Monday, June 23, 2008

Varaha Avatar: Lord Vishnu’s third incarnation

Once the first human couple, Manu and Shatrupa, are born in a new cycle of life on earth, Lord Brahma needs a habitat for them — earth. But earth, which had been submerged in the ocean of dissolution at the conclusion of the previous aeon (kalpa) as per Lord Vishnu’s plan, is still resting under water.* Someone needs to bring it back from the “ocean” and place it in its orbit. In this moment of need, Lord Vishnu incarnates as a giant boar (Varaha), dives into the ocean, finds the globe, and springs from the water with the earth on his tusks so that it can be perfectly positioned.

In this first incarnation as a mammal, the Lord fulfills another task. He engages in a battle with Hiranyaksha, a being with demonic qualities, who tries to block his path while he lifts earth out of the water. Following a long fight (divine play), this asura, who wants to seize earth for evil beings, is annihilated.

This manifestation of the Lord may symbolize the development of understanding that reaches beneath the shallow layers of available (and visible) information. Just like Varaha dives into the ocean for earth, we are expected to plunge deeply into our area of study or yoga, if one is a spiritual seeker, to come up with an actual and usable result for the world. Such search for knowledge almost always takes place behind the scenes (under water); only the results later become visible to fellow beings. To resonate this notion, Vedic Astrology** associates this incarnation with the planet Rahu, which signifies research, deeper intellectual abilities, and hidden powers.

*Source: Srimad Bhagavat Purana
** In a previous post on astrology, we have already seen that Rishi Parashara classifies Varaha as an incarnation devoid of jiva-tattva.

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