what is an avatar?

Discussion in 'Hinduism' started by Agnideva, Sep 18, 2005.

  1. Agnideva

    Agnideva Member

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    I know of several explanations of avatar (incarnation) myself, but would like to hear others’ perspectives on what is an avatar.

    What makes a person an avatar, and what is the relationship between an avatar and God?

    Opinions need not be limited to the Hindu tradition.
     
  2. Silverbackman

    Silverbackman Prince Of Truth

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    An avatar in my understanding is a incarnation of God, namley Vishnu as you most likelly know. If we were going to define avatar in a more broader sense it would mean any reincarnation of God. Jesus and Krishna for sure must be avatars of the almighty;).
     
  3. Quahom1

    Quahom1 What was the question?

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    An avatar is simply a reflection of self. Not from without, but rather from within. Perhaps a vision of how we see ourselves, or how we would like to see ourselves.

    For some, it is a vision of the mixing of "God" and self, in some sort of symbiosis, or the expression of self and our "demons" in struggle.

    It is a window or picture for others to view a bit of how we view ourselves.

    my thoughts.

    v/r

    Q
     
  4. Agnideva

    Agnideva Member

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    Thanks for the reply Silver. This was also my understanding in the beginning. But clearly there are varying definitions of avatar, as we’ve seen recently. The question then becomes, if God is all-pervasive why would He need to materialize in a human incarnation?

     
  5. Agnideva

    Agnideva Member

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    Thanks Quahom. I see your point. So, one vision of avatar is an ideal to live up to.

    Could it then be that an avatar is someone who has realized God within himself?
     
  6. Quahom1

    Quahom1 What was the question?

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    Or perhaps truly seeks to...;)

    v/r

    Q
     
  7. Silverbackman

    Silverbackman Prince Of Truth

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    Why does God need to materialize in a human incarnation? I'm not sure, God works in mysterious ways;). Perhaps to set an example, who wants to listen to a giant voice in the sky. Although it would make the people fear more, people will look up to him more like dictator than a loving God. People I think would admire a God-man who helps the people than some giant dictating voice in the sky.
     
  8. Quahom1

    Quahom1 What was the question?

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    People certainly do (work in mysterious ways that is), why not God? No one said anything about a giant voice in the sky. But there is a voice within us that is not us, and we know it. We argue with it, plead with it, ignore it, and ultimately come to terms with it. And it never raises its voice (though we sometimes do). You are correct, when saying we put human incarnation, or perameters around God. But that is us, not the God.

    Perhaps God "materializes" in human incarnation (in our minds), because we need a point of reference. I guess we are still pretty simple in thought (but we're working on it...) :D

    v/r

    Q
     
  9. Agnideva

    Agnideva Member

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    Interesting point Quahom. This reminds of something I read. In Hare Krishna (ISKCON), they believe that our perception that God has incarnated, lived as a human and died a human death is but a result of God's mirific power. In other words, to see the avatar as a human being is due to the limited nature of our own minds. :rolleyes:

    A.
     
  10. queenofsheba

    queenofsheba New Member

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    This is my theory:

    A god is transcendent, so he can't communicate directly with humans. To communicate, he needs to send a messenger to men's world.
    This messenger can be immaterial, then it's called an ANGEL.
    This messenger can be material, of flesh and blood, then it's called an AVATARA.
    Krishna and Rama are avatars of Vishnu.
    Jesus and John the Baptist are avatars of YHWH.
     
  11. Agnideva

    Agnideva Member

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    Thanks for the input QueenofSheba. The angels in my understanding are not God, but messengers who carry on God’s work. In other words, they are lesser beings.

    Do you see the avatars also as lesser beings, who come from God, rather than literal descents of God Himself?

     
  12. 17th Angel

    17th Angel לבעוט את התחת ולקחת שמות

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    Your thoughts? They were good thoughts... That is a good definition of an Avatar.
     
  13. taijasi

    taijasi Gnōthi seauton

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    The following is a link to an explanation of the idea of Avatars, from the book Externalization of the Hierarchy, by Alice Bailey. Here is an excerpt, which defines avatar according to the author:
    [font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica]An Avatar is a Being Who - having first developed His Own nature, human and divine, and then transcended it - is capable of reflecting some cosmic Principle or divine quality and energy which will produce the desired effect upon humanity, evoking a reaction, producing a needed stimulation and, as it is esoterically called, 'leading to the rending of a veil and the permeation of light.' This energy may be generated within the human family and focused in a responsive Messenger; it may be generated within the planet itself and produce a planetary Avatar; it may be the expression of the life impulse and energy of the solar system, or of sources outside the solar system and therefore cosmic. But always it is focused through a manifesting Entity, is called forth by a demand or massed appeal, and evokes response and consequent changes in the life activity, the culture and the civilization of mankind.
    [/font]​
    This definition is broad enough to account for the fact, as explained on the next page (for anyone who reads the article), that avatars can embody evil as well as good - speaking from the Human perspective. I think it's far better to focus on avatars that embody Divine Good, since these more directly assist us with our journey toward Liberation/Salvation.

    Examples given include Luther, Columbus, Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci, and Abraham Lincoln. Teaching avatars include Plato, Patanjali, and Shankaracharya. Ray Avatars are greater still, but Christ and Buddha belong to a group called Transmitting Avatars - coming for Humanity as a whole, and transmitting Cosmic Principles (such as Love, and Wisdom, respectively).

    Divine embodiments are the greatest of all, and do not descend below the mental plane, or world of ideas (vide Plato's `World of Forms/Ideals'). Such appearances are exceedingly rare, according to Alice Bailey, but one is present in our world today. To relate this being to another thread - on evolution/creation - consider another quote from Alice Bailey's writings:
    [font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica]Thousands of those great cycles which we call "a hundred years of Brahma" have passed since They [Cosmic Avatars] approximated the human stage ...
    [/font]​
    The cycle mentioned is a Solar System, viewed by esotericists as the literal incarnation of the very great Being we call God (also called The Logos). And once upon a time, said Avatars walked the earth (their `earth'), as Humans. Their evolutionary stature, then, is far beyond our ability even to begin to appreciate. But this additional statement is food for thought:
    [font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica]They have achieved all that man can conceive of as the transcendence of will, of love and of intelligence [the Trinity], and in the synthesis of those three have added qualities and vibrations for which we have no terms, and which cannot be visioned by even our highest adepts. ... [/font][font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica]Only once has such a Being visited our system [at its inception]. [/font][font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica]The effect of such a visit as that of the Avatar from Sirius is seen as the sumtotal of civilization and culture, viewing these from the standpoint of the entire system and in one flash of time. [emphasis added]
    [/font]​
    Ummm, wow.
    protokletos :)
     
  14. Quahom1

    Quahom1 What was the question?

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    We know you...;)

    v/r

    Q
     
  15. pohaikawahine

    pohaikawahine Elder Member

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    [/font]

    when we return to the inner path of spirit and knowledge, we are all avatars .... we can be the incarnation of all that is good ....
    we are all the 'chosen ones' .... in hawaii-nei (the old days) we would say 'we are all the mo'o (dragons)' meaning that we all possess the spiralling energy within which is symbolized in the dragon ...we are all pure energy ..... he mo'owahine au, pohaikawahine


     
  16. harishankar

    harishankar Local Aatmaa :p

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    Without going into too many technical terms (not being an expert myself), let me try and explain what an Avatara is to my knowledge:

    An Avatara is a manifestation of the formless divine in an Earthly form come down as a reflection of very intense Tapas of a Bhaktha or Bhakthas. The form of the Avatara depends upon the nature of the Tapas. A very fast-paced and intense Hiranyakashipu brought down a very fearsome Narasimha Avatara while a more calm Raavanaa brought down a similarly Saatvic Raama Avatara.

    (Important Side Note: It is important to note and realise that characters like Hiranyakashipu and Raavanaa were not actually Rakshasas or Asuras as is the popular notion but great Bhakthas and Tapasvis who strayed from the path of righteousness because of the arrogance that the power their intense Tapas gave them. Raavanaa's Shiva Bhakthi was so great that even a Hanumaan was dazzled by the beauty of his Tejas or divine brightness)


    What is important to me is this:

    1. The Avatara is not bound by the limitations of the Earthly form which has been taken.

    2. At the same time the Avatara will not violate the Natural Laws to which the form is subject to, even while remaining free of their constraints.

    So while Rama and Krishna came in Human forms, they were certainly not bound to Human Laws or Limitations (as far as knowledge goes) but at the same time they did not violate the same Cosmic Laws which bound the normal human form...

    I hope this is clear...
     
  17. Agnideva

    Agnideva Member

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    Thanks for the response Harishankar. A few follow-up questions/comments:

    Speaking of the three modes (sattva, rajas and tamas), if Rama was of sattvic character, does that mean Narasimha was of tamasic character? Could Narasimha be a Rudra form of Vishnu? And, which mode is attributed to Krishna … sattva or rajas?

    I think you’re right about this one. Anyone who turns out greedy and arrogant as a result of his own power can be termed a rakshasa. In the Ramayana, as you know, Ravana started out as a good person and turned evil after gaining power. Ravana’s brother, wife, grandfather and others were all of sattvic character.

    I’ve always found it very interesting that both Rama and Ravana were devotees of Shiva in the Ramayana.

    I am inclined to believe the same, but the stories say otherwise. In the Puranas, for example, Krishna is said to have lifted a mountain to save the villagers from a deluge. I personally think that many of these Purana stories were made up later around already existing myths. :)

    With Regards.
     
  18. harishankar

    harishankar Local Aatmaa :p

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    Agnideva,

    I am glad to have been of help. As I said before, I am not very technical and I am very limited when it comes to quoting the scriptures. I have picked up a lot of knowledge from other sources, so you must excuse my lack of coherence.

    About your question I think Narasimha could be termed as a very Raajasic-type Avatara (in the sense that Narasimha was very active, powerful and was so swift in action). At least that is how I understand it.

    With regard to Avataras performing supernatural acts, I don't know, to be honest... I also think that Krishna is one of the most misunderstood Avataras among the whole Dasa Avataras.

    I think the essence of Krishna is not the life of Krishna, but the teachings of Krishna as embodied in the Bhagavad Gita. I think Krishna should be considered as the Cosmic Teacher, first and foremost and only then as the Avatara of Ishwara.

    It is important to understand that a lot of the Puraanaas that we know about today may be interpreted in different ways at different levels of human knowledge and understanding...
     
  19. Agnideva

    Agnideva Member

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    Yes, I couldn’t agree more. Both Rama and Krishna are first to be considered as great teachers of dharma. It is not Krishna’s life that is to be emulated, but his teachings. On the other hand, Rama is more of a role model on how to live and act.

    Surely there is lots of meaning and knowledge in the Puranas. However, I believe that the purana stories are written allegorically and not to be taken as literal truth. And, perhaps a lot of the symbolism is lost to us now, so many people take them literally.

    Apart from presenting philosophy and theology in a symbolic format, the puranas have also come to incorporate a lot of folk tales over the years. I’ve heard that there have been many recensions of the epics and puranas because they’ve been edited continuously for centuries.
     
  20. I am free

    I am free And anything is possible

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    Hi Harishankar,

    I dont think I understand what you mean by this. :confused:

    regards.
     

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