Ch. 4, Verses 14 –32
Vibhuti – Avatar
Divine Birth and Divine Works
We shall continue with this subject of Avatarhood, because there is the ‘internal’ aspect of Avatarhood, the ‘mystical’ aspect of Avatarhood.
The Divinity taking hold of a human form, the descent of the Divine Himself, and assuming the Divine that is in the human, and assuming the humanity itself through the human form, is always a phenomenon of tremendous significance. To understand this better, we may have to distinguish it from many other forms in which Avatarhood is conceived: for example there is the concept of vibhūti as distinguished from avatāra. The Vibhuti is always, is very often…Vibhuti is conceived as a special manifestation of a given quality of the Divine, and usually people call Vibhuti an Avatar.
But there is a great distinction between the two. In our recent examples of our Indian History, Sri Ramakrishna declared Himself to be the Avatar; Swami Vivekananda was a Vibhuti. From an external point of view, you might say that Vivekananda, he made a tremendous impact on the world, and manifested a tremendous power of personality, but he never called himself an Avatar. In the case of an Avatar, there is of course an extraordinary manifestation of a quality; you might say that every Avatar is in a sense a great Vibhuti but not vice–versa. Every Vibhuti is not an Avatar.
Vibhuti is actually a human phenomenon: it is not a divine phenomenon. The Divine does not come down, does not descend: it is the human being ascending upwards, and manifesting the powers of higher levels of consciousness. And as you rise higher, you approximate the Divine nature and some qualities of the Divine nature begin to manifest through you. In the case of the Avatar there is from above, the Divine coming down, and holding a human form.
Sri Krishna says Himself in the Gita (there is one full chapter in the Gita called Vibhuti Yoga) and Sri Krishna explains what are the Vibhutis, and He says, “Among poets I am Ushana, among Pandavas I am Arjuna, among Vrishnis I am Krishna”(X,37), whichever is a superlative manifestation in any gradation of human life, is a Vibhuti.
There is also a view that some of the weapons of the Divine, (this is the special view of the Vaishnavas), that the weapons of Vishnu they become manifest in human forms, and they are also called ‘Avatars’; but avatars not of the Divine but of the special weapons, and each one works out as a weapon, which is specific to that particular consciousness. Some may be simply a trident, or it may be a drum, or it may be a musical instrument: each one of them is a special manifestation, and one becomes superlative in that particular line of development. And normally people call them ‘Avatars’, but they are not real Avatars in the real sense of the term: they are Vibhutis.
There is another kind of manifestation. In a sense you might say, that every liberated soul is an avatar. In a state of liberation what happens is that you are able to come out of your normal human nature: you rise upwards, and meet the Divine. In answer to that, the Divine Himself descends, and this descent takes place in various forms: there is one form in which one becomes ‘one ’with the Divine. There is the concept in the Gita of brahmabhūta: one becomes the Brahman. And when you become one with the Brahman, you begin to delve in the Purushottama.