The Meaning of the Avatar

The concept of the Avatar, the Divine Being manifesting in the world to guide, teach, correct or save, is one which has long been supported in the Indian tradition. The idea, however, is not limited to India. The Christian teaching of the divinity of Jesus, and the unity between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and Jesus’ role to guide the faithful and teach a new and higher way of living, clearly fits the classical understanding we find in India.

Sri Aurobindo describes the underpinning of the concept in India: “All existence is a manifestation of God because He is the only existence and nothing can be except as either a real figuring or else a figment of that one reality. Therefore every conscious being is in part or in some way a descent of the Infinite into the apparent finiteness of name and form.” While for most forms this is essentially a veiled power and consciousness, it is of course possible for a being to consciously manifest a higher consciousness. “But when the divine Consciousness and Power, taking upon itself the human form and the human mode of action, possesses it not only by powers and magnitudes, by degrees and outward faces of itself but out of its eternal self-knowledge, when the Unborn knows itself and acts in the frame of the mental being and the appearance of birth, that is the height of the conditioned manifestation; it is the full and conscious descent of the Godhead, it is the Avatar.”

“When this eternal divine Consciousness always present in every human being, this God in man, takes possession partly or wholly of the human consciousness and becomes in visible human shape the guide, teacher, leader of the world, not as those who living in their humanity yet feel something of the power or light or love of the divine Gnosis informing and conducting them, but out of that divine Gnosis itself, direct from its central force and plenitude, then we have the manifest Avatar. The inner Divinity is the eternal Avatar in man; the human manifestation is its sign and development in the external world.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 2, The Divine Teacher, pp. 10-12,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.