|November 14, 2000 |
Chicago, IL: UIC
Many members of the Friday sabhaa attend the University of Illinois at Chicago, a large state university located in downtown Chicago about twenty miles away from the place of the sabhaa. At UIC, just like most other colleges nationwide, there is a local chapter of the Hindu Students Council. The activities of HSC include discussions on the Bhagavad Gita and other topics relevant to Hindu students, and also invitations to speakers to come and share their understanding of Hinduism and spirituality.
The members of HSC extended such an invitation to Dinkar Uncle to come and lead their discussion. Dinkar Uncle introduced the movement begun by Swaminarayan Bhagwan, and also briefly introduced himself, Mahendra Bapu, and the activities of Yogi Divine Society. YDS has been active in America since 1973 and now includes many families around America. Due to the efforts of saints, including Papaji, Hariprasad Swamiji, and Saheb, this number has been growing at an ever-increasing rate. Dinkar Uncle then opened the session up to questions from the audience. Following is a summary of the questions and the responses provided by Dinkar Uncle and Bapu:
What were the temples Lord Swaminarayan built?
During Lord Swaminarayan's travels around India, He became familiar with every region's spiritual development. People during that time had taken many liberties with the scriptures to accommodate their own internal desires and thus spirituality was in a very sad state. Lord Swaminarayan visited each place and rejuvenated their ideals and also filled in their missing links. However, the major temples He Himself built include: in Kalupur (a town near Ahmedabad), Vadtal (a town near Anand), Gadhada, Junagadh, Bhuj, and Dholera.
Who was put in charge of these temples?
With over 2 million followers, it would be difficult if only one temple was the central place of administration. Thus, Lord Swaminarayan created two gaadees (seats), one in Ahmedabad, and one in Vadtal. The significance was that devotees in the North would refer to administration by the Ahmedabad Gaadee, and the devotees in South would go to Vadtal for guidance. However, this was not intended to separate the two groups. Lord Swaminarayan had two brothers, one younger and one elder, whose sons were placed in charge of the gaadees. These aachaaryas, as they were called, were named Ayodhyaprasadji Maharaj (Ahmedabad), and Raghuvirji Maharaj (Vadtal). The reason behind this was that the saints that Lord Swaminarayan had initiated were supposed to undertake many penances in their lives and also keep themselves in God-consciousness. This included strict celibacy and not touching money. For this reason, Lord Swaminarayan created the aachaarya to serve as the link between the devotees and the saints in matters of administration. The saints could then concentrate on their own spiritual development and the overall spiritual upliftment of the society. In this way, the growth of the movement would not be impeded.
Why is YDS separate from these gaadees and Lord Swaminarayan's word?
The reason for any kind of separation is crude human nature. Even in Lord Swaminarayan's time, there was considerable friction between the groups in Vadtal and Ahmedabad. One example of this was a function held in Vadtal in which both groups attended and brought food and desserts. One such dessert was laadu. Now, laadu from Ahmedabad were made from sugar and were white and pretty to look at. On the other hand, the Vadtal laadu were made from goda (jaggery) and were brown and not particularly pleasing to the eye. However, when these sweets were distributed to the devotees, those from Ahmedabad refused to take Vadtal laadus. The opposite was also true. This message was sent to Lord Swaminarayan who immediately put all the laadus in a pile, placed a sheet over it, and asked everyone to come and select a laadu and eat what they had received. He made it clear that the separation of the gaadees was designed only for ease of administration but crude human nature forced the groups into disagreements.
Therefore, the bottom line is to concentrate on spirituality as opposed to religion. Instead of getting involved in disputes at the mind level, it is imperative to rise above and focus on our relationship with God and His saints on earth. The more we look at others' faults, the more we will be filled with faults.
Was Lord Swaminarayan an incarnation of Lord Krishna?
There are different perspectives on this topic. Hinduism believes in five basic entities: jeeva (souls), eeshvara (demigods), maayaa (illusion), brahma (liberated and pure entities), and Parabrahma (God). These five entities must be accepted as eternal, meaning from the beginning, now, and forever after. If they are accepted, then understanding can progress, otherwise there will be confusion and doubt. This is similar to accepting the periodic elements in chemistry or the letters of the alphabet in English. If they are accepted, we can create molecules, compounds, substances or in the other case, words, paragraphs, and books. But if these elemental components are questioned, there is no progress. (Refering to Eternal Entities handout:) there is a category that exists as controllers for each brahmaanda (world). These entities include Brahmaa, Vishnu, and Shiva. They fulfill the function of Creator, Preserver/Sustainer, and Destroyer. According to the scriptures, most incarnations have emanated from Lord Vishnu. There were 24 such major incarnations. The greatest of these incarnations was Lord Rama and Lord Krishna who both established methods of worship on earth. Thus, there is one belief that Lord Swaminarayan was also an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. However, there is another belief that Lord Swaminarayan was from the highest level. Above the level of maayaa, there is a level of liberated entities, and above that there is Mool Akshar, and finally above that is Parabrahm. One understanding is that Lord Swaminarayan was an incarnation of Parabrahm. Both perspectives are accepted and respected.
What is Purushottam?
Purushottam is a synonym for the ultimate entity or Parabrahm or God. This entity can only be experienced, but not explained. However, whenever such an entity takes human form, humanity itself gets misguided. The examples of this include Lord Rama's exile to the jungle and Lord Jesus's crucifixion. Once again, crude human nature causes people to misinterpret the actions of God, saints, and devotees. That is the purpose of a religious gathering: to change our perception and give us a pure vision of God and His devotees. For this, we need the grace of a realized saint. Even scriptures attempt to explain Purushottam, but because of either inexperience or inability to explain, they can only reach the level of Mahapurush and thus, they attribute Purushottam the qualities of Mahapurush or a lower entity.
Interpretation of the scriptures requires background and cannot come from limited knowledge. For example, Vyas was the author of the 18 Purans, including the Vishnu Puran and the Shiva Puran. However, if one were to read both of these, it would seem that there are conflicting statements. In one account, Lord Shiva is the original source of energy. The other account has Lord Vishnu as the original source. But these statements do not conflict. They are simply visions from different perspectives or different windows. However, limited knowledge would create disagreements on the basis of these scriptures; but a total understanding would make it clear that all three entities exist as one.
As a person who is not Swaminarayan, how does Swaminarayan differ from other groups?
In the Bhagavad Gita, shlokas (verses) 4/7-8 state, "Yadaa yadaa hee dharmashya...." Lord Krishna says that whenever humanity and spirituality experiences decline, God incarnates on earth to revive and restore equilibrium. God's energy is ever-present just like sunlight. However, to concentrate the sun's energy, we need some sort of instrument such as a magnifying glass. In a similar fashion, when God concentrates His energy, an incarnation occurs in human form on earth. Thus, many incarnations have occurred and God's energy is present in all of them. These incarnations have resulted in devotees in various groups. So, whatever is our group or belief, we must consider this our main way of worship and grow from there. To do this, one must become totally devoted, and not argue or look at others' faults. Swaminarayan and other groups are all just methods of worship for one to progress.
Does Swaminarayan believe in the philosophy of dvaita, advaita, or vishishtha-advaita?
The three philosophies provide different methods of achieving a final relationship with God. Dvaita relationship refers to the understanding that God and His devotee are distinct. Advaita means that God and His devotee are not separated but merge into one consciousness. The last philosophy is vishishtha-advaita, which means that God and His devotees are divine, but God is distinct and supreme. The devotee achieves oneness with God, but yet cultivates an understanding that God is still beyond. Lord Swaminarayan propounded this understanding and this is the basis of Akshar-Purushottam philosophy.
Why did God spur creation in the first place? What was the purpose of shrushtee (creation)?
Prior to creation, the innumerable souls were in a dormant state. These souls, as previously explained, are part of the five entities, and thus were always present. They were always attempting to progress their level from 1 to 4. The souls experienced two-way traffic, progressing and also falling back if mistakes were made. They were embedded within the third level of maayaa within their causation bodies. The causation body is the "programmed body" that causes life and death. Thus, to provide a platform for progress, the entire system of innumerable worlds was created. Souls could now take on physical gross bodies to engage in methods of progress.
What is YDS's stand on intermingling of caste in marriage and association?
Originally the caste system emerged from Hinduism's attempt to organize society. Even today, corporations organize their workers into categories such as CEO, President, VP, etc. to establish their roles. Similarly, Hinduism created a four-caste system including the brahmins, kshatriyas, vaishyas, and shudras. The brahmins were in charge of giving knowledge to the three other castes. The kshatriyas were to protect the society from enemies. The vaishyas were merchants whose primary purpose was to develop society and economy. The shudras were in charge of the janitorial process.
Slowly, these categories created social rifts in which each caste would only intermingle with higher castes, but not those below themselves. In this manner, the shudra caste was slowly rejected and isolated. Their jobs would make them frequently dirty and full of diseases. They had developed immunity but those in contact with them, would fall sick. Thus, the caste system slowly weakened society's links.
Today, things have changed. Marriages and association occur because of similar likings, such as one meeting a classmate of the opposite sex and marrying that person. This is also a good and acceptable arrangement. But if our crude nature is not purified, regardless of how much we have in common, there will still be disagreements and arguments. In any case, there is a saying that if a marriage is successful, the person leads a happy family life. If not, it is still all right, because one becomes a philosopher!
What do you think about arranged marriage?
There are plusses and minuses to every system. Hinduism has divided a person's one-hundred year life span into four distinct categories. These include the brahmachaaree aashrama, in which one studies and does not intermingle with the opposite sex; the gruhastha aashrama, in which a person assumes a family life and runs their estate; the vaanprastha aashrama, in which one retires and renounces their possessions; and the sanyaasa aashrama, in which one breaks all bonds with family and assumes the life of a saint.
How can we practice Hinduism in our daily lives?
After the culture of India became very prosperous, the inhabitants begin to question what was next. This is the point at which Hinduism emerged. The answer to the question was the progress of our existence. Originally, we were animals, only engaged in satisfying our base instincts. From there, we became humans, who could comprehend, but were still subjects to our nature. Going beyond crude nature and spiritually progressing is the overall purpose of our lives. Hinduism is not really a religion, but a way of life. We can put its principles in use in every aspect of our lives. Many people already do, in various ways. This application is what creates massive amounts of energy that makes progress possible. Our master Kakaji used to say that the energy that can be taken from burning one pound of coal might produce so much heat, but nuclear energy from that one pound of coal would create about 3.5 billion times the energy. Similarly, we must apply nuclear techniques to our life to create the most energy. In Gunatitanand Swami's Vato, there is one saying that if two people work in harmony, they are like 200,000. If they work in spiritual harmony, they are like 20,000,000. And if 200,000 people work without harmony, they are not even as good as two people.