Tag Archives: Incarnations

Does God Really Have Form Like Us?

Some of the sages ask, “An ordinary soul has many reincarnations. Now it seems from what you have just told us that Godhead also has many incarnations and reincarnations. Does God really incarnate and take forms like us?”

[1.3.30]

Suta answers, “God’s forms are really formless spiritual consciousness. The individual’s incarnations are material elements manufactured by the qualities of illusion.”

Some philosophers argue that to think of God with some sort of eyes and ears and arms and legs is primitive anthropomorphism. They think that God must be beyond all form. Suta agrees that God is beyond form, but does not agree that God therefore must be formless, without specific beauty and individuality. He says that “the forms of God are beyond form.” He does not say that God is formless, but that the form of God is beyond form. There is a world of difference!

Suta teaches that God has form, but this form is beyond form because it is made of limitless pure consciousness. This contrasts against the form we see in the mirror: a thing manufactured from material elements by the qualities of illusion.

In summary, God has limitless form.

 [31]

Seeing clouds or dust in the sky, we think it is dirty. The foolish observer transposes an observation upon the observed.

When we look at a thing, we do not see it! We see only our perception of it. An observation is different from the thing observed. This difference is the mind that comprehends the observation. We do not directly observe reality. We observe only what our minds can make sense of. This is really quite important to admit. Especially today, in a world that defines reality based on what some people can observe empirically.

English: The sunrising behind some clouds.

Image via Wikipedia

Suta makes the idea more concrete by using an analogy: “When you see clouds or dust in the sky, you think the sky is cloudy or dusty.” The sky is always clear blue. Clouds and dust exist only at a low level of atmosphere. If our observation point is below that level, the sky seems cloudy or dirty. We wrongly impart our vantage point upon the reality of what we see.

An ordinary person looks at a painting or statue of Godhead and sees something like what they see in the mirror: hair, eyes, hands, feet, etc. “That can’t be right,” they ponder, “because that means Godhead is just like me: limited within a certain form, susceptible to bad-hair days, eye infections, arthritis, etc.” This logic has the flaw of imposing one’s own conditions upon things one observes. Our experience of form is limiting and prone to be problematic. Therefore when we observe form, we think it must be restrictive. However, our experience of form is troublesome only because our form is an artificial imposition manufactured by illusions. Just because spiritual forms superficially look like material forms does not make them material. God’s forms are pure spiritual formlessness. They are not forms of illusory material energy. We must not transpose our small comprehension of form upon the infinite spiritual form of the All-Attractive.

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Prominent Early Incarnations of Godhead

The Purusha incarnation, just previously described, is the primary incarnation for the material world, existing through the entire thing – before and after it as well – and maintaining its reality. The first aspect of the Purusha creates the primordial potentialities for all the universes. The second aspect enters each potential universe and generates Brahmā, the agent of actual creation. The third aspect enters within each quantum particle of the universe, including each soul therein, and makes their mutual existence and exchange possible.

From this third aspect comes a myriad of “avatār” (incarnations). Suta will now enumerate some of the prominent  ones.

English: Four Kumaras: Source is from Editor i...

The Kumara

[1.3.6]

The first avatār occurs within the “Childhood” age of creation. “The Children” performed the very difficult task of Brahmā: uninterrupted celibacy.

The quadruplet sons of Brahmā (the god who creates) are the first avatār of the Purusha. They appeared in a very early cycle of creation, called the “Childhood Age” (kaumāra sargam). Brahmā asked them to create thousands of offspring to generate the initial population base of the world. They declined and took up a more difficult, implicit order: to cultivate spiritual knowledge. Such endeavor is made much more efficacious if one desists from simultaneously cultivating anti-knowledge: which is the ignorance that the soul deserves to be a central figure of gratification via the world’s resources. So celibacy is one of the important components of classical spiritual discipline. The Children (Kaumara. Or, “The Four Kumaras”) had a very novel idea. They did not allow their bodies to age into puberty, a really great solution to the often troubling practice of celibacy!

[7]

The second avatār of He For Whom Sacrifices Are Meant appeared when the Earth fell into the lowest dregs of the universe. Appearing as a boar, this avatār rescued the world by lifting it back to its proper orbit

He is more popularly named Varāha.

[8]

The third avatār came during the “Sage Age” as the Sage of the Gods. He compiled purifying manuals regarding how to live in the world without becoming entangled in selfishness.

He is most popularly known as Nārada.

[9]

English: ~ NaraNarayana ~ DasAvatara Mandir ~ ...

Nara Naryana

The fourth came during the “Age of Dharma’s Wife” as Sage Nara-Nārāyaṇa. His task was to show how to perform very serious disciplines of self-control.

[10]

The fifth is named Kapila, the master of the accomplished ones. He restored empiric material sciences, which had been lost over time, by teaching Āsuri.

[11]

The sixth is Atri’s, because his wife Anasūyā prayed for such a son. He instructed spiritual knowledge to Alarka, Prahlāda and others.

The name of Atri and Anasūyā’s son is Dattātreya. Many of these initial incarnations came for the purpose of giving spiritual knowledge to humanity. Knowledge which is beyond the human mind cannot exist unless a being which is beyond the human mind comes and delivers it in a manner which the human mind could hope to comprehend.

Among Dattātreya’s students is the name Prahlāda. It seems this could not be the famous Prahlāda associated with a later incarnation.

[12]

Then the seventh avatār, Yajña, appeared from his mother Ākūti and father Ruci. He took care of the world during the difficult transition out of the “Svāyambhu Age.”

[13]

The eighth, Urukrama, was born from his mother Merudevī and father Nābhi. He showed the path walked by those enlightened souls who are honored by all spiritualists.

A more common name for him is Ṛṣabha. “Enlightened souls honored by all spiritualists” has a specific import. There are four generally sequential spiritual orders in classical Indian culture: the student (brahmacārya), the active householder (gṛhastha), those retired to the forest (vānaprastha), and the renounced (sannyāsa). The fourth, the renounced, is honored by all the others as the objective. Within each order are sub-orders. The fourth order has four classical sub-orders: renounced in the hermitage (kuṭicaka), without a hermitage (bahudaka), without a location (parivrājaka), and the topmost swan (paramahaṁsa). The topmost swan is honored by all others, even those in the fourth order, as the ultimate objective.

The nature of such persons is that they have completed all development and require no further discipline. The eighth avatār set the standard of the nature, quality, and behavior of such very rare souls.

The person of a similar name important to the Jain religion must be named after this avatar, considering the chronology.

[14]

Answering the prayers of sages, Purusha accepted the ninth avatār as a king of the earth. By milking the earth he made her body very verdant and attractive.

He is more commonly known as Pṛthu.