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An Introduction to Swaminarayan Hindu Theology

An Introduction to Swaminarayan Hindu Theology

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Part of Introduction to Religion

Gavin Flood
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  • Date Published: September 2017
  • availability: This ISBN is for an eBook version which is distributed on our behalf by a third party.
  • format: Adobe eBook Reader
  • isbn: 9781108216562

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About the Authors
  • Since its inception over two hundred years ago, Swaminarayan Hinduism has flourished into a transnational movement described as one of the fastest growing Hindu groups in the world. Despite being one of the largest and most visible Hindu traditions both in India and the West, surprisingly little is known about what the Swaminarayan fellowship believes. An Introduction to Swaminarayan Hindu Theology provides a comprehensive doctrinal account of the Swaminarayan tradition's belief system, drawing on its rich corpus of theological literature, including the teachings of Swaminarayan himself and classical commentaries on canonical Vedāntic texts. Part I delineates the sources and tools of Swaminarayan Hindu theology, while Part II systematically expounds upon its distinctive five eternal entities - Parabrahman, Akṣarabrahman, māyā, īśvara and jīva - and mukti (spiritual liberation). In presenting these key themes theologically and lucidly, Swami Paramtattvadas makes the Swaminarayan Hindu belief system intelligible to scholars, students and serious readers.

    • One of the first full-length, systematic theological accounts in English of a living Hindu tradition
    • A comprehensive doctrinal exposition of Swaminarayan Hinduism, based on a wide range of primary sources, including the teachings of Swaminarayan himself and classical commentaries on canonical Vedānta texts
    • Includes a Prolegomenon, with sections on Hindu theology, methodology and terminology
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '[This] is a ground-breaking book that will be widely appreciated by scholars and believers in India and the West. It is a welcome addition to the growing field of Swaminarayan studies, distinguished by its clear focus on the teachings of the tradition, with close attention to philosophical and theological foundations. Written by an erudite insider and practitioner, it is an excellent example of Hindu theology, as Swami Paramtattvadas speaks with the authority of his experience, practice, and with the benefit of many years of traditional learning. The book exemplifies constructive religious thinking, as he points to areas where new thinking is required, to understand ever more deeply the mysteries of God and scripture, the human and the world, as the tradition grows globally. This work will be prized by members of the Swaminarayan community, by scholars interested in contemporary Hinduism and in the self-representation of faith traditions with an increasing global presence, and by theologians of all faiths committed to the global interreligious conversation.' Francis X. Clooney, Director, Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard University

    'Swaminarayan Hinduism is rapidly becoming the most prominent form of Hinduism in many countries. This constructive presentation of Swaminarayan theology is an essential text for Swaminarayan and Hindu studies and a valuable resource for comparative theology and interreligious dialogue. Swaminarayan developed a theology, an ethical discipline and a reform movement in a time of rapid social and political change in the early nineteenth century that continues to inspire and guide Hindu followers in the twenty-first century. Contemporary migration movements expand his influence across strong transnational networks and through social media in cyberspace, making this book even more relevant in helping us understand what this dynamic global community believes. Swami Paramtattvadas’ Western education at Oxford and classical Hindu studies in India enable him to present this important Hindu theology with academic rigor, depth and clarity. His introduction is an accessible and major contribution to the study of modern Hinduism.' Raymond Brady Williams, Wabash College, Indiana, author of An Introduction to Swaminarayan Hinduism

    'In this welcome introduction to Swaminarayan Hindu theology, Swami Paramtattvadas has succeeded in presenting the fundamental beliefs of his tradition in a lucid, meticulous and methodical exposition. This book, while standing within Swaminarayan Hinduism, seeks to engage with a broader, rational discourse and to stimulate discussion beyond the bounds of Hindu communities. The writing of this book has been a large scholarly task, aiming to systematise key themes from an extensive network of the tradition’s authoritative texts in Gujarati and Sanskrit. As such it is an important contribution to theology and religion and, to my knowledge, is the first Hindu systematic theology written in English. It is also a welcome contribution to Hindu theology and to the emerging discussion of comparative theology. I am sure it will find a wide readership among both the academic and Hindu communities.' Gavin Flood, Senior Research Fellow, Campion Hall, University of Oxford and Visiting Yap Kim Hao Professor of Comparative Religious Studies, Yale-NUS, Singapore

    'This book provides a brilliant introduction to the theology of the Swaminarayan tradition, one of the most dynamic and visible forms of Hinduism in India and abroad. It comprehensively narrates the key doctrines and beliefs of the tradition drawing on canonical Hindu texts, original teachings of the tradition’s founder, and exegetical works of other teachers of the tradition. After delineating the sources for his research, the author intelligibly expounds upon the five central entities of the tradition. It also opens vistas of mutual understanding and comparative studies with other religious traditions. The book stands as an essential tool for understanding the belief system of this vibrant Hindu tradition.' Diwakar Acharya, Spalding Professor of Eastern Religions and Ethics, University of Oxford

    'In this engagingly written book, Swami Paramtattvadas looks at the complex ways in which the Swaminarayan tradition interpreted the critical and hallowed terminology of Vedānta, thereby developing its own unique system from the early modern period onwards. At the same time, by approaching the thought of the tradition from within, he also raises interesting questions about the relationship between the categories of theology, metaphysics, the philosophy of religion, and the practices of Hindu devotion. This book does an excellent job of bringing the Swaminarayan tradition into conversation not only with English-language studies of modern Vedānta, but with comparative theology more generally.' Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad FBA, Lancaster University

    'This monograph by Swami Paramtattvadas fills a longstanding need for a detailed and systematic exposition of the theology of the Swaminarayan tradition. It makes accessible the fundamental theological assumptions and claims of the tradition, while contextualizing and discussing these within the rich diversity of Hindu intellectual thought. The author brings to his exposition both the depth of traditional learning and practice as well as the tools of contemporary Western scholarship. This is an excellent contribution to the field of Hindu theology exemplifying the creativity of commitment and critical inquiry. It is a valuable resource for understanding and engaging with one of India’s most visible and rapidly growing global religious traditions.' Anantanand Rambachan, Saint Olaf College, Minnesota

    'An Introduction to Swaminarayan Hindu Theology is a ground-breaking work which provides a comprehensive theological overview of the belief system of the Swaminarayan tradition, one of the fastest growing and most visible Hindu groups in India and in the West. The book indicates the author’s deep immersion in traditional Hindu styles of theological reasoning and also his ability to situate the themes of God, humanity and the world within the wider frames of ‘Hindu theology’ and ‘comparative theology'.' Ankur Barua, University of Cambridge

    'A key marker of a religious tradition’s health is its ability to articulate, renew and reapply its doctrines and scriptures for each succeeding generation. This is the work of theology. There is still a great dearth of Hindu theological writing in English that takes into account our global, interreligious context. Not only does this book offer a superb example of such writing within the Swaminarayan tradition, it also issues a call for others to join the conversation and grow the field of Hindu theology. An Introduction to Swaminarayan Hindu Theology provides a thorough, balanced and incisive analysis of the tradition’s key sources, doctrines and practices, written in a clear and accessible style. I commend Swami Paramtattvadas on this signature achievement.' Ravi Gupta, Charles Redd Chair of Religious Studies, Utah State University

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    Product details

    • Date Published: September 2017
    • format: Adobe eBook Reader
    • isbn: 9781108216562
    • contains: 5 b/w illus. 1 table
    • availability: This ISBN is for an eBook version which is distributed on our behalf by a third party.
  • Table of Contents

    Foreword Gavin Flood
    1. Prolegomenon
    Part I. Sources and Tools of Swaminarayan Hindu Theology:
    2. Introduction: the imperceptibility and ineffability of God
    3. Revelation: the exclusive source of Swaminarayan Hindu theology
    4. Reason, praxis and tradition: the tools of Swaminarayan Hindu theology
    Part II. Themes of Swaminarayan Hindu Theology:
    5. Introduction: the five eternal entities of Swaminarayan Hinduism
    6. Parabrahman
    7. Akṣarabrahman
    8. Jīva
    9. Īśvara
    10. Māyā
    11. Mukti
    12. Afterword: the way forward
    Appendix: theological principles of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha: creedal statement by Pramukh Swami Maharaj

  • Author

    Swami Paramtattvadas
    Swami Paramtattvadas was ordained as a Hindu monk in 1992 by His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj. After studying in India for fourteen years, including for a Master's in Sanskrit, Paramtattvadas returned to England in 2006 to read for a Master's in Religion at the University of Oxford. After a further year of pre-doctoral studies focussing on Christianity, he completed his Ph.D. in Hindu theology under Gavin Flood at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, India. Swami Paramtattvadas has written and spoken extensively on Swaminarayan history, doctrine and teachings around the world, and is currently a scholar at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies.


    Gavin Flood

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