August 2022


Collected words from talks of Swami Tirtha




(continues from the previous Friday)

What does Vishnu have in His four hands? A conch shell, a lotus, a chakra and a club.

The four weapons in the hands are divided: two for good purposes, two for chastisement, so to say. The conch shell is a symbol of fertility, of creation. This represents female power, female quality. And this is not simply a natural conch shell, this is a little worked up, a little change is promoted there because the end is cut. In this way you can use it as a sound instrument, you can use it as a horn. And this horn signals the victory of soul, of spirit over matter. So, it is a very auspicious sound. Therefore whenever we start a function at the altar, we sound the conch shell – to invite that divine power, divine protection, to propagate the victory of spirit over matter. It will invite the positive forces – it’s just like a repellent – and it will exclude the negative powers. And it also represents a cornucopia, that is in the hands of the Goddess of fortune. So all the divine treasures you can get, you can reach through its blessings. And as this is a sound instrument, it also signifies the importance of the divine sound. Therefore we can say that our chanting of mantras should respond to the invitation of Vishnu’s conch shell. Is that the ultimate sound? This is not the ultimate sound, the ultimate sound is Krishna’s flute. But anyway, now we are concerned with Vishnu.

So, the conch shell is the first – like creative power, wealth, blessings, victory, etc. The second is the padma, the lotus flower. This is the second blessing weapon, so to say, or attribute of Vishnu. The lotus flower is a symbol of purity. And usually in the hands of Vishnu you will find two different types of lotuses – sometimes it is open, sometimes it is closed, a bud. What does it mean? When it is closed it means that the creation is only potential, the universe is not manifested. When this lotus flower is fully open it means the creation is done, it is manifested. It shows that purity is so much necessary for our spiritual practices. Yet again, the lotus flower is not only the purity, but it’s also a great symbol of the creation, of the material sphere, as Vishnu is the Lord of this creation.

These are the very positive and the very inviting symbols of Vishnu. The other two – like the chakra and gada, the club – they are more difficult to understand. How is it that the protector God of love, of life, has very powerful weapons for killing? Because the chakra is like a disk, disk weapon – this is for killing. But killing what? Killing the demoniac tendencies, or the ego, as you say. So, whoever offends a vaishnava should face this chakra of Vishnu. This is fire, fire element. But it has got a special name – its name is sudarshana, “nice vision” – ‘Nice to meet you, chakra!’ If you meet the chakra of Vishnu and you are a demon, then it’s fearful. But if you are a bhakta, then it’s a very pleasant vision. Sudarshana also means “the perfect darshana, the perfect philosophy”. So, the perfect spiritual knowledge will cut through all the misconceptions. Because actually this is the greatest fight, this is the greatest struggle that we have to go through – to fight our misconceptions, to fight our ego. But su darshana, the perfect philosophy will help you in that. Therefore we have to study, my dear friends. If you don’t know the philosophy how can you apply that? First study, then apply. And sudarshana is revolving, it’s moving. So it’s an active power – not only chasing after the demoniac mentality, but also bringing the light to the world, the good philosophy.

So, there is only one more symbol of Vishnu left and this is the club. The club is for fighting the enemies – this shows the power. The king always has a scepter, which is the domesticated version of the club. It’s more tender, it’s more soft but it shows that: “I am in power”. The same with the danda of the ascetics. Power; if you have this stick, that means you have the power, you have the control. This is the axis mundi, the axis of the world, the center – you are in possession of the center, you are in the center. And also this is the tree of life. And also this is the cross.

We can go on describing this symbol for a long-long time, but why should we waste our time with the symbols? As Vishnu’s club is the symbol of knowledge – that gives you the power to destroy the enemies of life. So, you might think that Vishnu is a very sattvic personality, He is so tender, maintaining life, protecting everything, He is so nice and so sweet. Sorry, if you agitate Him enough, He will strike back. Smashingly! So, the enemies of the universal order must face this very powerful, majestic aspect of the Supreme. Therefore Vishnu says: “Oh, I have My four hands equipped with all these attributes. Krishna has only two hands and He’s got only a flute in His hands; yet everything dances according to His flute sound. Sometimes I have to use My club, I have to use My chakra. He is bigger, He is more powerful. He only plays the flute and everything happens.” But Krishna has some other attributes: like a stick – to take care of the cows and the small calves, you know walking here and there too much. So sometimes He also has to use the stick, but that is very sweet.


(to be continued)

Leave a Reply