Modern Objections to the Concept of the Avatar

While the Gita was written a long time ago, it has successfully anticipated the primary issues and objections that arise in the modern mind with respect to the idea of an “avatar”. There are numerous objections raised against this idea, some of them based on the secular viewpoint of the modern scientific and materialist positions, some religious with respect to the way we conceive of God and his relation to man.

Sri Aurobindo has organized these objections in a comprehensive manner for review, consideration and response: The modern mind “…is apt to take it at the best for a mere figure for some high manifestation of human power, character, genius, great work done for the world or in the world, and at the worst to regard it as a superstition,–to the heathen a foolishness and to the Greeks a stumbling-block.”

He continues: “The materialist, necessarily, cannot even look at it, since he does not believe in God; to the rationalist or the Deist it is folly and a thing of derision; to the thoroughgoing dualist who sees an unbridgeable gulf between the human and the divine nature, it sounds like a blasphemy. The rationalist objects that if God exists, he is extracosmic or supracosmic and does not intervene in the affairs of the world, but allows them to be governed by a fixed machinery of law….”

“To these objections the thoroughgoing dualist would add that God is in his person, is role and his nature different and separate from man; the perfect cannot put on human imperfection; the unborn personal God cannot be born as a human personality; the Ruler of the worlds cannot be limited in a nature-bound human action and in a perishable human body.”

The Gita, in its review thus far, has already anticipated many of these concerns and formulated a comprehensive response to them. While those locked into one dogmatic position or another will not be moved, those who are serious and reflective will take time to consider deeply.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 15, The Possibility and Purpose of Avatarhood, pp. 141-142