An Introduction to the Vachanāmrut

The Vachanāmrut is a collection of 273 discourses (the last 11 additional discourses are accepted only by the Amdāvād diocese) delivered by Bhagwān Swāminārāyan during the last ten years of His life, between 1819 CE and 1829 CE. These discourses were compiled by four of His pious and scholarly renunciants: Gopālānand Swāmi, Muktānand Swāmi, Nityānand Swāmi and Shukānand Swāmi. The scripture encapsulates the very essence of the principles and philosophy of the Swāminārāyan Sampradāy and is thus most foundational.

The scripture is divided into 10 sections, based on the various villages in which discourses were delivered. The sections are chronological in order and are named as follows: Gadhadā I, Sārangpur, Kāriyāni, Loyā, Panchālā, Gadhadā II, Vartāl, Amdāvād, Gadhadā III and finally Additional Vachanāmruts. Within each section, individual Vachanāmruts are arranged in chronological order and are numbered sequentially.

Each Vachanāmrut begins with an introductory paragraph taking the reader back in time to the exact environment in which the discourses were held, thereby mentally preparing him for the profound wisdom that is to come. The compilers meticulously – and ingeniously – detailed all of the major aspects of the setting of the assembly, even at the risk of sounding repetitive. Invariably, they mention the date, the month, the year, the village, the location within the village, as well as the audience seated in the assembly. In many instances, they even mention the time of day and the direction in which Bhagwān Swāminārāyan was seated. In many instances, they have even described the seat upon which He was seated as well as the dress and adornment of Bhagwān Swāminārāyan at the time. Primarily, the reason for their meticulousness was that they were convinced of His divinity. They understood that the assembly was not an ordinary, worldly assembly of people, but a divine assembly presided over by the Supreme God Himself. After all, much more than anything else, divinity is worthy of being recalled perfectly. From a scholarly point of view, this introductory paragraph adds a stamp of authenticity to the scripture. In the words of an eminent Gujarāti scholar, Mr. Bhogilāl Sāndesarā: “Among all these scriptures [the scriptures of Buddhism, Jainism, Rāmānujāchārya, Vallabhāchārya and other āchāryas] the position of the the Vachanāmrut is unique because the discourses of Bhagwān Swāminārāyan were compiled verbatim. There is a reference to the place and time of the discourses; a note of the year, month and day; a description of Bhagwān Swāminārāyan’s garments and even the names of the people participating in the dialogues are mentioned… Thus, there is no room for interpolation.”

If the introductory paragraph of the Vachanāmrut renders the scripture unique, the method of imparting spiritual wisdom is no less unique. Instead of opting for a monologue, preaching style, Bhagwān Swāminārāyan delivered His discourses in the form of a dialogue – much like the method used by the sages in the Upanishads. At times, Bhagwān Swāminārāyan would pose a question to the members of the assembly, or sometimes He would ask the assembly to pose a question to Him. On other occasions, members of the assembly would ask a question directly. In His assemblies, all were free to question and even to counter-question, regardless of whether they were scholarly renunciants or ordinary householders. Keeping in mind this question-answer method and the fact that many of the members of the assemblies were great scholars themselves, one can imagine the thoroughness of Bhagwān Swāminārāyan’s knowledge on the subjects discussed.

The issues raised in the Vachanāmrut are quite varied, ranging from deeply philosophical and theological subjects, such as the nature of God, creation of the cosmos, clarifications of the classical Hindu philosophies of āchāryas such as Shankar, Rāmānuj, Vallabh and others; to more spiritually practical subjects such as the liberation of the soul, good and bad company, as well as the means of attaining eternal happiness. Since the topics discussed have no relation to the ordering of the Vachanāmrut, the reader need not read the scripture sequentially.

Regardless of the subject, though, Bhagwān Swāminārāyan had the gift of lucidly and elegantly explaining complex concepts through simple day-to-day examples. In fact, even the villagers sitting in the assembly were able to grasp profound philosophical concepts due to His simple language and meaningful examples.

The Vachanāmrut is also an authoritative scripture in as much as it was spoken by God Himself and written down at the same time. In fact, it was even reviewed and approved by Bhagwān Swāminārāyan during its compilation, a fact evident in Vachanāmrut Loyā-7.2. Moreover, the fact that the concepts expounded in the Vachanāmrut are based on Bhagwān Swāminārāyan’s own personal experience gives it an added note of authority. In fact, He states in Vachanāmrut Gadhadā III-39.16: “I deliver these discourses to you not from any imagination of My mind nor to display any sort of aptitude. I have experienced all that I have spoken about. In fact, I speak in accordance to what I practise.”

The Vachanāmrut can also be considered to contain the essence of all of the scriptures concerned with spirituality. Why? Besides the fact that the words were spoken by the supreme Reality Himself, Bhagwān Swāminārāyan had studied the scriptures thoroughly, had mastered Ashtāng-Yoga and had also scrutinized the beliefs and practices of people throughout India. Thus, when He spoke, it was from a base of profound scriptural wisdom, advanced spiritual insight and vast practical experience. In the Vachanāmrut, He has quoted verses from the Vedas, the Shrimad Bhāgwat and other Purāns, the Upanishads, the Bhagwad Gitā as well as other parts of the Mahābhārat. In fact, in Vachanāmrut Gadhadā II-28 Bhagwān Swāminārāyan has gone so far as to say: “I have delivered this discourse having heard and having extracted the essence from the Vedas, the Shāstras, the Purāns and all other words on this earth pertaining to liberation. This is the most profound and fundamental principle; it is the essence of all essences.”

On a more scholarly plane, the Vachanāmrut is also the first literary work of prose in the Gujarāti language, thus providing a good specimen of the culture and speaking style of the Gujarāti language two centuries ago. It is a generous gift of Bhagwān Swāminārāyan to Gujarāti literature. Having read the above, one can better grasp why the compilers named it the Vachanāmrut. After all, it is in essence nectar, ‘amrut’, in the form of words, ‘vachan’, from the mouth of the Supreme God Himself. Just as ‘amrut’ has the distinct property of liberating from death all those who partake of it, the words of God similarly grant liberation from the cycle of births and deaths to all those who strive to imbibe their wisdom.



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