“Truth is one. Sages call it by many names”
This being my 200th post on this weblog, I’d like to get back to a focus on Vishnu and Vaisnavism. In doing so, in these next several posts I intend to not make claims based on my understanding, but to raise questions in response to the limitations of that understanding. This blog is called “Rolling with Vishnu”, a title referring to the fact that this is a blog about a guy in a wheelchair who is a practicing Hindu, who happens to be a devotee of Vishnu. But I’d like for it to be more about Vishnu and all of Vishnu’s forms, avatars, and devotees.
Carrying on then:
The reason that the true name for what is called Hinduism is “Sanatana Dharma” or “The Eternal Path” is that it shows that in all places, in all times, truth will manifest itself when needed, or when dharma is lacking as the Gita says.
Shiva has avatars as well, but the above is such a core precept of Vaisnavism that at the outset of my spiritual search this sect easily caught my attention as representative of what Sanatana Dharma was all about. The all-inclusiveness in all places and all times was what I had long been looking for in a spiritual path.
I read that of the three-part Trimurti of Creator Brahma, Protector Vishnu and Destroyer and Transformer Shiva, that Brahma was actually born of Vishnu’s navel. I wondered how that could be until I understood Satya Narayana as the infinite form of a finite Vishnu. Vishnu being the protector of all affairs in the world, and Narayana being the infinite sustaining form above, beyond and behind the veil of creation and destruction of the Universe, cycle after cycle, and the source of that one Truth of which the Vedas spoke. One truth encompassing all paths. All sects. I found great joy in that.
But some see Krishna not as an avatar of Vishnu, but Vishnu as a manifestation of Krishna. I will touch more on Krishna in various future posts, but for the purposes of this post, I raise a few questions, because the above is not my view or understanding of Krishna: If Vishnu comes from Krishna, and not the other way around, doesn’t that take Krishna out of the line of Vishnu’s avatars? If Krishna, who walked this Earth, is the all-encompassing Oneness, then to me, it creates a situation very much like the Christian story of Jesus who sat at the side of God from the Beginning, and will sit at God’s side at the End of Time, and For All Time Everafter…but also walked this Earth.
I know Vishnu also walked this Earth but “as Rama” or “as Krishna” or “Parasurama” etc. – do you see the distinction? It is a bit like the distinction between “The Personality of God-head (as I understand the term as used by Krishna devotees) and “Impersonal Brahman.” Satya Narayana is and is not (Neti, Neti) Brahman.
PS: I know it is probably befuddling to see me claiming that one particular sect embodies what Sanatana Dharma is, when Sanatana Dharma is all paths. So let it be known that I understand this truth. I am only writing now about how the spirit of Sanatana Dharma shines through in my chosen path. I’d like to hear the same of your path, dear reader.