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Divine Incarnations

Divine Incarnations

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Published by: patankaramit5847 on Aug 28, 2010
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The concept of Incarnation (avataara) is the very cornerstone of Hindu theology.According to it, the Supreme power manifests itself in animal or human forms on earth,with the divine mission of cleansing it of the periodically increasing evil. Avataaraconcept has given scope for personal gods. Hindus believe in the concept of PersonalGod (Ishta Devata).The incarnation concept is closely related to the measurement of time in Hindu theologywhich has its basis on one working day of Brahma, the creator. According to BhaagavataPuraana, Brahma, the creator, is the casual effect of the predetermined periodic creationand dissolution of the Universe.Each creation or Kalpa is equal to one day and each dissolution or Pralaya is equal to onenight in the life of Brahma. A Kalpa and Pralaya last for 4,320 million human years each.Every Kalpa has 1000 cycles of four yugas (ages). Each cycle of 4 yugas is completed in4,320, 000 human years. These are called Satya (Krita), Treta, Dwaapara and Kali.Lord Krishna declares in Bhagawad-Gita thus;
Yadaa yadaa hi dharmasya glaanir-bhavati Bhaarata /  Abhyuttaana-madharmasya tadaatmaanam srijaamyaham // Paritraanaaya saadhoonam vinaasaaya cha dushkritaam /  Dharma samsthaapanaarthaaya sambhavami yuge yuge // 
“Whenever, O descendant of Bhaarata, there is decline of 
dharma and rise of adharma,then I body myself forth. For the protection of the good, for the destruction of the wicked,and for the establishment of dharma, I
come into being in every yuga (age)”. This aspect
of the Lord is called Incarnation or Avataara in Samskrit. The Samskrit word avataara has
two syllables „ava‟ meaning to protect and „taara‟ meaning conquering or crossing over.
“The doctrine that God can
be incarnated in human form is found in most of the principlehistoric expositions of the perennial philosophy
in Hinduism, in Mohammedanism of 
Sufis, Mahaayaana Buddhism, in Christianity……every human being thus can become anavataara by adoption” to quo
te Aldus Huxley from his Perennial Philosophy.There are several beliefs regarding the divine incarnation. They are: a) Supreme God-head comes down from the heaven and assumes the form of human beings; b) All humanbeings evolve by leading a highly righteous and pious life. They get enlightened andbecome noble souls and finally release the people from worldly bondage (samsaara).They transform the society for a new world order. Hindus believe in both and there areumpteen illustrations for both views in Hinduism; c) There is a theory of Avataaravaada.According to it the full development of avataaravaada seems to have been influenced byBuddhist conception of the former Buddhas, some of whom were worshipped in theirown Stupas as early as 300 B.C., that a large number of Buddhists were admitted into thefold of Vaishnavism towards the close of Hindu period as suggested by the inclusion of Buddha in the list of Vishnu Avataaras.
2Types of IncarnationsGenerally Incarnations fall under three categories: 1. Incarnations of Lord Vishnu; 2.Incarnations of Lord Shiva; 3. Incarnations of Devi especially that of Parvati consort of Lord Shiva. Among the Hindu Trinity of Gods, Vishnu and Shiva incarnate sometimeswith their consorts to free the people from bondage and to bestow on grace and salvationto the devotees.Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, sacred scriptures (eighteen Puranas and UpaPuranas) and Tantra texts narrate countless myths about the incarnations of these Godsand, their purposes and messages.Incarnation of VishnuVishnu is first referred as the brother of Indra, the ruler of the vedic people. He isassociated with the Lord Sun and traverses the sky. He is praised by the epithetTrivikrama, i.e., who had three giant strides (Rigveda I 154-156; 99-100). He helps Indrain killing the demon Vritra. Vritra appears in the form of massive serpent extending farand wide in the sky and blocking the light and radiance of the Sun. Indra wields hisweapon of thunderbolt (Vajraayudha) and kills him. He thus releases the waters and lightto mankind.Rigveda Samhita extols the mighty acts of Vishnu several times and especially hisplacing the third stride, which is above the realms of the Earth and Nether regions. It
declares, “He stepped forth over the
realms of earth for freedom and for life (Rigveda I155.4B).
The famous Purusha Sukta of Rigveda Samhita describes the Vishnu‟s body forms the
entire Universe. He transforms his body into the entire animate and inanimate objects of the World. This thought gave room for the theory called Brahmaparinaama Vaada(Brahman manifesting into the world) in the Vedanta. The word Vishnu is derived from
the root of the Samskrit word „vish‟ to enter. It also means „all pervading‟, which can be
 applied to the
“Sun God w
ho is everything and contained in everything
 The following ten Incarnations of Vishnu are considered most significant and arecelebrated in sacred hymns composed by great many saints. Some scholars believe thatthese ten incarnations of Vishnu depict the evolution of life on earth and compare withthe Evolution Theory of Charles Darwin.
3Sl. no. Epoch Incarnation
Darwin‟s Theory
 1. Krita Yuga Fish (Matsya) Life starts in water600-400 million years ago2. ,, Tortoise (Koorma) First amphibians emerge100 million years ago3. ,, Boar (Varaaha) First mammals evolve60 million years ago4. ,, Half man-half lion Our earliest ancestorsNarasimha5. ,, Dwarf man Homo erectus, upright,Short and weaponless5-2 million years ago6. Treta Yuga Parashurama Bronze age; the comingof Ramapithecus, developmentof first weapons such as axe.Homo sapiens
350, 000 to100,000 years ago7. Treta Rama Fully developed human being8. Dwapara Yuga Krishna9. Kali Yuga Buddha10. Kali Yuga Kalki Yet to incarnate
In the words of Naval K Prinja, “other avataaras such as Rama, Krishna and Buddha can
be seen as the continuous process of the mental, moral, intellectual and spiritualdevelopment of humanity. The tenth avataara, Kalki, is meant to mark the end of thepresent cycle of creation.Adhyaatma Ramayana gives symbolic meaning where Rama and Sita are considered asthe very embodiment of Brahman in his dual aspect as the manifest (saguna or vyakta)and the un-manifest (nirguna or avyakta). Rama is the representation of an impersonalabsolute existence, where as Sita is personal, creative and self-projecting aspect of Brahman.Gita makes a distinction between the divine descents of Rama and Krishna, andreincarnation of individual common souls tainted with Maaya who attain salvationthrough a continuous struggle. The reason assigned for this is the divine descent has noaccumulated actions of the past called praarabhda karma in samskrit. The empiricalreality of the descent as animal or human being (the mortals) is not due to karma as isbelieved in Sanatana Dharma. Divine descents here do not imply any genetic relationship.The incarnation of the Supreme are not considered as individual souls or jeevas born dueto the force of individual karma. Sometimes they are the incarnations of exalted souls like

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