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Fig 2.5 – Vishnu

Text: Page 38

Vishnu is the preserver in the trimurti, the triple deity of Hinduism. Whenever the world is threatened by chaos and destruction, Vishnu restores order and the dharma in the form of an avatar, the incarnation of a deity on earth. Dharma originally meant “cosmic law,” the rules of the universe. Dharma came to mean the right behaviors, duty, morality, law, and justice, all behaviors that were considered appropriate and morally correct for the caste class system.

In the symbol Vishnu, surrounded by avatars, is shown as a well-dressed jeweled man with four arms holding a conch shell, the sacred emblem of Vishnu which symbolizes the preservation of order in a chaotic world, a chakra, a focus of Hindu meditative exercises, a war discus symbolizing the restoration of dharma even during war, and a club which symbolizes his authority and power over knowledge. He sits in a lotus flower to symbolize purity and transcendence.

The shadow elements of dharma have resulted as a tool to keep the lower classes in their place because a servant needed to be a good a servant for reincarnation to change their status in the next life. On the other hand, it did engender some compassion for those not servants because their behavior on earth might result in becoming a servant in the next reincarnated life.

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