Vishnu

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These are the most important Vishnu temples for pilgrimages in India.

Hierarchies

  1. Maha Vishnu

Major Avatars

  1. Matsya
  2. Kurma
  3. Varaha
  4. Narsimha
  5. Vamana
  6. Parshurama
  7. Rama
  8. Krishna
  9. Balarama
  10. Kalki

Relation to Krishna

"It is perhaps well to remember that ancients had two paths - the path of the day and the path of the night (the latter path is well known as the pancaratra.)" - K.C. Varadachari[1]

Vaishnavam has also been known as Bhagavatam, Ekantika Dharm, Pacharatra, Narayaniya, and Satvat Vidhi. Bhagavatam refers to Krishna as Bhagavat. Ekantika Dharm refers to Vasudeva as well, but according to the Narada Pancharatra, there were 2 kinds of Ekantins - pure (Vasudevaikayajina or "worshiping only Vasudeva") and mixed (who worshiped other forms of Vasudeva.) The "Mokshadharmaparvan" section of the Mahabharata states that the worship of Vasudeva evolved from ekavyuha (only Krishna), to dvivyuha (him and Sankarshan), then trivyuha (the prior 2 and Pradyumna), and chaturvyuha (the 3 plus Aniruddha.) Later, Samba too was added to the regular pantheon. The importance of these persons in rank is shown by this "evolution." Pancharatra is so-called because it adheres to panchakala or 5 daily observances; abhigamana or prayers, upadana or collecting materials for worship (i.e., incense sticks, lotus flowers), ijya or sacrifice (i.e., worship, fasting), swadhyaya or self-study, and yoga or meditation. It may also relate to the 5 main traits of Narayan; Para (Supreme One), vyuha (heavenly incarnating), vibhava (earthly incarnating), antaryami (presence within all beings), and archa (iconic.) The term is first used in the Taittiriya Samhita[2] wherein a man named Babara Pravahini used the Pancharatra sacrifice to gain rhetorical power. Then the Shatapatha Brahmana mentions a Pancharatra sacrifice conducted by Narayan to become supreme over all beings.[3]

It is specifically in the Pancharatra and Satvat Vaishnava sects wherein Krishna (as well as Rama) is identified very closely with Vishnu, Narayan, and the sun. The question has arisen whether this idea is random or is it consistent with connections between the three. The origin of this tradition has been described in various scriptures, both Vaishnava and others. Usually in India, when saints were considered avatars, they were deemed avatars of the God whom they worshipped. For example, Jalaram Bapa is considered that of Surya, while the Bhairava saints that of Shiva. In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna is recorded to have called Krishna as Vishnu[4], after Krishna identifies himself with Vishnu (among other beings.)[5] At least in 1 recorded event, Arjuna referred to Krishna as Vishnu[6], and elsewhere Krishna is connected with Vishnu’s symbolisms. He also addressed Krishna as Madhusudan[7][8][9][1][2][3], a name first given to Vishnu or his attendant Hayagriva for having slain the aggressor Madhu.

Vishnu was an Aditya of its dynasty, and Krishna a Yadava of its dynasty. Vishnu was born much before Krishna, generations (if not centuries) away. There is a relation between the lineages, which is why both Vaishnavism and Jainism use the term 'Harivamsha' to describe the descent of Krishna and his cousin Neminath, and why Jainism too applies the epithets 'Narayan' and 'Vasudeva' for Krishna. Jain sastras further go to elaborate that in every Tirthankar's era, there have been a Balarama, Narayan, and Prati-Narayan. Krishna is named in that list as a Narayan. This shows that even Jains have recorded the significance of Vishnu's relation to Krishna. There is also a section of the Mahabharata called "Harivamsha" wherein Krishna's birth details are given, meaning the scripture is purposely connecting Krishna with Hari Narayan.

   
Vishnu
And Narada knew that the exalted and holy Narayan, also called Sambhu the lord of the universe, having commanded all the celestials thus, had taken his birth in the race of Yadus and that foremost of all perpetuator of races, having sprung from the line of the Andhaka-Vrishnis on earth was graced with great good fortune and was shining like the moon herself among stars. Narada knew that Hari the grinder of foes, whose strength of arm was ever praised by all the celestials with Indra among them, was then living in the world in human form. Oh, the Self-Create will himself take away (from the earth) this vast concourse of Kshatriyas endued with so much strength. Such was the vision of Narada the omniscient who knew Hari or Narayan to be that Supreme Lord whom everybody worshipped with sacrifice.
   
Vishnu

Mahabharata, Section Arghyaharana Parva


In Mahabharata[10] Sankarshan is said to have introduced Satvat rites in worshiping Vasudeva. The Ahirbudhnya Samhita was composed by Sankarshan according to tradition, and interestingly enough Jainism mentions that Balarama preached worship of Krishna, even after Krishna had passed. Bhishma in the Mahabharata says that Satvat emerged from Surya's mouth. The Mahabharata's "Narayaniya" section is about King Vasu, also called Uparichara (AKA Khechar Vasu), who followed the Satvat or Pancharatra Agama. He was a good friend of Indra, and an arbitrator between the Asuras and Devas. He heard the Satvat Shastra from Brihaspati rishi. It is written that Sanat Kumar preached Narayaniya (worship of Narayan) to Narada Muni (greatest devotee of Narayan), and the latter to Vyasa Rishi (one of the greatest devotees of Krishna), and he to Vaishampayana Rishi. In an earlier period, Vivaswan revealed it to Manu, and Manu to Ikshvaku (Suryavamsha or Sun-descent.) In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna says that he taught yoga to Vivaswan, and the latter to his son Manu. These statements make Krishna=Narayan. The Chandogya Upanishad's chapter seven[11] is about Sanat Kumara's Instructions on Brahm-vidya to Narada.

   
Vishnu
The sage Ghora, of the family of Aṅgirasa, taught this truth to Kṛṣṇa, the son of Devakī. As a result, Kṛṣṇa became free from all desires. Then Ghora said: ‘At the time of death a person should repeat these three mantras: “You never decay, you never change, and you are the essence of life.”’ Here are two Ṛk mantras in this connection:

[Those who know Brahman] see that the light shining in Para-Brahman is the seed of the world. This light is all-pervasive like daylight. It is eternal. It is that great light which is the cause of the world.

   
Vishnu

Chandogya Upanishad 3.17.6-8


In the Chandogya Upanishad, Ghora Angirasa was a priest of sun-worship, the scripture repeatedly praises Aditya (the sun.) Vishnu is of the solar-connected Aditya gotra [which is based on the linear from Aditi and Kashyapa.] So Krishna learned the teachings of sun worship from his teacher Angirasa. Surya is addressed as Narayan in the Rig Veda. The Rig Veda uses the term "Surya Narayan" to describe the sun. The Chandogya Upanishad equates Brihat with Aditya. As explained, Brihaspati rishi promulgated Satvat Shastra. The Bṛhaddevatā states that Vishnu is one of the names of the sun. A relationship can now be seen between Krishna, the sun, Narayan, and Vishnu. According, to the Mahabharata, the son of Krishna, Samba, brings Magas (sun-worship priests.) Then according to the Samba and Bhavishya Puranas, Krishna instructs Samba to construct the [now-defunct] sun temple at Mulasthana (modern Multan.) These Magas are known as Sakaldwipiya Brahmans in modern times. While declaring his importance by starting his identity with important from categories, Krishna also declares to be both Vishnu and the sun in the same sentence; "Amongst the twelve sons of Aditi I am Vishnu; amongst luminous objects I am the sun."[12] According to legend, Krishna told Arjuna, "Only Surya is Mantramaya. Only Surya is the master of the three reigns."[13]

According to the Narayan Upanishad, the Rig Veda teaches that Narayan is the Supreme Lord. Prahlada Daitya was a disciple of Narada Muni (the greatest devotee of Narayan) but he worshipped Vishnu, meaning that even in his time Vishnu=Narayan. According to the Vamana Purana, it was when Nara and Narayan (the rishis) defeated Shiva in battle that Prahlada realized [seeing the power of the rishis] that Narayan (the god) is the same as Vishnu.

Ancient artworks to connect Vishnu, Narayan, and Krishna. The oldest depictions of "Narayan" are at Mathura, as they are for Krishna. The oldest inscription of Krishna and Balarama worshipped as Narayan is at the "Narayan Vattika" in Mewar, Rajasthan, which was inscribed 2 cent BCE - 1 cent BCE at the will of Gajayana king Sarvatata.

To summarize, Vishnu = Aditya (whose totem is the sun) = Surya Narayan. The Aditya-worshiper Ghora Angirasa taught sun worship and doctrines to Krishna. According to this line of persons, the sun is the most sacred form of Vishnu, Narayan, and Krishna within the universe. Also according to the details, the most important promulgators [apart from Krishna himself] were Brihaspati of Satvat Shastra, Sankarshan of Ahirbudhnya Samhita, Sanat Kumar of Sanat Kumar Samahita, and Narada of Narada Pancharatra.

Connection To Other Avatars

It is noteworthy that Sri Rama of Ayodhya was in the Ikshvaku lineage, meaning he was related ancestrally Vishnu because the Ikshvaku lineage began from Manu the nephew of Vishnu. Maharishi Valmiki mentions Sri Rama as Vishnu in the Putreshi section of the "Balakanda" part of his Ramayan. Agastya rishi had advised Sri Rama to recite the Aditya Hṛdayam mantra of sun worship.[4] (As Vishnu was an Aditya, this once again bridges a link between Rama and him.) Rama had also given the divine arrow of Vishnu to Shatrudhana, which shows a connection between Rama to Vishnu. In the Jain Ramayan, Laksman is referred to as "Narayan-Vishnu."

Minor Avatars

  1. Sanak, Sanand, Sanathan, Sujat
  2. Narada
  3. Nara-Narayan
  4. Kapila
  5. Dattatreya
  6. Yajna
  7. Rishabha (Urukrama)
  8. Prithu
  9. Mohini
  10. Garuda
  11. Danvantari
  12. Vyasa
  13. Bala Rama
  14. Venkateshwara
  15. Hayagriva

Names of Vishnu

Other Related Articles

Notes

  1. Some texts like Devi Bhagavata consider the 9th major Avatar of Vishnu to be Buddha
  2. Devi Bhagwatha mentions 26 incarnations of Lord Vishnu (Sanak, Sanand, Sanatan, Sujata, Varaha, Narada, Nara-Narayan, Kapila, Dattatreya, Yajna, Rishabha, Pruthu, Matsya, Mohini, Kurma, Garuda, Dhanwantari, Narsimha, Vamana, Parshurama, Vyasa, Sri Rama, Bala Rama, Krishna, Buddha and Kalki).

References

  1. P. 4 Talks on Sri Ramachandra's The Commentary on the Ten Commandments of Sahaj Marg By K.C. Varadachari
  2. Taittiriya Samhita vii.1.10.2; P. 293 Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide By Roshen Dalal
  3. P. 293 Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide By Roshen Dalal
  4. Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 11, Verse 24 and Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 11, Verse 30
  5. Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 10, Verse 21
  6. vişnum anantaviryam”, Mahabharata 5.47.82
  7. Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 2, Verse 4; “Arjun said: O Madhusudan, how can I shoot arrows in battle on men like Bheeshma and Dronacharya, who are worthy of my worship, O destroyer of enemies?
  8. Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 1, Verse 34-35; “Teachers, fathers, sons, grandfathers, maternal uncles, grandsons, fathers-in-law, grand-nephews, brothers-in-law, and other kinsmen are present here, staking their lives and riches. O Madhusudan, I do not wish to slay them, even if they attack me. If we kill the sons of Dhritarashtra, what satisfaction will we derive from the dominion over the three worlds, what to speak of this Earth?
  9. Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 2, Verse 1; “Sanjay said: Seeing Arjun overwhelmed with pity, his mind grief-stricken, and his eyes full of tears, Madhusudan spoke the following words.
  10. Mahabharata VI.66.41
  11. Chandogya Upanishad 7:26:1,2
  12. Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 10, Verse 21
  13. P. 37 Sanatan Pooja Vidhi By Dr. Bhojraj Dwivedi