What Is a Acharya

What Is a Acharya

|| Shree Swaminarayano Vijyatetram ||

Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Bhuj

Satsang Syllabus – Guru Parampara

What is an Acharya?

In Hinduism, an Acharya is seen as a guide or an instructor in religious matters. He maybe the founder or a leader of a sect or a highly learned man.

At a simple level an Acharya disseminates the seeds of dharma and makes it their mission to ensure that the messages of the sect are spread to the devotees.

Maharaj as Head of the Samprady

Exactly a year after initiating Sahajanand Swami, Ramanand Swami throned Sahajanand Swami as the leader of the Sampraday in Jetpur. He did this because Sahajanand Swami was none other than Almighty God Himself. Ramanand Swami held a meeting with the prominent saints and satsangis, to nominate a suitable successor. Ramanand Swami himself nominated Sahajanand Swami to become leader, instantly Muktanand Swami joyously agreed and other Swamis also accepted this decision. Sahajanand Swami initially declined to accept the throne. Ramanand Swami urged him to take the throne as he himself was old and only Sahajanand Swami was capable. However to uphold the Agna of his Guru he accepted, even though he did not want to. Sahajanand Swami took responsibility of the satsang at the young age of 20 years and 7 months.

Why did Maharaj establish Acharyas

The Acharyas of the Swaminarayan Sampraday act as a focal point and figureheads for all saints and devotees. The system of an Acharya leading a religious sect is not unique only to the Swaminarayan Sampraday but it is common across various branches within Hinduism.

The Swaminarayan Sampraday had rapidly grown during the divine presence of Lord Swaminarayan, and would continue to do so after his return to his divine abode of Akshardham.

Swaminarayan Bhagwan wanted to return Akshardham and realised that he will have to have someone who would look after the Sampraday.

Swaminarayan Bhagwan realised that it was essential to have Acharyas to take position as heads of the Sampraday. There was a big decision for Swaminarayan Bhagwan to take on whether to choose a Householder (Grasth) or Saint to appoint as the head of the Sampraday. A Saint’s aim is give religious discourses, spread knowledge and guide followers and not to become involved in material matters and issues. A person becomes a Saint by renouncing the material world, its objects, and its affairs and to constantly be in the service of Maharaj. During Van Vicharan Swaminarayan Bhagwan travelled throughout India and during this time he saw for himself that for a Saint to remain unaffected by worldly matters they should avoid contact with wealth and women, thus ensuring a life of devotion is led. Taking all these factors into consideration and with the advice of head Swamis such as Muktanand Swami, Gopalanand Swami and Nityanand Swami he decided to elect Householders as Acharyas to lead the Sampraday. There is also an important point to note here that Maharaj showed us the way to make decisions. Whenever a big decision needed to be made he would always gather head swamis, bramcharis and respected householders to seek their advice and gather everyone’s thoughts before making a firm decision.

Once the decision was taken to appoint householder as the head of the Sampraday the decision needed to be taken as who would sit on the gadi. When deciding this, Swaminarayan Bhagwan again gathered respected Swamis to seek their advice; during this gathering Swaminarayan Bhagwan did not want to appear biased towards electing from his family therefore He had little input in the discussion and left it to the Swamis to decide. Devotees and saints of Swaminarayan Bhagwan saw Him in His divine glory and form during His presence on earth, Devotees and saints looked upon the family of Dharmadev with divine love and respect since Swaminarayan Bhagwan himself had chosen to manifest into that family. It was for this reason that householders from the family of Swaminarayan Bhagwans father Dharmadev, who were blood relations to Himself. It seemed only natural to elect Acharyas from the family of Dharmadev that had a divine link to Swaminarayan Bhagwan.

Creation of Two Acharyas

The work of Acharya would have been too great for any one person. Lord Swaminarayan along with prominent saints determined that India should be divided to enable easier management of the Sampraday India was therefore divided into two regions. A demarcation line was drawn between Kolkata and Dwarika. North of this boundary was to be known as the Uttar Desh, or as we refer to it as the NarNarayan Dev Gadi. South of the boundary was to be known as the Dakshin Desh or as we refer to it LaxmiNarayan Dev Gadi.

The Acharyas were established in Vadtal on the auspicious day of Prabhodini Ekadashi, Vikram Samvat 1882.

After celebrating the Birthday of His Father Dharmadev, Maharaj sat in the courtyard of Laxminarayan Dev Mandir and had gathered a grand sabha together. Both male and female followers had gathered within the courtyard and taken their seats. Swaminarayan Bhagwan Himself was seated on a spectacularly decorated Sinhasaan. His brothers Rampratabji and Iccharamji along with their families were present in the sabha and had taken their seats towards the front of the sabha. Within the Varni Bharmachari such as Mukundanad, Vasudevanand and Jayanand Brachari had taken their seats. Within the Swami’s section of the sabha the great Saints such as Muktanand Swami, Gopalanand Swami, Brahmanand Swami and Nityanand Swami had taken their seats. With the Grasth section of the sabha Grasths such as Mayaram Bhatt, Shivram Bhatt and Dinanath Bhatt had taken their seats. Rajas such as Vasta Khachar, Sura Khachar, Dada Khachar, Punjaji, Kakabhai, Somla Khachar and Hemant Sinh had taken their seats. Great Kshatriya’s such as Bhaguji, Ratanji, Veraji and Alya Khachar had taken their seats. Vaishya Bhakts such as Govindbhai, Ranchodbhai, Nathji Bhakt and Kashidas had also taken their seats. Also with the ladies section of the sabha Jayaba, Ramaba, Lalitaba, Punjikaba, Amariba, Gangaba had all taken their seats.

In this way each and every bhakt had take their respective seats within the sabha eagerly awaiting for Swaminarayan Bhagwan to address them. With the wish of establishing his divine Dharma Dhura Dharamvansh Swaminarayan Bhagwan addressed his two brothers, ‘Oh Brothers, for the betterment of society and this Sampraday, please listen to what I have to say. The decision I have taken, I am now going to tell you, the place as Guru of this Sampraday and society was given to me by my Guru Ramanand Swami in Jetpur, since being handed the Gadi of this Sampraday I have established dharma and flourished this Satsang. Recently I have been reading the Panchma Skandh over and over again and read the stories of Bhakts such as Jal Bharat and I wish to take the same path of detachment as they did. After taking this path i wish to do read Dashama Skandh and to listen to the glories of Shri Krushan Bhagwan and to only do his Bhakti, I will no longer take part in this ‘Itar Pravuti’. For this reason Oh Brothers, it is my wish to establish this Dharma Dhura Dharamvansh, so to fulfil this wish of mine I am requesting from you both one son each.’ After listening to the request of their brother, Swaminarayan Bhagwan, the elder brother Rampratabji said to Maharaj, ‘Oh Shri Hari, I have three sons, whichever one you wish to take you have my permission to take and to accept him as yours’. The younger Brother Iccharamji said to Maharaj, ‘Oh Shri Hari, I have five sons, whichever one you wish to take you have my permission to take and to accept him as yours’. After listening to the sweet words of his brothers filled with such happiness Maharaj said to both of his brothers ‘ Oh elder brother Rampratabji please give to me your son named Ayodyaprasad, and Oh Iccharamji please give to me your son named Raghuvirji’. After listening to the request of Maharaj both brothers instantly sat up and offered their respective sons to Maharaj.

At this time, with Kirtans being sang accompanied with musical instruments and great fanfare, Maharaj adopted the two sons of his brothers. The adoption ceremony was performed as per Dharmashastras and Vedic Rituals by Brahmin Hari Sharma. Maharaj then bestowed his Gadi of the Swaminarayan Sampraday to his two adopted sons, Ayodyaprasad and Raghuvirji. He placed both of them onto his gadi, adorned them with expensive clothes and did poojan of them. After giving his Gadi to his sons. Maharaj then sat in-between the two Acharyas and stated that there are two main temples, one in Shri Nagar (Amdavad) and one here in Vadtal. Both these grand Mandirs are in the middle of Purva City of Dwarika and Paschim City of Calcata. The Gadi south of this dividing line will be known as LaxmiNaryan Dev Gadi and the Gadi North will be known as NarNarayan Dev Gadi. Maharaj then split then sabha in half and stated whoever is on the left will be...... and whoever is on the right will be......

Acharya wives (Gadiwalashri) were also named as Guru for the women, in doing this Maharaj established a respective way for women to gain disksha and be initiated into the Sampraday. Maharaj stated that he had not done anything wrong in appointing the wives of Acharyas on the Acharyapad.

Maharaj then said to the two Acharays,’I have split the country into two so it easier for you to manage and you are on the GuruPad of these respective gadis’. To help the two Acharyas Maharaj narrated a ‘Lekh’ to Shukanand Swami which contained the constitution for Acharyas.

Please note here that on this day of Prabhodini Ekadashi in Vadtal during the Gadi Abheshik, Maharaj gave ‘Patrika’s’ to the two Acharyas and again on Magshar Sud Poonam Samvat 1883 in Gadhada to make the constitution even more clear re narrated the ‘Lekh’ this became to be the ‘Desh Vibhag Lekh’ This was signed by both Acharyas and witnesses, During a Pravachan by Nivrut Acharya Tejendraprasadji Maharaj, he stated that he still has Original Lekh and the signatures are visible, Maharajshri also placed importance on the fact that when the Two Acharyas signed the Lekh they did not sign it ‘Ayodyaprasad Rampratab’ or ‘Raghuvir Iccharam’ but they signed it ‘Ayodyaprasad Hari Krushna and Raghuvir Hari Krushna’ representing they had fully become Swaminarayan Bhagwan sons.

Desh Vibhag Lekh

The Desh Vibhag Lekh represents the constitution of the Swaminarayan Sampraday. Lord personally dictated the Lekh and had it written on the full moon day of the month of Magsar in the VS 1883 (1827 AD). Lord then presented the lekh to saints, devotees and the Acharyas. The Lekh pays particular attention to the roles and responsibility of the Acharyas. The Lekh has 30 point which covers the:

  • Explanations of the duties and role of Acharya
  • Directions of what to do with income of temple
  • Guidance for satsangi’s
  • How to appoint future Acharyas

Roles of Acharya

  • Diksha of Saint
  • Initiate Mumukshu’s into the Sampraday
  • Authorise scriptures of Swaminarayan
  • Murti Pratishta
  • Establish Dharma

Swaminarayan Bhagwan stated that the Acharya must be a direct descendant of the Dharmadev family. The Acharyaship is not purely hereditary, but based on inheritance and merit. The Acharya should be learned, pious, virtuous, moral, and ardent and be a staunch devotee of Swaminarayan Bhagwan.

This is the Desh Vibhag Lekh from which has been used in many legal cases proving that the Swaminarayan Sampraday is true and Vedic. Even if devotees of Lord Shree Swaminarayan find themselves of higher religious and spiritual knowledge or status than their Acharya, they are NOT authorized to install idols in temples or initiate devotees (as per Lord Swaminarayan instructions in the 'Desh Vibhag no Lekh' dictated by Lord Swaminarayan)

Importance of Acharya

Swaminarayan Bhagwan has placed great importance of Acharyas and he himself has narrated within the Vachnamrut, the Mahima of Acharyas is also given in various shastras of the Sampraday.

In Vadtal Prakan 18 Maharaj asked the question, ‘seeing that you are all senior Parmahans, I shall ask you a question: which facts are essential for a satsangi to understand? If someone were to ask him, or if he were to experience a doubt in his own mind, then without knowing these facts, how would he be able to find a solution?’ Having asked the question, Maharaj himself continued, ‘I shall answer the question myself. Firstly, a person should realise that our Sampraday is the Uddhav Sampraday, and therefore, a person should know its customs. Secondly, a person should know the line of succession of our gurus. He should know that Ramanand Swami was the avatar of Uddhav himself; and in a dream, that same Ramanand Swami was initiated into the Vaishnav sect by Ramanuj-Acharya in Shreerang-Kshetra. So, Ramanand Swami’s guru was Ramanuj-Acharya, and I am Ramanand Swami’s shishya. A person should understand the succession of gurus in this way. In addition, he should understand the tradition of the Dharma-Kul that I have established.’ (Vadtal Prakan 18)

Desh Vibhag Lekh Maharaj states ‘At anytime, even if any kind of inferiority is seen in these two Acharyas, then also, my command to all my saints, Brahmacharis, Parshads, and all devotees is that, “For your welfare, always give a very high respect these two Acharyas and always obey gladly whatever they tell.” And if you don’t obey this, and follow anyone else, then you will never be happy here or after death, and you will suffer severe misery.’

Shri Harililakalpataru, By Shri Achintyanand Brahmachari

Skandh 10:

(Shreeji Maharaj is telling to all of His followers)

All of you, my followers; must consider these two Acharyas, equivalent to me. I will give salvation to those who will do my devotion, by following the rules of the religion and by being the followers of these two Acharyas. My follower’s saints and householders, just like you are obeying me, similarly all of you obey these two Acharyas. (Adhyay 4)

I will always reside in the idols that will be established by these two Acharyas. I have appointed these two Acharyas as your spiritual leaders, so you should follow them and never consider them as an ordinary human being. This is my order. (Adhyay 46)

Shri Harililamrut: By H.D.H. Acharya Shri Viharilalprasadji Maharaj

Kalash 8:

Vishram: 46

(Shreeji Maharaj is telling to all of His followers)

If you do the Puja of these Acharyas with love, I will consider it my Puja. All saints and devotees always act according to Acharya’s words (Line 61)

Vishram: 47

Shreeji Maharaj is telling his saints; always consider these two adopted sons as your spiritual leaders. Always obey their orders very happily. Never argue with them and just do whatever they tell you. (Line 5)

Shri Purshottam Prakash: By Nishkulanand Swami

Prakar 37:

I want to do welfare of those who will serve these Acharyas, those who will invite these Acharyas to their homes and those who give high respect to these Acharyas. There welfare of so many souls will be done through these Acharyas. That is the last stage of salvation and there is no other way of getting salvation on top of that. (Lines 14, 15)

Prakar 38:

One who will be the follower of Dharmakul, whether they may be saints or householders, men or women; will get salvation without any hardships. (Line 4).

Prakar 39:

Who else will be such high equivalent to my family (Shri Dharmakul family)? Therefore, I have assigned the position of my spiritual successors and I have given spiritual leadership to Acharyas, after thinking very deeply. (Line 8)

Prakar 40:

Do whatever they say, Always be alert for their service by joining your hands and without thinking anything else. (Line 6) I will be always be happy with you, if you always keep them happy. Those who will keep them happy have always pleased me. (Line 11) Because only true people will figure out that they are in my place, other will not be able to figure out that and will try to cheat the innocent people who are not aware of this fact. (Line 12) All male and females should understand that I always live in them and they always live in me. I am never away from them; I always give my darshan by staying in them. (Line 14) Everyone must know that I am always staying willingly in Dharmavanshi Acharyas. Therefore if you do their Puja, that means I will consider that you did my Puja. (Lines 17, 18)

Shri Satsangibhushan: By Shri Vasudevanand Brahmachari

Ansh 5: Adhyay 19:

(Shreeji Maharaj is telling to all of His followers)

And those who will surrender themselves to the future generation these two Acharyas, I will take them to my Akshardham. (Verse 15) Therefore all the Saints, Varnis and householders should try their level best to obey the order of these Acharyas considering it as my order. Those devotees who will not obey the order of these Acharyas will not be considered as my devotees and will go to Yampuri (Line 38) Therefore just like one can get salvation by doing my Puja; he can get salvation similarly by doing the Puja of these Acharyas. There is no doubt in this at all. (Line 40)