Vishnu

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In my mind, in memory, once Vishnu made His entrance into the stage that is my devotional practice, I stopped writing or practicing or even really thinking about it all that much. In memory, I balked and struggled, and dragged my feet, and was the physical embodiment of reluctance. When cautioned by a dear friend that Krishna (the particular part of Vishnu that gave me the most pause, both because of His immense popularity, which was off-putting to me, and also because of how not-Poseidon Krishna ‘felt’, despite Vishnu ‘feeling’ very Poseidon) is known to approach one in the same manner one approaches Him — in other words, that my reluctance might be returned, because of my reluctance — I realized I needed to get that under control. It’s Interacting with Others 101, right? Whether the others are human or other animal or some variety of spirit, it does not matter. Who enjoys interacting with someone else while knowing that that someone else would rather be anywhere, doing anything else? My reasons for being reluctant may be as sound as all get out, and Krishna, for example, might even know, understand, and sympathize with my reluctance, but that’s no excuse for bad behavior.

In memory, when I look back at my first steps to reconcile this discomfort I had with Krishna, and lesser still with Vishnu, and with Who I call Vishnu-with or through-Poseidon, I remember clamming up. When I read over my various writings about the experiences, though, I realize, I didn’t. At least, not as much as I remember doing.
Memory is a funny thing. My memory, when I compare it to how I think I should have been, often lies to me. “You were the absolute worst,” it likes to tell me.

At first, I thought: I had to learn all the things. I had to study about the historical worship of Vishnu and His associated incarnations. I had to get it settled in my mind how They are both and are not Him. I had to get it settled in my mind what, exactly, Poseidon meant when He said, “Maybe Vishnu.” He drew my attention primarily to Matsya and Narasimha, but my reluctance has drawn me rather strongly toward Krishna, as well. I have the stories I tell myself about how this connection might have happened, and they’re fun stories, they’re thought provoking and interesting stories, but they are ultimately ‘just’ stories.

Which, you know — I love stories. I think stories are pretty much all we have when it comes to the gods, in terms of what we can share with one another. We like to talk about facts, but these often boil down to simply being old stories. Fact: Poseidon is known for being associated with the oceans. Fact: Zeus is the king of the Hellenic gods. Fact: Odin gave an eye to the Well. Are these true? Are they real? Did these things happen? The only facts here are that people know and believe these stories.

Does it matter? I can’t answer that for you. For me? Nope. What matters for me are the stories Poseidon wants me to pay attention to — and they may be stories that resonate with you, or they may be stories that mean nothing to you, or they may be stories that seem unlikely to you. One story I like is the one wherein Poseidon is the depressive, moody, tired-of-his-blood-family incarnation of Vishnu, who goes on holiday to the Mediterranean, and forgets to go back. It speaks to my ‘He feels closer to certain incarnations, less close to others, and ‘Big’ Poseidon feels a lot more like Big Vishnu than ‘my’ Poseidon, though still similar-enough’ impressions.

In the two years since I started approaching this particular branch of this particular Mystery He’s leading me down, I’ve made stumbling steps towards incorporating Vishnu worship into my practice. My main shrine is dedicated to Both of Them. I’ve surrendered the need to understand it all, and I’ve given in to Their coming across sometimes as distinct beings, sometimes as not. I maybe throw my hands up in frustration still when I’m taken to task for thinking of Them as being separate beings — it’s always Poseidon who scolds, despite being the One with certain ideas about what’s okay and what’s not. You know, things like, “No, don’t offer tea to Him in the morning, too; that’s Our time. No, I really don’t want yellow on the shrine. Certainly not pink. I get incense first . . .”

To be fair, this is happening less and less, and I don’t know if He was addressing my fears and reluctance with a show of possessiveness and jealousy that He didn’t truly feel, or if I made those responses up in my head, and really, ultimately, it makes little difference. The result — that I’m more open to going where He leads, that I’m less attached to names and defining things, that I’m okay with the uncertainty — that does not change.

So, I’m a devotee of Poseidon’s. I’m also, it appears, a devotee of Vishnu’s. I feel like it’s more of a baby-devotee. I’m learning about His history, and His worship, though that’s, you know, daunting. I’m not waiting until I feel like I’m informed-enough to begin worshiping Him, and I’m not pretending to be anything other than a modern polytheist. I’m not trying to figure out what story is true, when it comes to my understanding the overlap between Them. My rituals do not looking anything at all like puja, for example — maybe one day, but also, who knows? I thought, they’d have to be, at first, but I really need to approach Vishnu from where I’m at, and from the heart.

From the heart. What’s the point of anything, if it’s not from the heart?

So, I study. I watch lectures and listen to podcasts. I pray and offer drinks — water and tea, primarily. I keep a shrine space for Vishnu-with-Poseidon, and I hold in my mind that They are One somehow, while also Not. I’m failing in love with Vishnu. It’s slow, and gentle, and sweet, and nothing at all like loving Poseidon, who is my center, my hearth, my home. And yet, it’s also not unlike loving Him, too.

And, I love. At first, because this mattered to Poseidon, HE mattered to Poseidon. Now, because it matters to me.

I’ll be writing more about this, going forward, which has been a huge reason for the new space here. Including maybe, eventually, maybe, connecting with other worshipers in person. Maybe. Maybe. Ack.

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