In Gauḍīya Vaishnavism, a school of Vaiṣṇavism, the Sātvata-tantra describes three different forms, or aspects, of Vishnu as Mahā Vishnu, Garbhodakaśāyī Vishnu and Kṣīrodakaśāyī Vishnu (Paramātmā), with each form having a different role in the maintenance of the Universe and its inhabitants:
"For material creation, Lord Krishna's plenary expansion assumes three Vishnus. The first one, Mahā Viṣṇu, creates the total material energy, known as the mahat-tattva. The second, Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, enters into all the universes to create diversities in each of them. The third, Kṣīrodakaśāyī Vishnu, is diffused as the all-pervading Supersoul in all the universes in heart of every living being and is known as Paramātmā. He is present even within the atoms. Real object of meditation in Yoga is a Paramātmā. Anyone who knows them can be liberated from material entanglement."
Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu is an expansion of Mahā Viṣṇu (expansion of Saṃkarṣaṇa of second caturvyūha, that, which expands from Nārāyaṇa in Vaikuṇṭhaloka), and also later realized as expansion of Pradyumna.
- Quoted from the Sātvata-tantra translation by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda
- Vishnu, the form of the quality of goodness (srimadbhagavatam.com)
- Thousand names of the Supreme (Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram)