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Niranta Sampradaya Sect In Gujarat

Niranta Sampradaya is a sect in Gujarat that believes in Advaita, the monism of Adi Shankaracharya. Along with Niranta, Bhakta Dhiro and Bapusaheb Gaikwad have contributed much to the history of Kevaladvaita (Vedanta) literature in Gujarati. They were all contemporaries, and all of them ardently believed in self-realization through Advaita. They laid stress on the name of God being constantly repeated (nama smarana) in preference to the worship of God in any form. They considered the favor of guru as the chief means of self realization. Emancipation, according to them, should be nothing but self realization. Bondage consists in the false attachment of the jiva (self, human being) to the name and forms of the world, which are, in reality, not separate from Brahman, the Absolute Being. They point the way to moksha (emancipation) through nirguna bhakti (worship of the formless God) and jnana (knowledge).

For Niranta, atman (self) is different from the body, which is composed of 28 elements, - five gross elements, ten organs, ten pranas and three qualities (sattva, rajas and tamas). It is the witnessing self and is free by nature. It is beyond the four states of jagrat (waking), svapna (dreaming), sushupti (deep sleep) and turiya (pure consciousness) and the four bodies – the gross, the subtle, the casual and the transcendental. Reality is both nirguna and saguna, as it is the cause of the world of names and forms and is also absolute in nature.

The tree of samsara (world) is without roots, as it is itself non-existent; it has flowers in the form of ajnana (ignorance), but has no fruits. It is only with the help of a guru that one can leave it off. One has to realize the unity of the self in the microcosm as well as macrocosm. Niranta attaches great importance to constant repetition of the name of God as a means of self-realization. Niranta is a mystic of the highest order. He is one with Brahman, and whatever he has contributed is a part of this self realization.

Bapusaheb Gaikwad, the first disciple of Dhiro and then of Nirantas, is deeply rooted in Kevaladvaita. He explains the whole cosmology according to the Samkhya system. He explains the nature of jiva as the reflection of Brahman in avidya. He has written twenty kafis, wherein he has derided the various supernatural powers which as a yogi gets during his progress in the yoga marga (path of yoga).

A close study of these poet-saints reveals that they closely follow the system of Sri Shankaracharya throughout their exposition of the Vedanta philosophy. Their exposition is more a doctrinal statement than an outcome of self-realization, though of course, at times Niranta does rise to mystic heights. They have made references to Pratibimbavada (theory of reflection) and Avachedavada (theory of limitation) in the explanation of the nature of jiva and atman, and in drawing the distinction between the two. For them, the world is neither existent nor non-existent. It is true to jiva but untrue to the self-realized.