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yajvan
12 April 2007, 08:28 AM
Vaishnava - one who follows Vishnu (Visnu). From viś or "to settle, to enter" or pervade", and a suffix nu, we have
The All Pervading One. For the Vaishnava, the avatar's of Vishnu are dear to the sadhu. The number of avatar's of Vsnu
Are considered as 10, yet the Srimad Bhagavatam (1.3.6) suggest a more comprehensive list. That said, the following are considered the 10 avatars:

Dasavatara:Avatars of Vishnu in the Garuda Purana:
Matsya, the fish, appeared in Satya Yuga.
Kurma, the tortoise, appeared in Satya Yuga.
Varaha, the boar, appeared in Satya Yuga.
Narasimha, the half-man/half-lion appeared in Satya Yuga.
Vamana, the dwarf, appeared in Treta Yuga.
Parashurama, Rama with the axe, appeared in Treta Yuga.
Rama, Ramachandra, appeared inTreta Yuga.
Krishna (meaning 'dark colored' or 'all attractive') appeared in Dwapara Yuga along with his brother Balarama. According to the Bhagavata Purana Balarama is said to have appeared in Dwapara Yuga (along with Krishna) as an incarnation of Ananta Shesha. He is also counted as an avatar Vishnu by the majority of movements and is included as the ninth Dasavatara in some versions of the list which contain no reference to Buddha.
Buddha (meaning 'the enlightened one') appeared in Kali Yuga
Kalki ("Eternity" or "time", or "The Destroyer of foulness"), who is expected to appear at the end of Kali Yuga

… and why does the Supreme chose to visit this earth?
Whenever Dharma, or the situation of law and order, is endangered on this world, I incarnate onto this world to re establish Dharma, law and order, and to protect the Sadhus or saints and to destroy the evil elements of the society. (Bhagavad-Gita)

The Avatars of Vishnu in the Srimad Bhagavatam (1.3.6)
The Four Sons of Brahma or the kumara's
Varaha -The boar
Narada - The Traveling Sage
Narayana"Nara-Narayana - The Twins
Kapila -The Philosopher
Dattatreya -Combined Avatar of the trimurthi i.e. Brahma, Visnu and Siva
Yajna - Vishnu temporarily taking the role of Indra, and found throughout the Rig Veda
Rishabha -Father of Bharata; King who made earth Beautiful and Attractive
Matsya - The Fish
Kurma - The Tortoise
"Dhanvantari - Father of Ayurveda
Mohini - Beautiful/Charming Woman
Narasimha - The Man-Lion
Vamana -The Dwarf
Parasurama - The Rama with an Axe
Vyasa - Writer of the Vedas also known as Veda Vyasa, Bhagavan Sri Krsna Dvaipayana Vyasya, son of Parashara muni
Ramachandra -The King Ayodhya
Balarama - Krrsna's Elder Brother
Krsna - The Cow herder, also the Supreme Self; The fountainhead of all
Buddha - The Reformer
Kalki - The Destroyer, yet to arrive in Kali Yuga

Three additional avatars are described in other chapters (Canto's)
Prshnigarbha - Born to Prshni
Hayagriva -The Horse
Hamsa - The Swan

Discussion:
Additional reading and research is suggested to compare and contrast the similarities and differences of the primary philosophies of Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and one's that follow the Shakta path.

One should also note the various sampradaya, or lineage, associated with Vaishnavism. Each , they say, have roots to the Veda:
Rudra-Sampradaya Shuddhadvaita ("pure nondualism"), espoused by Acharya Vallabhacharya
Brahma-Sampradaya Dvaita ("dualism"), espoused by Madhvacharya, and also Achintya Bheda Abheda ("inconceivable oneness and difference"), espoused by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
Lakshmi-Sampradaya Vishishtadvaita ("qualified nondualism"), espoused by Ramanuja
Kumara-Sampradaya Dvaitadvaita ("duality in unity"), espoused by Nimbarka

References Used: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vishnu (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vishnu)
http://bhagavata.org/canto1/chapter3.html (http://bhagavata.org/canto1/chapter3.html)
http://members.tripod.com/~srinivasp/mythology/avatars.html (http://members.tripod.com/~srinivasp/mythology/avatars.html)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatar#Dasavatara:_The_Ten_Avatars_of_Vishnu_in_the_Garuda_Purana (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatar#Dasavatara:_The_Ten_Avatars_of_Vishnu_in_the_Garuda_Purana)http: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaishnavism)
http//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaishnavism#Worship