Like human form as a blue skinned deity . Having four arms , and very beautiful form. Does Lord vishnu really look like this , or is this metaphor ? metaphor as in 4 arms means omnipotence of Brahman in four directions and beautiful form means brahman is "beautiful" ? but brahman is formless.
Yes, Lord Vishnu looks exactly like how he is described. One who has progressed well in meditation gets Darshan of Gods. Swami Sivananda had shed some light on the experiences one gets.
Meditation / Experiences in Meditation / Jyotirmaya Darshan:
When you advance in meditation you can see your Ishta Devata in physical form. Lord Vishnu will give you Darshan with four hands; Lord Krishna will appear before you with flute in His hands; Rama with bow and arrow in his hands; Lord Siva with trident and Damaru.
Lord Vishnu doesn't have a fixed form but assumes any form for the sake of Devotees to reciprocate love.
In whatever way people surrender unto me, I reciprocate with them accordingly. Everyone follows my path, knowingly or unknowingly, O son of Pritha.(BG 4.11)
Whatever form a devotee seeks to worship with faith, I steady the faith of such a devotee in that form.(BG 7.21)
Unto the Most Peaceful and Pure One we offer our respects. With one's mind fixed on that what is His, the dual world appears meaningless. Our obeisances unto Him who, according to the modes of matter, assumed His forms for the maintenance, creation and annihilation of the universe.(Bhagavata 4.30.23)
You O Lord! have no appearance, no form, no weapons and no abode. Even so you manifest in human form for the sake of your devotees. (Parama Samhita 23.50)
Saguna Upasana is suggested for Beginners but it must lead to Formless Brahman
It is impossible for the human being to worship, meditate or praise a deity without form. Therefore the Lord should be worship through an icon. (Parama Samhita 3.7)
Without a form how can God be meditated upon? If He is completely formless, where will the mind fix itself? When there is nothing for the mind to attach itself to it will slip away from meditation, or will glide into a state of slumber. Therefore the wise should meditate on some form, remembering however that it is an indirect method, a particularization or indication of that which is completely formless. (Vishnu Samhita 29.55 — 57)
Listen to the methods of realizing such Atman. By doing Sagunopasana (worship of God in form), one should learn concentration. Then as like as Sthoolarundhati viewing rule, one should establish himself in the inward concentration and realize the Nirguna Brahman who is Myself As Atman in all.(Shiva Gita 14.6)
According to Nivaran Tantra:
निर्वाणतन्त्रे-- निराकारो महाविष्णुः साकारोऽपि क्षणे क्षणे । यदा साकाररुपोऽसौ द्विभुजो मुरलीधर: ॥
MahaVishnu is formless, sometimes he gives 'Sakar Darshan' (to see him with form). During the time when we see him, he is in form of Murilidhar with Two hands.
(From Sarvollāsatantram, 16th Ulhassa)
We can not be so sure about how they looked but in older scriptures like Vedas, Lord Vishnu is described in a form. Also, Hindus(not as a religion but as an identity) considered those humans as GODS(DEVAS: best of humans) Who achieved so much which are called KALA in older scriptures. During Bhakti(devotion) movement, many stories were made for Hinduism to survive. So the history of Vishnu is too old to be true but in some way it exists and it may/may not be true but by older scriptures and fossils, we can guess that there were humans like that but currently, we have distorted myths. In ancient times we did not have myths. We had thoughts, ideas and observed reality about the universe. So to answer your question, we can not be sure about how Vishnu looked in his time but we can trust that he was a human and respected by humans at that time.
Not really. Yes, Sri Vishnu has four arms holding conch, disk, mace and lotus that is correct. But he is always depicted with a light blue complexion which is wrong. Sri Vishnu is Neela Megha Shyama, which means one who is like a dark blue cloud. So he is dark blue in complexion. Thanks Om Namo Narayanaya!