I am having confusion that, whenever divine beings incarnate on earth, do they also continue to exist in their original abode?

Let us take the example of Narayana, the supreme god. It is said that whole world is just his dream.

It's been said that, only some amsha of Hari came on earth as different avatars (all dasha avatars). Even when the avatar was on earth, Vishnu was still there in Vaikunta.

Sometimes different avatars were there simultaneously. For example, both Krishna and Parashurama attended Yudhishtira's Rajasuya yagna.

Let us take the example of Lord Shiva. I faintly remember a Puranic story, where Shiva used Pashupatastra on his own incarnation. But the astra recognized the incarnation as Shiva himself and returned without harming him.

That solidified the fact that, even when Shiva's incarnation was just amsa of Lord Shiva.

But there is also confusion on, at the end of Dwapara, all Devas and Brahma came to Krishna and spoke to him as:

O You Foundation of Everything, for You there is no longer an obligation to the godly, and the remaining part of the dynasty has virtually been annihilated by this curse of the brahmins . Therefore we ask You whether You intend to leave for Your Supreme Abode and if You please want to continue with us, the protectors of all worlds and their inhabitants, to protect the servants of Vaikunthha.

Reference: Srimadbhagavatam 11.6.26-27

Here they literally urge him to return to Vaikunta and protect them. Now this causes the confusion that Vishnu was not present in Vaikunta?

Also, we have seen numerous other instances of Devas coming to earth as incarnations.

For example, Bhishma was a one of Asta Vasu (named Prabhasa), was cursed to born on earth. It's said that, once he left earthly body, he became Vasu again.

The Vasus are elemental gods, who are responsible for the basic 8 elements, Prabhasa being responsible for the Sky.

So the question is, if the whole soul of Prabhasa was cursed to be born on earth, not just his amsa, then who was responsible for the sky during his time on earth?

Or is it lesser gods or demi gods like Prabhasa-Bhishma who have full incarnations but only supreme gods like Vishnu or Shiva have a partial incarnation?

Pandavas, Karna etc., were clearly called sons of different Devas, not incarnations. But for Bhishma, his incarnation was due to a curse.


Rigveda 1.22:

(17) Through all this world strode Viṣṇu; thrice his foot he planted, and the whole Was gathered in his footstep's dust. (18) Viṣṇu, the Guardian, he whom none deceiveth, made three steps; thenceforth Establishing his high decrees. (19) Look ye on Viṣṇu's works, whereby the Friend of Indra, close-allied, Hath let his holy ways be seen. (20) The princes evermore behold that loftiest place where Viṣṇu is, Laid as it were an eye in heaven. (21) This, Viṣṇu's station most sublime, the singers, ever vigilant, Lovers of holy song, light up.

So we see in this hymn that Vishnu is taking three steps through the world. Now, the fifth avatara of Vishnu was Vamana the dwarf, who defeated the demon king Mahabali by taking three steps. This Vedic hymn is a clear reference to the fifth avatara of Vishnu. In fact, the Rigveda, the Yajurveda, and the Atharvaveda all include several references to this story, and references to this story are a recurring motif in the Vedas. This event is explained in full in the Puranas--in particular, in the Vamana Purana.

Having understood that Rigveda 1.22 refers to an avatara of Vishnu, what can we understand? Look at Rigveda 1.22.20: "The princes evermore behold that loftiest place of Vishnu, like an eye extended through the heavens." We see that Vishnu is beheld in the heavens, and thus He is present in the heavens at the same time He is on earth. In Rigveda 1.22.19, we see that Vishnu is mentioned as being an ally of Indra. When Vishnu descended as Vamana, he took three steps to defeat Mahabali and restore power to Indra. In the very next verse, we see that Vishnu is beheld throughout the heavens. We can conclude, therefore, that Vishnu, when on Earth as Vamana, was also in heaven.

But we can also use Rigveda 1.22.20 in and of itself to show that Vishnu always remains in heaven: the verse uses the word "evermore," meaning "always." In the original Sanskrit, the word "सदा," meaning "always," is used. Therefore, Vishnu always is in heaven, no matter whether or not He has an avatara on Earth.

Furthermore, in Srimad Bhagavatam 10.89, in which Arjuna and Krishna visit the abode of Vishnu and Krishna and Vishnu come face-to-face and actually meet each other. The Srimad Bhagavatam describes how Krishna actually offers homage to Himself in the form of Vishnu (Srimad Bhagavatam 10.89.57). The avatar Krishna and Vishnu are therefore present at the same time.

Regarding the Bhagavata Purana verses that you quoted: the essence of the Bhagavata Purana is the sovereignty of Vishnu, who is Brahman Himself (विष्णुर्ब्रह्मैवास्ति). While Vishnu is always in Vaikuntha, the devas are addressing the avatara of Vishnu, who is not in Vaikuntha. They are telling the avatara Krishna that He can now end his earthly existence in that form and return to Vishnu; they are not saying that Krishna must physically return to Vaikuntha to protect them. The translation that you gave of the Bhagavata Purana used the word "return" but the original Sanskrit word is "विशस्व," which is a command formed from the verb "विश्," simply meaning "enter," without connotations of a physical return. Therefore, the devas are saying to Krishna that He may now enter Vaikuntha and He can unite with Vishnu and they are not saying that He should physically return to Vaikuntha because He is not protecting them. The devas also say to Vishnu "पाहि," another command formed from the verb "पा," meaning "protect." This does not imply that Vishnu was not in heaven protecting the devas before and was not protecting the devas at the time they were speaking to Krishna right at the moment; it simply expresses gratitude in a way for His protection by requesting His protection, showing that they do not take Vishnu's protection for granted.

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  • I suggest you cite the original verses in the Rig Veda, rather than citing the Sama Veda: sacred-texts.com/hin/rigveda/rv01022.htm The Rig Veda is more easily accessible for people on the Internet, both in Sanskrit and English. – Keshav Srinivasan Feb 17 '15 at 19:41
  • @KeshavSrinivasan: I changed the Samaveda references to the Rigveda. – AdityaS Feb 17 '15 at 22:45

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