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Pramukh Swami Maharaj : biography

07 December 1921 -

Pramukh Swami Maharaj () (born Shantilal Patel, 7 December 1921; ordained Shastri Narayanswarupdas) is the current guru and is regarded as the fifth spiritual successor of Swaminarayan in the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, an international Hindu socio-cultural organization.

He along with his followers believe that he is in constant communion with God, and ontologically, the manifestation of Akshar, the eternal abode of Swaminarayan.http://books.google.com/books?id=AHI7AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA76&dq=pramukh+swami+akshar&hl=en&sa=X&ei=wLXDUcPHDsa5rQG2sYH4DQ&ved=0CDUQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=pramukh%20swami%20akshar&f=false

Significance in BAPS

Followers of BAPS believe Pramukh Swami Maharaj to be a manifestation of ‘’Akshar‘’, the form of the eternal abode of God. As Akshar he is also in constant communion with God. Accordingly, Pramukh Swami Maharaj is considered by devotees to be “the perfect servant of God, …totally filled with God and therefore worthy of reverence and worship.”Raymond Brady Williams (2001). An Introduction to Swaminarayan Hinduism. Cambridge University Press. pp. 87-95. ISBN 0 521 654.22.

Theological role

As the current living guru, Pramukh Swami Maharaj is considered by followers of BAPS to be the ideal ‘’sadhu‘’, the perfect devotee, and the principal target for emulation by all spiritual aspirants. He is often described by followers as a personification of the sacred scriptures.Raymond Brady Williams (2001). An Introduction to Swaminarayan Hinduism. Cambridge University Press. p. 94. ISBN 0 521 654.22. He is viewed as “fully ‘’brahmanized‘’,” or having achieved the ultimate level of spiritual development.Brian Hutchinson (1998). The Guru-Devotee Relationship in the Experience of the Members of the Akshar-Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha. p. 151.

Devotees consider Pramukh Swami to exemplify all the ideals of the religion; he is viewed as the first disciple, most faithful in his observance of the commandments, most active in propagation of the religion, the best interpreter of the meaning of the scriptures, and the most effective in eradicating the ignorance that separates man from God.Raymond Brady Williams (1996). The Holy Man as the Abode of God in the Swaminarayan Religion. Published in Joanne P. Waghorne and Norman Cutler’s Gods of Flesh, Gods of Stone: The Embodiment of Divinity in India. Columbia University Press. p. 153. ISBN 0-89012-037-4. His conduct is hence considered to be that of the “ideal saint” and “perfect ‘’bhakta‘’ (devotee),” providing a tangible and graspable example for the spiritual aspirant to follow.Hanna Kim (2001). Being Swaminarayan: The Ontology and Significance of Belief in the Construction of a Gujarati Diaspora. Columbia University Press. p.354. Devotees view Pramukh Swami’s staunch respect for Shastriji Maharaj and Yogiji Maharaj as the model of devotion to one’s guru.A.D. Brear, The Authority of Pramukh Swami within the Swaminarayan Hindu Mission (1996). DISKUS Vol.4, No.1., available at http://www.basr.ac.uk/diskus/diskus1-6/BREAR.TXT

Pramukh Swami’s practice of carrying the ‘’murti‘’ of Bhagwan Swaminarayan before him and directing all garlands or offerings presented to him to the image is also seen as a paradigm of humility and selflessness.Raymond Brady Williams (1996). The Holy Man as the Abode of God in the Swaminarayan Religion. Published in Joanne P. Waghorne and Norman Cutler’s Gods of Flesh, Gods of Stone: The Embodiment of Divinity in India. Columbia University Press. p. 150. ISBN 0-89012-037-4. Similarly, devotees view Pramukh Swami’s actions in September 2002, when he appealed for peace and forgiveness of Muslim militants who killed 32 people and injured dozens more in an attack on Akshardham Gandhinagar, to epitomize the Hindu tenet of ahimsa, or nonviolence.John Statton Hawley and Vasudha Narayanan (2006). The Life of Hinduism. University of California Press. pp. 4-5. ISBN 978-0-520-24913-4. Pramukh Swami’s personality and conduct thus serve as exemplars for devotees striving to progress personally and spiritually.

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