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Vaiṣṇava

Vaiṣṇava. An adherent of Vaiṣṇavism, one of three major forms of Hindu devotion (bhakti), along with Śaivas and Śaktas. Vaiṣṇavism is the cult of Viṣṇu, initially connected with Viṣṇu as the sun, pervading all things with light and spiritual enlightenment (Ṛg Veda 3. 62. 10). He was assimilated with Nārāyana, cosmic energy, and was later associated with Kṛṣṇa-Vāsudeva, until the relation between all three became one of dynamic manifestation. Viṣṇu came to be regarded as Īśvara, Supreme Being, and also as Brahman theistically conceived. He becomes manifest in incarnate forms (for the list of these see AVATĀRA), especially in times of crisis or need, and it is mainly in these forms that he is worshipped. Vaiṣṇavism has divided into many schools and sects. Of enduring importance have been Caitanya and his contemporary Vallabha (c.1479–1531). Vallabha's Śuddhādvaita Vedānta (pure non-duality vedānta) mediates between Śaṅkara and Rāmānuja, by maintaining the goodness and purity of both world and self as parts of what truly is, namely Kṛṣṇa, so that while appearances are an expression of māyā, the bliss-relation of the parts to the whole, and thus of ātman to Brahman, is not: thus bhakti (devotion) is the realization of this, and is the true path to mokṣa (release). For face markings, see TILAKA. See also NIMBĀRKA; RĀMĀNANDA; ŚRĪ-VAIṢṆAVISM.

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