Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva

Definition - What does Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva mean?

Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva is the Hindu trinity, also called the trimurti. The Supreme Spirit or Universal Truth, called Brahman, is represented in three forms, each corresponding to one cosmic function: Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver) and Shiva (the transformer/destroyer).

Because Hinduism is a collection of different traditions and beliefs, scholars believe Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva was an attempt to reconcile the doctrine of Brahman with different approaches to the Divine.

Of the three incarnations of Brahman, Shiva has a special place in the yogic traditions as he is considered the first yogi, or adiyogi. Shiva also symbolizes the balancing of awareness and bliss, and the calming effects of yoga practices in general.

Yogapedia explains Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva

Unity with Brahman – which is personified as the trimurti – is the ultimate goal in yogic philosophy and practice. Today, Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva as the trimurti is rarely worshiped. Instead, Hindus typically worship one of the three as the supreme deity, and consider the others as incarnations of their supreme god. For example, Vaishnavism holds that Vishnu is the supreme god, while Shaivism believes that Shiva is supreme. Brahma, in comparison, has relatively few devotees as the supreme deity.

In ancient texts, the three gods symbolize earth, water and fire:

  • Brahma represents earth. He is the originating power and creator of all life. One story claims he is the son of Brahman, while another says he created himself from water and seed.
  • Vishnu represents water, which symbolizes his role as the sustainer of life. He is the protector side of Brahman, known for upholding goodness and creation, and is identified with his incarnations -- Krishna and Rama.
  • Shiva represents fire and is identified as the destructive power of the trimurti. However, he is also viewed as a positive force that cleanses and destroys evil, paving the way for new creation and a fresh start.

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