[Advaita-l] Re: Bhagavad Geeta

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Mon Apr 24 07:43:34 CDT 2006

> On Fri, 7 Apr 2006, Siddhartha Annapureddy wrote:
> > Namaste all,
> > I have a few questions on the interpretation of Bhagavad Geeta. The
> > verses in question are
> > 4.7 and 4.8.
> >
> > yadaa yadaa hi dharmasya glaanirbhavati Bharata.
> > Abhyuddhannamadharmasya tadayayatmaanam srujamyaham. (4.7)
> >
> Whenever Dharma is on the decline O Bharata! [Arjuna]
> And Adharma begins to increase, I project myself [into this world]
> > paritranaaya saadhunaam vinaashaya cha dushkrutam.
> > dharmasamsthaapanaarthaaya sambhavaami yuge yuge. (4.8)
> To protect the good and destroy evildoers,
> To establish Dharma, I am born in every age.

Shree Siddharthaji - PraNAms.

In response to your questions I am providing below few pages from my
book   "Discussions on Advaita Vedanta", which I am trying to publish
it.  Some of it may be relavant to your question. 

Hope it helps
Hari OM!

Q: I would like to start a new discussion about avataara-vaada in the
light of Shankara’s Vedanta philosophy. My question is how can we prove
that Shri Krishna is an avataar (as said in the Puranas) of Vishnu and
how can the theory of avataara-vaada (as mentioned in the Puranas) be
looked at from the Vedantic point of view.

Sadananda:  I will provide my understanding of the concept.

Let us pose an opposite question. Can one disprove that Krishna is not
an avataar? Avataar implies two aspects: 1. one is coming down and 2.
taking a role something other than that of oneself, that is like an
actor wearing a costume with the implication that the costume is needed
for the play, at the same time the actor that is playing the role knows
that he is only acting a character through the costume. This acting part
is the same for a jiivanmukta as well as the Lord who descends
(avataar). For jiivanmukta it is an ascending aspect since a jiiva
transforms due to knowledge of the self as mukta -- with the knowledge
of 'aham brahma asmi'. After realization, there is no more notion of
jiiva-hood and what is there is only Brahman, since he knows he is
Brahman but playing through the limited equipment. Brahma vit brahma eva
bhavati, says Shruti – knower of Brahman becomes Brahman. Here the
equipments and temporal knowledge as well as the skills that are now
available to the jiivanmukta are limited since they are inherited from
the previous praarabda karma of that jiiva, who is now no more (are
transcended or ascended to Brahman state - in contrast to decadence of

The cause for decadence is different from jiiva and it was propelled by
his praarabda karma. In the case of the avataar, there is no question of
praarabda karma, to pull him down but it is the samashhTi karma that
brings an avataar into manifestation - hence Krishna's declaration:

yadaa yadaa hi dharmsya glanirbhaviti bhaarata|
abhusthaanam adharmasya taddaa aatmaanam sR^ijaamyaham||
paritraanaaya saadhuuNaam vinaashaaya ca dushhkR^itaama|
dharmasamsthaapanaarthaaya sambhavaami yuge yuge||

Hence the avataar manifests only when it is needed or demanded by the
samashhTi vaasana -- protection of the good and establishment of dharma.
Hence it is not propelled by the desire of the Lord but by desires of
the devotees who want Him.

Since the motivating force is not the individual praarabda, and further
since the totality can manifest in a form that is required to accomplish
the task on hand, with or without the total knowledge (Shree Krishna
avataar in contrast to Shree Rama avataar), the avataar takes place.

Some say that Krishna’s body is made of transcendental matter.
Personally, I do not see a reason to invoke a transcendental matter etc.
for avataar-s. Since, at least according to Advaita understanding, it is
Brahman that is substratum for all, there is truly no matter anyway. Of
course from bhaktas’ point of view ,one can attribute qualities to the
matter as something different from the normal, but that is again a
perspective to invoke bhakti or reverence. Krishna's death is very well
explained in Mahabharat and his body followed natural laws that are part
of the creation, since he is playing a role within the creation.

Is Krishna an avataar or not depends on one’s perspective. Duryodhana
did not think so, but those believed in Him thought so. Some believed
Rama as an avataar but there were obviously many who did not think he

In principle everyone is an avatar. Some believe Shree Shankara
Bhagavatpaada was an avatar of Bhagavan Shankara. Shree Ramanuja was the
avataar of Aadisheshha. Shree Madhvacharya was an avatar of Shree
Hanuman. Shree Ramakrishna and Shree Vivekananda were avatars. Shree
Mehar baaba was an avatar. Shree Satya Sai Baaba is an avatar. And why
not? Who is going to deny and who is going to prove. It is all a
question of one’s reverence to his teacher. A realized soul is indeed
not only 'Brahman' but also knows now that he is Brahman. Hence we chant
-- Guru brahma, guru Vishnu guru devo maheswaraH, guru saakshaat
parabrahma tasmi shree gurave namaH|.

Ultimately it is one’s own self-playing of these all these multiple
roles -- everyone is indeed an avataar, some realize the fact and others
take some more time!

4. Avatar

Q:  What is the advaitin dogma concerning Vishnu avatars? Are they of
willingness or otherwise, are they Iswara or non-Iswara?

Sadananda: My friend, dogma implies a blind belief. First, Advaita is
not a belief. There is no need for the belief that ‘one is there and one
is conscious’. I would rather reframe the question as ‘How Advaita
explains the avatar?’ Avatar means that which comes down. In the case of
jiiva-s who have not realized, they take birth propelled by their own
vaasanaas. Once an individual is transcended by realization that one is
not a jiiva but one is a totality -- then there are no more vaasanaas
left. That is jiivanmukta state. This state can be visualized as if the
totality itself comes down in the form of that being, taking the
suitable body/mind/intellect that is now readily available. This is the
same as saying that the jiiva that was there before now recognized, as
‘I am Brahman’ (that is the transcendence). Now the need for his
presence as Brahman in that body is set not by his individual vaasanaas,
since there is none. It is now set by others’ vaasanaas, samashhTi
vaasanaas or what we call 'on popular demand'. Collective vaasanaas of
the group demand the totality to manifest in a ‘being-form’ or avatar to
fulfil their samashhTi vaasanaas. Hence Krishna declares, “I come down
to uplift the good and to punish the bad, for the protection of the good
if the good demands that’. It will be more for fulfilment of the desires
of the samashhTi that totality takes the form of a being. The form, and
its capabilities, attributes, etc. depend on the purpose of its coming. 

That, my friend, is the advaitic explanation of avatar, as I understand.

Q: Why did all the avatars of Iswara and Vishnu occur only in India? Why
the benefit was not given to other countries? If the avatars are
intended for people in Bharatavarsha, what was the form of salvation for

Sadananda: Avatar means avatarti iti, that which descends to this
phenomenal world, obviously from a higher state. The supreme Brahman has
no specific reason of his own to descend down. That is, he has no
individual vaasanaas which are the cause or kaaraNa for any shariira or
body. Hence the cause for his descend must come from elsewhere. The
cause as Krishna explains in Geeta -- paritraanaaya sadhuunam,
vinaashaayas dushhkRitam -- is to uplift the good and to punish the
wicked. Hence it is the collective vaasanaas or samashhTi vaasanaas that
demand the Lord to come down. This is illustrated in Bhaagavata puraaNa
as all the gods and Rishis and the mother earth go and request the Lord
to take birth to destroy the wicked and protect the good.

There is always a belief associated with whether a particular person is
an avatar or not. Even in India everyone does not recognize a given
person as avatar. Even at Rama's time and Krishna’s time, some
recognized them as avatars; some denied that they were. Duryodhana never
considered Krishna an avatar. Our Hindu upbringing is such that we
glorify our teachers and our gurus as avatara purushas. Shankara is
considered an avatar of Lord Shankara, while Madhvas consider him a
prachhanna Bouddha, a disguised Buddhist. SrivaishhNavaites consider
Ramanuja an avatar of LakshmaNa or Aadisheshha. Madhvas consider acharya
Madhva an avatar of Hanuman. The concept of avatar is easily acceptable
for a Hindu frame of mind, where reincarnation is part of the Vedic
philosophy, since life is a continuous cycle. We address the
noble-hearted ones as ‘bhagavaan’. We have lot of bhagavaans in India,
some self-declared and some declared by others. That is our culture.

In other traditions too, there are very many great souls but their
culture does not have notions of avatar. In Judaism the concept of
Messiah is there. However, when Jesus came, only a few Jews considered
him as the son of God, but not by many. The Jews are still expecting an
avatar. The theosophists used to consider J. Krishnamurthy as an avatar
or messiah, and were preparing grounds for their faith, by forming a
society around him called the Order of the Star, until one day J.K. as
president of that society abolished that order saying that 'truth is a
pathless land'. The theosophists disassociated from him looking for
another one in his place. However, looking back, J.K. ended up like an
avatara purusha, teaching the essence of truth, in his own inimitable

In India, life is tuned towards higher, and the environment is conducive
for spiritual growth. The Ramayan and Mahabharat, along with Vedas and
Bhagavad Geeta, are conducive to help turn our minds to the direction of
the higher. The story of Rama and Krishna fascinates a child as much as
an adult in the same way. The beauty is, however, any number of times
one reads or listens, still the mind gets attracted by them. That is
because they are considered reflections of one’s own story. If someone
shows a photo, you are not very much interested. However if you are
there in that photo, you do not like to throw it away and want to
preserve it in an album and do not get bored to look at it any number of
times. Because, it is your photo. Similarly is the story of the Lord,
since it is the story of the Self within. Ramayana and Mahabharat are
not histories but His stories. These itihaasas capture the essence of
Vedanta in a story form. That which is beyond any form or words of
description, but captured in a form that the mind can grasp, is the
essence of these itihaasas. That is the beauty of the avatar concept and
helps in one’s own evolution through devotion. We are indeed blessed in
that way.

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list