Vishnu the Maintainer and Giver of Liberation

The following verse from Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana), 1.2.23, explains the difference between God and other living beings, why living beings wind up in this temporary world, and how the universes are created and maintained.

sattvaṁ rajas tama iti prakṛter guṇās tair
yuktaḥ paraḥ puruṣa eka ihāsya dhatte
sthity-ādaye hari-viriñci-hareti saṁjñāḥ
śreyāṁsi tatra khalu sattva-tanor nṛṇāṁ syuḥ


The transcendental Personality of Godhead is indirectly associated with the three modes of material nature, namely passion, goodness and ignorance, and just for the material world’s creation, maintenance and destruction He accepts the three qualitative forms of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Of these three, all human beings can derive ultimate benefit from Vishnu, the form of the quality of goodness.

Purport by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada:

That Lord Śri Krishna, by His plenary parts, should be rendered devotional service, as explained above, is confirmed by this statement. Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa and all His plenary parts are vishnu-tattva, or the Lordship of Godhead. From Śrī Krishna, the next manifestation is Baladeva. From Baladeva is Sankarshana, from Sankarṣaṇa is Narayana, from Narayana there is the second Sańkarṣaṇa, and from this Sańkarṣaṇa the Vishnu purusha-avataras.

The Vishnu or the Deity of the quality of goodness in the material world is the purusha-avatara known as Kshirodakashayī Vishnu or Paramātmā. Brahmā is the deity of rajas (passion), and Shiva of ignorance. They are the three departmental heads of the three qualities of this material world. Creation is made possible by the goodness of Vishnu, and when it requires to be destroyed, Lord Shiva does it by the tāṇḍavanṛtya(the “dance of destruction” at the end of the universe).

The materialists and the foolish human beings worship Brahma and Shiva respectively. But the pure transcendentalists worship the form of goodness, Vishnu, in His various forms. Vishnu is manifested by His millions and billions of integrated forms and separated forms.

The integrated forms are called Godhead, and the separated forms are called the living entities or the jīvas. Both the jīvas and Godhead have their original spiritual forms. Jīvas are sometimes subjected to the control of material energy, but the Vishnu forms are always controllers of this energy.

When Viṣhṇu, the Personality of Godhead, appears in the material world, He comes to deliver the conditioned living beings who are under the material energy. Such living beings appear in the material world with intentions of being lords, and thus they become entrapped by the three modes of nature. As such, the living entities have to change their material coverings for undergoing different terms of imprisonment.

The prison house of the material world is created by Brahma under instruction of the Personality of Godhead, and at the conclusion of a kalpa (equal to one day of Brahma, or 8,600,000,000 years) the whole thing is destroyed by Śiva. But as far as maintenance of the prison house is concerned, it is done by Vishnu, as much as the state prison house is maintained by the state.

Anyone, therefore, who wishes to get out of this prison house of material existence, which is full of miseries like repetition of birth, death, disease and old age, must please Lord Viṣhṇu for such liberation. Lord Vishnu is worshiped by devotional service only, and if anyone has to continue prison life in the material world, he may ask for relative facilities for temporary relief from the different demigods like Shiva, Brahma, Indra and Varuna.

No demigod, however, can release the imprisoned living being from the conditioned life of material existence. This can be done only by Vishnu. Therefore, the ultimate benefit may be derived from Vishnu, the Personality of Godhead.

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