So these three are the basic particles in the science of religion: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. These three are the names for the ultimate reality. All the other gods and goddesses that have been created in the world, all the other names, are related to one of these three. This is why the Hindus say that such and such an avatar, that such and such a divine incarnation is an incarnation of Vishnu. This means that he falls into the category of Vishnu. If an avatar is called an incarnation of Shiva, it means that he belongs to the category of Shiva. If another is called an incarnation of Brahma, it means he belongs to the category of Brahma. But if you look deeply into it, all divine incarnations are in Vishnu’s category. With creation, Brahma’s work is finished; there is no need for him to incarnate. Shiva will be needed only at the time of destruction, so there is no need for him to incarnate. Only Vishnu goes on reincarnating in different forms as long as the creation lasts. So whether it is Rama or Krishna or someone else, it is always Vishnu who has incarnated through them.
This chain of Vishnu incarnations suggests that it is the sustainer who has to return again and again. The creator will give one hint and the creation will happen. The destroyer will destroy once and his work is over. It is only the sustainer who will have to support the creation all the time, who will be needed to come again and again. Hence, most of the incarnations are incarnations of Vishnu.
The sage has mentioned these three according to Hindu thought, but he has also mentioned others. He has also mentioned Indra. Indra is not a name for the ultimate power; it is not a name on the same level as Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. If we look at human beings, it is difficult to find people whose vision is so deep that they can be full of love for Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, because the functions of these three are very much like scientific phenomena. After all, what can you ask from Brahma? Their function is in the essential foundations of existence.
But man is weak, very weak. He is so weak that he will not be able to create a relationship with the essential foundations. This is why all the religions of the world have created the concept of God, and also of many gods. The concept of many gods is for those people who cannot yet rise to the idea of one God.
Here, it will be good to understand three things. One is the absolute existence. It is formless. People like Gautam Buddha connect with this, hence he says that the idea of God, the idea of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva – all these ideas are useless. It is interesting that all the Buddhist stories about Buddha’s awakening, his enlightenment, are very sweet. They also caused much hurt to Hindus, to all those who regarded Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva as the highest.
There is a story that when Buddha attained to enlightenment, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, all three of them, came and bowed down at Buddha’s feet with folded hands.
It is a very beautiful story. This story reveals that the absolute existence is even beyond Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. And when somebody realizes the absolute, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are bound to bow down to that person.