[Advaita-l] Avatar

Anand Hudli ahudli at gmail.com
Sat Jul 31 23:44:52 CDT 2010

Rajaram Venkataramani wrote:

>According to Advaita Vedanta,

>1. Does avatar refer to the name and form of the body of lord (e.g.
>2. Are the names and forms unmanifest before His appearance?
>3. Do the names and forms become unmanifest again after His disappearance?

Ishavara considered as the nirguNa brahman cannot be born at all. Commenting
on the gItA 4.6, Shankara BhagavatpAda says Ishvara takes birth as it were
due to His mAyA, not in reality (dehavAn iva bhavAmi jAtaH iva AtmamAyayA na
parmArthataH). So there is only an apparent birth as an avatAra. The reason
for such an apparent birth is stated in the next verse 4.7, yadA yadA hi
dharmasya glAnirbhavati... Whenever there is a deterioration of Dharma
defined by the varNa-Ashrama and other characteristics, Ishvara descends as
an avatAra. What Ishvara accomplishes in such an avatAra is stated in the
next verse 4.8, paritrANAya sAdhUnAM ... He protects the virtuous, destroys
the sinners, and establishes  dharma. Krishna stresses that the birth as an
avatAra is mAyA, not the pAramArthika satya, in the next verse 4.9.

Given this, avatAra is a creation of Ishvara's mAyA, with a specific
purpose, i.e. to protect the good, punish the wicked, and establish dharma.
It is important to remember that the Highest Reality is nirguNa Brahman,
devoid all qualities, not even the qualities of Ishvara. It is also
important to remember that in advaita, any discussion about Ishvara cannot
be done without considering jIva, the individual soul, and jagat, the world.
Any discussion of one of the three entities, Ishvara, jIva, and jagat cannot
be complete without the other two. For Ishvara, there must individual souls
and a world over which He presides, else what will He rule and whom will He
protect?  But, it is also important to remember that, in the final analysis,
all the three - Ishvara, jIva, and jagat - are creations of mAyA.

Specifically regarding your questions, there is no claim by advaita that the
"names and forms" of the Lord are unmanifest before the avatAra and become
unmanifest after the avatAra.


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