Smartphone Applications and Religious Reading among Swaminarayan Hindus

Authors

  • Bhakti Mamtora The College of Wooster

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/post.20507

Keywords:

religious reading, Swaminarayan Sampraday, digital sacred texts, smartphone applications, Vachanamrut, Swamini Vato

Abstract

This paper examines how two prominent digital sacred texts, Vachanamrut Study App and Swamini Vato Study App, shape reading and meaning-making practices among members of the Swaminarayan Sampraday in the United States. By analyzing the design and use of applications, I argue that smartphone applications are pedagogical tools that integrate offline modes of textual study and simplify access to the meanings of the teachings. The historical, contextual, and paratextual features of smartphone applications reinforce that the study of sacred texts is an intentional, conscientious, dialogical, and gradual process—a process that enables individuals to fulfill their religious aspirations.

References

Primary Sources

Li. Sastri Yajnapurusadasji: Brahmasvarupa Sastriji Maharajano Samkalina Patravyavahara. 2000. First edition. Ahmedabad: Swaminarayan Aksharpith.

“Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s 91st Birthday Celebrations, Mumbai, India.” 2011. BAPS. https://www.baps.org/News/2011/Pramukh-Swami-Maharajs-91st-Birthday-Celebrations-2780.aspx

Sadhu, Adarshjivandas. 2018. Brahmasvarupa Pramukhasvami Maharaja: Vistrt Jivan Ane Karya. Ahmedabad: Swaminarayan Aksharpith.

Svaminarayana Prakasa. 1938. Ahmedabad.

Svaminarayana Satsanga Patrika 1956. Mumbai.

“Swamini Vato Study App.” 2018. BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha. Online. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/swamini-vato-study/id1333957121?ls=1&mt=8

“Vachanamrut Study App.” 2017. BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha. Online. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/vachanamrut-study-app/id482931473?mt=8

Secondary Sources

Brahmbhatt, Arun. 2018. Scholastic Publics: Sanskrit Textual Practices in Gujarat, 1800-Present. University of Toronto. Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

Bachrach, Emilia. 2018. “Religious Reading and Everyday Lives.” In Text and Tradition in Early Modern North India, edited by Tyler Williams, Anshu Malhotra and John Stratton Hawley, 413–433. Delhi: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780199478866.003.0021 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780199478866.003.0021

Campbell, Heidi. 2013. Digital Religion: Understanding Religious Practice in New Media Worlds. New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203084861 DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203084861

———. 2010. When Religion Meets New Media. New York: Routledge. https://doi. org/10.4324/9780203695371

Cardoza, Danny. 2019. “The JW Library App, Jehovah’s Witness Technological Change, and Ethical Object-Formation.” In Anthropological Perspectives on Religious Uses of Mobile Apps, edited by Jacqueline H. Fewkes, 219–240. Switzerland: Palgrave MacMillan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-26376-8_11 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-26376-8_11

Chitwood, Kenneth. 2019. “Latinx Muslims ‘Like’ One Another: An Ethnographic Exploration of Social Media and the Formation of Latinx Muslim Community.” In Anthropological Perspectives on Religious Uses of Mobile Apps, edited by Jacqueline H. Fewkes, 83–102. Switzerland: Palgrave MacMillan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-26376-8_5 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-26376-8_5

Griffiths, Paul J. 1999. Religious Reading: The Place of Reading in the Practice of Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof: oso/9780195125771.003.0001 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195125771.001.0001

Hoover, S. and Schofield Clark, L. 2002. Practicing Religion in the Age of Media: Explorations in Religion, Media, and Culture. New York: Columbia University Press. https://doi.org/10.7312/hoov12088 DOI: https://doi.org/10.7312/hoov12088

Hoover, Stewart. 2006. Religion in the Media Age. New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203503201 DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203503201

Kim, Hanna. 2013. “Swaminarayan Bhakti Yoga and the Aksarabrahman Guru.” In Gurus of Modern Yoga, edited by Ellen Goldberg and Mark Singleton, 237–260. Oxford: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199938704.003.0012 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199938704.003.0012

———. 2012. “Snapshot: Work-in-Progress: The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha on the Web.” In Public Hinduisms, edited by John Zavos, Pralay Kanungo, Deepa S. Reddy, Maya Warrier, and Raymond Brady Williams, 303–308. New Delhi: SAGE Publications.

———. 2009. “Public Engagement and Personal Desires: BAPS Swaminarayan Temples and their Contributions to the Discourse on Religion. International Journal of Hindu Studies 13: 357–390. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11407010-9081-4 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11407-010-9081-4

Mamtora, Bhakti. 2019. “The Making of a Modern Scripture: Svamini Vato and the Formation of Religious Subjectivities in Gujarat.” Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Florida.

Mann, Joshua L. 2020. “Paratexts and the Hermeneutics of Digital Bibles.” In From Scrolls to Scrolling: Sacred Texts, Materiality, and Dynamic Media Cultures, edited by Bradford A. Anderson, 248–262. Berlin: de Gruyter. https://doi. org/10.1515/9783110634440-011 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110634440-011

Paramtattvadas, Swami. 2019. “The Ak?arabrahman Guru as the Essential Hermeneutical Tool for Receiving Scripture.” The BAPS Swaminarayan Research Journal 2: 53–70.

———.2017. An Introduction to Swaminarayan Hindu Theology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316666005 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316666005

Pechilis, Karen. 2004. The Graceful Guru: Hindu Female Gurus in India and the United States. Oxford: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof: oso/9780195145380.001.0001 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195145380.001.0001

Roof, Wade Clark. 2001. Spiritual Marketplace: Baby Boomers and the Remaking of American Religion. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. https://doi. org/10.1515/9781400823086 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9781400823086

Siker, Jeffrey S. 2017. Liquid Scripture. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. https:// doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt1pwt87v DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt1pwt87v

Singh, Jasjit. 2018. “Lost in Translation? The Emergence of the Digital Guru Granth Sahib.” Sikh Formations 14: 339–351. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/17448727.2018.1485355

Suit, Natalia. 2020. “Virtual Qur'an: Authenticity, Authority, and Ayat in Bytes.” In From Scrolls to Scrolling: Sacred Texts, Materiality, and Dynamic Media Cultures, edited by Bradford A. Anderson, 263–280. Berlin: de Gruyter. https://doi. org/10.1515/9783110634440-012 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110634440-012

Tsuria, R., W. Bellar, H. Campbell and K. Cho. 2021. “Transferred, Mediated or Transformed: Considering the Design and Presentation of Sacred Text Mobile Applications.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 36: 57–78. https:// doi.org/10.1080/13537903.2021.1878633 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13537903.2021.1878633

Wagner, Rachel. 2013. “You Are What You Install: Religious Authenticity and Identity in Mobile Apps.” In Digital Religion: Understanding Religious Practice in New Media Worlds, edited by Heidi Campbell, 199–206. New York: Routledge.

Williams, Raymond Brady. 2018. [2001]. An Introduction to Swaminarayan Hinduism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi. org/10.1017/9781108332989 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108332989

Published

2021-11-02

How to Cite

Mamtora, B. . (2021). Smartphone Applications and Religious Reading among Swaminarayan Hindus. Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts, Cultural Histories, and Contemporary Contexts, 12(1), 21–44. https://doi.org/10.1558/post.20507