Shad Darshan – Vedanta philosophies (contd.):
Swaminarayan philosophy – in General III
From the beginning of the Shad Darshan until the advent of Swaminarayan philosophy only three fundamental realities, namely, soul, nature or universe, and Ishwar (God), were mainly defined and discussed from the Prasthan Trayi and other Hindu scriptures. As our understanding of the Prasthantrayi was broadened two new categories were emerged that did go beyond the above three categories of Shad Darshan and Vedanta. The addition of two new categories covers the whole multiverse – the groups and strata of brahmands and their super-souls (ishwars or purushas). New categories were needed to clearly define and include Ishwar, Purush, Brahm, and Parabrahm, in our complete understanding of all the realities. Maya or Prakruti as matter or material of the universe and soul as the essence of the life are clearly described, defined, and understood from the scriptures.
Ishwar, Brahm, and Parabrahm are described and discussed, in the scriptures, as the realities but were not categorized separately. Sometimes they were described synonymously, but, at other times they were described distinctly. So the scholars defined them according to their preferences. We can see from the other Vedanta philosophies that the confusion was still prevailing among the scholars. Shri Swaminarayan characterized them into three distinct ontological categories to clear the confusion. He clarified that Ishwar, Brahm, and Parabrahm are three totally different ontological elements or Tattvas and not just one reality or element with three names. Some of the characteristics unique only to Parabrahm (God) cannot be attributed or applied to Brahm and the characteristics of Brahm or Parabrahm cannot be applied to Ishwar. He placed Purushas into the Ishwar category.
In the scriptures, brahmands are described in multiplicities. So, their essences or super-souls, called Ishwars or Purushas, are also described in multiplicity, but Purushottam (the Supreme Being) is described as the topmost – one and only entity. Purushas or Ishwars cannot be fitted into the category of Purushottam or Parameshwar, nor can they be fitted into the category of souls because of their universal potential. Brahm (also known as Akshar or Aksharbrahm) is the abode of Parabrahm. It is described different than Parabrahm. Within this abode, Aksharbrahm, countless brahmands float like mere atoms. Parabrahm cannot be fitted into the category of Brahm. Parabrahm is the controller and the topmost cosmic authority and cannot be the permanent resting place to harbor millions and millions of brahmands and the non-liberated and liberated souls inside it. Parabrahm is the essence or soul of Brahm. In the scriptures Brahm is described as the body of Parabrahm in which He resides forever. The scriptures have described body and soul (sharir-shariri or kshetra-kshetragna) relationship with Brahm and Parabrahm, respectively. Parameshwar, Parabrahm, Purushottam, Narayan are different names of the single, most transcendental entity (tattva), known as the Supreme Being. Thus, we have to have minimum five eternal (shaswat) fundamental realities to explain everything that is discussed in the scriptures and also exists in this phenomenal creation of God.