22.9: Avataara

 

The concept of avatAra or Divine descent is the unmatched  prerogative of Hinduism among all religions. In the long mythological history of the Indian nation and also in its historical past, there have been many occasions when the Absolute Godhead chose to manifest itself  in flesh and blood, as a living presence, for the purpose of either putting an end to rank cruelty, hatred and wickedness, arrogance of muscle power or spiritual power or for the purpose of showering Divine Grace on a superhuman devotee and spreading of the air of spirituality. Each one of these manifestations is a voluntary and planned descent  from the absolute pedestal of the nameless and formless God. Such a descent, where the Perfect Godhead assumes an imperfection, as it were, to raise us imperfect humans towards the path of Perfection, is called an avatAra. It is only by God's own Grace that we may recognise His own avatAra.  We should feel honoured and doubly blessed if, in addition, we can enjoy His beatific presence. The two most sacredly held avatAras are those of Rama and Krishna. The manifestation as Rama is a central thread in the vast fabric of Hinduism just as Resurrection is the central kingpin of Christianity. Rama and Jesus had many things in common. Both were a great colossus of humility without the least shade of arrogance. Both undertook suffering on themselves for the sake of humanity. Jesus died on the Cross so that humanity may be saved for God. Rama lived a life of truth, compassion and virtue throughout his long life and showed to the world how we must not only be prepared to sacrifice but in reality renounce every attachment to ourselves, for the happiness of the rest of the world.

 

The avatAra of Krishna happened five thousand years ago in the city of Mathura in North India. Again it was the same reason: Protection of the virtuous and destruction of the wicked. Krishna's story has several parallels with the life of Jesus. The birth itself was a miracle. And in his life he performed miracle after miracle, almost for the asking. Krishna's life is in another sense most important for Hinduism because He condensed all the truths and philosophy of the ancient religion in 700 simple verses and taught it directly to one of the most well-known characters in the history of Hinduism, namely, Arjuna of the Mahabharata.  This teaching is called the Bhagavad-gita, the Song of the Lord or the Divine Song or Poem. In fact for those who cannot go back to the entire vedas to understand Hinduism, the Gita has everything in it. It is very much relevant even in the modern context. The final teaching of the Gita is:

 

 

Do your work in an unselfish way.  Even if your duty leads you on to do apparently unjustifiable things, place the burden on God and do your duty. Do not keep on worrying about what is going to happen in the future. Have faith in the ultimate Divinity of every being. Love and serve every being. Each being has the same divinity in them as what you have in you. If you serve God and humanity with humility and surrender to the Will of God you have nothing to fear either in this life or in the after-life. Never be carried away by the transient ups and downs of everyday life. And leave the problem of your Salvation to God. He will take care of it.

 

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© 2017 by V. Krishnamurthy

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