Having observed the decline in morality and social harmony, Bhagwan Swaminarayan wrote the Shikshapatri to help improve the then current state of society over 200 years ago. The Shikshapatri, personally dictated by Bhagwan Swaminarayan, is a unique code of conduct aimed at a more transparent society. Especially for His time, having a single code of conduct for all of society was both unorthodox and groundbreaking.
The Shikshapatri is one of the primary scriptures of the Swaminarayan Sampraday. Blending contemporary social mores with a strong spiritual ideal, Bhagwan Swaminarayan condensed the standards for behavior in just 212 Sanskrit shlokas. The Shikshapatri was written in Vadtal, Gujarat, on February 12, 1826 CE (Maha Sud 5, Vikram Samvat Year 1882). In the Shikshapatri, Bhagwan Swaminarayan has instructed His devotees in matters of health, hygiene, dress, diet, etiquette, diplomacy, finance, education, friendship, morality, habits, penance, religious duties, celebrations, and other areas. The codes are applicable to devotees from all stages and walks of life – young or old; man or woman; married, unmarried, or widowed; householder or sadhu. The central premise of the Shikshapatri, as mentioned in its 116th shloka, is that an aspirant should aim to identify himself as one with Brahma, separate from the (physical) bodies, and offer devotion to God. Furthermore, Bhagwan Swaminarayan has instructed all of His devotees to read the Shikshapatri daily so they constantly remain aware of their duties.
Bhagwan Swaminarayan presented a copy of the Shikshapatri to Governor Sir John Malcolm when they met on February 26, 1830. That original copy is preserved today in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.