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Philosophy, Vishishtabrahmadvaita Vedanta

The Philosophy of Vishishtabrahmadvaita Vedanta


According to the Swaminarayana fellowship, Sahajananda Swami recognised the vast amount of Vedic literature, though he found only a hand full of texts which he deemed authoritative for this fellowship[1].

As Sahajananda Swami was already ordained into the Sri Vaishnava Sampradaya, he adopted the commentaries of Ramanuja on the Brahma Sutras and Bhagavad Gita as authoritative, though he later altered the theology of his sect and thus not conforming wholly to the theology of Ramanauja.

Sahajananda Swami in his life time though created a considerable impact to the social and spiritual renaissance of Gujarat, only authored one work, Shikshapatri, the rest were sermons or instructions left by himself for this follwers, notably the Vachanmruta and Desh Vibhag Lekha.


The Shikshapatri, authored by Lord Swaminarayan in Vadtal on the auspicious day of Vasant Panchami in the year 1882, is a collection of 212 verses written in Sanskrit for the followers of his faith. The text is an integral part of the fellowship, laying down rules and regulations and the fundamental belief system of his new faith.

On the behest and authorisation of Lord Swaminarayana, Nityananda Swami translated the work into Gujarati for the benefit of those ignorant of Sanskrit. Sahajananda Swami also for the correct dissemination of the text accepted a commentarial work named Arthadipika by Shatananda Muni, another senior disciple, pronouncing ‘What I was desiring to convey through each of the words, the same has been expressed exactly by Muni Shatanandji’.

The original work of Lord Swaminarayan is available at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.


The Vachanamrut is the principle text of the Swaminarayana fellowship. It is a compilation of 273 discourses given by Lord Swaminarayan in the latter years of his life. The discourses are mainly conversational based with the conclusion and teaching of Lord Swaminarayana positing the ultimate truth for his followers.

Though the discourses were transcribed by the senior disciples of Lord Swaminarayan, they were left for the approval and authentication of Lord Swaminarayana. Thus the compilations are regarded as authentic and authorised by the Lord Swaminarayana himself.

The five senior disciples who were responsible for transcribing the discourses into Gujarati were Muktananda Swami, Gopalananda Swami, Nityananda Swami, Shukananda Swami and Brahmananda Swami. Tthough the original Vachanmruta was written in Gujarati, it was translated into Sanskrit and the vernacular language of Vraj.

Gunatitananda Swami, although not responsible for transcribing the discourses, gave many sermons on the Vachanmrut which were also recorded. Though not a direct commentary on the Vachanmrut, they are held in great esteem with the compilation of his discourses names Swami ni Vato, the words of the Sage.

Unlike the Shikshapatri which is more instructional based with hints of philosophy, the Vachanamrut is entirely spiritual, dealing with the idea of theology, ontology, epistemology and soteriology.

To summarise in the words of Lord Swaminarayan:

‘I have delivered this discourse having heard and having extracted the essence from the Vedas, the shastras, the Puranas and all the other words on this earth pertaining to liberation. This is the most profound and fundamental principle; it is the essence of all essences.’ – Vachanmruta Gadadha 2.28

Desh Vibhag Lekh

Witnessed by seniors of the fellowship, Sahajananda Swami dictated to Shukananda Swami his last will and testament. Sahajanand Swami established the ongoing leadership of the sampradaya and seated his adopted sons Ayodhyaprasadji Pande and Raghuveerji Pande as his successors

The texts sets out the demarcation of the jurisdiction and responsibilities of the two seats, means of appointing future acharyas as well as other instructions for the development and propagation of the sect.

Other Works

In addition to the above, numerous other works were developed with the sect. one notable work is that authored by Shatanada Muni, who authored the Satsangi Jivanam, which is a detailed account of the life of Lord Swaminarayan written in the style of the Srimad Bhagavatam. The work consists of 17,627 verses filled with the spiritual, metaphysical and religious aspects as explained by Lord Swaminarayana.

Supreme Divinity

According to Sahajananda Swami, ‘Sri Krsna, is Supreme Brahman, Bhagavana and the source of all incarnations’[2], thus concluding Sri Krsna as Purushottama. Sahajananda rejects the idea that Purushottama Brahman is impersonal but rather asserts the philosophy of Ramanuja that Purushottama possesses infinite amount of auspicious qualities including the quality of impersonalism.

In the works and discourses of Sahajananda Swami, though he does not claim divinity directly, he does however suggest of divine realisations, thus leading the devotee’s to believe of his divinity.

Two major theological divisions had deduced regarding the position of Swaminarayana. The first claiming his divinity as an incarnation of Purushottama Sri Krsna and the other asserting the superiority of Lord Swaminarayana, over all incarnations, including that of Sri Krsna. The two seats of leadership hold the former view whereas deviations of the sect i.e. BAPS hold the latter.

Regardless of the above, all maintain the acceptance of the concept of God presented by Lord Swaminarayan but disagree with the theological position of the concepts. Swaminarayana uses the ideas enunciated within the school of Vallabha to define his idea of God, through the theology of Para Brahman and Akshara Brahman.

Swaminarayan states Para Brahman refers to the Supreme Lord Purushottam, the original and highest entity amongst the five eternal entities[3]. Whereas, Akshara Brahma on the other hand has two forms, one as the formless and pure consciousness and the other as a devotee in the service of Para Brahman Purushottam Narayana[4].

Furthermore and similar to the ideology of Vallabha, Swaminarayan further elaborates Akshara to be the residence of Purushottam named Aksharadham, where countless liberated souls enjoin in worshipping Purushottam whilst simultaneously playing the essential role of being the womb of creation for both individual souls and material creation.

In addition to the two concepts above, Lord Swaminarayan introduces a new concept of Ishvara. He elaborates that the role of Ishvara, though dependent on Purushottam, manages the running of the entire galaxy. Ishvara’s are numerous and each Ishvara is allocated one of a multitude of galaxies to administer.

Individual Soul

Sahajananda Swami explains that the ‘individual soul dwells in the heart and is as minute as an atom.  It is conscious and knowledgeable. By the virtue of subjectivity, it pervades the whole body.  It is impenetrable, invisible, indivisible, indestructible and eternal’.[5]

Furthermore the jivas are many and bound by individual karmas and unfulfilled desires, thus moving the soul in a cyclical concept of birth and death, until the individual surrenders on the Supreme Being.

Furthermore he states the soul though different pervades the three bodies of gross, subtle and causal and belongs to one of three categories similar to that expounded by Ramanuja. The three categories are[6]:

Nitya Mukta: These are divine souls mainly demi-gods and divine sages who are designated a spiritual position in Akshardham by the grace of Purushottam. These souls have never been subject to transmigrations such as Narada.
Mukta: These are souls which having been bound in transmigrations are now released and liberated from the circle of life and death and now serve the Lord in Akshardhama.
Baddha: These are souls currently bound in transmigrations through numerous body types and numerous realms in the purpose of working their karma.


Although the nature of reality according Swaminarayana is in line with the philosophy of the vyuha theology of Ramanuja, according to Sahajananda Swami, the individual souls, the multitude of isvara’s and Maya, the illusory potency of Purushottama are sustained by and constitute the body of Akshara Brahma. Furthermore since Akshara Brahman is pervaded by Purushottama, Akshara Brahman constitutes the body of Purushottama, thus making Purushottama the foundation and all pervasive Lord of all creation.

Swaminarayana further goes to explained that creation though inspired by Purushottama and materialised by Akshara Brahman, is not inspired by a lila, past time of God, but rather an act of divine compassion towards jivas to attain liberation from the cycle of birth and death.

To summarise briefly the creation of the universe, Akshara Brahman, inspired by Purushottama to do so uses the divine illusory power of Maya, characterised by the three qualities of purity, passion and inertia to permeate the world of matter in which the individual souls reside and consequently binding them[7]. Thus creating a manifested world consisting of 23 principle elements until the time of dissolution, where the manifested world will envelope back into it’s original unmanifested state.


According to Sahajananda, liberation is the release of the individual soul from the cycle of birth and death and by the grace of God given a position as a liberated jiva in the realm of Akshardham, eternally serving Purushottam as a devotee. Akshardham according to the faith, transcends material creation, space and time.

Swaminarayana also propounded the idea that final emancipation can be achieved whilst alive in the state of jivan mukta and not necessarily only after death. Furthermore he continues the soteriology of Ramanuja, that complete surrender to Purushottama named ‘Prapatti’ and devotion to God is the only means of redemption for souls. This inturn purifies the soul in realising its divine position to Purushottama as an eternal servitor.

Similarly again to the philosophy of Vallabha, Swaminarayan although acknowledges the ideas of variation in mukti in other schools, he does however discard them as irrelevant as these types of mukti have a wishful basis[8], whereas he necessitates the only wish the jiva should have is to only serve Purushottam as a servitor for complete release.

[1] Sikshapatri 93 – 95 & Vachanmrut Vartal 18.5 –  Vedas, Brahma Sutras, Srimad Bhagavatam, Visnu Sahasranama, Bhagavad Gita, Vidura niti, Vasudeva mahatmyam of Skanda Purana, Yagyavalkya Smriti
[2] Shikshapatri 108
[3] Para Brahman, Akshara Brahman, Jiva, Ishvara and maya  – Vachanmrut Gadadha 1.7.7
[4] Vachanmrut Gadadha 1.21.7
[5] Shikshapatri 105
[6] Vachanmruta Gadadha 1.32.5 & Sãrangpur-5.10
[7] Shikshapatri 106
[8] Sarupya, sayujya, sakama and salokya

The copyright of the article The Philosophy of Vishishtabrahmadvaita Vedanta is owned by the Jigyasa Team. Permission to republish in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.


About Makwana

A student of Sanatan Vedic Dharma


2 thoughts on “The Philosophy of Vishishtabrahmadvaita Vedanta

  1. I read all your articles with great interest. Just one comment…I think you should correct the spelling of “vashishta” in the word Vashishtaadvaita and Vashishtabrahmadvaita. It should be “vishishta” not Vashishta. In Samskrita language, it makes a big difference.
    The articles are well-written. I wish you all the best.

    Posted by Nagendra | July 1, 2012, 12:43 am
    • Dear Nagendraji, Thank you for your blessings, kind words, comments and suggestions.

      We were aware of this Vashishta/Vishishta mistake but unfortunately did not have the time to amend the changes. We have accelerated the issues and have amended the term both within the Ramanuja and Swaminarayan articles.

      If you have any suggestions to improve the articles please let us know and we shall endeavour to make the changes, all feedback is appreciated.

      Jigyasa Team

      Posted by Makwana | July 2, 2012, 8:12 am

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