Of all the Hindu Gods, Vishnu is the most difficult to interpret. The roles in which Vishnu appears in Hindu myth are varied and oftentimes confusing. But this is the complex nature of esoteric symbolism.
Essentially, the symbolic meaning of Vishnu is absolute consciousness, but despite the breadcrumbs dropped throughout ancient texts, this connection has gone largely unnoticed by scholars and commentators.
A member of the Hindu Trinity, Vishnu is regarded as A Supreme God. It should be noted that all the Gods in the Trimurti are Supreme Gods. Together they encompass the aspects of all the 33 important Gods of Hindu mythology.
In the early Vedic myths, Vishnu is also called Lord Narayana and described as The Absolute Truth. The metaphysical aspects he is associated with are energy, vibration, matter and consciousness.
With this knowledge to hand, there is little doubt in my mind that the esoteric meanings of Vishnu is absolute consciousness – but let’s take a closer look at how I draw this conclusion.
Lord Vishnu is Hindu Myth
Hindu’s recognise Vishnu as the “protector.” He is the aspect of your personality that can dissolve the ego and uphold new Dharmas that enable you to develop peace of mind and bliss.
Ayurvedic teachings describe consciousness as being present. By taking control of emotions present in the five elements and the three gunas, you can take control of your life and master the energies of universal manifestation.
Vishnu is the higher consciousness that guides us and downloads messages that inform us what the right actions are to take. The problem most of us suffer is not knowing when we receive these messages because we are rooted in base consciousness.
Conscious comes to us as a thought, symbolised by Brahma in Hindu mythology. In the “Padma Purana”, Vishnu gives birth to Brahma who blossoms from the lotus flower that sprouts from Vishnu’s navel.
Brahma is said to be the creator of all things. He is the manifestation of ideas in the physical plane. The Lotus flower symbolises enlightenment, implying that consciousness passed to mortals is the Absolute Truth. The instructions to follow.
The Rig Veda states: “Vishnu is the most ancient of all, yet also the most recent. Nothing and no one creates Vishnu, yet Vishnu creates everyone and everything.”
In essence, the Supreme deity is a creative source but serves a greater purpose as the preserver. Escaping the bonds of the habitual mind is not easy and Vishnu has to keep a check that right actions are being followed.
It is said that Vishnu created the world with the right side of his body – that which is controlled by the left-side hemisphere of the brain. Although there are creative aspects in the right-side of the brain, it is widely accepted that most creative powers arise from the left side of the brain.
The right side of the brain is associated with collecting information and analysis. It’s the sensible part of the brain that talks us through what we should really do.
The Incarnations of Vishnu
All matter is conscious which evolves. As Absolute conscious, Vishnu creates the world through Brahma, and Hindu mythology gives an account of the evolution of Earth in the incarnations of Vishnu.
According to legend, Vishnu has reincarnated nine times so far. They are:
- Matsya, the fish
- Kurma, the Turtle (reptiles)
- Vahara, the pig (animal life)
- Narasimha, half man, half lion
- Vaman, the man-dwarf
- Parashuram the man with an axe
- Rama – moral man
- Krishna – philosophical man
- Buddha – enlightened man
As consciousness evolves in nature it consistently creates improved versions of itself. But Vishnu can only do this with the help of his wife Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.
The Symbolic Meaning of Lakshmi
Lakshmi emerged from the churning of the milky ocean on a lotus flower and subsequently incarnates amongst mankind in various forms. Described as ‘the mother of the world’ the goddess nurtures consciousness.
Lakshmi cleans Vishnu’s feet to show her nurturing nature. In chapter 8 of the Vishnu Purana says:
“Vishnu is meaning, she is speech; Hari is polity, she is prudence; Vishnu is understanding, she is intellect, he is righteousness, she is devotion.”
Lakshmi means ‘goals’ and as the goddess of wealth, beauty and love is said to reside in those that are prospering in life. In Hindu art she is always depicted sitting on a one hundred petal lotus indicated she is pure.
Together with Vishnu, Lakshmi is Absolute Consciousness, or The Truth.
Her four arms represent Dharma (doing the right thing), prosperity, perfection and freedom from mental and emotional bondages.
Other qualities of Lakshmi are portrayed through the elephants she is often pictured with. In Hindu esoteric symbolism, elephants represent strength, wisdom and patience, qualities needed to nurture.
The symbolic meaning of Hindu symbols
In ancient myth and Hindu art, Vishnu carries symbolic objects in his four hands and lies on a bed of floating serpents. The serpents represent the wisdom and peace of a calm mind that is freed from anxious thought.
Vishnu’s other symbols are:
Conch = vibrational frequencies and energetic forces that create and sustain all life in the universe. Scientifically speaking, Vishnu is the personification of the Conscious Universe.
Mace = the destructive nature of the god. It symbolizes the dissolution of ego and negative traits or even the destruction of the universe itself.
Bow or Lotus Flower = Both the lotus and the bow represent awakened consciousness that allows you to see beyond the veil of illusion.
Discus = The spinning discus symbolises Purity of mind and used by Vishnu to destroy demons.
The symbolic meaning of Vishnu and Lakshmi relates to the highest forms of human consciousness that we are aware of. Together they tell us what to do, and give us the ability to nurture Brahma into fruition.