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.