As part of his exposition of the yoga to Arjuna, Sri Krishna makes reference to his having provided this teaching in past ages. Arjuna wonders how his human friend and teacher could possibly have done this and he raises this question. This allows Sri Krishna to set forth the nature of his birth as an Avatar.
Sri Aurobindo takes up the theme of Sri Krishna’s role as the Avatar: “And we may first translate the words of the Teacher himself in which the nature and purpose of Avatarhood are given summarily and remind ourselves also of other passages or references which bear upon it. ‘Many are my lives that are past, and thine also, O Arjuna; all of them I know, but thou knowest not, O scourge of the foe. Though I am the unborn, though I am imperishable in my self-existence, though I am the Lord of all existences, yet I stand upon my own Nature and I come into birth by my self-Maya. For whensoever there is the fading of the Dharma and the uprising of unrighteousness, then I loose myself forth into birth. For the deliverance of the good, for the destruction of the evil-doers, for the enthroning of the Right I am born from age to age. He who knoweth thus in its right principles my divine birth and my divine work, when he abandons his body, comes not to rebirth, he comes to Me, O Arjuna. Delivered from liking and fear and wrath, full of me, taking refuge in me, many purified by austerity of knowledge have arrived at my nature of being (madbhavam,, the divine nature of the Purushottama). As men approach Me, so I accept them to my love….; men follow in every way my path, O son of Pritha.’ ”
There is much here to reflect on, and for those of us who live primarily in the human standpoint of fragmentation and separation, it takes some amount of serious effort to realise that the Teacher is speaking from the standpoint of the Unity of consciousness at the level of the manifestation of the Creation, not as a weak, subordinated creature, but as the Lord of all creation living in, and responding from that vast, universal Consciousness that has created all.
Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 15, The Possibility and Purpose of Avatarhood, pp. 137-139