Monday, October 29, 2007

Incarnations of Vishnu: The astrological connection

In the opening chapter of his classic Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra, Sage Parashara, the founder of , declares that out of the ten incarnations of Vishnu, only four, namely Rama, Krishna, Varaha, and Narasimha, fully possess paramatma-tattva. Other incarnations, according to the book, possess fragments of jiva-tattva as well. From a non-dualistic (advaita vedanta) perspective, this implies that the top four were aware of their oneness with Brahman and therefore, can be categorized as Brahman. In the language of contemporary Vaishnavism, the statement means that each of these four forms of the Lord fully represents the Supreme Person Narayana – the Absolute who is omnipresent, but transcends the universe.

We can find backing for this categorization of incarnations from Indian mythology as well. Varaha, Narasimha, Rama, and Krishna were responsible for annihilating evils in the form of Hiranyaksha, Hiranyakashipu, Ravana and Kumbhakarna, and Shishupala and Dantavakra, respectively. These forms of evil, according to a story in the Srimad Bhagavat Purana, were all rebirths of Jaya and Vijaya, Vishnu’s gatekeepers, who were born three times on earth with inherent demonic qualities to pacify a curse. Because complete eradication of evil may be difficult for a possessor of jiva-tattva, which is characterized by the presence of ignorance, only paramatma could have accomplished the task.

While matching energies of astrological planets with that of Vishnu's incarnations, Parashara relates Rama and Krishna to the luminaries, sun and moon, respectively, giving them another advantage in astrological symbology which speaks out for itself. The divinity of Rama and Krishna, which resides in the hearts of believers, does not need astrological reinforcement, but it is worthwhile to observe how all Vedic subjects were intricately connected to underline the deeper reach of traditional knowledge.

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