As commonly understood, Vaishnavism is a prototypical form of Hinduism focusing on Vishnu (or His many manifestations and incarnations) as the Supreme Being. It is a form of monotheism that perceives other deities as subordinate, viewing them as demigods, angels, or empowered beings. Vaishnavism claims many millions of adherents, for it is the most widely practiced form of Hinduism in the Indian subcontinent.

While Vaishnavas acknowledge the Vedic idea that the many gods are just various faces of the Brahman (“Ultimate Reality”), they also assert that Brahman has an “original” face—the one belonging to Vishnu. A clarifying metaphor might run as follows: Just as one candle can be used to light others, and just as all candles thus lit would hold the same potency, so, too, ...

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