Avatar is literally defined as a manifestation of a deity or released soul in bodily form on earth; an incarnate divine teacher.
The expression ‘avatara’ means the descent in human form of an aspect of Divine entity for a certain specified purpose. (or purposes).
Let us call the initial understanding of Deities as avatars as first generation of understanding for the purposes of this article. We can all the upanishada understanding as Ur-generation of understanding or bindu generation of understanding.
Also, let us understand that there is bond or compact between the devotee and divine and to help the devotee, divine manifests as Avatara. This is a mirrored Parent-Child paradigm where Divine is the creator of devotee and is the Parent but to help the devotee, the Divine manifest as child and thus Devotee is the Parent.
CHILD is the PARENT of Human. Now, let us understand that Parent here can take numerical value 1….n and Child can take numerical value 1…m.
Example on request of Bhudevi, Vishnu and all Gods did avatars for helping all humanity and other species minus votaries of Vyam Rakshama, too distant and do not cares. So U being whole set aka U – (Vr + (>X, >Y)e + Ah)
Ah always happy or do not care group.
In next generation of understanding, let us call it Amsa understanding generation. In that generation, Amsaavatra was added.
The Puranas using the Samkhya philosophy as base started counting the Gunas of a Divine entity as a numerical number.
That opened the understanding to paradigm that portions of the Divine can be manifested without complete manifestation of all Gunas and thus they were partial or Ansha Avatars.
In next generation of understanding, Avesha was added. Let us call this Avesha-generation of understanding. This was using the dimension of time as a factor in creation of Avatar. A full avatar would be in all dimensions including space and time. So Avesha was introduced as an Avatar limited in scope on the time axis.
An Avesha is a Avatar for a limited period of time. That is Avesha avatar. (The limit is on the Time Axis.)
Later the bhakti cycles added Leelaavatars and other such paradigms.
The concept of Amsahavatara was very big break from initial understanding. Because, we have fundamental belief in the single soul or Self or Jeeva. The entire concept of having a life is to unite Jeeva with Parmatama.
The concept of Amsavatra introduced a paradigm where Self can be divided on basis of Gunas and a partial Self or a new Self facsimiled from portion of old Self is created. Thus, concept of Amsavatra introduced the point that Self is divisible.
That means Amsavatra has an independent jeeva on its own journey. That is why Vayu Purana lists the avatars of Kumbhakarna who was technically an avatar of Hiryanksha and before that of Parshada Vijaya.
This break on basis of gunas is not completely explained by various teachers but is used by bhakti teachers for variety of new paradigms.
So, there we have Leela avatars and Maryada Avatars. (and even Archavatars)
What is Leela?
She is the one who lives on first house from the nukkad. More seriously, Leela has to be seen in concept of all generations of understanding.
In a Indivisible Self Understanding, Leela is different from Lila in the Divisible Self Understanding. Again, Dualist and Non-Dualist schools have different interpretations of various Lilas. Lila can be whole of cosmos created by play of divine Absolute the Brahma.
It can be simple activities of Gods or even devotees and even macroscopic actions of the Universe (the original leela, so Leela can create Lila!)
Again, Bhagvada Purana even creates three types of Leelas. The Supreme Divine can utilize the Leela at Cosmic level, the subtle material energy and is channelled into the three material modes of nature. Where Material modes are Gunas. So, we have Lila which may be Satvika, Tamasika and Rajas nature.
So, let us try and explain Leela. The little daughter is hungry in the morning and asks the parent for food. She specifically pulls the parent to an alcove where she had seen bread is kept. She says bread.
Similarly, CHILD pulls the PARENT to desired location for a desired phala. That is directing a Leela avatar to a specific locale and purpose.
Now Mommy has warned the poor parent (and grand parent, Janka is father and grandfather and sometimes poor mama trapped on his day off coming to watch Interstellar, kahan phas gaya!) to not feed too much bread to the baby.
Mommy can be the Adversarial principle or even Shakti, something all PARENT are very afraid of contradicting. It is say Prakriti in theistic sense.
So, PARENT offers alternatives. Little biscuits, corn bread and half a little paratha which was intended original meal.
But Child does not agree and runs away with parent following with half a paratha like Durvasa fled with Sudarshana following behind.
The CHILD then engages in tapas (simply ignores parent and goes and watches little einsteins though still definitely hungry).
Unlike the Duravsa scenario, sudarshan chakra aka half paratha loses! It is consumed by parent as Nandaka consumed Sudarshana Chakra.
Parent then takes bread out and warms it on tava and puts some butter on it. (Avatars tend to like butter!). Then puts some parathas on plate for self (not SELF though warm parathas on morning is good for soul) with some achara and also the bread and takes it to the child.
So, PARENT relents and the LEELA Avatar is thus changed by the austerities and wishes of the devotee. That is the power of Devotee.
They welcome the AVATARA (BREAD with Butter not the parent) and enjoy the Leela avatar.
When suddenly you would see the little girl pick a piece of bread and offer it to the parent. As the parent bites into it and realizes, this is the piece that has touched the achar on the plate. Like after a samudra manthan, the plate resembles Ksheera sagar and the baby feeds the tamasika achar like Siva was fed the halahala because world is not ready for it.
This also is uparicharira interpretation that Avatar or Leela avatar can have all material modes and devotee can accept the material modes they wish, like rejecting the Tamasika (achar!) aspect of Leela avatar (Bread and butter!). Devotee takes what devotee needs from the Leela avatara.
So that is Leela Avatara.
An Avatara is a universal phenomenon and is present in all belief systems. In Egypt, we have concept of localization as well. The Avatar of deity in city of Thebes may be different from one in city of Luxor and are worshiped in those locales and have thus “local” significance.
These would be examples of Maryada of distance. (X and Y axis)
That would be an example of a Maryada avatara, Boundaries assigned to the Avatara.
Now all have a divine of spark in us. All of us are literally minuscule manifestations of a avesha avatara or a Amsaavtra.
Well, we are a nation which gave zero and decimal places, the gunas can be divided in fractions so literally as many fractional amsaavtaras are possible as are numbers behind decimal place for calculating value of Pi.
What if there was no stars in the sky in the beginning? When our eyes are closed. We may think sky has no stars. (In our ignorance!).
What is the stars in the sky are not balls of fire giving light to the planets unknown?
(Always speculate, that is why there is concept of ArchaAvatara or Avatars connected to Archa or Physical plane so there may be avatars related to metaphysical and non physical plane. Speculation and keeping mind open is only way to remove ignorance.)
(What if the stars in the sky are the angels and innocent sent above to shine on us forever. (Avatars in various modes shine through the axis of time and space and illuminate our understanding through their examples, literally shining down on us.)
What if once upon a time there were no stars in the sky at all?
What if the stars are not we think at all?
What if the rays of light that come to this earth and illuminate the darkness, those rays
What if the lights does not come from the rays of distant suns but from the wings and thoughts and blessings of ones much closer to us, wings of the angels,
Destiny (its sisters coincidence and serenedipity) calls to each of us…
What is there are worlds behind the world we see? (beyond the Archapada)
What if there is a world behind the world where we all are connected? (We are because we are all parts of a Supreme Self!)
All part of a great moving plan (or happenstance! As I will quote Aurobindo later)
Magic is everywhere, you just have to look
For even time and distance are not what they appear to be… (as we have shown)
We are all connected.
Each baby born carries a miracle inside (Now all have a divine of spark in us)
A unique purpose and a unique message , this miracle is promised to…
Maybe for many, or for one person and one person alone…
We are all voyagers set on a course towards destiny to find that one person our miracle is meant for,
The one we are set out to find…
(or as Vidura said, for One seek Kula, seek Grama, seek Nation, seek World or Seek the Undivisible United SELF itsef)
Be warned when we seek out the light, that the darkness gathers
And the great eternal contest of conflict of good and evil is not always fought with great armies in a Dharmakshetra
Most often it is fought for one life at a time.
That is why Avataras manifests.
Remember the Ur-Generation of understanding.
Taking an example out of Mudgala Purana we had tried to explain the concept of Ganesha or Inner Consciousness.
Now all have a divine of spark in us.
By constant tapas a person may, step by step, come to express some of aspect of the divine in increasing paradigms.
They may claim to be Tapasvins but not Avatars per se. Again, I would look at upanishadas at the earlier generation of understanding and state that may not correct. But also correct.
All truths are true.
Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. That states if a certain state or Quanta is possible, then it will happen. All possible Quanta will occur.
This will be in part two.