South Asia’s Common Culture

The kingdoms of South Asia–emerging from a blending of the Indus Valley civilizations with the migrations of the Vedic peoples–did not unite into a larger state or empire until a later time than its counterparts in East Asia or the Southwest Asia.

However, the region was bound together by a common culture, based on share myths and religious beliefs. Below are some examples of is an example of the writings which discussed these myths. This is from the Puranas and discusses the god Vishnu.

(‘Vishnu Pura-na,’ 3, 17,14-34)

You are everything, earth, water, fire, air, and space,
the subtle world, the Nature-of-All (pradhana),
and the Person (pums) who stands forever aloof.

O Self of all beings!
From the Creator (Brahma) to the blade of grass
all is your body, visible and invisible,
divided by space and time.

We worship you as Brahma, the Immense Being, the first shape,
who sprang from the lotus of your navel to create the worlds.

We, the gods, worship you in our selves,
we, the King of Heaven, the Sun, the Lord of Tears,
the Indweller, the twin gods of agriculture,
the Lord of Wind, the Offering, who all are your shapes
while you are our Selves.

We worship you in your demonic shapes, deceitful and stupid,
wild in their passions, suspicious of wisdom.

We worship you in the genii, the yakshas,
with their narrow-minds obdurate to knowledge,
their blunt faculties covetous of the objects of words.

O Supreme Man! We bow to your fearful evil shapes
which wander at night, cruel and deceitful

O Giver-of-Rewards (Jundardana)!
We worship you as the Eternal Law
whence virtuous men, who dwell in the heaven,
obtain the blissful fruit of their just deeds.
We bow to the Realized (Siddhas) who are your shapes of joy;
free from contacts, they enter and move within all things.

O Remover-of-Sorrow (Hari)! We bow to you the serpent shapes,
lustful and cruel, whose forked tongues know no mercy.

O Pervader! We worship you as knowledge
in the peaceful form of the seers,
faultless, free from sin.

O Dweller in the lotus of the Heart! We bow to you
as the self of Time which, at the end of the ages,
infallibly devours all beings.

We worship you as the Lord of Tears,
who dances at the time of destruction,
having devoured gods and men alike.

O Giver of Rewardsl We worship yoitr human shape
bound by the twenty-eight incapacities (badha),
ruled by the powers of darkness.

We bow to you as vegetal life (mukhya rupa),
by which the world subsists and which-six in kind,
trees, [creepers, bashes, platits, herbs and bamboo]
supports the sacrifcial rites.

O Universal Self! We bow to you under that elemental shape
from which beasts and tnen have sprung,
gods and living beings, ether and the elements,
sound and all the qualities.

O Transcendent Self! We bow to you as the Cause of causes,
the Principal shape beyond compare,
beyond Nature (pradhana) and Intellect.

O All-powerful (Bhagavan)! We bow to your shape
which the seers alone perceive and in which is found
no white nor other colour, no length nor other diniension,
no density nor other quality.

Purer than purity it stands
beyond the sphere of quality.

We bow to you, the birthless, the indestructible,
outside whom there is but nothingness.

You are the ever-present within all things,
as the intrinsic principle of all.

We bow to you, resplendent Indweller (Vasudeva)! the seed of all
that is!
You stand changeless, unsullied.

The Supreme stage is your core, the Universe your shape.
You are the unborn, Eternal.

Questions for consideration

  1. Based on this selection, how would you characterize Vishnu?
  2. Based on this, what is the relationship between the being discussed here and–for lack of a better term–all of reality?