God Incarnation and Ordinary Guru
(By Muktipada Behera)
The theory of Isvara Avatara (God Incarnation) is quite old. It is described in detail in Purana and Itihasa like Srimad Bhagavatam, Bhagavad Gita etc. It is also described in Bhakti Sastra like Chaitanya Charitamrita, Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita and Bhakti Yoga by Swami Vivekananda. There is no mention of Human Avatara in Veda. May be those portions of Veda mentioning God incarnation on earth is lost. However, Kena Upanishad, Chapter 4 mentions God incarnation as Yaksha in heaven. Devas could not recognize him. So Brahman personified as Uma Haimavati instructed Indra on the eternal truth behind all that is perishable and said – “That Yaksha was Brahman”.
It is undoubtedly true that God comes down to earth in a human form, as in the case of Krishna. And it is true as well that God reveals Himself to His devotees in various forms. But it is also true that God is formless; He is the Indivisible Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute. He has been described in the Vedas both as formless and as endowed with form. He isalso described there both as attribute-less and as endowed with attributes.
yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati bharata
abhyutthanam adharmasya tadatmanam srjamy aham
Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time I descend Myself.
paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam
dharma-samsthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge
In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.
Everyone is also an avatara based on its past Karmas. Avatar is for devotee, not for Jnani. A Jnani (Individual with supreme knowledge) knows Brahman has become everything including all Human beings.
Explanation of Avatara:
God Incarnation can be explained through the illustration of the ocean and the ice.
Satchidananda is like an infinite ocean. Intense cold freezes the water into ice, which floats on the ocean in blocks of various forms. Likewise, through the cooling influence of bhakti, one sees forms of God in the Ocean of the Absolute. These forms are meant for the Bhaktas, the lovers of God. But when the Sun of Knowledge rises, the ice melts; it becomes the same water it was before. Water above and water below, everywhere nothing but water. Therefore, a prayer in the Bhagavata says: 'O Lord, Thou hast form, and Thou art also formless. Thou walkest before us, O Lord, in the shape of a man; again, Thou hast been described in the Vedas as beyond words and thought.'
Difference between Guru and Avatara:
Even though Vedanta talks of “Each soul is potentially Divine”, there is a clear difference between God incarnation and ordinary Human Guru. Here we will outline few differences.
(1) General Guru descents on earth based on their past Prarabdha Karma. But God incarnation descents on earth due to “Samasti Prarabdha – cumulative Karma” of whole society at that point of time.
(a) Brahma sutra 3.3.32 Shankara Bhashya says – Yavadadhikaramavasthitiradhikarikanam.
Perfected souls may take a corporeal existence for divine mission. Of those who have a mission to fulfil existence, they take rebirth in due course of time based on need. Examples are – Vasishtha, Narada, Shankaracharya and Swami Vivekananda etc.
(b) Brahma Sutra 4.4.17 says - Jagadvyaparavarjam prakaranadasannihitattvaccha.
The liberated soul attains all lordly powers except the power of creation, maintenance, and dissolution of cosmos. Only God has those cosmic powers. So there is a clear division of the ownership between liberated soul and God.
(2) God Incarnation has three main purposes – (a) paritranaya sadhunam – to save pious human beings; (b) vinasaya duskrtam - destruction of spiritual obstacles; (c) dharma-samsthapanarthaya - Rejuvenation of spirituality. Ordinary Guru is not capable to fulfill this high cosmic demand.
(3) God incarnation is of Saguna Brahman – Vishnu. Various incarnations get manifested with different power and different qualities or Kala based on social need. For example, Krishna was manifested with complete sixteen Kala – so he was known as Purna Avatara, Rama was born with twelve kala.
(4) Ordinary Guru transmits spiritual power through Ista Mantra or teachings. Isvara Avatar transmits energy though touch or mere wish. The person can be uplifted immediately and get divine vision. Like Arjuna got the vision from Krishna, Vivekananda got from Sri ramakrishna, on Kalpataru day many got instant spiritual vision by the grace of Sri Ramakrishna, Chaitanya Dev did same for Nityananda.
(5) God Incarnation has a power to liberate other humans out of grace. They are like a huge ship that can carry many others in bondage. Ordinary guru is compared with a small boat which cannot accommodate many. Human Guru is not capable to liberate others through mere grace.
(6) God Incarnation demonstrates the moral and spiritual paths relevant to current society. They can change the thought-wave of the society. And then Smritis and other teachers tend to follow that path of reformation. Without God incarnation, ordinary Guru does not have enough power to change this huge cosmic thought-wave.
(7) Ordinary Guru is a one-man show. Avatar comes with his own group - already illuminated disciples, like Swami Vivekananda along with other fifteen direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna; Hanuman, Bharata etc came with Sri Rama; Gopis, Arjuna etc came with Krishna; same with Buddha and Chaitanya etc. So the teachings preached by an Avatar has a very strong power and future generations get benefited even after the Avatar has left his mortal body.
(8) God incarnation has ‘oneness’ from birth. They are aware of their divine nature from childhood. They don't need to practice any Sadhana to get it because they are already liberated and came here to help others.
(9) An ordinary spiritual Guru gets illumination through Sadhana and initiates his disciples in his realized path. Once the Guru departs the physical body, his followed path becomes weak and does not remain as a strong spiritual current for future generation. Normal Gurus will be popular while they are alive. After their death, people usually forget them and their followers are reduced.
The preaching done by God incarnation will continue forever even after his death. He will become more popular and get more followers over time. For example, Buddha, Krishna are still popular even if they lived thousand years before. Gita preached by Krishna, life of truthfulness taught by Rama - are still influencing Humans.
How to recognize God Incarnation:
(1) There is no clear way of knowing who God incarnation is or not. Only another enlightened one can say through his divine vision that somebody is a God incarnation. We must look for a reference from another enlightened person or accept it after having proper clue through own Sadhana.
(2) Most of the time God incarnation reveals himself to their close disciples while alive. For example, Christ, Krishna have disclosed their real nature to their close disciples. Only ten Rishis knew that Rama was an incarnation. Ordinary human beings could know them after they are dead.
(3) Based on qualities seen in earlier God incarnation, Hinduism has developed some standards to judge an Avatar. For example, God incarnations always demonstrate the extreme sense of morals or spiritual values, which ordinary human Gurus cannot achieve in their lifetime. Examples are - Krishna dancing with sixteen thousands Gopis, lifting mountain on little finger, Chaitanya dev extreme adherence to ascetic rule, Sri Ramakrishna keeping Brahmacharya while sleeping with his wife, Buddha’s demonstration of highest compassion, Jesus ready to be crucified alive etc.
It is generally seen - every organization tends to declare their originator Guru as God incarnation out of reverence.
(4) There are scriptural proof and documented incarnations. Well accepted names are (1) Rama (2) Krishna (3) Buddha (4) Christ (5) Chaitanya (6) Ramakrishna etc. They had imparted tremendous power to reform this world. So they will be followed eternally.
(5) There are so many Avatars incarnated in India. We don’t worship all of them. We worship the Avatar who is incarnated with his divine consort (Shakti) like Krishna with Radha, Rama with Sita, Ramakrishna with Sarada etc. Whereas Parshurama, Kapila muni, Vyasa deva were also Avatar and we don’t worship them because they were partial incarnation (without associated with Shakti)
All power Lord descends on earth to do Leela, to play with Humans – his children. It is wonderful to play with the creator. Upanishads say - Raso-vai-Sah - He is like nectar. He is the source happiness or bliss.
"One who has been kissed by Thee, his thirst for Thee increases for ever, all sorrows vanish, and he forgets love for everything else but for Thee and Thee alone." Ay, forget first the love for gold, and name and fame, and for this little trumpery world of ours. Then, only then, you will understand the love of the Gopis, too holy to be attempted without giving up everything, too sacred to be understood until the soul has become perfectly pure. People with ideas of sex, and of money, and of fame, bubbling up every minute in the heart, daring to criticize and understand the love of the Gopis! That is the very essence of the Krishna Incarnation.” – Swami Vivekananda.