Vaishnavas and their Sampradaya
Vaishnavas are devotees of Lord Vishnu. They worship Lord Vishnu, His incarnations and anything concerning Him. There are 4 main sampradayas or sects in Vaishnavas.
1) Shri Sampradaya- Lakshmi Devi is the Adi Guru of Shri Sampradaya. The Shri Sampradya has 2 divisions. 1) Ramunuja Sampradaya and 2) Ramananda Sampradaya
2) Shiva Sampradaya- Lord Shiva is the Adi guru of Shiva Sampradaya. Vishnu Swami is the founder of the Sampradaya. This includes the Valabhacharya Sampradaya.
3) Hansa Sampradaya- Bhagavan Hansa is the founder of this Sampradaya. This includes the Sri Nimbarkacharya Sampradaya.
4) Shesha Sampradaya- Sankarshana is the Adi guru of the Sampradaya. This includes the Madhvacharya Sampradaya and the Madhvagauda (Chaitanya Mahaprabhu) Sampradaya.
The Radhavallabha Sampradaya of Hitaharivansha and Swami Haridasji’s Sampradaya are also considered to be Vaishnava Sampadayas.
Bhagavan Vishnu has assumed many incarnations. In regard to the incarnations, there are many Sampradayas who accept a particular incarnation as the supreme entity. Even amongst Vaishnavas, there are different faith systems.
For instance- According to Ramanuja Sampradaya, Narayan is the Supreme Being. Lord Narayana eternally resides in Vaikuntha. He is the creator of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. He is the Lord of Vaikuntha. He has 4 arms, wears a yellow garment, and carries a club, lotus, disk and conch. His energy potency and consort is Lakshmi. A Kaustubha gem is studded on his neck, a tuft of hair rests on his chest representing Lakshmi. He is the Supreme Being and the granter of liberation. The creator of the countless universes lays blissfully on a bed of serpents on the oceanic waters. In this Garbhodakasayi form he is 8-handed. He is known as the Lord of Bhuma (Earth). In every universe, it is He who assumes the form of Vishnu and takes charge of sustenance. He is the lord of Rama (रमा) and Vaikuntha. In Shveta Dvipa, He is the supreme 4-handed Narayana wearing white garments with his moon like soothing complexion. Lord Brahma appears from the lotus stalk shooting from the navel of Bhagavan who lays on Ksheer Sagar. Rudra appears from the midst of Brahma’s eyebrows. Lord Narayan assumes the forms of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva for creation, maintenance and devastation. He is the supreme deity of Surya. Lord Vishnu for the protection of his devotees and eradication of demons assumes different incarnations in every Yuga. The whole of creation is situated in the limbs of the Gigantic Virat form of that Supreme Narayana. Lord Vishnu is deemed to have 10 primary incarnations. In fact the number exceeds to 24. However the part and Qualitative incarnations (Anshavatar and Kalavatar) of Narayana are infinite.
According to Rama devotees, Saket is the supreme abode. Sri Rama who sports in Saket is the lord of the entire cosmic manifestation. Lord Rama’s energy potency and consort is Sita Devi. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are his expansions. Lord Vishnu incarnates frequently but the Supreme Being Shri Rama descends on the earth, once in a Kalpa, in Tretayuga.
According to Krishna devotees, Golok is the final beatitude. Sri Krishna is the master of all the abodes, he is the son of Nanda. His eternal consort and energy potency is Shrimati Radharani. By his own sweet will, he descends on the earth once in a Kalpa in the Dvapara yuga. The Vraja leela is the cream of His pastimes. Sri Krishna’s exploits in Vraja are his main pastimes. The Dwaraka, Mathura and Kurukshetra pastimes are secondary. It is Lord Vishnu who assumes incarnations. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva have emerged from the divine limbs of Sri Krishna.
Similarities in Vaishnavas
As we have seen above, the Vaishnava’s differ in their doctrines in regard to Saket, Vaikuntha and Goloka. However they agree at many places-
1)All identify as Vaishnavas, 2) All worship the Saligrama 3) All tie Tulsi beads and offer incensed articles to their adorable Bhagavan. 4) Everybody agrees that Bhagavan has a Kausthubha gem on his neck and a tuft of hair on His chest.
The Avatars of Lord Vishnu
There are 10 avatars known as Dashavatar- 1) Matsya (मत्स्य) 2) Kurma (कूर्म) 3) Varah (वाराह) 4) Nrasimha (नृसिंह) 5) Vamana (वामन) 6) Parashurama (परशुराम) 7) Sri Rama (श्रीराम) 8) Sri Krishna (श्रीकृष्ण) 9) Buddha (बुद्ध) 10) Kalki (कल्कि)
24 avatars of Bhagavan Vishnu
From the perspective of 24 incarnations, 14 more names are included in the list- 1) The Sanat Kumar brothers and Narada (सनकादि कुमार और नारद), 2) Hansa (हंस), 3) Nara-Narayana (नर नारायण) 4) Yagya (यज्ञ), 5) Hari (हरि- The protector of Gajendra), 6) Hayasheersha (हयशीर्ष) 7) Dhanavantari (धन्वन्तरि) 8) Mohini (मोहिनी) 9) Descension for Dhruva 10) Prithu (पृथु) 11) Rishabha (ऋषभ) 12) Dattatreya (दत्त) 13) Kapila (कपिल) 14) Vyasa (व्यास)
In them, the Sanat kumar brothers and Narad Muni are the sons of Brahma, so they are grouped as 1 Avatar. With this idea, we get the number 24. Otherwise there are 25 incarnations. Many people falsely believe that the Dashavatara follow a chronology as Matya, Kurma, Varaha and so on. However, Matsya Avatar was not the first incarnation. Matsya Avatar took place at the end of Chakshushya Kalpa. Similarly, Kurma Avatar happened long before Varaha and Narasimha during the churning of the ocean. Here we present a brief overview of the incarnations in a chronology-
Sanat Kumara brothers
1)At the start of creation, Brahma gave rise to his 4 mind-born sons Sanak Sanandan, Sanatan and Sanat, known as the Sanat Kumar brothers. Brahma ordered them to start the creation work. The 4 sons rejected their father’s orders. The Sanat Kumara brothers are eternally 5 years old. They are unclothed and are eternally immersed in spiritual mellows.
Jaya and Vijaya cursed
Once, they decided to visit Lord Vishnu in Vaikuntha. The two chief door-keepers of Bhagavan Vishnu, Jay and Vijay stopped them taking them to be children. The Kumaras instantly cursed them to take birth as demons for three lifetimes. They were born as Hiranyaksha-Hiranyakashipu, Ravana-Kumbhakarna and Shishupal-Dantavakra. Lord Vishnu redeemed them in all their lifetimes.
Devi Parvati curses the Sanat Kumar brothers
Once, the Sanat Kumar brothers didn’t pay respects to Lord Shiva and Parvati on seeing them. So Parvatij cursed them to become camels. After one year, Lord Shiva and Parvati went to see them. The Kumaras were merrily sitting beneath a tree. Parvatiji enquired “How are you doing?” They replied “Mother, you have been very merciful on us. Earlier we had the stress of bathing and maintaining cleanliness. But now we are very happy. We can anytime lift our head, munch some leaves and sit wherever we please.” Parvati Devi felt that her curse was futile. So she reverted her spell. The Sanat Kumar brothers were the first to deliver the 7-day Bhagavatam discourse to Narada. They enjoy hearing the glories of Bhagavan and are ever-immersed in chanting the mantra “Hari Sharanam.”