Narayana is a form of Vishnu and is the primary deity of the Vaishnavas. In earlier texts, he was the original Purusha, when the title meant primordial cosmic man. This form of Vishnu is the preserver and guardian of humankind. He is described as having skin the color of a water-filled cloud and four arms holding a lotus, a mace, a conch shell, and a discus shaped weapon. He is sharp and bright like a strike of lightning and said to embody the starkness of truth itself – there is nothing he cannot see or preserve or protect.
Narayana’s name means “he who rests on the water” and it is said that he pervades all that exists: Whatever all this universe is, seen or heard of—pervading all this, from inside and outside alike, stands supreme the Eternal Divine Being. (NS Verse 5).
Two sharp symbols of Narayana can be seen via the Naryana Sukta: Narayana as water and Narayana as lightning. In this season of continued beginnings, it’s important to remember that we as all carbon-based life forms come from and are sustained by water. Water is life itself and without it, we cannot exist. His color closely related to the clouds full of life-giving rain, as well as the imagery of Narayana born from the great body of water itself remind us that the original Purusha was in essence water itself.
As lightning, we see the spark of creation itself. Lightning illuminates the sky fully even in the midst of a storm. Fire with its natural ferocious purifying qualities can be ignited by lightning. Our own illumination of our lives often begins with just such an iconic flash of truth – it is within this, Narayana dwells.