Volume 14 - Issue 05
May 2016
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Posted on: May 20, 2016


Part 04


Part 01 || Part 02 || Part 03

by Ms. Christan Mackenzie
Gold Coast, Australia

On the Avatar

What about an Avatar, an incarnation of the Divine? Is this subject to the rules and laws of incarnation applicable to man? Sai Baba says there are important differences.

The Avatar (Divine Incarnation) is the Atma-Shakti (power of the Supreme Soul) that has put on the raiment of Kriya-Shakti and Yoga-Shakti (power of action and power of divine communion).

Generally, Avatarana (the process of incarnation of an Avatar), is described as a 'coming down' from a higher status to a lower one. But, no! When the baby in the cradle weeps, wails and clamours for help, the mother stoops and takes it up in her arms. Her stoop is not to be described as a 'coming down.'

(Divine Discourse, 23 Nov 1978, Prasanthi Nilayam)

We learnt (see ‘The Wider Subtle World’ in Part 2) that when an Avatar incarnates, It takes form and name which is the only difference from the Omni-Self.

(Divine Discourse, 01 Oct 1994, Prasanthi Nilayam).

About His own incarnation, Sai Baba says:

You have the chance to see, experience and be sanctified by the Incarnation of the Lord; this chance you have got as a result of the accumulation of merit in many previous lives. That merit has brought you here, when I have come down. For this chance, Rishis (sages) and Devas (demi-gods) have prayed long in the past. Having won this chance, strive to taste the sweetness and achieve the bliss of merging, without wasting even a single moment.

The rays that emanate from Me are of three grades: the Sthula (physical, gross), filling this Prasanthi Nilayam; the Sukshma (the subtle), pervading the earth; and the Karana (causal) covering the entire Universe. 

The people who have the privilege of living in this Abode (Nilayam) are indeed lucky, for they are nearest to the rays.

The physical rays make one a spiritual aspirant; the subtle rays make one a great soul (mahatma), and the causal rays convert one into an ascetic of the highest order (paramahamsa).

Do not therefore waste your days entertaining worldly desires and ambitions and planning to achieve them. Success in this line or failure should not elate or depress you. When a banquet is in store for you, why run after the droppings from others' tables? Such plans and desires have no finality or fixity. They have no genuine worth.

(Divine Discourse, 28 April 1962, Prasanthi Nilayam)

So how do we understand the difference between an incarnation of a man, and an Avatar? The Avatar has no karma. Therefore, the Avatar does not experience any karmic effects from actions. In this way, while using a physical body, the Avatar is not subject to the usual laws of cause and effect that apply to man. For example, we have learnt that upon death man experiences his karmas - heavens, hells and beyond, the fruits of his actions. Even if it still existed (which it doesn’t) what need would an Avatar have of a mirror reflection, of His sukshma-sarira, after the body passes? None at all! One would expect for one without karma that the kosas or body shields would be immediately dropped for there is nothing to cause them to continue. There are no residual karmic impressions of these bodies to stick to an Avatar. There are no causal seeds, karmas to be worked through.


The Lord can appear at any time to devotees according to His Will and Grace. We have learnt about that special connection with the intensely feeling heart of devotees. Incarnation of an Avatar through a living body is used from time to time so the Highest Wisdom can talk with and move amongst groups and the masses, who are all at different levels of spirituality and devotion.

Indeed, Baba says (below) that the Avatar is not at all constituted on the five elements that make the experience of incarnated man. It is understood as the Avatar assumes the body but has no other association with it and its parts.

Avatars have no merit or demerits accumulated in former births, which, like ordinary mortals, they have to pay off in this birth. Theirs is a divine sport (leela), a birth taken on. The goodness of the good and the wickedness of the bad provide the reasons for the Avatar of the Lord. For example, take the Avatar of Narasimha. The merit of Prahlada and the wickedness of Hiranyakasipu combined to cause it.

“As a result of the coming of the Lord, the good will be happy and the bad will suffer. The Avatar (Divine incarnation of God), however, has no joy or grief, even when It is enveloped in the body It has assumed. The Avatar is not constituted of the five elements; It is spiritual or consciousness (chinmaya), not material (mrinmaya). It can never be disturbed by egotism or the sense of mine and thine; It is untouched by the delusion born of ignorance. Although people mistake an Avatar as just human, that does not affect the nature of the embodiment.

“The Avatar has come for a task, and it is bound to accomplish it. I shall tell you what that task is. It is to protect the virtuous, to punish the wicked, and to support dharma. By the virtuous, I do not mean the monks and ascetics who are indicated generally by that word. I mean virtuous qualities, like goodness, uprightness, virtue, and these can be possessed by animals and even insects. Really speaking, the promotion of the quality of purity (satvaguna) is the best means of fostering the virtuous. The Avatar is the embodiment of this sacred quality (guna), so He fosters this quality wherever it is found; but since renunciants (sanyasins) are striving to earn it, they are called good people and are supposed to be specially blessed by the attention of the Lord.

(Gita Vahini: Stream of Divine Song, Chapter VIII)

Owning God Within Ourselves

Understanding that Atma is our very Self requires one to own that God is within us, is us - and that the giving and receiving we experience during our human incarnations on earth are in fact coming from our own hearts and minds. Baba teaches we are ourselves God, that God is within, that we are therefore very powerful beings. We have learnt that our Divine Imagination is quite capable of leading to the grace of Vision - internal and external, based on the power of our own devotional thinking, feeling and God given wisdom, which is a reflection from the Atma within ourselves. This understanding should not give a feeling of reducing the experience, rather, it should give a joy that one is getting in touch with or dancing in our own Inner Divine!

Every individual is the image of the Atma. The same truth was propounded by Krishna: Mamaivamso jivaloke jivabhuta sanathana (the eternal Atma in all beings is a part of My Being). All of you are the embodiments of the Atma. You may be having different names, but the Atmarama in all of you is the same. Therefore, do not think Rama is somewhere else. Your heart itself is the temple of Rama.

Therefore, constantly contemplate on Rama who is immanent in your heart. Rama is there with you, in you, around you not only in your waking state, but also in the dream and deep sleep state also. He is eternally with you. Rama is not limited to a particular form. He assumes innumerable forms. Though the forms are many, the Divinity in them is one.

Therefore, whomsoever you see, offer your salutations to him, considering him as the form of Rama. Now Sai Baba is being extolled as Sai Rama and Sai Krishna as He embodies the same principles of Dharma (righteousness), Prema (love) and Santhi (peace) which Lord Rama and Lord Krishna had personified.

In fact, you yourself are Rama. Establish this truth in your heart firmly and spend your time profitably. Then your life will be filled with everlasting bliss. Constantly recite the name of Rama.

(Divine Discourse, 27 Mar 2007 (on occasion of Ramayana festival)

It is a big step to own God within - an important and a very exciting, powerful and yet humbling step we are encouraged to take - humbling because He is in everyone and everything else too, at all times. In this contemplation we feel our own smallness in the vast scheme of things. However, we need to get rid of conditionings and notions that we are not worthy. In many teachings Sai Baba prescribes methods of working towards opening to the Inner Divine and having deeper experience of our own Divinity, and He encourages us all to do it.

Understanding Our Own Experience

Bhagawan teaches that all life is a dream, all this is an illusion, a projection of Brahman. Nothing except the underlying Atma is real. None of the so-called bodies are real. Life is in constant flux and change. Yet Truth is eternally Truth, but actions of the bodies are all based in Maya! He calls the sthula, sukshma and karana the bodies of deception - in fact, He says that they are demons to be transcended!

(Bhagawan refers to the Tripura-asuras, as the demons of the three bodies, Sthula, Sukshma and Karana - Divine Discourse, 11 Feb 1964, Prasanthi Nilayam)

Baba describes how even Avatars take form on earth due to the prayers and the strong urges of devotees.  This makes one reflect even more closely upon the God given power of man.

People talk about the wonderful energy in certain places and attribute this to Sai Baba or other deities. We have learnt how Baba says, as powerful incarnations of Atma with special connection to God through the heart, devotees are responsible for all their own experiences.  

What about experiences had in special places or with groups of other people? One can have experience anywhere, but when groups come together fired with fervent belief, such things tend to happen more often.  Baba says on this point:

The entire earth is permeated by magnetic power. All the living beings and objects that are present on this earth also have this magnetic power. The rivers that flow, the wind that blows, the flowers that blossom, etc. Everything is endowed with magnetic power. The rivers flow on earth because of magnetic power. The magnetic power is all-pervasive.

People with Bhakti and Prapatti (devotion and faith) visit temples, which have the magnetic power. The flowers and fruits that people offer with devotion in temples also have this magnetic power. As thousands of devotees gather here, our Mandir is suffused with magnetic power.

The all-pervasive magnetic power shines with added brilliance in this Mandir. This magnetic power is ever on the rise as there is a continuous flow of devotees.

Even an iron nail turns into a magnet because of its association with the magnet. In a similar manner, people who visit the Mandir are filled with magnetic power. It is only from the magnetic power of the devotees, that the Mandir gets charged with mighty powers.

Every individual is filled with magnetic power from head to toe. But man does not realise his innate potential and visits temples for blessings and grace.

One does not acquire any special powers from temples. What one gets is only the reflection of one's own magnetic power. People visit various pilgrimage centres like Tirupati, Haridwar, Rishikesh, etc. The power that is present in pilgrimage centres is only due to the power of devotion and faith that pilgrims carry in their hearts.

(Divine Discourse, 14/08/1979, Prasanthi Nilayam)

However, when we are feeling flat, bored, doubting or even feeling rejected we may put our magnetic energy into something new and appealing, something or someone outside of ourselves. This can be likened to a kind of spiritual tourism that brings a sense of excitement, the thrill of adventure and discovery. Sai Baba says:

Human life is given to man to know himself and to realise God. People worship God and pray to Him. When their desires are fulfilled, they are very happy. If their desires are not fulfilled, they change even the photo of the deity in their altar. If we worship God only to fulfil our desires, then it is not true worship. Our love and devotion for God should be changeless. It should not change under any circumstances. Love is the very form of God. Love is God. Live in love.

(Divine Discourse, 14/04/2006, Kodaikanal)

Bhagawan strongly advises to watch out for shysters, tricksters and frauds and imitators. He is so strong on this topic and the dangers of following ‘gurus’ who have a trace of ego. He also distinguishes between the powers of His Body (that of the Purna Avatar Sathya Sai Baba) and lower level ‘magic’ practised by magicians.

Of course, there is magic in the world both white and black; but, the manifestation of Divine Power must not be interpreted as magic. Can the crow's egg and the cuckoo's egg be identified as belonging to one class? Magicians play their tricks for earning a livelihood. They use it for worldly fame and wealth. They are based on falsehood and they thrive on deceit and ignorance. This Body can never stoop to that level. No; never. This Body has come through Divine Sankalpa (Resolve), to come. That resolve is intended to uphold Sathya. Bhagavath-sankalpa (God's resolve) is always Sathya-sankalpa (resolve that comes true). Everyone knows the strict discipline of Prasanthi Nilayam; the order is "Not even a flower is to be brought!"

(Divine Discourse, 17 Dec 1964, Vyasashram, Yerpedu)

One might think He had said all these, knowing the very real dangers and challenges that would be present for His devotees when He passed. These days there are tricksters and ‘black magicians’ about cashing in on and abusing Baba’s name in the game for money and power. People who would be devotees of Sathya Sai Baba - beware of these sticky traps!

Clarifying Our Motives


The power of devotees’ magnetism and how they create magnetic energy with their own thoughts explains how people very easily misunderstand manifestations they may perceive, which may be caused by either themselves or perhaps by other people.

Bhagawan taught that we are embodiments of Atma, and as such, we are very powerful and creative with tremendous ability to project and manifest. God/Atma is within waiting to be known by the individual. When one experiences God’s Bliss or a Form of God - this experience is coming from one’s own Inner, the Atma which is in and through all. We can also project the contents of the mind – good, bad, true and untrue - and therefore we must be careful and discriminating in understanding and dealing with our own projections (and those of others), both to ourselves and with others. It is a big leap to own our power - and to own one’s own projections and experiences, and to be clear sighted when projections are coming from another person or some unknown source.

We must always question our own motives, be aware of our personal projections and wishes, know we are powerful and creative, that we generate magnetic energy with our thoughts and our devotion, and ask with all our hearts for Truth and only Truth, laying aside personal wishes and desires for excitement and fun and desire for the latest gimmicks and gurus. Let us all pray that our paths stay true and clear of such distractions that lead us to waste our energy and time.

You may come and go, but I am with you forever. Divinity is changeless. Instead of aspiring for the changeless, man is running after all that is fleeting and temporary. All that we desire in this world is subject to change. Bodies are subject to change. You may see a body today and may not see it tomorrow. There is nothing in this world that is permanent. There is only one entity that is permanent about whom it is said, Sarvatah panipadam tat sarvathokshi siromukham, Sarvatah sruthimalloke sarvamavruthya tisthati (with hands, feet, eyes, head, mouth and ears pervading everything, He permeates the entire universe). There is only One that is present always, but during our short life-span we develop many illusions.

(Divine Discourse, 14 Apr 2006, Kodaikanal)

Above all, while appreciating God is everywhere and in everyone and thing, let us seek to know that God is within our very own self and one’s prime duty is to unveil the Atma which is waiting for us to engage our willpower to peel off our delusions and be true to our own Inner Light. When God begins to shine within, when God starts to dance within us and kick up His heels, when we start our awakening, let’s own It and, while being grateful to our guru, let’s not attribute our very own experience to something or someone other outside ourselves, no matter how great we may think they are.

Sai Baba says to take God as the Inner Guru.

Do not seek human Gurus, however great their reputation.
They are not gu (gunatheetha - beyond the gunas).
They are bound by the qualities they have developed.
They are not ru (rupa varjita - beyond form);
They are still in need of form, so that they may conceive of Reality.
As they themselves are limited, how can they communicate to you the Unlimited?
Pray to the God within you,
The Maheshwara, the Vishnu, the Brahma, or Parabrahman Principle to reveal Itself.
Accept That as the Guru and you will be illumined.
When the Guru is himself struggling in the dark, how can he lead others on?
When he is himself a beggar, in search of moneyed men,
How can he be free and strict as a teacher?
When moha (infatuation) predominates, moksha is a will-o'-the-wisp.
You may eat a tiny grain of sugar like an ant and be contented with the grain.
But you must grow into an elephant that will eat with relish a whole bundle of sugarcane!
The Gayatri Mantra is a prayer for the progressive upsurge of intelligence,
So that Truth may be grasped by the seeker.
Subordinate the mind to the pure intelligence that is but a reflection of the God within.
Then, you have the Guru of gurus, as Guide.

(Divine Discourse, 18 Jul 1970, Prasanthi Nilayam)

Bhagawan Baba’s teachings will possibly challenge our conceptions and notions about our own experiences. He says that spiritual teaching can be difficult to understand at first, but with steady enquiry and dedicated intent, it is possible to know our own Truth. Thus we are invited to begin our own Golden Age of Awareness.


Part 01 || Part 02 || Part 03

Radio Sai Team

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