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Christ & Krishna

Vishnu Christ Imagery (Brahma, Vishnu, Ananta)

Shown here is a well-known iconography (in India that is), of Lord Vishnu, who is often equated with the Godhead. Vishnu is depicted as reclining on the serpent Ananta who functions as a bed of sorts, floating in an ocean of milk. From Vishnu’s navel arises a lotus within which the creator Brahma is born. 

While the original imagery was given to seers of old through direct revelation, it has undergone adaptations over the very many centuries that followed. The iconography is not very intuitive in its present form, for the need for Vishnu to lie down on a serpent is unclear to the casual observer. Nor is the need for a lotus to grow out of his navel, giving birth to Brahma the Creator. The latter also might appear to be a contradiction in terms to the same observer!

Alternate Interpretation

A much more obvious, intuitive and relate-able imagery follows if we were to suggest that the reader instead imagine the Creator as preeminent. That is, adjust the relative sizes of Vishnu and Brahma depicted in the picture. One then sees a baby lying swaddled in a soft bed, with an umbilical cord connecting it to the placenta and uterus of the mother/father Creator. We ask that the reader dwell on this image for a moment, and recognize the real function of the lotus depiction, for it is one which any mother can relate to!

In this context Brahma represents Brahman, the absolute reality as recognized by sages of old. Therefore the form associated with Brahma is that of a sage. We have mentioned before that the forms associated with various gods and goddesses really represent the areas of human life that they are able to assist with. A form wielding weapons depicts a deity which cannot be representing the ultimate level, for the highest level would have no need to take up arms against part of its creation. Thus Brahma wields no weapons and is primarily the concern of sages who seek the ultimate reality or Brahman. Being impersonal, formless and attribute-less, the Brahman in Vedantic or Advaitic terms is rarely worshiped as an idol, such as in temples. This is one reason that temples dedicated to Brahma rarely exist. 

The Placenta

What about the placenta? A baby in the womb of its mother is distinctly aware of the placenta, for the latter is of substantial size and shares the mother’s womb within a congested space. What does the placenta imply to the subliminal consciousness of the baby? In the developing consciousness of its body, the placenta becomes a gestalt for God as an impersonal nurturing principle. For that is indeed the function of the placenta in terms of the body, for it nourishes the fetus as the latter develops over time. This gestalt of an impersonal nourishing principle helps anchor, within the developing personality, the very essence of faith in existence, i.e. in life itself. The placenta is analogous to the impersonal Brahman, insofar as the body is concerned.

The notion of birthing is commonly used in stories and iconography related to cosmic origins. For example, the cosmic egg or ‘brahma-anda’ is a popular mythological concept whose meaning we explore in the chapter Ovum of our book, The God Principle. Another term sometimes used is the Golden Womb or the Golden Fetus “Hiranya-garbha”. Indeed mythologies across the world tend to associate cosmic origins and relationships using terms like the womb or the egg.

The Serpent

As we have discussed before, the serpent is often used as a symbol of raw force, energy, or Shakti. The serpent Ananta holds all the universes in its mouths, implying that all manifestation is a representation of, and driven by this energy of the Godhead. Ananta is also considered an incarnation of Vishnu, in the sense that he is not separate from Vishnu.

The Ocean Of Milk

Another hint that this iconography of the baby is indeed the correct one, is the ocean of milk that surrounds the babe. Milk is meant as nourishment for babies, and in the above iconography it represents un-manifest potential that the Godhead draws upon, to manifest the manifold universes.

The Christian Trinity

The image thus invoked is one of cosmic origins, where the transcendent Brahman begets God immanent in creation (the babe swaddled by the serpent), which develops and evolves.

In Christian theology the term Holy Spirit, though not well understood, often represents the power or force of God in action. The trinity in Christianity is the Father, the Son (Christ), and the Holy Spirit. If the reader were to look at the iconography we presented here, it should be quite obvious that it represents the Father Creator, the begotten Son, and the Holy Spirit. Here Lord Vishnu corresponds to Christ or Kristos, and Ananta corresponds to the power or force of God known as the Holy Spirit. The three can be considered one, in both representations.

Christian theology typically finds it difficult to really explain the term "the only begotten son" when referring to Christ. The statement is taken as a matter of faith, creed or dogma. Scriptural statements like "in him all things were created" and "by him" or "through him" are also not well understood. The iconography we describe here captures all that succinctly.

It will not be too difficult for the pious Hindu to conceive of Jesus as an incarnation of Vishnu in the Piscean age, for saving the world (the savior) in every age is a very important function of Vishnu. Also the symbol for Pisces is the fish, which is also very closely associated with Jesus's ministry. How many cars belonging to Christians in the US carry the fish symbol! There are many parallels between the birth stories of Jesus and that of Krishna (though they manifested in different ages). And both religious traditions look forward to their return - of Christ or the next avatar of Vishnu (Kalki).

Is it just accidental that this depiction of the Trinity of cosmic personalities represented in the Hindu Puranas more or less equate to the Christian one?

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