Some beings, such as Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma, do not possess form, nor exist in terms of space or time. To even observe the beings of space and time, they must take form. However, because they have taken form, their observation affects the world of beings they would observe. When this happens, these beings experience something akin to "distress," as their objective of objective observation is unaccomplished - and in fact acted against by their own curiosity. This distress co-arises with desire, aversion and aggression, and profound ignorance.
To greatly simplify, Vishnu embodies the desire to preserve and restore things to how they were before the interference occurred and an aversion to how things were affected. Shiva embodies the aggressive instinct to take action and serve that desire or aversion of Vishnu. Brahma embodies that ignorance, the effort to both overlook what was done while pretending toward understanding what was before the interference occurred.
Distress is what manifests the avatars of Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma - and other beings without form. It is also the result of that manifestation. Avatar is commonly mis-translated as "incarnation," but the judeo-christian term does not understand the phenomenon of greater or lesser Avatars.
A stone thrown into still water passes through the surface of the water. The surface of the water is unlike the body of water, and has tension: when the stone passes through, it will result in waves. These waves persist after the stone disappears into the depths; some of these waves are greater, some lesser. The waves then hit the ends of the body of water and come back toward the impact point - to amplify or cancel the waves still resulting from the force of the impact. When a being such as Vishnu, Shiva or Brahma takes form, it is like this three-dimensional rock passing through a two-dimensional surface of water: there is tremendous force, and as a result greater or lesser manifestations of that force result.
The analogy also conveys the understanding that the natural surface tension of the water provides sufficient inertia to still all the waves - eventually, through time. Vishnu is Time, permitting the universe to restore and protect itself. Brahma is the Rock, passing through the surface to observe. Shiva is the initial force which carries the rock past the surface, as well as the inertial force of the. surface tension. This is why the three "brothers" always manifest as Avatars at the same moment. All three brothers serve each other - just as desire/aversion, aggression and ignorance serve each other - and provide the means for their own passage back out of form.
When touched by the force of these beings, a person can carry that force to others - as one drop of water can carry on the surface of a lake the power of a wave to another drop of water. This person is understood to be a Guru. Should the rock passing through knock drops of water into the air, or the natural surface tension reflexively throw water into the air after the stone passes through, these drops can cause their own waves - propelled by their own minor forces, on their own independent trajectories, these would be the minor Avatars, the greater souls: the sages, saints, rishis, and other mahatmas.
The world is not a still lake, but a stormy ocean - and the manifestations of beings beyond space and time daily affect every being in the world. Occasionally, a being is carried from the mean existence of their daily lives into extraordinary circumstances - good or bad - and becomes capable of tremendous power to set into motion events that will carry on very long after they are gone. But sometimes, a person by strength of body, heart and mind can raise themselves up above the mean existence of their destiny to set events into motion, to gain profound understanding - or hold the world still,
The means of this training is Yoga and Meditation. It was to preserve and restore the world that Vishnu manifested as the Buddha Gotama, so that all beings - from the most joyful god to the most vicious demon, to work-a-day people and even spirits and animals - might become capable of the greatness of Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma. Yoga and Meditation are practiced in four stages, Ashrama - and Loka Hatha Yoga invites you to join us at our Ashram in achieving something truly remarkable.