Swaminarayan Sampraday - Organisational Structure - Importance of Acharyas

Importance of Acharyas

H.H. Acharya shree Ajendra Prasadji Maharaj shree Swaminarayan thought that as he had established the temples and the Swaminarayan Sampraday, he wanted to keep his sadhus free from the affairs dealing with wealth, power and other worldly affairs. He decided to create leaders who would subsequently be responsible for the Swaminarayan Sampraday. This led to his decision to appoint his nephews as Acharyas. The constitution of the Sampraday is laid out in Desh Vibhag Lekh which describes in detail the functions of the Acharyas.

... it is my command to all sadhus, bhamcharis and all satsangies, that for the purpose of your kalyaan (emancipation) you must obey and follow the two Acharyas of Dharmavansh, and obey their commands by thought, action and speech. If this is compromised and whoever turns elsewhere (rejecting the Acharyas) will find that they will never find sukh (happiness) in this world or the worlds beyond and will experience immense distress ... ― Desh Vibhag Lekh

The Acharyas of the Sampraday are administrative heads, spiritual leaders and the gurus of their followers. Since the acharyas are supposed to refrain from contact with the opposite sex, except close relations, the acharyas' wives are the gurus for female members of the sect, and must avoid contact with unfamiliar men. The acharyas wear a red turban, and carry a golden staff and umbrella, the symbols of their authority In the scripture Purushottam Prakash (Nishkulanand Kavya), the writer Nishkulanand Swami describes Swaminarayan's establishment of the Dharmavanshi Acharyas.

The Acharyas are responsible for:

  • Initiating followers into the organisation with a Samanya Diksha by giving the guru-mantra
  • Initiating monks-sadhus by giving them the Maha-Bhagwadi Diksha
  • Perform murti-pratishtha, installing deities in the temples
  • Authenticating scriptures of the Sampraday
  • Acting as the Guru and leader of the entire Sampraday

These responsibilities are prescribed in the holy texts Shikshapatri, Satsangijeevan and Desh Vibhag no Lekh, according to which no person other than the Dharmavanshi Acharyas may carry out these duties.

In one of the most authoritative scriptures, the Vachamanamrut, Swaminarayan states one of the prerequisites for attaining Akshardham. He wrote, "The devotee who is aashrit of Dharmakul (i.e. he who has received initiation from Dharmavanshi Acharya and remains loyal to the Acharya) gets a divine Bhram-state body by God's wish." It is seen as imperative to be a humble, loyal follower of the Dharmavanshi Acharya once receiving the diksha (guru mantra) in order to achieve a bhram form. Swaminarayan wrote, "Even Gunatitanand Swami, one of the main sadhus of Swaminarayan states, 'He who insults the temples, Acharyas, sadhus and satsangis will find his roots being destroyed and will inevitably fall from the satsang.' "

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