FAQs about Adi Da & Adidam > Adi Da's Teaching Over Time > The Term, "Avatar"

The Term, "Avatar"

Question: In a passage from Garbage and the Goddess (published in 1974), pages 335-6 I have emphasized some of the sentences, and I would like some expert explanation of how they mesh with Adi Da's current teaching.

The world is the Avatar, the totality of human beings is the Avatar. It is humanity as a whole that is the Avatar in human form, not some specific human individual. No apparent or exclusive manifestation is in itself the Avatar. Only the whole is the Divine manifestation without exclusion. Therefore, the Guru is not the Avatar in that exclusive sense. Mankind is the Avatar. I am his Heart. When the Avatar realizes his true Nature and Condition, when he realizes me, he will cease to be hidden. He and this Community of which I speak will become one and the same at last. Then his sadhana is fulfilled, and he will manifest his Beauty in the world for the sake of all beings. Only then will he live freely and do his Divine work.

But people want the Guru to be the Avatar. They want that exclusive God image, whereas God doesn't exist in the exclusive sense. God is absolute. And the Guru lives as the Present Divine, not because he has attained anything, but because he has been undone. So he doesn't represent himself as the Divine in the exclusive sense. In his ecstatic speech he claims identity with the Divine, but he is not making a statement about himself, about his ego or his personal qualities in some exclusive sense. He is making a statement about all beings and worlds, about the Nature of Reality, the Condition that is God. Of course, until there are others who realize that same happiness, that same enjoyment, he seems unique, and he functions for them as the Source of the operation of the Divine Siddhi in order to generate the life of Understanding in them. But in fact he doesn't exist as God in any exclusive sense whatsoever. So there is no Avatar except the whole, if it makes any sense to use such words at all.

So what's confusing is how Adi Da now refers to Himself as "Avatar Adi Da" and an "Avataric Incarnation of the Divine". Does this still square with what He wrote way back then?

Chris TongChris Tong: There's a wonderful passage where Adi Da directly answers this question:

DEVOTEE: That is why You have said that You will be “incarnated countlessly” through Your devotees.

ADI DA: Yes. I Am the Avatar of One. Therefore, I am not merely the Avatar Coming to every one, but, ultimately, the Avatar Who Is every one. I am not each and every one in their presumption of separateness. There Is Only Me — but, in their ego-forgetting devotion to Me, I am Manifested As all.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj
"I Am The Avatar Of One", in He-And-She Is Me

So each one "is the Avatar" the Divine Manifested As all only if that person has transcended his or her egoity in Adi Da. It's just another way Adi Da used to refer to His Divine Emergence here, eventually through all beings. So the core of the quote the questioner provides is this passage (bold is mine):

Therefore, the Guru is not the Avatar in that exclusive sense. Mankind is the Avatar. I am his Heart. When the Avatar realizes his true Nature and Condition, when he realizes me, he will cease to be hidden. He and this Community of which I speak will become one and the same at last.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj

and the key to understanding its full meaning are the words in bold, especially: when he realizes me — the way by which "Mankind is the Avatar" is fulfilled is by each person Realizing the Divine through Adi Da. Adi Da is only the beginning of that Divine Emergence in its fullness, and the very Means by which that Emergence possible. He is the "Heart" of that Avataric Emergence, that crossing down of the Divine to here, because people Realize the Divine and manifest the Avatar through Him.

When Adi Da said:

But people want the Guru to be the Avatar. They want that exclusive God image, whereas God doesn't exist in the exclusive sense.

He wasn't critiquing the concept of "Avatar" (although He was clarifying it). He was very specifically critiquing religions that make the Spiritual Master the Divine, but disallow anyone else from Realizing the Divine. The role of Jesus in Christianity is the Guru as God, the Guru as Avatar, in that exclusive sense. Only Jesus is God; no one else can Realize God. The quote from Adi Da is criticizing cosmologies or belief systems like Christianity that suggest no one else can Realize God. At best, they can "commune with God" in Heaven. Adi Da has instead always communicated that there is only God; therefore, all beings can Realize God; therefore the Guru cannot be God or "the Avatar" in any exclusive sense.

Thus Adi Da's communication about "mankind as the Avatar" was an all-inclusive communication: all beings can Realize the Divine! But it was absolutely not the communication: all of us can realize the Divine on our own, because "we're all Avatars". That everyone has the potential for God-Realization doesn't in any way diminish Adi Da's unique functional role in enabling that to happen in each one's case. That is why He doesn't just say: "Mankind is the Avatar." He necessarily adds: "when he realizes me" — making it clear that there is no difference in what He was communicating then (in 1974) and what He is communicating now. "Every one is the Avatar" is only part of Adi Da's communication. The fuller statement is: "I am the Avatar Who Is every one."

Unlike Christianity, the Way of Adidam from its beginning has been about enabling all beings to Realize the Divine. Thus, Adi Da's communication of the Way has never been about the Guru as Avatar in the exclusive sense.

The second dimension of Adi Da's Communication of "Mankind as the Avatar" is that His Own Enlightenment of others proceeds on the basis of His Realization, "There is only God". Since there is only God, He sees all His apparently separate devotees as God, and He "meditates" them as God. Adi Da Emerges as them — and that is how they become Enlightened:

Nothing in [the devotee] is one with God. So the Divine Activity is generated to make that person one with God. The Divine does the Yoga. The Divine Assumes His Oneness with the devotee. He does not create means, methods to be generated in dilemma, experiential paths by which to realize that Oneness — He simply Establishes It.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj, "The Divine Does the Yoga"

This is how Mankind becomes the Avatar: by the Divine already Realizing Mankind to be the Avatar, and simply Establishing it. The more devotees cooperate with that Intent and Force (which is what the Way of Adidam is all about), the more they Realize the Divine, and the more all Mankind manifests as the Avatar.

James SteinbergBrian O’Mahony: "Does this still square with what He wrote way back then?" Well, it does, actually! Remember that “Avatar” is a function, not an ego or an individual, but a process of the Emergence of the Divine into conditional reality. When Adi Da says He is the Avatar, He is referring to this unique function. He is not referring to Himself in an egoic sense or in the sense of a being an individual. He is referring to Himself in the unconditional sense the Divine Sense, as the Self-Existing and Self-Radiant Divine Reality appearing in and as the bodily (human) form of Adi Da Samraj. It is important to study His Teaching with great care to understand this. (I recommendFirst Word which is at the beginning of all His Source Texts – He wrote it specifically to clarify this point, and that is why He calls the Essay “Do Not Misunderstand Me……”) He is making no exclusive claims for Himself as ego. He is speaking as the Divine Person. I think you would have to concede that if the Divine Person chose to Reveal Himself through a human agent, or Avatar, He would have to identify that Avatar as His unique agent. How otherwise would He distinguish between His own Avataric vehicle and everyone or everything else that is (apparently) not That?

And throughout His Teaching Work, Adi Da has Declared that His community would eventually represent a gathering of devotees mature enough and transparent enough to Him that they would collectively serve as Instruments for His Avataric Appearance. That is specifically His intention in creating the Ruchira Sannyasin Order. They would be the core of the gathering, or community, of Adidam, serving collectively as such Instrumentality. The language in this regard has changed from His earliest statements, but the meaning is the same.

James SteinbergJames Steinberg: Yes, this word Avatar is an interesting one. I understand Avatar to mean the function of Helping and Serving others with the Divine Blessing and Transformative Power not for any self-serving purpose, not to work anything out, but with Divine Compassion.

Adi Da Samraj, only as a physical body, is not the Avatar. The Avatar is the Very One that has Incarnated through the body of Franklin Jones, and the deeper personality vehicle that was associated with Swami Vivekananda and Ramakrishna, but that truly is prior to all of this and is the Very One.

So that is the ecstatic confession that Adi Da is speaking of even in that Garbage and the Goddess passage.

Over time, Adi Da has said many things about the Avatar. And these days He uses it more specifically and technically to describe that Divine Impulse and Transforming Blessing Imposition that has been the reason for His Incarnation. But we are not talking about an ego here, or someone being the Avatar.

So to say mankind is the Avatar is to cut into the conventional and exclusive notion of the Divine Avatar. It is when we have transcended our ego and become identical to That Which has Incarnated as the Avatar that mankind as a whole may be said to be the Avatar.

But Adi Da speaks of Himself as Avatar Adi Da specifically to make it plain that He is not an ego here to draw attention to Himself. But as one whose sole purpose in Incarnation in this Realm is the Liberation of everyone and everything.

David SimonDavid Simon: I'll give a short and a long answer to this question about the meaning of the Avatar. The short answer is that this excerpt from Garbage and the Goddess is a great example of why it is necessary to study (and practice!) Avatar Adi Da's teaching in great depth and detail in order to fully understand and appreciate His paradoxical statements and meanings. There are many esoteric matters that are esoteric for good reason: They cannot be fully comprehended by the mind. All truly esoteric matters must be realized, and therefore it is not terribly useful to try to figure out their meaning, beyond a point.

That having been said, I will offer a longer and potentially more meaningful answer to this question. The conventional meaning of an "Avatar" is one who has "crossed down" to this earth-realm from a plane or dimension that is higher and more subtle than the earth-world. Such rare beings can teach and attract others to grow beyond the limits of the gross earth-plane and possibly ascend to “higher” realms after death. But in the excerpt that you selected Adi Da is using the word "Avatar" in a very different and unconventional sense than this: He is speaking about the "Great Avatar". The "Avatar" in this great and unconventional sense refers to the ultimate and paradoxical nature of perfect and complete "seventh stage" Divine Realization. The unique purpose and import of Adi Da’s life and teaching is to fully reveal the paradoxical mystery of this Great Avatar for the first time in human history. As Avatar Adi Da has always said, there is no "one" who realizes the Divine Condition. There is no separate self sense, no ego identity, no limitation of any kind whatsoever: It is an entirely transcendental and yet also perfectly non-dissociated Condition. One very important aspect of Adi Da's Teaching is that this perfectly Divine Condition has never been FULLY revealed prior to His birth. Therefore, none of the "Avatars" who have appeared previous to Adi Da's appearance have been this "Great" or Perfectly Egoless "Avatar". There have been great beings, highly advanced beings, extremely unique beings, but not "the Very One", not the "Great Avatar", not the incarnation of the One who is utterly beyond every sense of relatedness, difference, separateness, otherness, and all of the planes of mind.

So When Adi Da speaks of "Avatar", He is speaking of Avatar in this Great and perfectly non-dual sense. He is not referring to any kind of highly advanced or highly evolved being. He is not speaking about any of the extraordinary realizations or experiences that are possible in "the first six stages of life", or in the "gross, subtle, or causal dimensions of existence". He is referring to the ultimate context or condition that is completely beyond and prior to the body-mind. He is referring to a unique and paradoxical appearance that really cannot be defined or comprehended by the mind, but only recognized by the heart. So this passage from Garbage and the Goddess is a kind of criticism of the conventional meaning of an "Avatar", as well as the conventional religious and spiritual relationship to such a Being. It is a calling to His devotees and all of mankind to recognize the Divine Condition in this non-dual and non-"personal" sense, and to be attracted beyond all of the conceptions and conventions of separateness.

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