     
  15. Kalicharan Tuvij

    Kalicharan Tuvij Āstika

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    This enough dear. Leave it at that. No point, because do you think those enjoying privileges, leading a comfortable life even if false one, bother at all with such issues?

    Or do they give a bother who this Swaminarayan was?

    As long as it makes business sense..
     
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  16. Philomath

    Philomath Sadhaka

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    I don't know much about the faith but I did pass by a Swaminarayan temple the other day and it was beautiful.
     
  17. Harsh

    Harsh Member

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    Honestly swaminarayan is a faith in which they believe that this man that was born in 1781 was a avatar/incarnation of vishnu, and try to propose there own agenda, by failing to teach there "followers' of how there is no mention of this in the Gita. there whole religion is a classic, hitler type brain-wash method at converting people to meet there set of views. They purposely never teach the Gita, (knowing they would be disproven, and also fail to highlight things such as how Britian was ruling India at the moment, and this "God" failed to do anything.
     
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  18. Chakra

    Chakra Well-Known Member
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  19. Harsh

    Harsh Member

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    ?
     
  20. ratikala

    ratikala Istha gosthi

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    namaskaram Harsh ji

    I am not Swaminarayan , I am Gaudiya , none the less , like Shiva fan ji I have high regard for their establishment simply as they have managed to bring togerher a large proportion of the Gujarati comunity here , and have created beautifull temples a often with a school facility close by .
    I have never felt uncomfortable visiting the mandir , the deities are beautifull and so well cared for and the comunity on the whole follow the same precepts as we do , .....in many respects I find it natural for a comunity to elevate their founding Guru to an allmost god like position , I might find it odd if they do not teach from the Gita ? and would be interested for a Swaminarayan devotee to give more details upon which texts they use , ....
    but as for ...

    if God appears as an incarnation it is to lead people on a path to liberation from the tyrany of this material world by offering them a path towards Moksha , ...it is by the provision of such a path that the Lord frees us from our past Karmas , ...that the Lord by his mercy defeats all opression be it from British or Muslim rule , ....
     
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