THE AVATAR (GOD-MAN)
Consciously or unconsciously, every living creature seeks one thing. In the lower forms of life and in less advanced human beings, the quest is unconscious: in advanced human beings, it is conscious. The object of the quest is called by many names — happiness, peace, freedom, truth, love, perfection, Self-realization, God-realization, union with God. Essentially, it is a search for all of these, but in a special way. Everyone has moments of happiness, glimpses of truth, fleeting experiences of union with God; what they want is to make them permanent. They want to establish an abiding reality in the midst of constant change.
This is a natural desire, based fundamentally on a memory — dim or clear as the evolution of the individual soul may be low or high — of its essential unity with God. For every living thing is a partial manifestation of God, conditioned only by its lack of knowledge of its own true nature. The whole of evolution, in fact, is an evolution from unconscious divinity to conscious divinity, in which God Himself, essentially eternal and unchangeable, assumes an infinite variety of forms, enjoys an infinite variety of experiences, and transcends an infinite variety of self-imposed limitations.
Evolution from the standpoint of the Creator is a divine sport, in which the Unconditioned tests the infinitude of His absolute knowledge, power and bliss in the midst of all conditions. But evolution from the standpoint of the creature, with its limited knowledge, limited power, limited capacity for enjoying bliss, is an epic of alternating rest and struggle, joy and sorrow, love and hate — until in the perfected person, God balances the pairs of opposites, and duality is transcended.
Then creature and Creator recognize themselves as one; changelessness is established in the midst of change; eternity is experienced in the midst of time. God knows Himself as God, unchangeable in essence, infinite in manifestation, ever experiencing the supreme bliss of Self-realization in continually fresh awareness of Himself by Himself. This Realization must and does take place only in the midst of life; for it is only in the midst of life that limitation can be experienced and transcended, and that subsequent freedom from limitation can be enjoyed. This freedom from limitation assumes three forms.
Most God-realized souls leave the body at once and forever, and remain eternally merged in the unmanifest aspect of God. They are conscious only of the bliss of Union. Creation no longer exists for them. Their constant round of births and deaths is ended. This is known as Moksha (ordinary Mukti), or Liberation.
Some God-realized souls retain the body for a time; but their consciousness is merged completely in the unmanifest aspect of God, and they are therefore not conscious either of their bodies or of creation. They experience constantly the infinite bliss, power, and knowledge of God; but they cannot consciously use them in creation or help others to attain Liberation. Nevertheless, their presence on earth is like a focal point for the concentration and radiation of the infinite power, knowledge, and bliss of God; and those who approach them, serve them, and worship them are spiritually benefited by contact with them. These souls are called Majzoobs-e-Kamil; and this particular type of Liberation is called Videh Mukti, or liberation with the body.
A few God-realized souls keep the body, yet are conscious of themselves as God in both His unmanifest and His manifest aspects. They know themselves both as the unchangeable divine Essence and as its infinitely varied manifestation. They experience themselves as God apart from creation; as God the Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer of the whole creation; and as God who has accepted and transcended the limitations of creation. These souls experience constantly the absolute peace, the infinite knowledge, power, and bliss of God. They enjoy to the full the divine sport of creation. They know themselves as God in everything; therefore they are able to help everything spiritually and thus help other souls realize God, either as Majzoobs-e-Kamil, Paramhansas, Jivanmuktas — or even Sadgurus, as they themselves are called.
There are fifty-six God-realized souls in the world at all times. They are always one in consciousness. They are always different in function. For the most part, they live and work apart from and unknown to the general public; but five, who act in a sense as a directing body, always work in public and attain public prominence and importance. These are known as Sadgurus, or Perfect Masters. In Avataric periods the Avatar, as the Supreme Sadguru, takes His place as the head of this body and of the spiritual hierarchy as a whole.
Avataric periods are like the springtide of creation. They bring a new release of power, a new awakening of consciousness, a new experience of life — not merely for a few, but for all. Qualities of energy and awareness, which had been used and enjoyed by only a few advanced souls, are made available for all humanity. Life, as a whole, is stepped up to a higher level of consciousness, is geared to a new rate of energy. The transition from sensation to reason was one such step; the transition from reason to intuition will be another.
This new influx of the creative impulse manifests, through the medium of a divine personality, an incarnation of God in a special sense — the Avatar. The Avatar was the first individual soul to emerge from the evolutionary and involutionary process as a Sadguru, and He is the only Avatar who has ever manifested or will ever manifest. Through Him God first completed the journey from unconscious divinity to conscious divinity, first unconsciously became man in order consciously to become God. Through Him, periodically, God consciously becomes man for the liberation of mankind.
The Avatar appears in different forms, under different names, at different times, in different parts of the world. As His appearance always coincides with the spiritual regeneration of man, the period immediately preceding His manifestation is always one in which humanity suffers from the pangs of the approaching rebirth. Man seems more than ever enslaved by desire, more than ever driven by greed, held by fear, swept by anger. The strong dominate the weak; the rich oppress the poor; large masses of people are exploited for the benefit of the few who are in power. The individual, who finds no peace or rest, seeks to forget himself in excitement. Immorality increases, crime flourishes, religion is ridiculed. Corruption spreads throughout the social order. Class and national hatreds are aroused and fostered. Wars break out. Humanity grows desperate. There seems to be no possibility of stemming the tide of destruction.
At this moment the Avatar appears. Being the total manifestation of God in human form, He is like a gauge against which man can measure what he is and what he may become. He trues the standard of human values by interpreting them in terms of divinely human life.
He is interested in everything but not concerned about anything. The slightest mishap may command His sympathy; the greatest tragedy will not upset Him. He is beyond the alternations of pain and pleasure, desire and satisfaction, rest and struggle, life and death. To Him they are equally illusions that He has transcended, but by which others are bound, and from which He has come to free them. He uses every circumstance as a means to lead others toward Realization.
He knows that individuals do not cease to exist when they die and therefore is not concerned over death. He knows that destruction must precede construction, that out of suffering is born peace and bliss, that out of struggle comes liberation from the bonds of action. He is only concerned about concern.
In those who contact Him, He awakens a love that consumes all selfish desire in the flame of the one desire to serve Him. Those who consecrate their lives to Him gradually become identified with Him in consciousness. Little by little their humanity is absorbed into His divinity, and they become free. Those who are closest to Him are known as His Circle.
In Avataric periods the Avatar has a Circle of ten concentric Circles with a total of 122 disciples, all of whom experience Realization and work for the Liberation of others. The work of the Avatar and His disciples is not only for contemporary humanity but for posterity as well. The unfoldment of life and consciousness for the whole Avataric cycle, which had been mapped out in the creative world before the Avatar took form, is endorsed and fixed in the formative and material worlds during the Avatar's life on earth.
The Avatar awakens contemporary humanity to a realization of its true spiritual nature, gives Liberation to those who are ready, and quickens the life of the spirit in His time. For posterity is left the stimulating power of His divinely human example — of the nobility of a life supremely lived, of a love unmixed with desire, of a power unused except for others, of a peace untroubled by ambition, of a knowledge undimmed by illusion. He has demonstrated the possibility of a divine life for all humanity, of a heavenly life on earth. Those who have the necessary courage and integrity can follow when they will.
Those who are spiritually awake have been aware for some time that the world is at present in the midst of a period such as always precedes Avataric manifestations. Even unawakened men and women are becoming aware of it now. From their darkness they are reaching out for light; in their sorrow they are longing for comfort; from the midst of the strife into which they have found themselves plunged, they are praying for peace and deliverance.
For the moment they must be patient. The wave of destruction must rise still higher, must spread still further. But when, from the depths of his heart, man desires something more lasting than wealth and something more real than material power, the wave will recede. Then peace will come, joy will come, light will come.
The breaking of my silence — the signal for my public manifestation — is not far off. I bring the greatest treasure it is possible for man to receive — a treasure that includes all other treasures, that will endure forever, that increases when shared with others. Be ready to receive it. (Discourses- 7th ed. pp. 266-270)