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Vaishnavism

Vaishnavism is one of the principal divisions of Hinduism. Its adherents worship Vishnu or one of his avatars and are principally monotheistic whilst also incorporating elements which could be described as panentheistic in nature. Bhaktas, or worshippers of Vishnu are called Vaishnavites, an English term that originated from Vaishnava in Sanskrit).

Contents

Schools of Vaishnavism

Major Vaishnava schools of thought include:

The Major Schools

Lord Krishna revealing his Universal form to Arjuna Artwork  courtesy of The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust

Lord Krishna revealing his Universal form to Arjuna Artwork courtesy of The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust

  1. The group which believes that Vishnu is the greatest God and all other Gods and creatures are below him. All of the sects mentioned above except the last fall under this group.
  2. Advaita Vashnavites, which believe that as no soul is actually separated from God, that every soul is ultimately one and the same. Thus each soul could be considered as equally divine. Thus Vishnu in the saguna form is characterized by harmony and perfection. As a nirguna, he becomes the state unblemished by matter and is without attributes.

Normally the tern "Vaishanva" is used to refer to people of the first category alone, but there are a number of people in the second group, e.g., Smartas who worship Vishnu as their favourite God, or Ishta Deva. For more information about the first category, see Vaishnava Theology and Gaudiya Vaishnava Theology. For information about the second category of people, see Smartism and Advaita.

The Supreme Godhead

Lord Rama (center) with wife Sita, brother Lakshmana and devotee Hanuman. Rama and Lakshman are always shown to be ready for battle (with bow and arrow) as it is their Kshatriya dharma to fight. Rama is shown having blue skin which is a characteristic of Vishnu

Lord Rama (center) with wife Sita, brother Lakshmana and devotee Hanuman. Rama and Lakshman are always shown to be ready for battle (with bow and arrow) as it is their Kshatriya dharma to fight. Rama is shown having blue skin which is a characteristic of Vishnu

Vishnu and Shiva are sometimes visualized as a single divinity named Harihara. It is also notable that the heroes of both the great Indian epics are believed to be incarnations of Lord Vishnu. These epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabarata, concern Rama and Krishna, respectively.

History of Vaishnavism

Thanks to Alvars, a set of twelve people who with their devotional hymns spread the sect to the common people, Vaishnavism flourished in south India. Some of the prominent azhvars are Poigaiyazhvar, Peyazhvar, Periyazhvar, Nammazhvar and Andal. Vaishnavism grew in later years due to the influence of sages like Ramanujar, Surdas, Tulsidas, Tyagaraja, etc.

With the entry of other religions into the Indian subcontinent, Hindus united and the discriminations of Vaishnavism and Saivism became intellectual arguments rather than mutually exclusive philosophies.

Vaishna Upanishads

Of the 108 Upanishads of the Muktika, 13 are considered Vaishna Upanishads. They are listed with their associated Veda (SV, ŚYV, KYV, AV):

  1. Nrsimhatāpanī (AV)
  2. Mahānārāyna (AV)
  3. Rāmarahasya (AV)
  4. Rāmatāpani (AV)
  5. Vāsudeva (SV)
  6. Avyakta (SV)
  7. Tārasāra (SYV)
  8. Gopālatāpani (AV)
  9. Krsna (AV)
  10. Hayagrīva (AV)
  11. Dattātreya (AV)
  12. Gāruda (AV)
  13. Kali-Santārana (Kali) (KYV)

See Also