In Swami Ni Vato 3/17 Gunatitanand Swami explains that of Swaminarayan Bhagwan's countless talks, the following four things are jiva nu jeevan or the "life-line of a soul:"
(1) Maahaaraaja ni upaasanaa
(2) Maahaaraaja ni aagnyaa
(3) Motaa ekaantika saadhu saathe preeti
(4) Bhagavadi saathe suhradapanu
(1) The Sanskrit word upaasanaa comes from the combination of "upa" and "aasana," which mean "close" and "seat," respectively. "Maharaj ni upaasanaa" is thus the way to come closer to God. This consists of one's understanding of God as well as the mode of worship/devotion to God.
For all Swaminarayan devotees, upaasanaa consists of the understanding that Lord Swaminarayan is Purna Purushottam or the supreme God. Attributes of the supreme God are that He is sarvopari (the highest single entity), avatarnaa avataari (the fundamental cause of all incarnations), sarva-kartaa (all-doer and all-powerful), sadaa divya saakaara (always possessing a divine form - as opposed to the niraakara philosophy which states that God is formless) and pragata (or present through His saints and devotees) [ref. Vachanamrut Panchala 7, Gadhada Middle 9, Gadhada Middle 13, and Gadhada Last 38, amongst other places].
- In Vachanamrut Gadhada First 40 (and Gadhada First 64, amongst other places), Lord Swaminarayan explains that upaasanaa can be defined as having a firm conviction that God eternally possesses a form.
- In Vachanamrut Panchala 6, Lord Swaminarayan explains, "If one has a firm conviction of the manifest form of Shri Krishna in this manner [to be the greatest of all avataras]...one would not fall from the path of liberation...therefore, if all of you paramhansas and devotees also cultivate such firmness of the upaasanaa of God, then if you happen to commit a slight slip of conduct, you will still attain liberation in the end."
- In Vachanamrut Gadhada Middle 27, Lord Swaminarayan explains, "When bhakti diminishes, the upaasanaa of God is also destroyed, and a lineage of blind followers results. That is why I have had temples built...for the purpose of preserving God's upaasanaa forever."
(2) Given by Lord Swaminarayan, the Shikshapatri outlines the aagnyaa or command to which all Swaminarayan devotees adhere. The Shikshapatri clarifies the tenets given in the Dharma Shastras of the Hindu tradition as well as the essence of all scriptures. By following the commands given in the Shikshapatri, devotees lead a happy and divine life both here and for Akshardham.
The biggest aagnyaa is to become gunaateeta or brahmaroopa:
- "After separating the soul from the three bodies (gross, subtle, and causation), and with the understanding of being brahmaroopa, at all times, offer devotion to God" (ref. Shikshapatri verse 116).
- "One should think in the morning, 'I am gunaateeta and God is manifest in my heart'" (ref. Swami Ni Vato 7/30 and Yogi Bapa's Sunruta).
(3) According to the Hindu tradition, Lord Swaminarayan enshrined the image of God's devotee and manifest abode along with God in temples: Nara-Narayan (Arjuna with Lord Krishna) in Ahmedabad, Lakshmi-Narayan (Rukmuni with Lord Krishna) in Vadtal, Radha-Krishna, Sita-Rama, Parvati-Shiva, etc.
Gunatitanand Swami revealed Lord Swaminarayan to be the supreme God. Lord Swaminarayan revealed Gunatitanand Swami as Anaadi Mool Akshar Moorti or the eternal, original, and manifest with a divine form, abode of God [see "Gunatitanand Swami" under History]. Thus, Shastriji Maharaj enshrined Akshar-Purushottam (Gunatitanand Swami with Lord Swaminarayan) in the central shrine of temples.
Akshar-Purushottam upaasanaa is the worship of Purushottam after becoming gunaateeta (or brahmaroopa or attaining the understanding/qualities of Mool Akshar Gunatitanand Swami).
- "Having attained the attributes of Aksharbrahma, [one who] remains engrossed only in the form of God, is said to be in nirviklapa samaadhi" (Vachanamrut Gadhada First 40).
- "Even after one has become brahmaroopa, one still has to realize Parabrahm Purushottam. Only one who is brahmaroopa has the right to offer bhakti to Purushottam" (Vachanamrut Loya 7).
- "One who worships Purushottam realizing oneself to be aksharroop can be said to possess the highest level of nirvikalpa faith" (Vachanamrut Loya 12).
One becomes brahmaroopa by the loving association of a present gunaateeta saint who has already aquired the qualities of Gunatitanand Swami, and thus in whom God resides. In other words, out of great compassion, God has gifted mankind the boon of remaining pragata or present on the earth through His saints and devotees.
- In Vachanamrut Gadhada First 60, Lord Swaminarayan explains, "...one can attain ekaantika dharma only from someone who has already attained ekaantika dharma."
- In Vachanamrut Vadtal 11, Lord Swaminarayan explains, "...great love for the saint is the only means to realize one's soul; it is the only means to realize the greatness of the saint; and it is the only means to have the direct realization of God."
A lineage of gunaateeta saints (or gunaateeta guru-paramparaa) has continued through Gunatitanand Swami's disciples Bhagatji Maharaj, Jaga Swami and Krishnaji Ada; Bhagatji Maharaj's disciple Shastriji Maharaj; Shastriji Maharaj's disciple Yogi Bapa; Shastriji Maharaj and Yogi Bapa's disciples Kakaji and Pramukh Swamiji; Yogi Bapa's disciples Papaji, Hariprasad Swamiji, Mahant Swamiji, Aksharvihari Swamiji, and Saheb; Kakaji's disciple Dinkar Uncle; and other gunaateeta saints.
(4) Samp is working in unity or with harmony. An example that Yogi Bapa often gave was birds trapped in a net. They were able to escape the net by rising all at once and turning upside down. By working in samp, wondrous things are achieved.
With suhradabhaava there is heartfelt oneness, and you accept another's fault as yours. At home for example, a mother might take upon herself a daughter-in-law's mistakes to bring peace to the home. In satsanga, one accepts the faults of other devotees as his/her own.
Ekataa is unity. Bhagatji Maharaj, Jaga Swami, and Krishnaji Ada had divya ekataa or the divine oneness of being "one soul in three bodies."