The word avatara originates from the Vedic literatures. The terms karma, guru, dharma, etc. also belong to the same category. However, these are being interpreted by unqualified men without referring the root subject and in dismay leading to degradation.
The literal meaning of the word avatara is “one who descends”. Just as a person descends from a building roof to the ground floor, similarly when a personality descends down to this material world, from the spiritual world that personality is to be understood as an avatara. They are of six types and have been discussed in the scriptures in detail. The avataras descend to liberate the entangled souls from the clutches of the illusory energy and take them back home – back to Godhead, the spiritual world, the existence of eternity with no birth, death, old, disease and time.
But nowadays this Sanskrit term avatara has become popular globally because every now and then, here and there, one or the person claims oneself to be an avatara. In fact, in India and other countries, they are manufactured daily. When people are innocently cheated by such persons, it leads to degradation for they are being misled by cheaters. From this we can conclude the necessity to spread the spiritual knowledge authentically.
How to identify a real avatara? Firstly, an avatara never canvasses as an avatara. Secondly, an avatara can be identified from the Vedic literatures themselves which define the term avatara. In the Srimad Bhagvatam, Canto One, all the avataras that had descended are already described and those who are to descend have also been mentioned.
The Srimad Bhagvatam was compiled 5000 years ago and clearly prophesied the descending of Lord Buddha who appeared almost 2600 years ago from today.
tataḥ kalau sampravṛtte
“Then, in the beginning of Kali-yuga, the Lord will appear as Lord Buddha, the son of Añjanā, in the province of Gayā, just for the purpose of deluding those who are envious of the faithful theist.” (SB 1.3.24)
In other words, the fortunate class of men, the saintly people, who already were engaged in the study of Srimad Bhagvatam during that time or before were well aware of this fact in advance. The next avatara has also been mentioned in the next verse:
nāmnā kalkir jagat-patiḥ
“Thereafter, at the conjunction of two yugas, the Lord of the creation will take His birth as the Kalki incarnation and become the son of Viṣṇu Yaśā. At this time almost all the rulers of the earth will have degenerated into plunderers.” (SB 1.3.25)
The conjunction refers to the time 4,27,000 years away from now, which concludes that this planet will exist even then while supporting life. There are many such prophecies throughout the Bhagvatam and each have manifested without exception one after another. This also concludes the positive standing of Srimad Bhagvatam, which isn’t even slightly tinged with trace of mistake, illusion, cheating and imperfection – the four flaws of an ordinary soul.
Therefore, we must reject any claims that do not originate from the Vedic authorities.
The avataras are themselves either the plenary portion of Krishna Himself or part of the plenary portion of His expansion. Being empowered by a particular potency of the Lord as per the requirement, the avataras are not subjected to repeated birth and death. Their symptoms can be understood from Vedas and their tasks are unmatched by an ordinary soul. For example, within few days Lord Jesus Christ spread Christianity which till date is profound.
There are innumerable confidential topics within Vedas in the form of knowledge or wisdom. The key to these revelations lie with the spiritual master, without approaching whom they remain concealed. One such confidential knowledge is:
yajanti hi su-medhasaḥ
“In the Age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the names of Kṛṣṇa. Although His complexion is not blackish, He is Kṛṣṇa Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons and confidential companions.” (SB 11.5.32)
The next article discusses about the above mentioned confidential incarnation of the Lord.