Date

6-2-2020

Description

Flying through the air, seeing the future, reading minds, becoming disembodied, recalling previous births-- these are powers that a siddha yogin (perfected yogi) might display (Jacobsen 2012). When yogins obtain powers from performing extraordinary penance and meditation, their inexplicable feats are often associated with divinity. Whether miraculous powers confer divinity is contested within Hindu traditions (Burchett 2012). Whereas tantric traditions believe religious leaders claim divinity through the display of miraculous powers, bhakti traditions perceive supernatural powers with skepticism (Burchett 2012).

This paper examines the extent to which yogic powers are the primary determinant of divinity and authority in contemporary Hindu religious traditions through a case study of the Bocāsanavāsī Śrī Akṣar-Puruṣottam Svāminārāyana Sansthā, a devotional tradition in Gujarat. Using a primary source analysis of the Vachanamrut, a canonical text in the tradition, I seek to determine the role of yoga powers in conceptualizing God. I analyze conceptions of two theological entities, Parabrahman (God) and Akṣarabrahman (Guru), to demonstrate how yogic powers construct and deconstruct divinity: the organization simultaneously accepts and rejects yogic powers. For instance, God is imagined with yogic powers; however, devotees should not ground their belief in miracles. The Vacanamrut reconciles this difference by suggesting that yogic powers play a role in revealing divinity but are not a preferred means of recognizing or legitimizing the divine. Given the evidence that yogic powers do not grant authority to a divine figure, I argue that authority stems from multiple factors, a virtuous life being at the core. Practitioners in Hindu devotional traditions like the BAPS Svāminārāyana Sansthā determine the authority of a religious figure by examining their life.

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Jun 2nd, 12:00 AM

By Virtue of Yoga Powers: The Image of Divinity in Swaminarayan Hinduism

Flying through the air, seeing the future, reading minds, becoming disembodied, recalling previous births-- these are powers that a siddha yogin (perfected yogi) might display (Jacobsen 2012). When yogins obtain powers from performing extraordinary penance and meditation, their inexplicable feats are often associated with divinity. Whether miraculous powers confer divinity is contested within Hindu traditions (Burchett 2012). Whereas tantric traditions believe religious leaders claim divinity through the display of miraculous powers, bhakti traditions perceive supernatural powers with skepticism (Burchett 2012).

This paper examines the extent to which yogic powers are the primary determinant of divinity and authority in contemporary Hindu religious traditions through a case study of the Bocāsanavāsī Śrī Akṣar-Puruṣottam Svāminārāyana Sansthā, a devotional tradition in Gujarat. Using a primary source analysis of the Vachanamrut, a canonical text in the tradition, I seek to determine the role of yoga powers in conceptualizing God. I analyze conceptions of two theological entities, Parabrahman (God) and Akṣarabrahman (Guru), to demonstrate how yogic powers construct and deconstruct divinity: the organization simultaneously accepts and rejects yogic powers. For instance, God is imagined with yogic powers; however, devotees should not ground their belief in miracles. The Vacanamrut reconciles this difference by suggesting that yogic powers play a role in revealing divinity but are not a preferred means of recognizing or legitimizing the divine. Given the evidence that yogic powers do not grant authority to a divine figure, I argue that authority stems from multiple factors, a virtuous life being at the core. Practitioners in Hindu devotional traditions like the BAPS Svāminārāyana Sansthā determine the authority of a religious figure by examining their life.