Campaign of the Month: February 2017
The Deva god of light and prosperity
Vishnu is the Great Maintainer, the second member of the Trimurti and, many of his worshipers believe, the most critically important for mankind’s prosperity and happiness. It is he who maintains and supports that which Brahma makes, carrying the world and all its myriad forms of life until it is time to deliver them to Shiva for their ultimate destruction. He is omniscient, wise and kingly, the great father and protector of humanity, the source from which all good things spring, and his power among his devotees is such that even today there are countless heavily-frequented temples and shrines in his honor, millions of worshipers clamoring for his blessings and attention. An ancient god of light, his radiance is too much for mortal eyes to bear or the mortal mind to comprehend. Though all things are created by Brahma and destroyed by Shiva, it is Vishnu who cherishes and maintains them through their brief lives on earth, and he is thus one of the most highly revered and beloved by mankind of all the Deva.
Whenever the world or humanity is threatened by insurmountable dangers or challenges, Vishnu is said to incarnate himself as an avatar in order to save them. When a great flood threatened to destroy the first human, Manu, Vishnu became Matsya, the giant fish, and towed his ship to safety. When the gods churned the Ocean of Milk and it seemed that there would be no safe land to stand upon, Vishnu became Kurma, the giant turtle who carried land safely on its back. When the demon Hiranyaksha stole the earth and dragged it to the bottom of the ocean, swearing never to return it, Vishnu became Varaha, a monstrous boar that battled the demon for a century and finally defeated him. When Hiranyaksha’s brother Hiranyakashipu attempted to kill him in revenge by gaining great powers from Brahma, Vishnu became Narasimha, a half-lion god who tore him to pieces despite his many boons and protections. When the evil tyrant Bali gained control of the world, Vishnu became Vamana, an unprepossessing dwarf who convinced the king to grant him whatever land he could cover in three steps and then took three enormous strides that encompassed the entire world. When the priests of the gods were oppressed by the fierce Kshatriyas, who refused to allow them to worship, Vishnu became Parasurama, a beautiful and clever young man who defeated the soldiers and set the priests free. When the great demon king Ravana threatened to overwhelm the world, Vishnu became the warrior Rama and fought him long and hard, finally defeating him. When demons overran the earth, Vishnu became the revered Krishna and defeated them for an entire lifetime, also spreading the teachings of the Deva as he went. And when mankind began to doubt the gods and turn away from their worship, Vishnu became the philosopher Buddha and inspired humanity to create an entirely new religion.
It is said that Vishnu’s tenth and final avatar, Kalki, the lord of time who rides on a white horse, will finally come forth at the end of the world, abolishing the cycle of misery and sickness that is samsara and ushering in a new age of harmony and peace.