Vishnu [The Pervader], the supreme being who protects, creates, and transforms the universe.
Vishnu is typically represented as a human body with 4 hands and he holds;
- A conch, which is representative of the sound “Om”, the sacred sound of creation
- A discus or chakra, which is representative of the mind
- A lotus flower, which is representative of existence and liberation
- A mace, which is representative of physical and mental strength
Vishnu is part of the Trimurti, the triple deity that is responsible for the creation, maintenance, and destruction of the universe. Vishnu maintains the universe and manifests himself through incarnations or avatars to protect dharma (moral and religious law).
Vishnu has had 9 avatars thus far;
- Matsya (Fish)
- Kurma (Turtle)
- Varaha (Pig/Boar)
- Narasimha (LionMan)
- Parasurama (Fierce Man/Rama with an Ax)
- Rama (Ideal Man)
- Krishna (Mentally Advanced Man)
- Buddha (All Knowing One) or Balarama (Krishna’s eldest half brother)
Vishnu‘s 10th avatar, Kalki, has not appeared yet. It is said that Kalki will come at the end of this age, when man yet again needs help overcoming the evil of this world. Each Avatar has its own rich history and tale, the 2 most recognized are Krishna, from the Mahabharata, and Rama, from the Ramayana.
This is but a brief introduction into the vast and colorful world of Hindu mythology, and specifically Vishnu. I highly recommending reading the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, not only because these epics are captivating tales, but for a deeper understanding of where the yoga that we do comes from.