Vishnu, Krishna, and Shiva



1.    Lord Vishnu

a.    Traditional representation with discus, lotus, mace, and conch shell

b.    10 Avatara, including:

                                     i.     Krishna

1.    As youth

2.    As child

                                    ii.     Rama: of the epic Ramayana

c.    Saving the world from disorder, maintaining dharma

2.    Lord Krishna

a.    On the nature of the divine as manifest in the world

b.    On the devotional relationship with the divine

c.    As Divine Child

                                     i.     Mischievous: spontaneous and tumultuous

                                    ii.     Combat as Play: slayer of demons, protector of the people.

                                  iii.     Story:  Slaying the Multi-headed Serpent Kaliya:: lives in nearby stream, poisoned the waters, K humors him, then jumps onto heads and dances, grants him his life.

                                  iv.     The Theology of Lila: Divine Play.

1.    The divine as spontaneous, free, unrestricted, wild, playful

2.    A devotional attitude/relationship: approach like an adoring parent.

d.    As Divine Lover

                                     i.     Krishna's unsurpassed beauty and powerful attraction

                                    ii.     Poetic descriptions: every characteristic to be relished, otherworldly grace, fragrant smell, nails, face, etc.

                                  iii.     The call of Krishna’s flute

1.    A summons to Krishna. Breaks monotony, shatters ordinary life. Intoxicating, irresistible, echoes through the forest and causes chaos in the heart

2.    Affects all of creation: rivers slow to hear, clouds hover overhead, astonishes and distracts the gods

                                  iv.     The theology of Ananda = Bliss.  Universe shudders with delight, Krishna fills the world with bliss

1.    Krishna as lover of the Gopis. Ringmaster of a festival of love. Sports with hundreds of Gopis in the forest of Vrndavana

2.    Krishna and Gopis' love play = reciprocal, making each other dance and sing, feel their love, ecstasy.

3.    Lord Shiva

a.    Two general Features:

                                     i.     Unconventional:  ecstasy, dance, intoxication.  Some of this in Krishna devotionalism, Shaivism includes strong ascetic emphasis, accepts non-vedic forms of revelation (Tantra); finds value in pollution and the cremation grounds.

                                    ii.     God of paradox (in later, developed forms): Not only an ascetic, but the ideal householder as well. Cosmic forms, union of all opposites

1.    The "erotic ascetic."  Dharma & moksha.  Householder & ascetic

1.    Transformation of the ascetic ideal: assimilated into the householder ideology (ashramas; Gita)

2.    The emphasis in Shaivism is on asceticism, but it develops in ways that assert both asceticism and householding as two parts of a dynamic process that sustains the entire universe. A union of opposites. Cf. Cosmic Shiva: inclusive of all things.

b.    Representations:

a.    Lord of Yoga. Seated in meditation in the Himalayas, covered in ashes; third eye (burned kama, desire), matted locks, crecent moon in hair

b.    Shivling: phallus and yoni. Sexual?  

                                              i.     Cf. Prema: erotic love raised to level of devotional love that transcends human love

                                             ii.     The linga draws on sexual imagery to symbolize cosmic principles of male and female principles that unite to make the universe run in its eternal cycles.

c.    Ardhanarishvara: The Lord who is half woman

d.    Nataraja: Lord of the Dance. 

                                              i.     A play of divine energy, dynamic process of creation and destruction.  (Cf. Visnu on celestial serpent).  Chola dynasty (10th century).

                                             ii.     A rhythmic cycle of creation and destruction; beyond which is the one, pervasive divinity.  Wild motion/perfect serenity. The two together make up the dynamic quality of the Nataraja image