Swaminarayan Sampradaya (Sect), previously known as Uddhav Sect was established by Param Pujya Sadguru Shri Ramanand Swami. Ramanand Swami was believed to be the incarnation of Uddhav (a dear friend and disciple of Lord Krishna), named after whom Uddhav Sect flourished in the late 1700’s. Ramanand Swami was first initiated by Aatmanand Swami in Saurashtra region, although due to Aatmanand Swami’s belief in formless Brahm, Ramanand Swami continued his search for a preacher that would quench his thirst for true spiritual knowledge. While in Srirang Kshetra (present day Srirangam, Tamil Nadu, India), Ramanand Swami studied the texts of Shri Ramanujacharya (1107 -1137 CE), the chief proponent of the Vishishtadvaita philosophy. While in trance, he received a divine vision in which Shri Ramanujacharya initiated him as the Aacharya in line. After attaining this knowledge Swami went to Vrindavan where he received a glorious sight of Lord Shree Krishna, after which he went back to Saurashtra to spread the word. Years later, Shree Swaminarayan Bhagwan came to him as Nilkanth Varni. He gave Shri Hari mahadeeksha (initiation as a saint) on October 20, 1800 and named Him as Sahajanand Swami. Prior to his death he passed on his religious throne to Swaminarayan Bhagwan after which Uddhav Sect was referred to as Swaminarayan Sect.
Shri Sahajanand Swami also accepted Vishishtadvaita philosophy as the principle ideology of Swaminarayan Sect. Each Hindu philosophy is based on the teachings and interpretations of the Vedic Texts. Among these, 5 subdivisions of Vedanta are considered as the foremost; one of which is the Vishishtadvaita (unique non dualism). The ideology states that there are 3 ultimate realities, Jiva (the souls), Ishwar (the Supreme Lord) and Maya (the matter). Accepting this ideology Swaminarayan Bhagwan revealed 5 divisions of these elements:
- Jiva: the soul entranced by Maya
- Ishwar: souls that are omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent for their respective universes only
- Maya: the nescience eternal power of the Lord that makes up the 24 elements by its 3 qualities, Satva, Rajas and Tamas
- Brahm: the pure, changeless and limitless form of soul that has attained ultimate salvation
- Parabrahm: One and only one Purushottam Narayan himself, the controller of all, superior to whom is non
Thus, accepting the Vishishtadvaita philosophy proposed by Shri Ramanujaacharya, Shri Swaminarayan Bhagwan added distinct differences to it promoting an unambiguous philosophy to follow for all.