Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Maha Vishnu

Swami Vishwananda
spoke about the Vishnu Avatar, Kalki, yet to come in yesterday’s video post pertaining to a question he was asked about Kalki Avatar. Swami talked about the attributes of the Kalki Avatar which are identical to Vishnu’s attributes. We have listed the four attributes of Vishnu-Kalki Avatar below with their symbology meanings as well as Vishnu’s iconography with their symbology.

According to various Purana, Vishnu is the ultimate omnipresent reality, is formless and omnipresent. However, a strict iconography governs His representation, whether in pictures, icons, or idols:

  • He is to be depicted as a four-armed male-form: (Some pictures of Vishnu, like the one above, depict him with eight arms). The four arms indicate his all-powerful and all-pervasive nature. The physical existence of Vishnu is represented by the two arms in the front while the two arms at the back represent his presence in the spiritual world. The Upanishad titled Gopal Uttartapani describes the four arms of Vishnu.
  • The color of his skin has to be new-cloud-like-blue: The blue color indicates his all-pervasive nature, blue being the color of the infinite sky as well as the infinite ocean on which he resides.
  • He has the mark of sage Bhrigu's feet on his chest.
  • Also on his chest is the srivatsa mark which symbolizes Lakshmi. Srivatsa signifies the ‘Endless Knot’. It denotes "the auspicious mark represented by a curled noose emblematic of love. It is a mark on the chest of Vishnu where His consort Sri Lakshmi resides. It is said that the 10th avatar of Vishnu, Kalki will be bearer of the Srivatsa mark on his chest. Srivatsa is also another name of Vishnu and is mentioned in the Vishnu Sahasranam.
  • A crown should adorn his head: The crown symbolizes his supreme authority.
  • He is to shown wearing two earrings: The earrings represent inherent opposites in creation - knowledge and ignorance; happiness and unhappiness; pleasure and pain.

Four Attributes of Vishnu:
A conch shell or Shankhya, named "Panchajanya", held by the lower right hand, which represents creativity. The Panchajanya is the originator of the five elements or Panchabhoota - water, fire, air, earth and sky or space. The sound that evolves from blowing this conch is the primeval sound of creation, OM.

  1. A conch shell or Shankha, named "Panchajanya", held by the upper left hand, which represents Vishnu's power to create and maintain the universe. The PanchajanyaPanchabhoota - water, fire, air, earth and sky or space. It also represents the five airs or Pranas that are within the body and mind. The conch symbolizes that Vishnu is the primeval Divine sound of creation and universal maintenance. it also represented as Om. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna avatara states that of sound vibrations, 'He is Om'. represents the five elements or
  2. The chakra, a sharp-spinning discus-like weapon, named "Sudarshana", held by the upper right hand, which symbolizes the mind. The name Sudarshana is derived from two words - Su, which means good, and Darshan, which means vision. The chakra as a weapon thus indicates the necessity of destroying one's ego and illusory self-existence and developing the vision to identify the eternal truth. The discus has six spokes and symbolizes a lotus with six petals, thus representing the power that controls all six seasons.
  3. A mace or Gada, named "Kaumodaki", held by the lower left hand, which represents individual existence. The mace symbolizes the primeval force from which all mental and physical strength is derived.
  4. A lotus flower or Padma, held by the upper left hand, which represents liberation or dispersion. The lotus symbolizes the power from which the universe emerges. It represents the concentration of truth or Satya, the originator of the rules of conduct or Dharma, and knowledge or Gyana in a single symbol.

In general, Vishnu is depicted in one of the following two forms:

  1. Standing upright on a lotus flower, often with Lakshmi, His consort, beside him on a similar pedestal;
  2. Reclining on the coiled-up thousand-hooded Shesha Naga, with his consort Lakshmi, seated at his feet; the assemblage rests on the "Kshira Sagar" (ocean of Milk). In this representation, Brahma is depicted as sitting on a lotus that grows out of Vishnu's navel.

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