Who is an Avatar?


What is the meaning of Avatar (incarnation of God)? It connotes the combination of Divine consciousness with human consciousness. Man is the combination of body, mind, intellect and consciousness. God, who is the embodiment of love, assumes human form to establish identity with man so as to bring about transformation in him through Love. God descends on earth and involves Himself in the affairs of the world to teach and guide man and to put him on the right path. 
- “Do not Burden Yourself with Limitless Desires”, 
Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 39, May 02, 2006, Bangalore

The Avatar (Divine Incarnation) is the Atma Shakti (power of the Supreme Soul) that has put on the raiment of Kriya Shakti and Yoga Shakti (power of action and power of Divine communion). Generally, Avatarana (the process of incarnation), is described as a ‘coming down’ from a higher status to a lower one. But, no! When the baby in the cradle weeps, wails and clamours for help, the mother stoops and takes it up in her arms. Her stoop is not to be described as a ‘coming down’. 
- “Happy Birthday”, Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 14, 
November 23, 1978, Prasanthi Nilayam

The word Avatar means descent. It is not coming down from the peak of a mountain or the top storey of a building. It is a descent from the state of the Atma to the state of the body. 
- “The Inner Dialogue”, Summer Showers in Brindavan 1979, Brindavan

Divinity has five names. The first is Paranaamam; second, Vyuhanaamam; third, Vibhavanaamam; fourth, Antaratmanaamam and fifth, Archananaamam. The Divine functions in the cosmos under these five names. Paranaamam refers to the abode of the Supreme – Vaikuntha. Vaikuntha means that which is unchanging. There the Supreme Lord dwells under the name Paranaamam. No one can enter that abode of the Lord. The Lord dwells there as an effulgence. He oversees everything. But He is not visible to anyone and no one can see His form. The second is Vyuhanaamam. This name refers to the Lord who reclines on a serpent on the ocean of milk. The Lord in this form can be seen only by Devas. Only those with special powers can see the Lord there. Ordinary beings cannot do so. But the Lord in His Vyuha form fulfills the desires of the Devas. You are aware of the story of Hiranyakashyap. He was harassing the Devas in various ways. So, they went to the Lord’s couch on the ocean of milk and prayed to Him. In answer to their prayers the Lord agreed to incarnate on earth. Third is Vibhavanaamam. This refers to the various human forms in which the Lord incarnates on earth as Avatars of Rama and Krishna to protect the good and punish the wicked and turn them towards the righteous path. The incarnations that are adored as the ten Avatars belong to this category of Vibhavanaamam. In this form, the Lord manifests the relationship between God and the devotees. The fourth is Antaratmanaamam. In this form, the Lord pervades every part of a human being as an indwelling spirit. This indwelling spirit is Divine. The fifth is Archananaamam. This refers to the form in which the Divine can be worshipped, praised and adored for securing His grace.

In those days, there used to be frequent wars between kings of different territories. These wars generated hatred between people of different regions. The feeling of national unity was lost and all kinds of bad practices like untruth, injustice, dishonesty and disreputable conduct became the order of the day. Even the learned Pandits, scholars and intellectuals of the time started interpreting the Vedas in perverse ways. As a result, people’s faith in the Vedas and scriptures was diluted. At such times, God or a Divinely inspired saint or Messiah makes His advent on earth to reform the wicked and restore the reign of Dharma. Such incarnations are known as Archananaama forms of the Divine. In this Archananaama form, the manifestations are regarded as Amshaavatars – manifestations of partial aspects of the Divine. The Vibhavaavatars (like Rama and Krishna) are Purnaavatars (total manifestations of the Divine). The Archanaavatars are Amshaavatars (partial manifestations). Such Avatars incarnate from time to time, not only in India but in all countries. Jesus declared at first that He was ‘A Messenger of God’. Who are these messengers? They are of two kinds Yamadoota and Avadhoota. Yamadootas are messengers who inflict harm on people. Avadhootas are messengers who protect. Jesus belonged to the second category. In due course, He recognised His own inner Divinity. Then He declared, “I am the Son of God”. Thereby He proclaimed His right to a share in all the qualities of God. When He acquired all the qualities of the Divine, He announced, “I and My Father are one”. The same threefold progress can be seen in the pronouncements of Hazrat Mohammed. First, He declared “I am in the Light”. Then He said, “The Light is in Me”. Finally He declared, “I am the Light”. These declarations can be compared to the three systems of Indian philosophy Dualism (Dvaita), Qualified Non-Dualism (Vishishta Advaita) and Non-Dualism (Advaita).
- “Sri Adi Shankaracharya: His Life”, 
My Dear Students, Volume 03

In the world, God has descended as human incarnation in five different forms. These forms are based on the different aspects of the Divine. One is Nityaavatar. Second is Viseshaavatar. Third, Aveshaavatar. Fourth, Leelaavatar, and fifth, Purnaavatar. Leelaavatar is also known as Amshaavatar. Nityaavatara, Visheshaavatar and Aveshaavatar have only five to nine Kalas (aspects) of the Lord. Only in the Purnaavatar are all the sixteen aspects of the Divine present. The ancients regarded only the Purnaavatars as the full manifestation of God. In this context, every human being must be deemed as Avatar as he has some aspect of the Divine in him. It is because he has descended from the Divine, he is entitled to be called an Avatar. 
- “Let the Conscience Rule”, Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 21, November 23, 1988, Prasanthi Nilayam

Avatars are of two kinds: one, Amshaavatar; two, Purnaavatar. All human beings are Amshaavatar (partial incarnation of the Divine). “Mamaivaamso Jeevaloke Jeevabhutah-Sanaatanah” (a part of My eternal soul Self has become the Jiva – individual soul – in the world of living beings), says Krishna in the Gita. These partial incarnations, caught up in Maya, develop egoism and possessiveness and lead worldly lives. The Purnaavatars, however, subduing and transcending Maya, manifest their full Divinity to the world in their lives. The Purnaavatar may behave, according to the circumstances, as if He were subject to Maya, but in fact He is free from Maya at all times. 
- “Role of the Avatars”, Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 23, 
August 14, 1990, Prasanthi Nilayam

All Avatars are equally Divine and it is pointless to describe one incarnation as partial and another as full. The form and role of each Avatar are dependent on the circumstances and the needs which led to the advent. Avatars are not to be judged in quantitative terms. Qualitatively, they are all essentially one. All Avatars are “full” in fact. Only their forms and names differ according to the circumstances in which they appeared. 
- “The Lord and the Devotee”, Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 19, August 27, 1986, Prasanthi Nilayam

The scriptures have declared that the one who possesses in full all the sixteen potencies is Purushottama (the Supreme Person). The term is applied to the Avatars (Divine incarnations) who utilise the sixteen potencies for the benefit of others. Whatever they say or do is totally free from the taint of self-interest. No Avatar, whether in Bharat or elsewhere, has ever used the five elements, the five senses, the five vital airs or the mind for any selfish purpose. Even when They go about in daily life like other ordinary beings, in every one of Their actions they demonstrate its purity and unchanging truth. The common people do not recognise this truth. Hence, they fail to understand the true nature of humanness. 
- “The Sixteen Potencies”, Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 24, May 29, 1991, Brindavan

Every Avatar has six types of powers: all-encompassing Prosperity, Righteousness, Fame, Wealth, Wisdom and Renunciation (or non-attachment). God is the possessor of these six attributes. Every Avatar of God in every age and every place has these six attributes. 
- “The Name that Redeems”, Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 22, April 14, 1989, Kodaikanal


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