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Annie Besant
Four Lectures Delivered at the Twenty-fourth Anniversary
of the Theosophical Society at Adyar Madras, Decemer !"##


! %hat is an Avatara
The Source of and 'eed for
( Some Special Avataras
) Shri *rishna
F+,ST L-$T.,-
%hat is an Avatara
!/ Brothers0 1 -very time that we come
here together to study the fundamental truths of all
religions, + cannot ut feel how vast is the su2ect, how
small the e3pounder, how mighty the hori4on that opens
efore our thoughts, how narrow the words which strive
to s5etch it for your eyes/ 6ear after year we meet, time
after time we strive to fathom some of those great
mysteries of life, of the Self, which form the only su2ect
really worthy of the profoundest thought of man/ All else
is passing7 all else is transient7 all else is ut the toy of a
moment Fame and power, wealth and science 1 all that
is in this world elow is as nothing eside the grandeur of
the -ternal Self in the universe and in man, one in all 8is
manifold manifestations, marvellous and eautiful in
every form that 8e puts forth/ And this year, of all the
manifestations of the Supreme, we are going to dare to
study the holiest of the holiest, those manifestations of
9od in the world in which 8e shows 8imself as divine,
coming to help the world that 8e has made, shining forth
in 8is essential nature, the form ut a thin film which
scarce veils the Divinity from our eyes/ 8ow then shall
we venture to approach it, how shall we dare to study it,
save with deepest reverence, with profoundest humility7
for if there needs for the study of 8is wor5s patience,
reverence and humleness of heart, what when we study
8im whose wor5s ut partially reveal 8im, when we try to
understand what is meant y an Avatara, what is the
meaning, what the purpose of such a revelation:
&/ ;ur <resident has truly said that in all
the faiths of the world there is elief in such
manifestations, and that ancient ma3im as to truth 1 that
which is as the hall mar5 on the silver showing that the
metal is pure 1 that ancient ma3im is here valid, that
whatever has een elieved everywhere, whatever has
een elieved at every time, and y every one, that is
true, that is reality/ ,eligions =uarrel over many details7
men dispute over many propositions7 ut where human
heart and human voice spea5 a single word, there you
have the mar5 of truth, there you have the sign of
spiritual reality/ But in dealing with the su2ect one
difficulty faces us, faces you as hearers, faces myself as
spea5er/ +n every religion in modern times truth is shorn
of her full proportions7 the intellect alone cannot grasp
the many aspects of the one truth/ So we have school
after school, philosophy after philosophy, each one
showing an aspect of truth, and ignoring, or even
denying, the other aspects which are e=ually true/ 'or is
this all7 as the age in which we are passes on from
century to century, from millennium to millennium,
5nowledge ecomes dimmer, spiritual insight ecomes
rarer, those who repeat far out-numer those who 5now7
and those who spea5 with clear vision of the spiritual
verity are lost amidst the crowds, who only hold traditions
whose origin they fail to understand/ The priest and the
prophet, to use two well-5nown words, have ever in later
times come into conflict one with the other/ The priest
carries on the traditions of anti=uity7 too often he has lost
the 5nowledge that made them real/ The prophet 1
coming forth from time to time with the divine word hot as
fire on his lips 1 spea5s out the ancient truth and
illuminates tradition/ But they who cling to the words of
tradition are apt to e linded y the light of the fire and
to call out >heretic> against the one who spea5s the truth
that they have lost Therefore, in religion after religion,
when some great teacher has arisen, there have een
opposition, clamour, re2ection, ecause the truth he
spo5e was too mighty to e narrowed within the limits of
half-linded men/ And in such a su2ect as we are to
study to-day, certain grooves have een made, certain
ruts as it were, in which the human mind is running, and +
5now that in laying efore you the occult truth, + must
needs, at some points, come into clash with details of a
tradition that is rather repeated y memory than either
understood or the truths eneath it grasped/ <ardon me
then, my rothers, if in a speech on this great topic +
should sometimes come athwart some of the dividing
lines of different schools of 8indu thought7 + may not, +
dare not, narrow the truth + have learnt, to suit the
limitations that have grown up y the ignorance of ages,
nor ma5e that which is the spiritual verity conform to the
empty traditions that are left in the faiths of the world/ By
the duty laid upon me y the Master that + serve, y the
truth that 8e has idden me spea5 in the ears of men of
all the faiths that are in this modern world7 y these +
must tell you what is true, no matter whether or not you
agree with it for the moment7 for the truth that is spo5en
wins sumission afterwards, if not at the moment7 and
any one who spea5s of the ,ishis of anti=uity must
spea5 the truths that they taught in their days, and not
repeat the mere commonplaces of commentators of
modern times and the petty orthodo3ies that ring us in on
every side and divide man from man/
(/ + propose in order to simplify this
great su2ect to divide it under certain heads/ + propose
first to remind you of the two great divisions recognised
y all who have thought on the su2ect7 then to ta5e up
especially, for this morning, the =uestion >%hat is an
Avatara:> To-morrow we shall put and strive to answer,
partly at least, the =uestion, >%ho is the source of
Avataras:> Then later we shall ta5e up special Avataras
oth of the 5osmos and of human races/ Thus + hope to
place efore you a clear, definite succession of ideas on
this great su2ect, not as5ing you to elieve them
ecause + spea5 them, not as5ing you to accept them
ecause + utter them/ 6our reason is the ar to which
every truth must come which is true for you7 and you err
deeply, almost fatally, if you let the voice of authority
impose itself where you do not answer to the spea5ing/
-very truth is only true to you as you see it/ and as it
illuminates the mind7 and truth however true is not yet
truth for you, unless your heart opens out to receive it, as
the flower opens out its heart to receive the rays of the
morning sun/
)/ First, then, let us ta5e a statement
that men of every religion will accept Divine
manifestations of a special 5ind ta5e place from time to
time as the need arises for their appearance7 and these
special manifestations are mar5ed out from the universal
manifestation of 9od in 8is 5osmos7 for never forget that
in the lowest creature that crawls the earth +shvara is
present as in the highest Deva/ But there are certain
special manifestations mar5ed out from this general self-
revelation in the 5osmos, and it is these special
manifestations which are called forth y special needs/
Two words especially have een used in 8induism,
mar5ing a certain distinction in the nature of the
manifestation 1 one the word >Avatara>, the other the
word >A?vesha/> ;nly for a moment need we stop on the
meaning of the words, important to us ecause the literal
meaning of the words points to the fundamental
difference etween the two/ The word >Avatara>, as you
5now, has as its root >tri>, passing over, and with the
prefi3 which is added, the >ava>, you get the idea of
descent, one who descends/ That is the literal meaning
of the word/ The other word has as its root >vish>,
permeating, penetrating, pervading, and you have there
the thought of something which is permeated or
penetrated/ So that while in the one case, Avatara, there
is the thought of a descent from aove, from +shvara to
man or animal7 in the other, there is rather the idea of an
entity already e3isting who is influenced, permeated,
pervaded y the divine power, specially illuminated as it
were/ And thus we have a 5ind of intermediate step, if
one may say so, etween the divine manifestation in the
Avatara and in the 5osmos 1 the partial divine
manifestation in one who is permeated y the influence
of the Supreme, or of some other eing who practically
dominates the individual, the -go who is thus permeated/
@/ 'ow what are the occasions which
lead to these great manifestations: 'one can spea5 with
mightier authority on this point than 8e who came
8imself as an Avatara 2ust efore the eginning of our
own age, the Divine Lord Shri *rishna 8imself/ Turn to
that marvellous poem, the Bhagavad-9ita, to the fourth
Adhyaya, Shlo5as A and "7 there 8e tells us what draws
8im forth to irth into 8is world in the manifested form of
the Supreme 0
B/ >%hen Dharma, 1 righteousness,
law 1 decays, when Adharma 1 unrighteousness,
lawlessness 1 is e3alted, then + Myself come forth0 for
the protection of the good, for the destruction of the evil,
for the estalishing firmly of Dharma, + am orn from age
to age>/ That is what 8e tells us of the coming forth of the
Avatara/ That is, the needs of 8is world call upon 8im to
manifest 8imself in 8is divine power7 and we 5now from
other of 8is sayings that in addition to those which deal
with the human needs, there are certain 5osmic
necessities which in the earlier ages of the world?s story
called forth special manifestations/ %hen in the great
wheel of evolution another turn round has to e given,
when some new form, new type of life is coming forth,
then also the Supreme reveals 8imself, emodying the
type which thus 8e initiates in 8is 5osmos, and in this
way turning that everlasting wheel which 8e comes forth
as +shvara to turn/ Such then, spea5ing =uite generally,
the meaning of the word, and the o2ect of the coming/
A/ From that we may fitly turn to the
more special =uestion, >%hat is an Avatara:> And it is
here that + must as5 your close attention, nay, your
patient consideration, where points that to some e3tent
may e unfamiliar are laid efore you7 for as + said, it is
the occult view of the truth which + am going to partially
unveil, and those who have not thus studied truth need to
thin5 carefully ere they re2ect, need to consider long ere
they refuse/ %e shall see as we try to answer the
=uestion ow far the great authorities help us to
understand, and how far the lac5 of 5nowledge in reading
those authorities has led to misconception/ 6ou may
rememer that the late learned T/ Sua ,ow in the
lectures that he gave on the Bhagavad-9ita put to you a
certain view of the Avatara, that it was a descent of
+shvara 1 or, as he said, using the theosophical term,
the Logos, which is only the 9ree5 name for +shvara 1 a
descent of +shvara, uniting 8imself with a human soul/
%ith all respect for the profound learning of the lamented
pandit, + cannot ut thin5 that that is only a partial
definition/ <roaly he did not at that time desire, had not
very possily the time, to deal with case after case,
having so wide a field to cover in the small numer of
lectures that he gave, and he therefore chose out one
form, as we may say, of self-revelation, leaving
untouched the others, which now in dealing with the
su2ect y itself we have full time to study/ Let me then
egin as it were at the eginning, and then give you
certain authorities which may ma5e the view easier to
accept7 let me state without any 5ind of attempt to veil or
evade, what is really an Avatara/ Fundamentally 8e is
the result of evolution/ +n far past *alpas, in worlds other
than this, nay, in universes earlier than our own, those
who were to e Avataras climed slowly, step y step,
the vast ladder of evolution, climing from mineral to
plant, from plant to animal, from animal to man, from
man to Civanmu5ta, from Civanmu5ta higher and higher
yet, up the mighty hierarchy that stretches eyond Those
who have lierated Themselves from the onds of
humanity7 until at last, thus climing, They cast off not
only all the limits of the separated -go, not only urst
asunder the limitations of the separated Self, ut entered
+shvara 8imself and e3panded into the all-consciousness
of the Lord, ecoming one in 5nowledge as they had
ever een one in essence with that eternal Life from
which originally they came forth, living in that life, centres
without circumferences, living centres, one with the
Supreme/ There stretches ehind such a ;ne the
endless chain of irth after irth, of manifestation after
manifestation/ During the stage in which 8e was human,
during the long climing up of the ladder of humanity,
there were two special characteristics that mar5ed out
the future Avatara from the ran5s of men/ ;ne his
asolute ha5ti, his devotion to the Supreme7 for only
those who are ha5tas and who to their ha5ti have wed
gnyana, or 5nowledge, can reach this goal7 for y
devotion, says Shri *rishna, can a man >enter into My
eing/> And the need of the devotion for the future
Avatara is this0 he must 5eep the centre that he has uilt
even in the life of +shvara, so that he may e ale to draw
the circumference once again round that centre, in order
that he may come forth as a manifestation of +shvara,
one with 8im in 5nowledge, one with 8im in power, the
very Supreme 8imself in earthly life7 he must hence have
the power of limiting himself to form, for no form can e3ist
in the universe save as there is a centre within it round
which that form is drawn/ 8e must e so devoted as to
e willing to remain for the service of the universe while
+shvara 8imself aides in it, to share the continual
sacrifice made y 8im, the sacrifice wherey the
universe lives/ But not devotion alone mar5s this great
;ne who is climing his divine path/ 8e must also e, as
+shvara is, a lover of humanity/ .nless within him there
urns the flame of love for men 1 nay, men, do + say: it
is too narrow 1 unless within him urns the flame of love
for everything that e3ists, moving and unmoving, in this
universe of 9od, he will not e ale to come forth as the
Supreme whose life and love are in everything that 8e
has rought forth out of 8is eternal and ine3haustile life/
>There is nothing>, says the Beloved, >moving or
unmoving, that may e3ist ereft of me7> DBhagavad-9ita,
3/ (# E and unless the man can wor5 that into his nature,
unless he can love everything that is, not only the
eautiful ut the ugly, not only the good ut the evil, not
only the attractive ut the repellent, unless in every form
he sees the Self, he cannot clim the steep path the
Avatara must tread/
"/ These, then, are the two great
characteristics of the man who is to ecome the special
manifestation of 9od 1 ha5ti, love to the ;ne in whom
he is to merge, and love to those whose very life is the
life of 9od/ ;nly as these come forth in the man is he on
the path that leads him to e 1 in future universes, in
far, far future 5alpas 1 an Avatara coming as 9od to
#/ 'ow on this view of the nature of an
Avatara difficulties, + 5now, arise7 ut they are difficulties
that arise from a partial view, and then from that view
having een merely accepted, as a rule, on the authority
of some great name, instead of on the thin5ing out and
thorough understanding of it y the man who repeats the
shioleth of his own sect or school/ The view once
ta5en, every te3t in Shruti or Smriti that goes against that
view is twisted out of its natural meaning, in order to e
made to agree with the idea which already dominates the
mind/ That is the difficulty with every religion7 a man
ac=uires his view y tradition, y hait, y irth, y pulic
opinion, y the surroundings of his own time and of his
own day/ 8e finds in the scriptures 1 which elong to no
time, to no day, to no one age, and to no one people, ut
are e3pressions of the eternal Feda 1 he finds in them
many te3ts that do not fit into the narrow framewor5 that
he has made7 and ecause he too often cares for the
framewor5 more than for the truth, he manipulates the
te3t until he can ma5e it fit in, in some dislocated fashion7
and the ingenuity of the commentator too often appears
in the s5ill with which he can ma5e words appear to
mean what they do not mean in their grammatical and
ovious sense/ Thus, men of every school, under the
mighty names of men who 5new the truth 1 ut who
could only give such portion of truth as they deemed man
at the time was ale to receive 1 use their names to
uttress up mista5en interpretations, and thus walls are
continually uilt up to loc5 the advancing life of man/
!G/ 'ow let me ta5e one e3ample from
one of the greatest names, one who 5new the truth he
spo5e, ut also, li5e every teacher, had to rememer that
while he was man, those to whom he spo5e were
children that could not grasp truth with virile
understanding/ That great teacher, founder of one of the
three schools of the Fedanta, Shri ,amanu2acharya, in
his commentary on the Bhagavad-9ita 1 a priceless
wor5 which men of every school might read and profit y
1 dealing with the phrase in which Shri *rishna declares
that 8e has had >ahuni 2anmani> >many irths>, points
out how vast the variety of those irths had een/ Then,
confining himself to 8is manifestations as +shvara 1 that
is after 8e had attained to the Supreme 1 he says =uite
truly that 8e was orn y 8is own will7 not y 5arma that
compelled 8im, not y any force outside 8im that
coerced 8im, ut y 8is own will 8e came forth as
+shvara and incarnated in one form or another/ But there
is nothing said there of the innumerale steps traversed
y the mighty ;ne ere yet 8e merged 8imself in the
Supreme/ Those are left on one side, unmentioned,
unnoticed, ecause what the writer had in his view was
to present to the hearts of men a great ;2ect for
adoration, who might gradually lift them upwards and
upwards until the Self should lossom in them in turn/ 'o
word is said of the previous 5alpas, of the universes
stretching ac5ward into the illimitale past 8e spea5s of
8is irth as Deva, as 'aga, as 9andharva, as those
many shapes that 8e has ta5en y 8is own will/ As you
5now, or as you may learn if you turn to Shrimad-
Bhagavata, there is a much longer list of manifestations
than the ten usually called Avataras/ There are given one
after another the forms which seem strange to the
superficial reader when connected in modern thought
with the Supreme/ But we find light thrown on the
=uestion y some other words of the great Lord7 and we
also find in one famous oo5, full of occult hints 1
though not with much e3planation of the hints given 1
the 6oga Fasishtha, a clear definite statement that the
deities, as Mahadeva, Fishnu and Brahma, have all
climed upward to the mighty posts They hold/ D<art ++/,
$hapter ii/, Shlo5as !), !@, !B E And that may well e so,
if you thin5 of it7 there is nothing derogatory to Them in
the thought7 for there is ut one -3istence, the eternal
fount of all that comes forth as separated, whether
separated in the universe as +shvara, or separated in the
copy of the universe in man7 there is ut ;ne without a
second7 there is no life ut 8is, no independence ut 8is,
no self-e3istence ut 8is, and from 8im 9ods and men
and all ta5e their root and e3ist for ever in and y 8is one
eternal life/ Different stages of manifestation, ut the ;ne
Self in all the different stages, the ;ne living in all7 and if
it e true, as true it is, that the Self in man is >unorn,
constant, eternal, ancient>, it is ecause the Self in man
is one with the ;ne Self-e3istent, and +shvara 8imself is
only the mightiest manifestation of that ;ne who 5nows
no second near 8imself/ Says an -nglish poet0
!!/ $loser is 8e than reathing, nearer
than hands and feet/
!&/ The Self is in you and in me, as much
as the Self is in +shvara, that ;ne, eternal, unchanging,
un-decaying, whereof every manifested e3istence is ut
one ray of glory/ Thus it is true, that which is taught in the
6oga Fasishtha7 true it is that even the greatest, efore
whom we ow in worship, has climed in ages past all
human rec5oning to e one with the Supreme, and, ever
there, to manifest 8imself as 9od to the world/
!(/ But now we come to a distinction that
we find made, and it is a real one/ %e read of a
<urnavatara, a full, complete, Avatara/ %hat is the
meaning of that word >full> as applied to the Avatara:
The name is given, as we 5now, to Shri *rishna/ 8e is
mar5ed out specially y that name/ Truly the word
>purna> cannot apply to the +llimitale, the +nfinite7 8e
may not e shown forth in any form7 the eye may never
ehold 8im7 only the spirit that is 8imself can 5now the
;ne/ %hat is meant y it is that, so far as is possile
within the limits of form, the manifestation of the formless
appears, so far as is possile it came forth in that great
;ne who came for the helping of the world/ This may
assist you to grasp the distinction/ %here the
manifestation is that of a <urnavatara, then at any
moment of time, at 8is own will, y 6oga or otherwise,
8e can transcend every limit of the form in which 8e
inds 8imself y 8is own will, and shine forth as the Lord
of the .niverse, within whom all the .niverse is
contained/ Thin5 for a moment once more of Shri
*rishna, who teaches us so much on this/ Turn to that
great storehouse of spiritual wisdom, the Mahaharata,
to the Ashvamedha <arva which contains the Anugita,
and you will find that Ar2una after the great attle,
forgetting the teaching that was given him on
*uru5shetra, as5ed his Teacher to repeat that teaching
once again/ And Shri *rishna, reu5ing him for the
fic5leness of his mind and stating that 8e was much
displeased that such 5nowledge should y fic5leness
have een forgotten, uttered these remar5ale words0 >+t
is not possile for me to state it in full in that way/ +
discoursed to thee on the Supreme Brahman, having
concentrated myself in 6oga/> And then 8e goes on to
give out the essence of that teaching, ut not in the same
sulime form as we have it in the Bhagavad-9ita/ That is
one thing that shows you what is meant y a
<urnavatara7 in a condition of 6oga, into which 8e
throws 8imself at will, 8e 5nows 8imself as Lord of
everything, as the Supreme on whom the .niverse is
uilt/ 'ay more7 thrice at least 1 + am not sure if there
may have een more cases, ut if so + cannot at the
moment rememer them 1 thrice at least during 8is life
as Shri *rishna 8e shows himself forth as +shvara, the
Supreme/ ;nce in the court of Dhritarashtra, when the
madly foolish Duryodhana tal5ed aout imprisoning
within cell-walls the universal Lord whom the universe
cannot confine7 and to show the wild folly of the arrogant
prince, out in the court efore every eye 8e shone forth
as Lord of all, filling earth and s5y with 8is glory, and all
forms human and divine, superhuman and suhuman,
were seen gathered round 8im in the life from which they
spring/ Then on *uru5shetra to Ar2una, 8is eloved
disciple, to whom 8e gave the divine vision that he might
see 8im in 8is Faishnava form, the form of Fishnu, the
Supreme .pholder of the .niverse/ And later, on his way
ac5 to Dvara5a, meeting with .tan5a, 8e and the sage
came to a misunderstanding, and the sage was
preparing to curse the Lord7 to save him from the folly of
uttering a curse against the Supreme, as a child might
throw a tiny pele against a roc5 of immemorial age, 8e
shone out efore the eyes of him who was really 8is
ha5ta, and showed him the great Faishnava form, that
of the Supreme/ %hat do those manifestations show:
that at will 8e can show himself forth as Lord of all,
casting aside the limits of human form in which men live7
casting aside the appearance so familiar to those around
8im, 8e could reveal himself as the mighty ;ne, +shvara
who is the life of all/ There is the mar5 of a <urnavatara7
always within 8is grasp, at will, is the power to show
8imself forth as +shvara/
!)/ But why 1 the thought may arise in
your minds 1 are not all Avataras of this 5ind, since all
are verily of the Supreme Lord: The answer is that y
8is own will, y his own Maya, 8e veils 8imself within
the limits which serve the creatures whom 8e has come
to help/ Ah, how different 8e is, this Mighty ;ne, from
you and meH %hen we are tal5ing to some one who
5nows a little less than ourselves, we tal5 out all we 5now
to show our 5nowledge, e3panding ourselves as much as
we can so as to astonish and ma5e marvel the one to
whom we spea57 that is ecause we are so small that we
fear our greatness will not e recognised unless we
ma5e ourselves as large as we can to astonish, if
possile to terrify7 ut when 8e comes who is really
great, who is mightier than anything which 8e produces,
8e ma5es 8imself small in order to help those whom 8e
loves/ And do you 5now, my rothers, that only in
proportion as 8is spirit enters into us, can we in our little
measure e helpers in the universe of which 8e is the
one life7 until we, in all our doings and spea5ings, place
ourselves within the one we want to help and not outside
him, feeling as he feels, thin5ing as he thin5s, 5nowing
for the time as he 5nows, with all his limitations, although
there may e further 5nowledge eyond, we cannot truly
help7 that is the condition of all true help given y man to
man, as it is the only condition of the help which is given
to man y 9od 8imself/
!@/ And so in other Avataras, 8e limits
8imself for men?s sa5e/ Ta5e the great 5ing, Shri ,ama/
%hat did he come to show: The ideal 5shattriya, in every
relation of the 5shattriya life7 as son 1 perfect as son
ali5e to loving father and to 2ealous and for the time
un5ind step-mother/ For you may rememer that when
the father?s wife who was not 8is own mother ade him
go forth to the forest on the very eve of 8is coronation as
heir, 8is gentle answer was0 >Mother, + go>/ <erfect as
son/ <erfect as husand7 if 8e had not limited 8imself y
8is own will to show out what husand should e to wife,
how could 8e in the forest, when Sita had een reft away
y ,avana, have shown the grief, have uttered the
piteous lamentations, which have drawn tears from
thousands of eyes, as 8e calls on plants and on trees,
on animals and irds, on 9ods and men, to tell 8im
where 8is wife, 8is other self, the life of 8is life, had
gone: 8ow could he have taught men what wife should
e to husand?s heart unless 8e had limited 8imself:
The consciously ;mnipresent Deity could not see5 and
search for 8is eloved who had disappeared/ And then
as 5ing7 as perfect 5ing as 8e was perfect son and
husand/ %hen the welfare of 8is su2ects was
concerned, when the safety of the realm was to e
thought of, when 8e rememered that 8e as 5ing stood
for 9od and must e perfect in the eyes of 8is su2ects,
so that they might give the oedience and the loyalty,
which men can only give to one whom they 5now as
greater than themselves, then even 8is wife was put
aside7 then the test of the fire for Sita, the unsullied and
the suffering7 then She must pass through it to show that
no sin or pollution had come upon 8er y the foul touch
of ,avana, the ,a5shasa7 then the demand that ere
husand?s heart that had een riven might again clasp
the wife/ She must come forth pure as woman7 and all
this, ecause 8e was 5ing as well as husand, and on
the throne the people honoured as divine there must only
e purity, spotless as driven snow/ Those limitations
were needed in order that a perfect e3ample might e
given to man, and man might learn to clim y
reproducing virtues, made small in order that his small
grasp might hold them/
!B/ %e come to the second great class of
manifestations, that to which + alluded in the eginning as
covered y the wide term Avesha/ +n that case it is not
that a man in past universes has climed upward and
has ecome one with +shvara7 ut it is that a man has
climed so far as to ecome so great, so perfect in his
manhood, and so full of love and devotion to 9od and
man, that 9od is ale to permeate him with a portion of
8is own influence, 8is own power, 8is own 5nowledge,
and send him forth into the world as a superhuman
manifestation of 8imself/ The individual -go remains7
that is the great distinction/ The man is there, though the
power that is acting is the manifested 9od/ Therefore the
manifestation will e coloured y the special
characteristics of the one over whom this overshadowing
is made7 and you will e ale to trace in the thoughts of
this inspired teacher, the characteristics of the race, of
the individual, of the form of 5nowledge which elongs to
that man in the incarnation in which the great
overshadowing ta5es place/ That is the fundamental
!A/ But here we find that we come at
once to endless grades, endless varieties, and down the
ladder of lesser and lesser evolution we may tread, step
y step, until we come to the lower grades that we call
inspiration/ +n a case of Avesha it generally continues
through a great portion of the life, the latter portion, as a
rule, and it is comparatively seldom withdrawn/
+nspiration, as generally understood, is a more partial
thing, more temporary/ Divine power comes down/
illuminates and irradiates the man for the moment, and
he spea5s for the time with authority, with 5nowledge,
which in his normal state he will e unale proaly to
compass/ Such are the prophets who have illuminated
the world age after age7 such were in ancient days the
rahmanas who were the mouth of 9od/ Then truly the
distinction was not that + spo5e of etween priest and
prophet7 oth were 2oined in the one illumination, and the
teaching of the priest and the preaching of the prophet
ran on the same lines and gave forth the same great
truths/ But in later times the distinction arose y the
failure of the priesthood, when the priest turned aside for
money, for fame, for power, for all the things with which
only younger souls ought to concern themselves 1
human toys with which human aies play, and do wisely
in so playing, for they grow y them/ Then the priests
ecame formal, the prophets ecame more and more
rare, until the great fact of inspiration was thrown ac5
wholly into the past, as though 9od or man had altered,
man no longer divine in his nature, 9od no longer willing
to spea5 words in the ears of men/ But inspiration is a
fact in all its stages7 and it goes far farther than some of
you may thin5/ The inspiration of the prophets, spiritually
mighty and convincing, is needed, and they come to the
world to give a new impulse to spiritual truth/ But there is
a general inspiration that any one may share who strives
to show out the divine life from which no son of man is
e3cluded, for every son of man is sun of 9od/ 8ave you
ever een drawn away for a moment into higher, more
peaceful realms, when you have come across something
of eauty, of art, of the wonders of science, of the
grandeur of philosophy: 8ave you for a time lost sight of
the pettinesses of earth, of trivial troules, of small
worries and annoyances, and felt yourself lifted into a
calmer region, into a light that is not the light of common
earth: 8ave you ever stood efore some wondrous
picture wherein the palette of the painter has een ta3ed
to light the canvas with all the hues of eauteous colour
that art can give to human sight: ;r have you seen in
some wondrous sculpture, the gracious living curves that
the chisel has freed from the roughness of the marle:
;r have you listened while the diviner spell of music has
lifted you, step y step, till you seem to hear the
9andharvas singing and almost the divine flute is eing
played and echoing in the lower world: ;r have you
stood on the mountain pea5 with the snows around you,
and felt the grandeur of the unmoving nature that shows
out 9od as well as the human spirit: Ah, if you have
5nown any of these peaceful spots in life?s desert, then
you 5now how all-pervading is inspiration7 how wondrous
the eauty and the power of 9od shown forth in man and
in the world7 then you 5now, if you never 5new it efore,
the truth of that great proclamation of Shri *rishna the
Beloved0 >%hatever is royal, good, eautiful, and mighty,
understand thou that to go forth from My Splendour>7
D Bhagavad-9ita, 3/ )!E all is the reflection of that te2as
DSplendour, radiance E which is 8is and 8is alone/ For as
there is nought in the universe without 8is love and life,
so there is no eauty that is not 8is eauty, that is not a
ray of the illimitale splendour, one little eam from the
unfailing source of life/
The Source of and Need for Avataras
!#/ Brothers0 1 6ou will rememer that
yesterday, in dividing the su2ect under different heads, +
put down certain =uestions which we would ta5e in order/
%e dealt yesterday with the =uestion0 >%hat is an
Avatara:> The second =uestion that we are to try to
answer, >%hat is the source of Avataras:> is a =uestion
that leads us deep into the mysteries of the 5osmos, and
needs at least an outline of 5osmic growth and evolution
in order to give an intelligile answer/ + hope to-day to e
ale also to deal with the succeeding =uestion, >8ow
does the need for Avataras arise:> This will leave us for
to-morrow the su2ect of the special Avataras, and + shall
endeavour, if possile, during to-morrow?s discourse, to
touch on nine of the Avataras out of the ten recognised
as standing out from all other manifestations of the
Supreme/ Then, if + am ale to accomplish that tas5, we
shall still have one morning left, and that + propose to
give entirely to the study of the greatest of the Avataras,
the Lord Shri *rishna 8imself, endeavouring, if possile,
to mar5 out the great characteristics of 8is life and 8is
wor5, and, it may e, to meet and answer some of the
o2ections of the ignorant which, especially in these later
days, have een levelled against 8im y those who
understand nothing of 8is nature, nothing of the mighty
wor5 8e came to accomplish in the world/
&G/ 'ow we are to egin to-day y
see5ing an answer to the =uestion, >%hat is the source
of Avataras:> and it is li5ely that + am going to ta5e a line
of thought somewhat unfamiliar, carrying us, as it does,
outside the ordinary lines of our study which deals more
with the evolution of man, of the spiritual nature within
him/ +t carries us to those far off times, almost
incomprehensile to us, when our universe was coming
into manifestation, when its very foundations, as it were,
were eing laid/ +n answering the =uestion, however, the
mere answer is simple/ +t is recognised in all religions
admitting divine incarnations 1 and they include the
great religions of the world 1 it is admitted that the
source of Avataras, the source of the Divine incarnations,
is the second or middle manifestation of the sacred
Triad/ +t matters not whether with 8indus we spea5 of the
Trimurti, or whether with $hristians we spea5 of the
Trinity, the fundamental idea is one and the same/
Ta5ing first for a moment the $hristian symology, you
will find that every $hristian tells you that the one divine
incarnation ac5nowledged in $hristianity 1 for in
$hristianity they elieve in one special incarnation only
1 you will find in the $hristian nomenclature the divine
incarnation or Avatara is that of the second person of the
Trinity/ 'o $hristian will tell you that there has ever een
an incarnation of 9od the Father, the primeval Source of
life/ They will never tell you that there has een an
incarnation of the third <erson of the Trinity, the 8oly
Spirit, the Spirit of %isdom, of creative +ntelligence, who
uilt up the world-materials/ But they will always say that
it was the second <erson, the Son, who too5 human
form, who appeared under the li5eness of humanity, who
was manifested as man for helping the salvation of the
world/ And if you analyse what is meant y that phrase,
what, to the mind of the $hristian, is conveyed y the
thought of the second <erson of the Trinity 1 for
rememer in dealing with a religion that is not yours you
should see5 for the thought not the form, you should loo5
at the idea not at the lael, for the thoughts are universal
while the forms divide, the ideas are identical while the
laels are mar5s of separation 1 if you see5 for the
underlying thought you will find it is this0 the sign of the
second <erson of the Trinity is duality7 also, 8e is the
underlying life of the world7 y 8is power the worlds were
made, and are sustained, supported, and protected/ 6ou
will find that while the Spirit of %isdom is spo5en of as
ringing order out of disorder, 5osmos out of chaos, that
it is y the manifested %ord of 9od, or the second
<erson of the Trinity, it is y 8im that all forms are
uilded up in this world, and it is specially in 8is image
that man is made/ So also when we turn to what will e
more familiar to the vast ma2ority of you, the symology
of 8induism, you will find that all Avataras have their
source in Fishnu, in 8im who pervades the universe, as
the very name Fishnu implies, who is the Supporter, the
<rotector, the pervading, all-permeating Life y which the
universe is held together, and y which it is sustained/
Ta5ing the names of the Trimurti so familiar to us all 1
not the philosophical names Sat, $hit, Ananda, those
names which in philosophy show the attriutes of the
Supreme Brahman 1 ta5ing the concrete idea, we have
Mahadeva or Shiva, Fishnu, and Brahma0 three names,
2ust as in the other religion we have three names7 ut the
same fact comes out, that it is the middle or central one
of the Three who is the source of Avataras/ There has
never een a direct Avatara of Mahadeva, of Shiva
8imself/ Appearances: 6es/ Manifestations: 6es/
$oming in form for a special purpose served y that
form: ;h yes/ Ta5e the Mahaharata, and you find 8im
appearing in the form of the hunter, the *irata, and
testing the intuition of Ar2una, and struggling with him to
test his strength, his courage, and finally his devotion to
8imself/ But that is a mere form ta5en for a purpose and
cast aside the moment the purpose is served7 almost, we
may say, a mere illusion, produced to serve a special
purpose and then thrown away as having completed that
which it was intended to perform/ ;ver and over again
you find such appearances of Mahadeva/ 6ou may
rememer one most eautiful story, in which 8e appears
in the form of a $handala DAn outcaste, e=uivalent to a
scavenger E at the gateway of 8is own city of *ashi,
when one who was especially overshadowed y a
manifestation of 8imself, Shri Shan5aracharya, was
coming with his disciples to the sacred city7 veiling
8imself in the form of an outcaste 1 for to 8im all forms
are the same, the human differences are ut as the
grains of sand which vanish efore the ma2esty of 8is
greatness 1 8e rolled 8imself in the dust efore the
gateway, so that the great teacher could not wal5 across
without touching 8im, and he called to the $handala to
ma5e way in order that the rahmana might go on
unpolluted y the touch of the outcaste7 then the Lord,
spea5ing through the form 8e had chosen, reu5ed the
very one whom 8is power overshadowed, as5ing him
=uestions which he could not answer and thus aasing
his pride and teaching him humility/ Such forms truly 8e
has ta5en, ut these are not what we can call Avataras7
mere passing forms, not manifestations upon earth
where a life is lived and a great drama is played out So
with Brahma7 8e also has appeared from time to time,
has manifested 8imself for some special purpose7 ut
there is no Avatara of Brahma, which we can spea5 of y
that very definite and well understood term/
&!/ 'ow for this fact there must e some
reason/ %hy is it that we do not find the source of
Avataras ali5e in all these great divine manifestations:
%hy do they come from only one aspect and that the
aspect of Fishnu: + need not remind you that there is ut
one Self, and that these names we use are the names of
the aspects that are manifested y the Supreme7 we
must not separate them so much as to lose sight of the
underlying unity/ For rememer how, when a worshipper
of Fishnu had a feeling in his heart against a worshipper
of Mahadeva, as he owed efore the image of 8ari, the
face of the image divided itself in half, and Shiva or 8ara
appeared on one side and Fishnu or 8ari appeared on
the other, and the two, smiling as one face on the
igoted worshipper, told him that Mahadeva and Fishnu
were ut one/ But in Their functions a division arises7
They manifest along different lines, as it were, in the
5osmos and for the helping of man7 not for 8im ut for
us, do these lines of apparent separateness arise/
&&/ Loo5ing thus at it, we shall e ale to
find the answer to our =uestion, not only who is the
source of Avataras, ut why Fishnu is the source/ And it
is here that + come to the unfamiliar part where + shall
have to as5 for your special attention as regards the
uilding of the universe/ 'ow + am using the word
>universe>, in the sense of our solar system/ There are
many other systems, each of them complete in itself,
and, therefore, rightly spo5en of as a 5osmos, a
universe/ But each of these systems in its turn is part of a
mightier system, and our sun, the centre of our own
system, though it e in very truth the manifested physical
ody of +shwara 8imself, is not the only sun/ +f you loo5
through the vast fields of space, myriads of suns are
there, each one the centre of its own system, of its own
universe7 and our sun, supreme to us, is ut, as it were,
a planet in a vaster system, its orit curved round a sun
greater than itself/ So in turn that sun, round which our
sun is circling, is planet to a yet mightier sun, and each
set of systems in its turn circles round a more central
sun, and so on 1 we 5now not how far may stretch the
chain that to us is illimitale0 for who is ale to plum the
depths and heights of space, or to find a manifested
circumference which ta5es in all universesH 'ay, we say
that they are infinite in numer, and that there is no end
to the manifestations of the one Life/
&(/ 'ow that is true physically/ Loo5 at
the physical universe with the eye of spirit, and you see
in it a picture of the spiritual universe/ A great word was
spo5en y one of the Masters or ,ishis, whom in this
Society we honour and whose teachings we follow/
Spea5ing to one of 8is disciples, or pupils, 8e reu5ed
him, ecause, 8e said in words never to e forgotten y
those who have read them0 >6ou always loo5 at the
things of the spirit with the eyes of the flesh/ %hat you
ought to do is to loo5 at the things of the flesh with the
eyes of the spirit>/ 'ow, what does that mean: +t means
that instead of trying to degrade the spiritual and to limit it
within the narrow ounds of the physical, and to say of
the spiritual that it cannot e ecause the human rain is
unale clearly to grasp it, we ought to loo5 at the physical
universe with a deeper insight and see in it the image,
the shadow, the reflection of the spiritual world, and learn
the spiritual verities y studying the images that e3ist of
them in the physical world around us/ The physical world
is easier to grasp/ Do not thin5 the spiritual is modelled
on the physical7 the physical is fundamentally modelled
on the spiritual, and if you loo5 at the physical with the
eye of spirit, then you find that it is the image of the
higher, and then you are ale to grasp the higher truth y
studying the faint reflections that you see in the world
around you/ That is what + as5 you to do now/ Cust as
you have your sun and suns, many universes, each one
part of a system mightier than itself, so in the spiritual
universe there is hierarchy eyond hierarchy of spiritual
intelligences who are as the suns of the spiritual world/
;ur physical system has at its centre the great spiritual
+ntelligence manifested as a Trinity, the +shvara of that
system/ Then eyond 8im there is a mightier +shvara,
round whom Those who are on the level of the +shvara of
our system circle, loo5ing to 8im as Their central life/
And eyond 8im yet another, and eyond 8im others
and others yet, until as the physical universes are
eyond our thin5ing, the spiritual hierarchy stretches also
eyond our thought, and, da44led and linded y the
splendour, we sin5 ac5 to earth, as Ar2una was linded
when the Faishnava form shone forth on him, and we
cry0 >;hH show us again Thy more limited form that we
may 5now it and live y it %e are not yet ready for the
mightier manifestations/ %e are linded, not helped, y
such la4e of divine splendour/>
&)/ And so we find that if we would learn
we must limit ourselves 1 nay, we must try to e3pand
ourselves 1 to the limits of our own system/ %hy: +
have met people who have not really any grasp of this
little world, this grain of dust in which they live, who
cannot e content unless you answer =uestions aout
the ;ne -3istence, the <ara-Brahma, whom sages
revere in silence, not daring to spea5 even with
illuminated mind that 5nows nirvanic life and has
e3panded to nirvanic consciousness/ The more ignorant
the man, the more he thin5s he can grasp/ The less he
understands, the more he resents eing told that there
are some things eyond the grasp of his intellect,
e3istences so mighty that he cannot even dream of the
lowest of the attriutes that mar5 them out/ And for
myself, who 5now myself ignorant, who 5now that many
an age must pass ere + shall e ale to thin5 of dealing
with these profounder prolems, + sometimes gauge the
ignorance of the =uestioner y the =uestions that he as5s
as to the ultimate e3istences, and when he wants to
5now what he calls the primary origin, + 5now that he has
not even grasped the one-thousandth part of the origin
out of which he himself has sprung/ Therefore, + say to
you fran5ly that these mighty ;nes whom we worship are
the 9ods of our system7 eyond them there stretch
mightier ;nes yet, whom, perhaps, myriads of 5alpas
hence, we may egin to understand and worship/
&@/ Let us then confine ourselves to our
own system and e glad if we can catch some ray of the
glory that illumines it Fishnu has 8is own functions, as
also have Brahma and Mahadeva/ The first wor5 in this
system is done y the third of the sacred great ;nes of
the Trimurti, Brahma, as you all 5now, for you have read
that there came forth the creative +ntelligence as the third
of the divine manifestations/ + care not what is the
symology you ta5e7 perchance that of the Fishnu
<urana will e most familiar, wherein the unmanifested
Fishnu is eneath the water, standing as the first of the
Trimurti, then the Lotus, standing as the second, and the
opened Lotus showing Brahma, the third, the creative
Mind/ 6ou may rememer that the wor5 of creation
egan with 8is activity/ %hen we study from the occult
standpoint in what that activity consisted, we find it
consisted in impregnating with 8is own life the matter of
the solar system7 that 8e gave 8is own life to uild up
form after form of atom, to ma5e the great divisions in the
5osmos7 that 8e formed, one after another, the five 5inds
of matter/ %or5ing y 8is mind 1 8e is sometimes
spo5en of as Mahat, the great ;ne, +ntelligence 1 8e
formed Tattvas one after another/ Tattvas, you may
rememer from last year, are the foundations of the
atoms, and there are five of them manifested at the
present time/ That is 8is special wor5/ Then 8e
meditates, and forms 1 as thoughts 1 come forth/
There 8is manifest wor5 may e said to end, though 8e
maintains ever the life of the atom/ As far as the active
wor5 of the 5osmos is concerned, 8e gives way to the
ne3t of the great forces that is to wor5, the force of
Fishnu/ 8is wor5 is to gather together that matter that
has een uilt, shaped, prepared, vivified, and uild it
into definite forms after the creative ideas rought forth
y the meditation of Brahma/ 8e gives to matter a
inding force7 8e gives to it those energies that hold form
together/ 'o form e3ists without 8im, whether it e
moving or unmoving/ 8ow often does Shri *rishna,
spea5ing as the supreme Fishnu, lay stress on this fact
8e is the life in every form7 without it the form could not
e3ist, without it it would go ac5 to its primeval elements
and no longer live as form/ 8e is the all-pervading life7
the >Supporter of the .niverse> is one of 8is names/
Mahadeva has a different function in the universe7
especially is 8e the great 6ogi7 especially is 8e the great
Teacher, the Mahaguru7 8e is sometimes called
Cagatguru, the Teacher of the world/ ;ver and over
again 1 to ta5e a comparatively modern e3ample, as the
9urugita 1 we find 8im as Teacher, to whom <arvati
goes as5ing for instruction as to the nature of the 9uru/
8e it is who defines the 9uru?s wor5, 8e it is who inspires
the 9uru?s teaching/ -very 9uru on earth is a reflection
of Mahadeva, and it is 8is life which he is commissioned
to give out to the world/ 6ogi, immersed in
contemplation, ta5ing the ascetic form always 1 that
mar5s out 8is functions/ For the symols y which the
mighty ;nes are shown in the teachings are not
meaningless, ut are replete with the deepest meaning/
And when you see 8im represented as the eternal 6ogi,
with the cord in 8is hand, sitting as an ascetic in
contemplation, it means that 8e is the supreme ideal of
the ascetic life, and that men who come especially under
8is influence must pass out of home, out of family, out of
the normal ties of evolution, and give themselves to a life
of asceticism, to a life of renunciation, to share, however
feely, in that mighty yoga y which the universe is 5ept
&B/ 8e then manifests not as Avatara, ut
such manifestations come from 8im who is the 9od, the
Spirit, of evolution, who evolves all forms/ That is why
from Fishnu all these Avataras come/ For it is 8e who y
8is infinite love dwells in every form that 8e has made7
with patience that nothing can e3haust, with love that
nothing can tire, with =uiet, calm endurance which no
folly of man can sha5e from its eternal peace/ 8e lives in
every form, moulding it as it will ear the moulding,
shaping it as it yields itself to 8is impulse, inding
8imself, limiting 8imself in order that 8is universe may
grow, Lord of eternal life and liss, dwelling in every
form/ +f you grasp this, it is not difficult to say why from
8im alone the Avataras come/ %ho else should ta5e
form save the ;ne who gives form: %ho else should
wor5 with this unending love save 8e, who, while the
universe e3ists, inds 8imself that the universe may live
and ultimately share 8is freedom: 8e is ound that the
universe may e free/ %ho else then should come forth
when special need arises:
&A/ And 8e gives the great types/ Let me
remind you of the Shrimad-Bhagavata, where in an early
chapter of the first Boo5, the (rd chapter, a very long list
is given of the forms that Fishnu too5, not only the great
Avataras, ut also a large numer of others/ +t is said 8e
appeared as 'ara and 'arayana7 it is said 8e appeared
as *apila7 8e too5 female forms, and so on, a whole long
list eing given of the shapes that 8e assumed/ And,
turning from that to a very illuminative passage in the
Mahaharata, we find 8im in the form of Shri *rishna
e3plaining a profound truth to Ar2una/
&"/ There 8e gives the law of these
appearances0 >%hen, ; son of <ritha, + live in the order
of the deities, then + act in every respect as a deity/
%hen + live in the order of the 9andharvas, then + act in
every respect as a 9andharva/ %hen + live in the order of
the 'agas, + act as a 'aga/ %hen + live in the order of
the 6a5shas, or that of the ,a5shasas, + act after the
manner of that order/ Born now in the order of humanity,
+ must act as a human eing/> A profound truth, a truth
that few in modern times recognise/ -very type in the
universe, in its own place, is good7 every type in the
universe, in its own place, is necessary/ There is no life
save 8is life7 how then could any type come into
e3istence apart from the universal life, ereft whereof
nothing can e3ist:
&#/ %e spea5 of good forms and evil, and
rightly, as regards our own evolution/ But from the wider
standpoint of the 5osmos, good and evil are relative
terms, and everything is very good in the sight of the
Supreme who lives in every one/ 8ow can a type come
into e3istence in which 8e cannot live: 8ow can
anything live and move, save as it has its eing in 8im:
-ach type has its wor57 each type has its place7 the type
of the ,a5shasa as much as the type of the Deva, of the
Asura as much as of the Sura/ Let me give you one
curious little simple e3ample, which yet has a certain
graphic force/ 6ou have a pole you want to move, and
that pole is on a pivot, li5e the mountain which churned
the ocean, a pole with its two ends, positive and negative
we will call them/ The positive end, we will say, is pushed
in the direction of the river Ithe river flowing eyond one
end of the hall at AdyarJ/ The negative pole is pushed 1
in what direction: +n the opposite/ And those who are
pushing it have their faces turned in the opposite
direction/ ;ne man loo5s at the river, the other man has
his ac5 to it, loo5ing in the opposite direction/ But the
pole turns in the one direction although they push in
opposite directions/ They are wor5ing round the same
circle, and the pole goes faster ecause it is pushed from
its two ends/ There is the picture of our universe/ The
positive force you call the Deva or Sura7 his face is
turned, it seems, to 9od/ The negative force you call the
,a5shasa or Asura7 his face, it seems, is turned away
from 9od/ Ah noH 9od is everywhere, in every point of
the circle round which they tread7 and they tread 8is
circle and do 8is will and no otherwise7 and all at length
find rest and peace in 8im/
(G/ Therefore Shri *rishna 8imself can
incarnate in the form of ,a5shasa, and when in that form
8e will act as ,a5shasa and not as Deva, doing that part
of the divine wor5 with the same perfection as 8e does
the other, which men in their limited vision call the good/
A great truth hard to grasp/ + shall have to return to it
presently in spea5ing of ,avana, one of the mightiest
types of, perhaps the greatest of, all the ,a5shasas/ And
we shall see, if we can follow, how the profound truth
wor5s out But rememer, if in the minds of some of you
there is some hesitation in accepting this, that the words
that + read are not mine, ut those of the Lord who spo5e
of 8is own emodying7 8e has left on record for your
teaching, that 8e has emodied 8imself in the form of
,a5shasa and has acted after the manner of that order/
(!/ Leaving that for a moment, there is
one other point + must ta5e, ere spea5ing of the need for
Avataras/ and it is this0 when the great central Deities
have manifested, then there come forth from Them
seven Deities of what we may call the second order/ +n
Theosophy, they are spo5en of as the planetary Logoi, to
distinguish them from the great solar Logoi, the central
Life/ -ach of These has to do with one of the seven
sacred planets, and with the chain of worlds connected
with that planet/ ;ur world is one of the lin5s in this
chain, and you and + pass round this chain in successive
incarnations in the great stages of life/ The world 1 our
present world 1 is the midway gloe of one such chain/
;ne Logos of the secondary order presides over the
evolution of this chain of worlds/ 8e shows out three
aspects, reflections of the great Logoi who are at the
centre of the system/ 6ou have read perhaps of the
seven-leaved lotus, the Saptaparnapadma7 loo5ed at
with the higher sight, ga4ed at with the open vision of the
seer, that mighty group of creative and directing Beings
loo5s li5e the lotus with its seven leaves and the great
;nes are at the heart of the lotus/ +t is as though you
could see a vast lotus-flower spread out in space, the
tips of the seven leaves eing the mighty +ntelligences
presiding over the evolution of the chains of worlds/ That
lotus symol is no mere symol ut a high reality, as
seen in that wondrous world wherefrom the symol has
een ta5en y the sages/ And ecause the great ,ishis
of old saw with the open eye of 5nowledge, saw the
lotus-flower spread in space, they too5 it as the symol
of 5osmos, the lotus with its seven leaves, each one a
mighty Deva presiding over a separate line of evolution/
%e are primarily concerned with our own planetary Deva
and through 8im with the great Devas of the solar
(&/ 'ow my reason for mentioning this is
to e3plain one word that has pu44led many students/
Mahavishnu, the great Fishnu, why that particular
epithet: %hat does it mean when that phrase is used: +t
means the great solar Logos, Fishnu in 8is essential
nature0 ut there is a reflection of 8is glory, a reflection of
8is power, of 8is love, in more immediate connection
with ourselves and our own world/ 8e is 8is
representative, as a viceroy may represent the 5ing/
Some of the Avataras we shall find came forth from
Mahavishnu through the planetary Logos, who is
concerned with our evolution and the evolution of the
world/ But the <urnavatara that + spo5e of yesterday
comes forth directly from Mahavishnu, with no
intermediary etween 8imself and the world that 8e
comes to help/ 8ere is another distinction etween the
<urnavatara and those more limited ones, that + could
not mention yesterday, ecause the words used would,
at that stage, have een unintelligile/ %e shall find to-
morrow, when we come to deal with the Avataras
Matsya, *urma, and so on, that these special Avataras,
connected with the evolution of certain types in the world,
while indirectly from Mahavishnu, come through the
mediation of 8is mighty representative for our own chain,
the wondrous +ntelligence that conveys 8is love and
ministers 8is will, and is the channel of 8is all-pervading
and supporting power/ %hen we come to study Shri
*rishna we shall find that there is no intermediary/ 8e
stands as the Supreme 8imself/ And while in the other
cases there is the <resence that may e recognised as
an intermediary, it is asent in the case of the great Lord
of Life/
((/ Leaving that for further elaoration
then to-morrow, let us try to answer the ne3t =uestion,
>8ow arises this need for Avataras:> ecause in the
minds of some, =uite naturally, a difficulty does arise/
The difficulty that many thoughtful people feel may e
formulated thus0 >Surely the whole plan of the world is in
the mind of the Logos from the eginning, and surely we
cannot suppose that 8e is wor5ing li5e a human
wor5man, not thoroughly understanding that at which 8e
aims/ 8e must e the architect as well as the uilder7 8e
must ma5e the plan as well as carry it out 8e is not li5e
the mason who puts a stone in the wall where he is told,
and 5nows nothing of the architecture of the uilding to
which he is contriuting/ 8e is the master-uilder, the
great architect of the universe, and everything in the plan
of that universe must e in 8is mind ere ever the
universe egan/ But if that e so 1 and we cannot thin5
otherwise 1 how is it that the need for special
intervention arises: Does not the fact of special
intervention imply some unforeseen difficulty that has
arisen: +f there must e a 5ind of interference with the
wor5ing out of the plan, does that not loo5 as if in the
original plan some force was left out of account, some
difficulty had not een seen, something had arisen for
which preparation had not een made: +f it e not so,
why the need for interference, which loo5s as though it
were rought aout to meet an unforeseen event:> A
natural, reasonale, and perfectly fair =uestion/ Let us try
to answer it/ + do not elieve in shir5ing difficulties7 it is
etter to loo5 them in the face, and see if an answer e
()/ 'ow the answer comes along three
different lines/ There are three great classes of facts,
each of which contriutes to the necessity7 and each,
foreseen y the Logos, is definitely prepared for as
needing a particular manifestation/
(@/ The first of these lines arises from
what + may perhaps call the nature of things/ + remar5ed
at the eginning of this lecture on the fact that our
universe, our system, is part of a greater whole, not
separate, not independent, not primary, in comparatively
a low scale in the universe, our sun a planet in a vaster
system/ 'ow what does that imply: As regards matter,
<ra5riti, it implies that our system is uilded out of matter
already e3isting, out of matter already gifted with certain
properties, out of matter that spreads through all space,
and from which every Logos ta5es 8is materials,
modifying it according to 8is own plan and according to
8is own will/ %hen we spea5 of Mulapra5riti, the root of
matter, we do not mean that it e3ists as the matter we
5now/ 'o philosopher, no thin5er would dream of saying
that that which spreads throughout space is identical with
the matter of our very elementary solar system/ +t is the
root of matter, that of which all forms of matter are
merely modifications/ %hat does that imply: +t implies
that our great Lord, who rought our solar system into
e3istence, is ta5ing matter which already has certain
properties given to it y ;ne yet mightier than 8imself/ +n
that matter three gunas e3ist in e=uilirium, and it is the
reath of the Logos that throws them out of e=uilirium,
and causes the motion y which our system is rought
into e3istence/ There must e a throwing out of
e=uilirium, for e=uilirium means <ralaya, where there
is not motion, nor any manifestation of life and form/
%hen life and form come forth, e=uilirium must have
een distured, and motion must e lierated y which
the world shall e uilt But the moment you grasp that
truth you see that there must e certain limitations y
virtue of the very material in which the Deity is wor5ing
for the ma5ing of the system/ +t is true that when out of
8is system, when not conditioned and confined and
limited y it, as 8e is y 8is most gracious will, it is true
that 8e would e the Lord of that matter y virtue of 8is
union with the mightier Life eyond7 ut when for the
uilding of the world 8e limits 8imself within 8is Maya,
then 8e must wor5 within the conditions of those
materials that limit 8is activity, as we are told over and
over again/
(B/ 'ow when in the ceaseless interplay
of Sattva, ,a2as, and Tamas, Tamas has the
ascendancy, aided and, as it were, wor5ed y ,a2as, so
that they predominate over Sattva in the foreseen
evolution, when the two comining overpower the third,
when the force of ,a2as and the inertia and stuornness
of Tamas, inding themselves together, chec5 the action,
the harmony, the pleasure-giving =ualities of Sattva, then
comes one of the conditions in which the Lord comes
forth to restore that which had een distured of the
alanced interwor5ing of the three gunas, and to ma5e
again such alance etween them as shall enale
evolution to go forward smoothly and not e chec5ed in
its progress/ 8e re-estalishes the alance of power
which gives orderly motion, the order having een
distured y the co-operation of the two in
contradistinction to the third/ +n these fundamental
attriutes of matter, the three gunas lies the first reason
of the need for Avataras/
(A/ The second need has to do with man
himself, and now we come ac5 in oth the second and
the third to that =uestion of good and evil, of which + have
already spo5en, +shvara, when 8e came to deal with the
evolution of man 1 with all reverence + say it 1 had a
harder tas5 to perform than in the evolution of the lower
forms of life/ ;n them the law is imposed and they must
oey its impulse/ ;n the mineral the law is compulsory7
every mineral moves according to the law, without
interposing any impulse from itself to wor5 against the
will of the ;ne/ +n the vegetale world the law is
imposed, and every plant grows in orderly method
according to the law within it, developing steadily and in
the fashion of its order, interposing no impulse of its own/
'ay, in the animal world 1 save perhaps when we come
to its highest memers 1 the law is still a force
overpowering everything else, sweeping everything
efore it, carrying along all living things/ A wheel turning
on the road might carry with it on its a3le the fly that
happened to have settled there7 it does not interpose any
ostacle to the turning of the wheel/ +f the fly comes on to
the circumference of the wheel and opposes itself to its
motion, it is crushed without the slightest 2arring of the
wheel that rolls on, and the form goes out of e3istence,
and the life ta5es other shapes/
("/ So is the wheel of law in the three
lower 5ingdoms/ But with man it is not so/ +n man +shvara
sets himself to produce an image of 8imself, which is not
the case in the lower 5ingdoms/ As life has evolved, one
force after another has come out, and in man there
egins to come out the central life, for the time has
arrived for the evolution of the sovereign power of will,
the self-initiated motion which is part of the life of the
Supreme/ Do not misunderstand me 1 for the su2ect is
a sutle one7 there is only one will in the universe, the
will of +shvara, and all must conform itself to that will, all
is conditioned y that will, all must move according to
that will, and that will mar5s out the straight line of
evolution/ There may e swerving neither to the right
hand nor to the left There is one will only which in its
aspect to us is free, ut inasmuch as our life is the life of
+shvara 8imself, inasmuch as there is ut one Self and
that Self is yours and mine as much as 8is 1 for 8e has
given us 8is very Self to e our Self and our life 1 there
must evolve at one stage of this wondrous evolution that
royal power of will which is seen in 8im/ And from the
Atma within us, which is 8imself in us, there flows forth
the sovereign will into the sheaths in which the Atma is
as it were held/ 'ow what happens is this0 force goes out
through the sheaths and gives them some of its own
nature, and each sheath egins to set up a reflection of
the will on its own account, and you get the >+> of the
ody which wants to go this way, and the >+> of passion
or emotion which wants to go that way, and the >+> of the
mind which wants to go a third way, and none of these
ways is the way of the Atma, the Supreme/ These are
the illusory wills of man, and there is one way in which
you may distinguish them from the true will/ -ach of them
is determined in its direction y e3ternal attraction7 the
man?s ody wants to move in a particular way ecause
something attracts it, or something else repels it0 it
moves to what it li5es, to what is congenial to it/ it moves
away from that which it disli5es, from that from which it
feels itself repelled/ But that motion of the ody is ut
motion determined y the +shvara outside, as it were,
rather than y the +shvara within, y the 5osmos around
and not y the Self within, which has not yet achieved its
mastery of the 5osmos/ So with the emotions or
passions0 they are drawn this way or that y the o2ects
of the senses, and the >senses move after their
appropriate o2ects>7 it is not the >+>, the Self, which
moves/ And so also with the mind/ >The mind is fic5le
and restless, ; *rishna, it seems as hard to cur as the
wind>, and the mind lets the senses run after o2ects as a
horse that has ro5en its reins flies away with the
uns5illed driver/ All these forces are set up7 and there is
one more thing to rememer/ These forces reinforce the
ra2asic guna and help to ring aout that predominance
of which + spo5e7 all these rec5less desires that are not
according to the one will are yet necessary in order that
the will may evolve and in order to train and develop the
(#/ Do you say why: 8ow would you
learn right if you 5new not wrong: 8ow would you
choose good if you 5new not evil: 8ow would you
recognise the light if there were no dar5ness: 8ow would
you move if there were no resistance: The forces that
are called dar5, the forces of the ,a5shasas, of the
Asuras, of all that seem to e wor5ing against +shvara 1
these are the forces that call out the inner strength of the
Self in man, y struggling with which the forces of Atma
within the man are developed, and without which he
would remain in <ralaya for evermore/ +t is a perfectly
stagnant pool where there is no motion, and there you
get corruption and not life/ The evolution of force can
only e made y struggle, y comat, y effort, y
e3ercise, and inasmuch as +shvara is uilding men and
not aies, 8e must draw out men?s forces y pulling
against their strength, ma5ing them struggle in order to
attain, and so vivifying into outer manifestation the life
that otherwise would remain enfolded in itself/ +n the
seed the life is hidden, ut it will not grow, if you leave
the seed alone/ <lace it on this tale here, and come
ac5 a century hence, and, if you find it, it will e a seed
still and nothing more/ So also is the Atma in man ere
evolution and struggle have egun/ <lant your seed in
the ground, so that the forces in the ground press on it,
and the rays of the sun from outside ma5e virations that
wor5 on it, and the water from the rain comes through the
soil into it and forces it to swell 1 then the seed egins
to grow7 ut as it egins to grow it finds the earth around/
8ow shall it grow ut y pushing at it and so ringing out
the energies of life that are within it: And against the
opposition of the ground the roots stri5e down, and
against the opposition of the ground the growing point
mounts upward, and y the opposition of the ground the
forces are evolved that ma5e the seed grow, and the little
plant appears aove the soil/ Then the wind comes and
lows and tries to drag it away, and, in order that it may
live and not perish, it stri5es its roots deeper and gives
itself a etter hold against the attering force of the wind,
and so the tree grows against the forces which try to tear
it out And if these forces were not, there would have
een no growth of the root And so with the root of
+shvara, the life within us7 were everything around us
smooth and easy, we would remain supine, lethargic,
indifferent +t is the whip of pain, of suffering, of
disappointment, that drives us onward and rings out the
forces of our internal life which otherwise would remain
undeveloped/ %ould you have a man grow: Then don?t
throw him on a couch with pillows on every side, and
ring his meals and put them into his mouth, so that he
moves not lim nor e3ercises mind/ Throw him on a
desert, where there is no food nor water to e found7 let
the sun eat down on his head, the wind low against
him7 let his mind e made to thin5 how to meet the
necessities of the ody, and the man grows into a man
and not a log/ That is why there are forces which you call
evil/ +n this universe there is no evil7 all is good that
comes to us from +shvara, ut it sometimes comes in the
guise of evil that, y opposing it, we may draw out our
strength/ Then we egin to understand that these forces
are necessary, and that they are within the plan of
+shvara/ They test evolution, they strengthen evolution,
so that it does not ta5e the ne3t step onward till it has
strength enough to hold its own, one step made firm y
opposition efore the ne3t is ta5en/ But when, y the
conflicting wills of men, the forces that wor5 for
retardation, to 5eep a man ac5 till he is ale to
overcome them and go on, when they are so reinforced
y men?s unruly wishes that they are eginning, as it
were, to threaten progress, then ere that chec5 ta5es
place, there is reinforcement from the other side0 the
presence of the Avatara of the forces that threaten
evolution calls forth the presence of the Avatara that
leads to the progress of humanity/
)G/ %e come to the third cause/ The
Avatara does not come forth without a call/ The earth, it
is said, is very heavy with its load of evil, >Save us, ;
supreme Lord>, the Devas come and cry/ +n answer to
that cry the Lord comes forth/ But what is this that +
spo5e of purposely y a strange phrase to catch your
attention, that + spo5e of as an Avatara of evil: By the will
of the one Supreme, there is one incarnated in form who
gathers up together the forces that ma5e for retardation,
in order that, thus gathered together, they may e
destroyed y the opposing force of good, and thus the
alance may e re-estalished and evolution go on along
its appointed road/ Devas wor5 for 2oy, the reward of
8eaven/ Svarga is their home, and they serve the
Supreme for the 2oys that there they have/ ,a5shasas
also serve 8im, first for rule on earth, and power to grasp
and hold and en2oy as they will in this lower world/ Both
sides serve for reward, and are moved y the things that
)!/ And in order, as our time is drawing to
a close, that + may ta5e one great e3ample to show how
these wor5, let me ta5e the mighty one, ,avana of
Lan5a, that we may give a concrete form to a rather
difficult and astruse thought/ ,avana, as you all 5now,
was the mighty intelligence, the ,a5shasa, who called
forth the coming of Shri ,ama/ But loo5 ac5 into the
past, and what was he: *eeper of Fishnu?s heaven,
door-5eeper of the mighty Lord, devotee, ha5ta,
asolutely devoted to the Lord/ Loo5 at his past, and
where do you find a ha5ta of Mahadeva more asolute
in devotion than the one who came forth later as
,avana: +t was he who cast his head into the fire in
order that Mahadeva might e served/ +t is he in whose
name have een written some of the most e3=uisite
stotras, reathing the spirit of completest devotion7 in one
of them, you may rememer 1 and you could scarcely
carry devotion to a further point 1 it is in the mouth of
,avana words are put appealing to Mahadeva, and
descriing 8im as surrounded y forms the most
repellent and undesirale, surrounded on every side y
pisachas and hutas, D9olins and elementals E which to
us seem ut the emodiment of the dar5 shadows of the
urning ghat, forms from which all eauty is withdrawn/
8e cries out in a passion of love0
)&/ Better wear pisacha-form, so we
-vermore are near and wait on Thee/
)(/ 8ow did he then come to e the
ravisher of Sita and the enemy of 9od:
))/ 6ou 5now how through lac5 of
intuition, through lac5 of power to recognise the meaning
of an order, following the words not the spirit, following
the outside not the inner, he refused to open the door of
heaven when Sanat *umara came and demanded
entrance/ +n order that that which was lac5ing might e
filled, in order that that which was wanting might e
earned, that which was called a curse was pronounced,
a curse which was the natural reaction from the mista5e/
8e was as5ed0 >%ill you have seven incarnations friendly
to Fishnu, or three in which you will e 8is enemy and
oppose 8im:> And ecause he was a true ha5ta, and
ecause every moment of asence, from his Lord meant
to him hell of torture, he chose three of enmity, which
would let him go ac5 sooner to the Feet of the Beloved,
rather than the seven of happiness, of friendliness/ Better
a short time of utter enmity than a longer remaining away
with apparent happiness/ +t was love not hatred that
made him choose the form of a ,a5shasa rather than the
form of a ,ishi/ There is the first note of e3planation/
)@/ Then, coming into the form of
,a5shasa, he must do his duty as ,a5shasa/ This was
no wea5 man to e swayed y momentary thought, y
transient o2ects/ 8e had all the learning of the Fedas/
%ith him, it was said, passed away Fedic learning, with
him it disappeared from earth/ 8e 5new his duty/ %hat
was his duty: To put forward every force which was in
his mighty nature in order to chec5 evolution, and so call
out every force in man which could e called out y
opposing energy which had to e overcome7 to gather
round him all the forces which were opposing evolution7
to ma5e himself 5ing of the whole, centre and law-giver
to every force that was setting itself against the will of the
Lord7 to gather them together as it were into one head, to
call them together into one arm7 so that when their
apparent triumph made the cry of the earth go up to
Fishnu, the answer might come in ,ama?s Avatara and
they e destroyed, that the life-wave might go on/
)B/ 'oly he did the wor5, thoroughly he
discharged his duty/ +t is said that even sages are
confused aout Dharma, and truly it is sutle and hard to
grasp in its entirety, though the fragment the plain man
sees e simple enough/ 8is Dharma was the Dharma of
a ,a5shasa, to lead the whole forces of evil against ;ne
whom in his inner soul, then clouded, he loved/ %hen
Shri ,ama came, when 8e was wandering in the forest,
how could he sting 8im into leaving the life of 8is life/ 8is
eloved Sita, and into coming out into the world to do 8is
wor5: By ta5ing away from 8im the one thing to which
8e clung, y ta5ing away from 8im the wife whom 8e
loved as 8is very Self, y placing her in the spot where
all the forces of evil were gathered together, so ma5ing
one head for destruction, which the arrow of Shri ,ama
might destroy/ Then the mighty attle, then the struggle
with all the forces of his great nature, that the law might
e oeyed to the uttermost, duly fulfilled to the last grain,
the det paid that was owed7 and then 1 ah thenH the
shaft of the Beloved, then the arrow of Shri ,ama that
struc5 off the head from the seeming enemy, from the
real devotee/ And from the corpse of the ,a5shasa that
fell upon the field near Lan5a, the devotee went up to
9olo5a DA name for one of the heavens/E to sit at the feet
of the Beloved, and rest for awhile till the third
incarnation had to e lived out/
)A/ Such then are some of the reasons
y, the ways in which the coming of the Avatara is
rought aout And my last word to you, my rothers, to-
day is ut a sentence, in order to avoid the possiility of
a mista5e to which our diving into these depths of
thought may possily give rise/ ,ememer that though
all powers are 8is, all forces 8is, ,a5shasa as much as
Deva, Asura as much as Sura7 rememer that for your
evolution you must e on the side of good, and struggle
to the utmost against evil/ Do not let the thoughts + have
put lead you into a og, into a pit of hell, in which you
may for the time perish, that ecause evil is relative,
ecause it e3ists y the one will, ecause ,a5shasa is
8is as much as Deva, therefore you shall go on their side
and wal5 along their path/ +t is not so/ +f you yield to
amition, if you yield to pride, if you set yourselves
against the will of +shvara, if you struggle for the
separated self, if in yourselves now you identify yourself
with the past in which you have dwelt instead of with the
future towards which you should e directing your steps,
then, if your *arma e at a certain stage, you pass into
the ran5s of those who wor5 as enemies, ecause you
have chosen that fate for yourself, at the promptings of
the lower nature/ Then with itter inner pain 1 even if
with complete sumission 1 accepting the *arma, ut
with profound sorrow, you shall have to wor5 out your
own will against the will of the Beloved, and feel the
anguish of the rending that separates the inner from the
outer life/ The will of +shvara for you is evolution7 these
forces are made to help your evolution 1 ut only if you
strive against them/ +f you yield to them, then they carry
you away/ 6ou do not then call out your own strength,
ut only strengthen them/ Therefore, ; Ar2una, stand up
and fight/ Do not e supine7 do not yield yourself to the
forces7 they are there to call out your energies y
opposition and you must not sin5 down on the floor of the
chariot And my last word is the word of Shri *rishna to
Ar2una0 >Ta5e up your ow, stand up and fight>
)#/ Some Speca! Avataras
@G/ The su2ect this morning, my
rothers, is in some ways an easy and in other ways a
difficult one7 easy, inasmuch as the stories of the
Avataras can e readily told and readily grasped7 difficult,
inasmuch as the meaning that underlies these
manifestations may possily e in some ways unfamiliar,
may not have een thoroughly thought out y individual
hearers/ And + must egin with a general word as to
these special Avataras/ 6ou may rememer that + said
that the whole universe may e regarded as the Avatara
of the Supreme, the Self-revelation of +shvara/ But we
are not dealing with that general Self-revelation7 nor are
we even considering the very many revelations that have
ta5en place from time to time, mar5ed out y special
characteristics7 for we have seen y referring to one or
two of the old writings that many lists are given of the
comings of the Lord, and we are to-day concerned with
only some of those, those that are accepted specially as
@!/ 'ow on one point + confess myself
pu44led at the outset, and + do not 5now whether in your
e3oteric literature light is thrown upon the point as to how
these ten were singled out, who was the person who
chose them out of a longer list, on what authority that list
was proclaimed/ ;n that point + must simply state the
=uestion, leaving it unanswered/ +t may e a matter
familiar to those who have made researches into the
e3oteric literature/ +t is not a point of =uite sufficient
importance for the moment to spend on it time and
troule, in what we may call the occult way of research/ +
leave that then aside, for there is one reason why some
of these stand out in a way which is clear and definite/
They mar5 stages in the evolution of the world/ They
mar5 new departures in the growth of the developing life,
and whether it was that fact which underlay the e3oteric
choice + am unale to say7 ut certainly that fact y itself
is sufficient to 2ustify the special distinction which is
@&/ There is one other general point to
consider/ Accounts of these Avataras are found in the
<uranas7 allusions to them, to one or other of them, are
found in other of the ancient writings, ut the moment
you come to very much detail you must turn to the
<uranic accounts7 as you are aware, sages, in giving
those <uranas, very often descried things as they are
seen on the higher planes, giving the description of the
underlying truth of facts and events7 you have
appearances descried which sound very strange in the
lower world7 you have facts asserted which raise very
much of challenge in modern days/ %hen you read in the
<uranas of strange forms and marvellous appearances,
when you read accounts of creatures that seem unli5e
anything that you have ever heard of or dreamed of
elsewhere, the modern mind, with its somewhat narrow
limitations, is apt to revolt against the accounts that are
given7 the modern mind, trained within the limits of the
science of oservation, is necessarily circumscried
within those limits and those limits are of an e3ceedingly
narrow description7 they are limits which elong only to
modern time, modern to men, in the true sense of the
word, though geological researches stretch of course far
ac5 into what we call in this nineteenth century the night
of time/ But you must rememer that the moment
geology goes eyond the historic period, which is a mere
moment in the history of the world, it has more of
guesses than of facts, more of theories than of proofs/ +f
you ta5e half a do4en modern geologists and as5 each of
them in turn for the date of the period of which records
remain in the small numer of fossils collected, you will
find that almost every man gives a different date, and
that they deal with differences of millions of years as
though they were only seconds or minutes of ours/ So
that you will have to rememer in what science can tell
you of the world, however accurate it may e within its
limits, that these limits are e3ceedingly narrow, narrow +
mean when measured y the sight that goes ac5 5alpa
after 5alpa, and that 5nows that the mind of the Supreme
is not limited to the manifestations of a few hundred
thousands of years, ut goes ac5 million after million,
hundreds of millions after hundreds of millions, and that
the varieties of form, the enormous differences of types,
the marvellous 5inds of creatures which have come out
of that creative imagination, transcend in actuality all that
man?s mind can dream of, and that the very wildest
images that man can ma5e fall far short of the realities
that actually e3isted in the past 5alpas through which the
universe has gone/ That word of warning is necessary,
and also the warning that on the higher planes things
loo5 very different from what they loo5 down here/ 6ou
have here a reflection only of part of those higher forms
of e3istence/ Space there has more dimensions than it
has on the physical plane, and each dimension of space
adds a new fundamental variety to form7 if to illustrate
this + may use a simile + have often used, it may perhaps
convey to you a little idea of what + mean/ Two similes +
will ta5e each throwing a little light on a very difficult
su2ect Suppose that a picture is presented to you of a
solid form7 the picture, eing made y pen or pencil on a
sheet of paper, must show on the sheet, which is
practically of two dimensions 1 a plane surface 1 a
three dimensional form7 so that if you want to represent a
solid o2ect, a vase, you must draw it flat, and you can
only represent the solidity of that vase y resorting to
certain devices of light and shade, to the artificial device
which is called perspective, in order to ma5e an illusory
semlance of the third dimension/ There on the plane
surface you get a solid appearance, and the eye is
deceived into thin5ing it sees a solid when really it is
loo5ing at a flat surface/ 'ow as a matter of fact if you
show a picture to a savage, an undeveloped savage, or
to a very young child, they will not see a solid ut only a
flat They will not recognise the picture as eing the
picture of a solid o2ect they have seen in the world
round them7 they will not see that that artificial
representation is meant to show a familiar solid, and it
passes y them without ma5ing any impression on the
mind7 only the education of the eye enales you to see
on a flat surface the picture of a solid form/ 'ow, y an
effort of the imagination, can you thin5 of a solid as eing
the representation of a form in one dimension more,
shown y a 5ind of perspective: Then you may get a
vague idea of what is meant when we spea5 of a further
dimension in space/ As the picture is to the vase, so is
the vase to a higher o2ect of which that vase itself is a
reflection/ So again if you thin5, say, of the lotus flower +
spo5e of yesterday, as having 2ust the tips of its leaves
aove water, each tip would appear as a separate o2ect/
+f you 5now the whole you 5now that they are all parts of
one o2ect7 ut coming over the surface of the water you
will see tips only, one for each leaf of the seven-leaved
lotus/ So is every gloe in space an apparently separate
o2ect, while in reality it is not separated at all, ut part of
a whole that e3ists in a space of more dimensions7 and
the separateness is mere illusion due to the limitations of
our faculties/
@(/ 'ow + have made this introduction in
order to show you that when you read the <uranas you
consistently get the fact on the higher plane descried in
terms of the lower, with the result that it seems
unintelligile, seems incomprehensile7 then you have
what is called an allegory, that is, a reality which loo5s
li5e a fancy down here, ut is a deeper truth than the
illusion of physical matter, and is nearer to the reality of
things than the things which you call o2ective and real/ +f
you follow that line of thought at all you will read the
<uranas with more intelligence and certainly with more
reverence than some of the modern 8indus are apt to
show in the reading, and you will egin to understand
that when another vision is opened one sees things
differently from the way that one sees them on the
physical plane, and that that which seems impossile on
the physical is what is really seen when you pass eyond
the physical limitations/
@)/ From the <uranas then the stories
@@/ Let me ta5e the first three Avataras
apart from the remainder, for a reason that you will
readily understand as we go through them/ %e ta5e the
Avatara which is spo5en of as that of Matsya or the fish7
that which is spo5en of as that of *urma or the tortoise7
that which is spo5en of as that of Faraha, or the oar/
Three animal forms7 how strangeH thin5s the modern
graduate/ 8ow strange that the Supreme should ta5e the
forms of these lower animals, a fish, a tortoise, a oarH
%hat childish follyH >The aling of a race in its infancy>,
it is said y the pandits of the %estern world/ Do not e
so sure/ %hy this wonderful conceit as to the human
form: %hy should you and + e the only worthy vessels
of the Deity that have come out of the illimitale Mind in
the course of ages: %hat is there in this particular shape
of head, arms, and trun5 which shall ma5e it the only
worthy vessel to serve as a manifestation of the supreme
+shvara: + 5now of nothing so wonderful in the mere
outer form that should ma5e that shape alone worthy to
represent some of the aspects of the 8ighest/ And may it
not e that from 8is standpoint those great differences
that we see etween ourselves and those which we call
the lower forms of life may e almost imperceptile,
since 8e transcends them all: A little child sees an
immense difference etween himself of perhaps two and
a half feet high and a ay only a foot and a half high,
and thin5s himself a man compared with that tiny form
rolling on the ground and unale to wal5/ But to the
grown man there is not so much difference etween the
length of the two, and one seems very much li5e the
other/ %hile we are very small we see great differences
etween ourselves and others7 ut on the mountain top
the hovel and the palace do not differ so very much in
height/ They all loo5 li5e anthills, very much of the same
si4e/ And so from the standpoint of +shvara, in the vast
hierarchies from the mineral to the loftiest Deva, the
distinctions are ut as ant-hills in comparison with
8imself, and one form or another is e=ually worthy, so
that it suits 8is purpose, and manifests 8is will/
@B/ 'ow for the Matsya Avatara7 the story
you will all 5now0 when the great Manu, Faivasvata
Manu, the ,oot Manu, as we call 8im 1 that is, a Manu
not of one race only, ut of a whole vast round of 5osmic
evolution, presiding over the seven gloes that are lin5ed
for the evolution of the world 1 that mighty Manu, sitting
one day immersed in contemplation, sees a tiny fish
gasping for water7 and moved y compassion, as all
great ones are, 8e ta5es up the little fish and puts it in a
owl, and the fish grows till it fills the owl7 and 8e
placed it in a water vessel and it grew to the si4e of the
vessel7 then 8e too5 it out of that vessel and put it into a
igger one7 afterwards into a tan5, a pond, a river, the
sea, and still the marvellous fish grew and grew and
grew/ The time came when a vast change was
impending7 one of those changes called a minor pralaya,
and it was necessary that the seeds of life should e
carried over that pralaya to the ne3t manvantara/ That
would e a minor pralaya and a minor manvantara/ %hat
does that mean: +t means a passage of the seeds of life
from one gloe to another7 from what we call the gloe
preceding our own to our own earth/ +t is the function of
the ,oot Manu, with the help and the guidance of the
planetary Logos, to transfer the seeds of life from one
gloe to the ne3t, so as to plant them in a new soil where
further growth is possile/ As waters rose, waters of
matter sumerging the gloe which was passing into
pralaya, an ar5, a vessel appeared7 into this vessel
stepped the great ,ishi with others, and the seeds of life
were carried y Them, and as They go forth upon the
waters a mighty fish appears and to the horn of that fish
the vessel is fastened y a rope, and it conveys the
whole safely to the solid ground where the Manu
reegins 8is wor5/ A storyH yes, ut a story that tells a
truth7 for loo5ing at it as it ta5es place in the history of the
world, we see the vast surging ocean of matter, we see
the ,oot Manu and the great +nitiates with 8im gathering
up the seeds of life from the world whose wor5 is over,
carrying them under the guidance and with the help of
the planetary Fishnu to the new gloe where new
impulse is to e given to the life7 and the reason why the
fish form was chosen was simply ecause in the uilding
up again of the world, it was at first covered with water,
and only that form of life was originally possile, so far as
denser physical life was concerned/
@A/ 6ou have in that first stage what the
geologists call the Silurian Age, the age of fishes, when
the great divine manifestation was of all these forms of
life/ The <urana rightly starts in the previous *alpa,
rightly starts the manifestations with the manifestation in
the form of the fish/ 'ot so very ridiculous after all, you
see, when read y 5nowledge instead of y ignorance7 a
truth, as the <uranas are full of truth, if they were only
read with intelligence and not with pre2udice/
@"/ But some of you may say that there is
confusion aout these first Avataras7 in several accounts
we find that the Boar stands the first7 that is true, ut the
5ey of it is this7 the Boar Avatara initiated that evolution
which was followed unro5enly y the human7 whereas
the other two ring in great stages, each of which is
regarded as a separate 5alpa7 and if you loo5 into the
Fishnu <urana you will find there the 5ey7 for when that
egins to relate the incarnation of the Boar, there is 2ust a
sentence thrown in, that the Matsya and *urma Avataras
elong to previous 5alpas/
@#/ 'ow if we ta5e the theosophical
nomenclature, we find each of these 5alpas covers what
we call a ,oot ,ace, and you may rememer that the
first ,oot ,ace of humanity had not human form at all ut
was simply a floating mass ale to live in the waters
which then covered the earth, and only showing the
ordinary protoplasmic motions connected with such a
type of life and possile at that stage of its evolution/ +t
was a seed of form rather than a form itself7 it was the
seed planted y the Manu in the waters of the earth, that
out of that humanity might evolve/ But the general course
of physical evolution passed through the stage of the
fish7 and geology there gives a true fact, though it does
not understand, naturally, the hidden meaning7 while the
<urana gives you the reality of the manifestation, and the
deeper truth that underlies the stages of the evolving
BG/ Then we find, tracing it onward, that
this great age passes, and the world egins to rise out of
the waters/ 8ow then shall types e rought forth in
order that evolution may go on: The ne3t great type is to
e fitted either for land or for water7 for the ne3t stage of
the earth shows the waters draining gradually away, and
the land appearing, and the creatures that are the
mar5ed characteristic of the age must e3ist partially on
land and partially in water/ 8ere again there must e
manifestation of the type of life, this time of what we call
the reptile type7 the tortoise is chosen as the typical
creature, and while the tortoise typifies the type to e
evolved, reptiles, amphiious creatures of every
description, swarm over the earth, ecoming more and
more land-li5e in their character as the proportion of land
to water increases/ There is meanwhile going on, in the
>imperishale sacred land>, a preparation for further
evolution/ There is one part of the gloe that changes
not, that from the eginning has een, and will last while
the gloe is lasting7 it is called the >imperishale land/>
And there the great ,ishis gather, and thence they ever
come forth for the helping of man7 that is the
imperishale sacred land, sometimes called the >sacred
pole of the earth/> <ole itself e3ists not on the physical
plane ut on the higher, and its reflection coming
downwards ma5es, as it were, one spot which never
changes, ut is ever guarded from the profane tread of
ordinary men/ There too5 place a most instructive
phenomenon/ The type of the evolution then preceding,
the Tortoise, the Logos in that form, ma5es 8imself the
ase of the revolving a3is of evolution/ That is typified y
Mandara, the mountain which, placed on the tortoise, is
made to revolve y the hosts of Suras and Asuras, one
pulling at the head of the serpent, and the other at the tail
1 the positive and negative forces that + spo5e of
yesterday/ So the churning egins in matter, evolving
types of life/ The type is ever evolved efore the lower
manifestation, the type appears efore the copies of it
are orn in the lower world/ And how often have the
students of the great Teachers themselves seen the very
thing occur7 the churning of the waters of matter giving
forth all the types of the many sorts and species that are
generated in the lower world7 these are the archetypes,
as we call them, of classes and creatures, always
produced in preparation for the forward stretch of
evolution/ There came forth one y one the archetypes,
the elephant, the horse, the woman, and so on, one after
another, showing the trac5 along which evolution was to
go/ And first of all, Amrita, nectar of immortality, comes
forth, symol of the one life which passes through every
form 1 and that life appears aove the waters the ta5ing
of which is necessary in order that every form may live/
B!/ %e cannot delay on details7 + can only
trace hastily the outline, showing you how real is the truth
that underlies the story, and as that gradually goes on
and the types are ready, there comes the whelming of
the world under the waters, and the great continents
vanish for a time/
B&/ Then comes the third Avatara, the
Faraha/ 'o earth is to e seen7 the waters of the flood
have overwhelmed it/ The types that are to e produced
on earth are waiting in the higher region for place on
which to manifest/ 8ow shall the earth e rought up
from the waters which have overwhelmed it: 'ow once
again the great 8elper is needed, the 9od, the <rotector
of -volution/ Then in the form of a mighty Boar, whose
form filled the heaven, plunging down into the waters that
8e alone could separate, the 9reat ;ne descends/ 8e
rings up the earth from the lower region where it was
lying awaiting 8is coming7 and the land rises up again
from elow the surface of the flood, and the vast
Lemurian continent is the earth of that far-off age/ 8ere
science has a word to say, rightly enough, that on the
Lemurian continent were developed many types of life,
and there the mammals first made their appearance/
Kuite so7 that was e3actly what the sages taught
thousands upon thousands of years ago7 that when the
Boar, the great type of the mammal, plunged into the
waters to ring up the earth, then was started the
mammalian evolution, and the continent thus rescued
from the waters was crowded with the forms of the
mammalian 5ingdom/ Cust as the Fish had typified the
Silurian epoch, 2ust as the Tortoise had started on its way
the great amphiian evolution, so did the Boar, that
typical mammal, start the mammalian evolution, and we
come to the Lemurian continent with its wonderful variety
of forms of mammalian life/ 'ot so very ignorant after all,
you see, the ancient writingsH For men are only re-
discovering to-day what has een in the hands of the
followers of the ,ishis for thousands, tens of thousands
of years/
B(/ Then we come to a strange
incarnation on this Lemurian continent0 frightful conflicts
e3isted7 we are nearing what in the theosophical
nomenclature is the middle of the third ,ace, and man as
man will shortly appear with all the characteristics of his
nature/ 8e is not yet =uite come to irth7 strange forms
are seen, half human and half animal, wholly monstrous7
terrile struggles arise etween these monstrous forms
orn from the slime as it is said 1 from the remains of
former creations 1 and the newer and higher life in
which the future evolution is enshrined/ These forms are
represented in the <uranas as those of the race of
Daityas, who ruled the earth, who struggled against the
Deva manifestations, who con=uered the Devas from
time to time, who su2ected them, who ruled over earth
and heaven ali5e, ringing every thing under their sway/
6ou may read in the splendid stan4as of the Boo5 of
D4yan, as given us y 8/ </ B/, hints of that mighty
struggle of which the <uranas are so full, a struggle
which was as real as any struggle of later days, an
asolute historical fact that many of us have seen/ %e
are instructed over and over again of a frightful conflict of
forms, the forms of the past, monstrous in their strength
and in their outline, against whom the Sons of Light were
attling, against whom the great Lords of the Flame
came down/ ;ne of these conflicts, the greatest of all, is
given in the story of the Avatara 5nown as that of
'arasimha 1 the Man-Lion/ 6ou 5now the story7 what
8indu does not 5now the story of <rahlada: +n him we
have typified the dawning spirituality which is to show in
the higher races of Daityas as they pass on into definite
human evolution, and their form gives way that se3ual
man may e orn/ + need not dwell on that familiar story
of the devotee of Fishnu7 how his Daitya father strove to
5ill him ecause the name of 8ari was ever on his lips7
how he strove to slay him, with a sword, and the sword
fell ro5en from the nec5 of the child7 how then he tried
to poison him, and Fishnu appeared and ate first of the
poisoned rice, so that the oy might eat it with the name
of 8ari on his lips7 how his father strove to slay him y
the furious elephant, y the fang of the serpent, y
throwing him over a precipice, and y crushing him under
a stone/ But ever the cry of >8ari, 8ari>, rought
deliverance, for in the elephant, in the fang of the
serpent, in the precipice, and in the stone, 8ari was ever
present, and his devotee was safe in that presence0 how
finally when the father, challenging the omnipresence of
the Deity, pointed to the stone pillar and said in muc5ing
language0 >+s your 8ari also in the pillar:> >8ari, 8ari,>
cried the oy, and the pillar urst asunder, and the
mighty form came forth and slew the Daitya that douted,
in order that he might learn the omnipresence of the
Supreme/ A story: facts, not fiction7 truth, not
imagination7 and if you could loo5 ac5 to the time of
those struggles, there would seem to you nothing
strange or anormal in the story7 for you would see it
repeated with less vividness in the smaller struggles
where the Sons of the Fire were purging and redeeming
the earth, in order that the later human evolution might
ta5e place/
B)/ %e pass from those four Avataras,
every one of which comes within what is called the Satya
6uga of the earth 1 not of the race rememer, not the
smaller cycle, ut of the earth 1 the Satya 6uga of the
earth as a whole, when periods of time were of immense
length, and when progress was marvellously slow/ Then
we come to the ne3t age, that which we call the Treta
6uga, that which is, in the theosophical chronology 1
and + put the two together in order that students may e
ale to wor5 their way out in detail 1 the middle of the
third ,oot ,ace, when humanity receives the light from
aove, and when man as man egins to evolve/ 8ow is
that evolution mar5ed: By the coming of the Supreme in
human form, as Famana, the Dwarf/ The Dwarf: 6es7 for
man was as yet ut dwarf in the truly human stature,
although vast in outer appearance7 and 8e came as the
inner man, small, yet stronger than the outer form7
against him was Bali, the mighty, showing the outer form,
while Famana, the Dwarf, showed the man that should
e/ And when Bali had offered a great sacrifice, the
Dwarf as a rahmana came to eg/
B@/ +t is curious this =uestion of the caste
of the Avataras/ %hen we once come to the human
Avataras, They are mostly 5shattriyas, as you 5now, ut
in two cases They are rahmanas, and this is one of
them7 for 8e was going to eg, and 5shattriya might not
eg/ ;nly he to whom the earth?s wealth should e as
nothing, who should have no store of wealth to hold, to
whom gold and earth should e as one, only he may go
to eg/ 8e was an ancient rahmana, not a modern
BB/ 8e came with egging owl in hand,
to eg of the 5ing7 for of what use is sacrifice unless
something e given at the sacrifice: 'ow Bali was a
pious ruler, on the side of the evolution that was passing
away, and gladly gave a oon/ >Brahmana, ta5e thy
oon>, said he/ >Three steps of earth alone + as5 for>,
said the Dwarf/ ;f that little man surely three steps would
not cover much, and the great 5ing with his world-wide
dominion might well give three steps of earth to the short
and puny Dwarf/ But one step covered earth, and the
ne3t step covered s5y/ %here could the third step e
planted, where: so that the gift might e made complete/
'othing was left for Bali to give save himself7 nothing to
ma5e his gift complete - and his word might not e
ro5en 1 save his own ody/ So, recognising the Lord of
all, he threw himself efore 8im, and the third step,
planted on his ody, fulfilled the promise of the 5ing and
made him the ruler of the lower regions, of <atala/ Such
the story/ 8ow full of significance/ This inner man - so
small at that stage ut really so mighty, who was to rule
ali5e the earth and heaven - could for his third step find
no place to put his foot upon save his own lower nature7
he was to go forward and forward ever7 that is hinted in
the third step that was ta5en/ %hat a graphic picture of
the evolution that lay in front, the wondrous evolution that
now was to egin/
BA/ And + may 2ust remind you in passing
that there is one word in the ,ig Feda, which refers to
this very Avatara, that has een a source of endless
controversy and dispute as to its meaning7 there it is
B"/ Through all this world strode Fishnu7
thrice 8is foot 8e planted and the whole %as gathered in
8is footstep?s dust/ I+/ 33ii, !AJ D See also +/ cliv/, which
spea5s of 8is three steps, within which all living
creatures have their haitation7 the three steps are said
to e >the earth, the heavens, and all living creatures/>
8ere Bali is made the symol of all living things/E
B#/ That too is one of the >alings of
child humanity/> + 5now not what figure the greatest man
could use more poetical, more full of meaning, more
sulime in its imagery, than that the whole world was
gathered in the dust of the foot of the Supreme/ For what
is the world save the dust of 8is footsteps, and how
would it have any life save as 8is foot has touched it:
AG/ So we pass, still treading onwards in
the Treta 6uga, and we come to another manifestation
1 that of <arashurama7 a strange Avatara you may
thin5, and a partial Avatara, let me say, as we shall see
when we come to loo5 at 8is life and read the words that
are spo5en of 8im/ The 6uga had now gone far and the
5shattriya caste had risen and was ruling, mighty in its
power, great in its authority, the one warrior ruling caste,
and alasH ausing its power, as men will do when souls
are still eing trained, and are young for their
surroundings/ The 5shattriya caste aused its power,
uilt up in order that it might rule7 the duty of the ruler,
rememer, is essentially protection0 ut these used their
power not to protect, ut to plunder, not to help ut to
oppress/ A terrile lesson must e taught the ruling
caste, in order that it might learn, if possile, that the duty
of ruling was to protect and support and help, and not to
tyrannise and plunder/ The first great lesson was given to
the 5ings of the earth, the rulers of men, a lesson that
had to e repeated over and over again, and is not yet
completely learnt/ A divine manifestation came in order
that that lesson might e taught7 and the Teacher was
not a 5shattriya save y mother/ A strange story, that
story of the irth/ Food given to two 5shattriya women,
each of whom was to ear a son, the husand of one of
them a rahmana7 and the two women e3changed the
food, and that meant to ring forth a 5shattriya son was
ta5en y the woman with the rahmana husand/ An
accident, men would say7 there are no accidents in a
universe of law/ The food which was full of 5shattriya
energy thus went into the rahmana family, for it would
not have een fitting that a 5shattriya should destroy
5shattriyas/ The lesson would not thus have een so well
taught to the world/ So that we have the strange
phenomenon of the rahmana coming with an a3e to
slay the 5shattriya, and three times seven times that a3e
was raised in slaughter, cutting the 5shattriya trun5 off
from the surface of the earth/ But while <arashurama
was still in the ody, a greater Avatara came forth to
show what a 5shattriya 5ing should e/ The 5shattriyas
ausing their place and their power were swept away y
<arashurama, and, ere 8e had left the earth where the
itter lesson had een taught, the ideal 5shattriya came
down to teach, now y e3ample, the lesson of what
should e, after the lesson of what should not e had
een enforced/ The oy ,ama was orn, on whose
e3=uisite story we have not time long to dwell, the ideal
ruler, the utterly perfect 5ing/ %hile a oy 8e went forth
with the great teacher Fisvamitra, in order to protect the
6ogi?s sacrifice7 a oy, almost a child, ut ale to drive
away, as you rememer, the ,a5shasas that interfered
with the sacrifice, and then 8e and 8is eloved rother
La5shmana and the 6ogi went on to the court of 5ing
Cana5a/ And there, at the court, was a great ow, a ow
which had elonged to Mahadeva 8imself/ To end and
string that ow was the tas5 for the man who would wed
Sita, the child of marvellous irth, the maiden who had
sprung from the furrow as the plough went through the
earth, who had no physical father or physical mother/
%ho should wed the peerless maiden, the incarnation of
Shri, La5shmi, the consort of Fishnu: %ho should wed
8er save the Avatara of Fishnu 8imself: So the mighty
ow remained unstrung, for who might string it until the
oy ,ama came: And 8e ta5es it up with oyish
carelessness, and ends it so strongly that it rea5s in
half, the crash echoing through earth and s5y/ 8e weds
Sita, the eautiful, and goes forth with 8er, and with 8is
rother La5shmana and his ride, and with 8is father
who had come to the ridal, and with a vast procession,
wending their way ac5 to their own town Ayodhya/ This
rea5ing of Mahadeva?s ow has rung through earth, the
crashing of the ow has sha5en all the worlds, and all,
oth men and Devas, 5now that the ow has een
ro5en/ Among the devotees of Mahadeva,
<arashurama hears the clang of the ro5en ow, the
ow of the ;ne 8e worshipped7 and proud with the might
of 8is strength, still with the energy of Fishnu in 8im, 8e
goes forth to meet this insolent oy, who had dared to
rea5 the ow that no other arm could end/ 8e
challenges 8im, and handing 8is own ow ids 8im try
what 8e can do with that $an 8e shoot an arrow from its
string: ,ama ta5es this offered ow, strings it, and sets
an arrow on the string/ Then 8e stops, for in front of 8im
there is the ody of a rahmana7 shall 8e draw an arrow
against that form: As the two ,amas stand face to face,
the energy of the elder, it is written, passes into the
younger7 the energy of Fishnu, the energy of the
Supreme, leaves the form in which it had een dwelling
and enters the higher manifestation of the same divine
life/ The ow was stretched and the arrow waiting, ut
,ama would not shoot it forth lest harm should come,
until 8e had pacified 8is antagonist7 then feeling that
energy pass, <arashurama ows efore ,ama, diviner
than 8imself, hails 8im as the Supreme Lord of the
worlds, ends in reverence efore 8im, and then goes
away/ That Avatara was over, although the form in which
the energy had dwelt yet persisted/ That is why + said it
was a lesser Avatara/ %here you have the form
persisting when the influence is withdrawn, you have the
clear proof that there the incarnation cannot e said to e
complete7 the passing from the one to the other is the
sign of the energy ta5en ac5 y the 9iver and put into a
new vessel in which new wor5 is to e done/
A!/ The story of ,ama you 5now7 we
need not follow it further in detail7 we spo5e of it
yesterday in its highest aspect as comating the forces
of evil and starting the world, as it were, anew/ %e find
the great reign of ,ama lasting ten thousand years in the
Dvapara 6uga, the 6uga at the close of which Shri
*rishna came/
A&/ Then comes the Mighty ;ne, Shri
*rishna 8imself, of whom + spea5 not to-day7 we will try
to study that Avatara to-morrow with such insight and
reverence as we may possess/ <ass over that then for
the moment, leaving it for fuller study, and we come to
the ninth Avatara as it is called, that of the Lord Buddha/
'ow round this much controversy has raged, and a
theory e3ists current to some e3tent among the 8indus
that the Lord Buddha, though an incarnation of Fishnu,
came to lead astray those who did not elieve the Fedas,
came to spread confusion upon earth/ Fishnu is the Lord
of order, not of disorder7 the Lord of love, not the Lord of
hatred7 the Lord of compassion, who only slays to help
the life onward when the form has ecome an
ostruction/ And they laspheme who spea5 of an
incarnation of the Supreme, as coming to mislead the
world that 8e has made/ ,ightly did your own learned
pandit, T/ Sua ,ow, spea5 of that theory with the
disdain orn of 5nowledge7 for no one who has a shadow
of occult learning, no one who 5nows anything of the
inner realities of life, could thus spea5 of that eautiful
and gracious manifestation of the Supreme, or dream
that 8e could ta5e the mighty form of an Avatara in order
to mislead/
A(/ But there is another point to put aout
this Avatara, on which, perhaps, + may come into conflict
with people on another side/ For this is the difficulty of
5eeping the middle path, the ra4or path which goes
neither to the left nor to the right, along which the great
9urus lead us/ ;n either side you find o2ection to the
central teaching/ The Lord Buddha, in the ordinary sense
of the word, was not what we have defined as an
Avatara/ 8e was the first of our own humanity who
climed upwards to that point, and there merged in the
Logos and received full illumination/ 8is was not a ody
ta5en y the Logos for the purpose of revealing 8imself,
ut was the last in myriads of irths through which he
had climed to merge in +shvara at last That is not what
is normally spo5en of as an Avatara, though, you may
say, the result truly is the same/ But in the case of the
Avatara, the evolving irths are in previous 5alpas, and
the Avatara comes after the man has merged in the
Logos, and the ody is ta5en for the purpose of
revelation/ But he who ecame 9autama Buddha had
climed though irth after irth in our own 5alpa, as well
as in the 5alpas that went efore7 and he was incarnated
many a time when the great Fourth ,ace dwelt in mighty
Atlantis, and rose onward to ta5e the office of the
Buddha7 for the Buddha is the title of an office, not of a
particular man/ Finally y his own struggles, the very first
of our race, he was ale to reach that great function in
the world/ %hat is the function: That of the Teacher of
9ods and men/ The previous Buddhas had een
Buddhas who came from another planet 8umanity had
not lived long enough here to evolve its own son to that
height/ 9autama Buddha was human orn/ 8e had
evolved through the Fourth ,ace into this first family of
the Aryan ,ace, the 8indu/ By irth after irth in +ndia 8e
had completed 8is course and too5 8is final ody in
Aryavarta, to ma5e the proclamation of the law to men/
A)/ But the proclamation was not made
primarily for +ndia/ +t was given in +ndia ecause +ndia is
the place whence the great religious revelations go forth
y the will of the Supreme/ Therefore was 8e orn in
+ndia, ut 8is law was specially meant for nations eyond
the ounds of Aryavarta, that they might learn a pure
morality, a nole ethic, dis2oined 1 ecause of the
dar5ness of the age 1 from all the complicated
teachings which we find in connection with the sutle,
metaphysical 8indu faith/
A@/ 8ence you find in the teachings of the
Lord Buddha two great divisions7 one a philosophy
meant for the learned, then an ethic dis2oined from the
philosophy, so far as the masses are concerned, nole
and pure and great, yet easy to e grasped/ For the Lord
5new that we were going into an age of deeper and
deeper materialism, that other nations were going to
arise, that +ndia for a time was going to sin5 down for
other nations to rise aove her in the scale of nations/
8ence was it necessary to give a teaching of morality
fitted for a more materialistic age, so that even if nations
would not elieve in the 9ods they might still practise
morality and oey the teachings of the Lord/ +n order also
that this land might not suffer loss, in order that +ndia
itself might not lose its sutle metaphysical teachings
and the widespread elief among all classes of people in
the e3istence of the 9ods and their part in the affairs of
men, the wor5 of the great Lord Buddha was done/ 8e
left morality uilt upon a asis that could not e sha5en
y any change of faith, and, having done 8is wor5,
passed away/ Then was sent another great ;ne,
overshadowed y the power of Mahadeva, Shri
Shan5aracharya, in order that y 8is teaching 8e might
give, in the Advaita Fedanta, the philosophy which would
do intellectually what morally the Buddha had done,
which intellectually would guard spirituality and allow a
materialistic age to rea5 its teeth on the hard nut of a
flawless philosophy/ Thus in +ndia metaphysical religion
triumphed, while the teaching of the Blessed ;ne passed
from the +ndian soil, to do its nole wor5 in lands other
than the land of Aryavarta, which must 5eep unsha5en its
elief in the 9ods, and where highest and lowest ali5e
must ow efore their power/ That is the real truth aout
this much disputed =uestion as to the teaching of the
ninth Avatara7 the fact was that 8is teaching was not
meant for 8is irthplace, ut was meant for other
younger nations that were rising up around, who did not
follow the Fedas, ut who yet needed instruction in the
path of righteousness7 not to mislead them ut to guide
them, was 8is teaching given/ But, as + say, and as +
repeat, what in it might have done harm in +ndia had it
een left alone was prevented y the coming of the great
Teacher of the Advaita/ 6ou must rememer, that 8is
name has een worn y man after man, through century
after century7 ut the Shri Shan5aracharya on whom was
the power of Mahadeva was orn ut a few years after
the passing away of the Buddha, as the records of the
Dwara5a Math show plainly - giving date after date
ac5ward, until they ring 8is irth within BG or AG years
of the passing away of the Buddha/
AB/ %e come to the tenth Avatara, the
future one, the *al5i/ ;f that ut little may e said7 ut
one or two hints perchance may e given/ %ith 8is
coming will dawn a righter age7 with 8is coming the *ali
6uga will pass away7 with 8is coming will also come a
higher race of men/ 8e will come when there is orn
upon earth the si3th ,oot ,ace/ There will then e a
great change in the world, a great manifestation of truth,
of occult truth, and when 8e comes then occultism will
again e ale to show itself to the world y proofs that
none will e ale to challenge or to deny7 and 8e in 8is
coming will give the rule over the si3th ,oot ,ace to the
two *ings, of whom you read in the *al5i <urana/ As we
loo5 ac5 down the past stream of time we find over and
over again two great figures standing side y side 1 the
ideal *ing and the ideal <riest/ They wor5 together7 the
one rules, the other teaches7 the one governs the nation,
the other instructs it And such a pair of mighty ones
come down in every age for each and every ,ace/ -ach
,ace has its own Teacher, the ideal rahmana, called in
the Buddhist language the Bodhisattva, the learned, full
of wisdom and truth/ -ach has also its own ruler, the
Manu/ Those two we can trace in the past, in Their actual
incarnations7 and we see Them in the third, the fourth,
and fifth ,aces7 the Manu in each race is the ideal *ing,
the Brahmana in each race is the ideal Teacher7 and we
learn that when the *al5i Avatara shall come 8e shall
call from the sacred village of Shamalla 1 the village
5nown to the occultist though not to the profane 1 two
*ings who have remained throughout the age in order to
help the world in its evolution/ And the name of the Manu
who will e the *ing of the ne3t ,ace, is said in the
<urana to e Moru7 and the name of the ideal rahmana
who will e the Teacher of the ne3t ,ace is said to e
Devapi7 and these two are *ing and Teacher for the si3th
,ace that is to e orn/
AA/ Those of you who have read
something of the wondrous story of the past will 5now
that the choosing out of the new ,ace, the evolving of it,
the ma5ing of a new ,oot ,ace, is a thing that ta5es
centuries, milleniums, sometimes hundreds of thousands
of years7 and that the two who are to e its *ing and
<riest, the Manu and the Brahmana, are at Their wor5
throughout the centuries, choosing the men who may e
the seeds of the new ,ace/ +n the wom of the fourth
,ace a choice was made out of which the fifth was orn7
isolated in the 9oi desert, for enormous periods of time,
that chosen family was trained, educated, reared, till its
Manu incarnated in it, and its Teacher also incarnated in
it, and the first Aryan family was led forth to settle in
Aryavarta/ 'ow in the wom of the fifth ,ace, the si3th
,ace is a choosing, and the *ing and the Teacher of the
si3th ,ace are already at Their mighty and eneficent
wor5/ They are choosing one y one, trying and testing,
those who shall form the nucleus of the si3th ,ace7 They
are ta5ing soul y soul, su2ecting each to many a test,
to many an ordeal, to see if there e the strength out of
which a new ,ace can spring7 and in fulness of time
when Their wor5 is ready, then will come the *al5i
Avatara, to sweep away the dar5ness, to send the *ali
6uga into the past, to proclaim the irth of the new Satya
6uga, with a new and more spiritual ,ace, that is to live
therein/ Then will 8e call out the chosen, the *ing Moru
and the Brahmana Devapi, and give into Their hands the
,ace that now They are uilding, the ,ace to inhait a
fairer world, to carry onwards the evolution of humanity/
A#/ Shr #rshna

"G/ My rothers, there are themes so lofty
that tongue of Deva would not suffice to do full 2ustice to
that which they enclose, and when we thin5 of the music
of Shri *rishna?s flute, all human music seems as discord
amidst its strains/ 'evertheless since ha5ti grows y
thought and word, it is not amiss that we should come
near a su2ect so sacred7 only in dealing with it we must
needs feel our incompetency, we must needs regret our
limitations, we must needs wish for greater power of
e3pression than we can have down here/ For, perhaps,
amid all the divine manifestations that have glorified the
world, there is none which has aroused a wider, tenderer
feeling than the Avatara which we are to study this
"!/ The austerer glories of Mahadeva, the
Lord of the urning ground, attract more the hearts of
those who are weary of the world and who see the futility
of worldly attractions7 ut Shri *rishna is the 9od of the
household, the 9od of family life, the 9od whose
manifestations attract in every phase of 8is Self-
revelation7 8e is human to the very core7 orn in
humanity, as 8e has said, 8e acts as a man/ As a child,
8e is a real child, full of playfulness, of fun, of winsome
grace/ 9rowing up into oyhood, into manhood, 8e
e3ercises the same human fascination over the hearts of
men, of women, and of children7 the 9od in whose
presence there is always 2oy, the 9od in whose presence
there is continual laughter and music/ %hen we thin5 of
Shri *rishna we seem to hear the ripple of the river, the
rustling of the leaves in the forest, the lowing of the 5ine
in the pasture, the laughter of happy children playing
round their parents? 5nees/ 8e is so fundamentally the
9od who is human in everything7 who ends in human
sympathy over the cradle of the ae, who sympathises
with the play of the youth, who is the friend of the lover,
the lesser of the ridegroom and the ride, who smiles
on the young mother when her first-orn lies in her arms
1 everywhere the 9od of love and of human happiness7
what wonder that 8is winsome grace has fascinated the
hearts of menH
"&/ %e are to study 8im, then, this
morning/ 'ow an Avatara 1 + say this to clear away
some preliminary difficulties 1 an Avatara has two great
aspects to the world/ First, 8e is a historical fact Do not
let that e forgotten/ %hen you are reading the story of
the great ;nes, you are reading history and not fale/
But it is more than history7 the Avataras acts out on the
stage of the world a mighty drama/ 8e is, as it were, a
player on the world?s of Shri *rishna, and the vast range
that 8e covered as regards 8is manifestations of
comple3 human life, in order to render the vast su2ect a
little more manageale, + have divided this drama, as it
were, into its separate acts/ + am using for a moment the
language of the stage, for + thin5 it will ma5e my meaning
rather more clear/ That is, in dealing with 8is life, + have
ta5en its stages which are clearly mar5ed out, and in
each of these we shall see one great type of the teaching
which the world is meant to learn from the playing of this
drama efore the eyes of men/ To some e3tent the
stages correspond with mar5ed periods in the life, and to
some e3tent they overlap each other7 ut y having them
clearly in our minds we shall e ale, + thin5, to grasp
etter the whole o2ect of the Avatara 1 we shall have
as it were compartments in the mind in which the
different types of teaching may e placed/
"(/ First then 8e comes to show forth to
the world a great ;2ect of ha5ti, and the love of 9od to
8is ha5ta, or devotee/ That is the aim of the first act of
the great drama 1 to stand forth as the ;2ect of
devotion, and to show forth the love with which 9od
regards 8is devotees/ %e have there a mar5ed stage in
the life of Shri *rishna/
")/ Then the second act of the drama
may e said to e 8is character as the destroyer of the
opposing forces that retard evolution, and that runs
through the whole of 8is life/
"@/ The third act is that of the statesman,
the wise, politic, and intellectual actor on the world?s
stage of history, the guiding force of the nation y 8is
wondrous policy and intelligence, standing forth not as
5ing ut rather as statesman/
"B/ Then we have 8im as friend, the
human friend, especially of the <andavas and of Ar2una/
"A/ The ne3t act is that of Shri *rishna as
Teacher, the world-teacher, not the teacher of one race
""/ Then we see 8im in the strange and
wondrous aspect of the Searcher of the hearts of men,
the trier and tester of human nature/
"#/ Finally, we may regard 8im in 8is
manifestation as the Supreme, the all-pervading life of
the universe, who loo5s on nothing as outside 8imself,
who emraces in 8is arms evil and good, dar5ness and
light, nothing alien to 8imself/
#G/ +nto these seven acts, as it were, the
life-history may e divided, and each of them might serve
as the study of a life-time instead of our compressing
them into the lecture of a morning/ %e will, however,
ta5e them in turn, however inade=uately7 for the hints +
give can e wor5ed out y you in detail according to the
constitution of your own minds/ ;ne aspect will attract
one man, another aspect will attract another7 all the
aspects are worthy of study, all are provocative of
devotion/ But most of all, with regard to devotion, is the
earliest stage of 8is life inspiring and full of enediction,
those early years of the Lord as infant, as child, as young
oy, when 8e is dwelling in Fra2a, in the forest of
Brindaan, when 8e is living with the cowherds and their
wives and their children, the marvellous child who stole
the hearts of men/ +t is noticeale 1 and if it had een
rememered many a lasphemy would not have een
uttered 1 that Shri *rishna chose to show 8imself as the
great o2ect of devotion, as the lover of the devotee, in
the form of a child, not in that of a man/
#!/ $ome then with me to the time of 8is
irth, rememering that efore that irth too5 place upon
earth, the deities had een to Fishnu in the higher
regions, and had as5ed 8im to interfere in order that
earth might e lightened of her load, that the oppression
of the incarnate Daityas might e stayed7 and then
Fishnu said to the 9ods0 9o ye and incarnate yourselves
in portions among men, go ye and ta5e irth amid
humanity/ 9reat ,ishis also too5 irth in the place where
Fishnu 8imself was to e orn, so that ere 8e came, the
surroundings of the drama were, as it were, made in the
place of 8is coming, and those that we spea5 of as the
cowherds of Fra2a, 'anda and those around 8im, the
9opis and all the inhaitants of that wondrously lessed
spot, were, we are told, >9od-li5e persons>7 nay more,
they were >the <rotectors of the worlds> who were orn
as men for the progress of the world/ But that means that
the 9ods themselves had come down and ta5en irth as
men7 and when you thin5 of all that too5 place throughout
the wonderful childhood of the Lila D<lay E of Shri *rishna,
you must rememer that those who played that act of the
drama were no ordinary men, no ordinary women7 they
were the <rotectors of the worlds incarnated as
cowherds round 8im/ And the 9opis, the graceful wives
of the shepherds, they were the ,ishis of ancient days,
who y devotion to Fishnu had gained the lessing of
eing incarnated as 9opis, in order that they might
surround 8is childhood, and pour out their love at the tiny
feet of the oy they saw as oy, of the 9od they
worshipped as supreme/
#&/ %hen all these preparations were
made for the coming of the child, the child was orn/ + am
not dwelling on all the well-5nown incidents that
surrounded 8is irth, the prophecy that the destroyer of
*ansa was to e orn, the futile shutting up in the
dungeon, the chaining with irons, and all the other follies
with which the earthly tyrant strove to ma5e impossile of
accomplishment the decree of the Supreme/ 6ou all
5now how his plans came to nothing, as the mounds of
sand raised y the hands of children are swept into a
level plain when one wave of the sea ripples over the
playground of the child/ 8e was orn, orn in 8is four-
armed form, shining out for the moment in the dungeon,
which efore 8is irth had een irradiated y 8im
through 8is mother?s ody, who was said to e li5e an
alaaster vase 1 so pure was she 1 with a flame within
it/ For the Lord Shri *rishna was within her wom, herself
the alaaster vase which was as a lamp containing 8im,
the world?s light, so that the glory illuminated the
dar5ness of the dungeon where she lay/ At 8is irth he
came as Fishnu, for the moment showing 8imself with all
the signs of the Deity on 8im, with the discus, with the
conch, with the shrivatsa on 8is reast, with all the
recognised emlems of the Lord/ But that form =uic5ly
vanished, and only the human child lay efore 8is
parents? eyes/ And the father, you rememer, ta5ing 8im
up, passed through the great loc5ed doors and all the
rest of it, and carried 8im in safety into his rother?s
house, where 8e was to dwell in the place prepared for
8is coming/
#(/ As a ae 8e showed forth the power
that was in 8im, as we shall see, when we come to the
second stage, the destroyer of the forces of evil/ But for
the moment only watch 8im as 8e plays in his foster
mother?s house, as 8e gamols with children of 8is own
age/ And as 8e is growing into a oy, ale to go alone,
8e egins wandering through the fields and through the
forest, and the notes of 8is wondrous flute are heard in
all the groves and over all the plains/ The child, a child of
five 1 only five years of age when 8e wandered with 8is
magic flute in 8is hands, charming the hearts of all that
heard7 so that the oys left tending the cattle and
followed the music of the flute7 the women left their
household tas5s and followed where the flute was
playing7 the men ceased their laours that they might
feast their ears on the music of the flute/ 'ay, not only
the men, the women and the children, ut the cows, it is
said, stopped their gra4ing to listen as the notes fell on
their ears, and the calves ceased suc5ling as the music
came to them on the wind, and the river rippled up that it
might hear the etter, and the trees owed down their
ranches that they might not lose a note, and the irds
no longer sang lest their music should ma5e discord in
the melody, as the wondrous child wandered over the
country, and the music of heaven flowed from 8is magic
#)/ And thus 8e lived and played and
sported, and the hearts of all the cowherds and of their
wives and daughters went out to that marvellous child/
And 8e played with them and loved them, and they
would ta5e 8im up and place 8is ay feet on their
osoms, and would sing to 8im as the Lord of all, the
Supreme, the mighty ;ne/ They recognised the Deity in
the child that played round their homes, and many
lessons 8e taught them, this child, amid 8is gamols
and 8is pran5s 1 lessons that still teach the world, and
that those who 5now most understand est/
#@/ Let me ta5e one instance which
ignorant lips have used most in order to insult, to try to
defame the ma2esty that they do not understand/ But let
me say this0 that + elieve that in most cases where these
itter insults are uttered, they are uttered y people who
have never really read the story, and who have heard
only its of it and have supplied the rest out of their own
imaginations/ + therefore ta5e a particular incident which +
have heard most spo5en of with itterness as a proof of
the frightful immorality of Shri *rishna/
#B/ %hile the child of si3 was one day
wandering along, as 8e would, a numer of the 9opis
were athing nude in the river, having cast aside their
cloths 1 as they should not have done, that eing
against the law and showing carelessness of womanly
modesty/ Leaving their garments on the an5 they had
plunged into the river/ The child of si3 saw this with the
eye of insight, and 8e gathered up their cloths and
climed up a tree near y, carrying them with 8im, and
threw them round 8is own shoulders and waited to see
what would chance/ The water was itterly cold and the
9opis were shivering7 ut they did not li5e to come out of
it efore the clear steady eyes of the child/ And 8e called
them to come and get the garments they had thrown off7
and as they hesitated, the ay lips told them that they
had sinned against 9od y immodestly casting aside the
garments that should have een worn, and must
therefore e3piate their sin y coming and ta5ing from 8is
hands that which they had cast aside/ They came and
worshipped, and 8e gave them ac5 their roes/ An
immoral story, with a child of si3 as the central figureH +t is
spo5en of as though he were a full grown man, insulting
the modesty of women/ The 9opis were ,ishis, and the
Lord, the Supreme, as a ae is teaching them a lesson/
But there is more than that7 there is a profound occult
lesson elow the story 1 a story repeated over and over
again in different forms 1 and it is this0 that when the
soul is approaching the supreme Lord at one great stage
of initiation, it has to pass through a great ordeal7
stripped of everything on which it has hitherto relied,
stripped of everything that is not of its inner Self,
deprived of all e3ternal aid, of all e3ternal protection, of
all e3ternal covering, the soul itself, in its own inherent
life, must stand na5ed and alone with nothing to rely on,
save the life of the Self within it +f it flinches efore the
ordeal, if it clings to anything to which hitherto it has
loo5ed for help, if in that supreme hour it cries out for
friend or helper, nay even for the 9uru himself, the soul
fails in that ordeal/ 'a5ed and alone it must go forth, with
asolutely none to aid it save the divinity within itself/
And it is that na5edness of the soul as it approaches the
supreme goal, that is told of in that story of Shri *rishna,
the child, and the 9opis, the na5edness of life efore the
;ne who gave it 6ou find many another similar allegory/
%hen the Lord comes in the *al5i, the tenth, Avatara, 8e
fights on the attlefield and is overcome/ 8e uses all 8is
weapons7 every weapon fails 8im7 and it is not till 8e
casts every weapon aside and fights with 8is na5ed
hands, that 8e con=uers/ -3actly the same idea/
+ntellect, everything, fails the na5ed soul efore 9od/D So
in the >+mitation of $hrist>, the wor5 of an occultist, it is
written that we must >na5ed follow the na5ed Cesus/> E
#A/ +f + have ta5en up this story specially,
out of hundreds of stories, to dwell upon, it is ecause it
is one of the points of attac5, and ecause you who are
8indus y irth ought to 5now enough of the inner truths
of your own religion not to stand silent and ashamed
when attac5s are made, ut should spea5 with
5nowledge and thus prevent such lasphemies/
#"/ Then we learn more details of 8is
play with the 9opis as a child of seven0 how 8e
wandered into the forest and disappeared and all went
after 8im see5ing 8im7 how they tried to imitate 8is own
play, in order to fill up the void that was left y 8is
asence/ The child of seven, that 8e was at this time,
disappeared for a while, ut came ac5 to those who
loved 8im, as 9od ever does with 8is ha5tas/ And then
ta5es place that wondrous dance, the ,asa DDance E of
Shri *rishna, part of 8is Lila, when 8e multiplied 8imself
so that every pair of 9opis found 8im standing etween
them7 amid the ring of women the child was there
etween each pair of them, giving a hand to each7 and
so the mystic dance was danced/ This is another of
these points of attac5 which are made y ignorant minds/
%hat ut an unclean mind can see aught that is impure
in the child dancing there as lover and eloved: +t is as
though 8e loo5ed forward down the ages, and saw what
later would e said, and it is as though 8e 5ept the child
form in the Lila, in order that 8e might reathe
harmlessly into men?s lind unclean hearts the lesson
that 8e would fain give/ And what was the lesson: ;ne
other incident + remind you of, efore + draw the lesson
from the whole of this stage of 8is life/ 8e sent for food/
8e who is the Feeder of the worlds, and some of 8is
rahmanas refused to give it, and sent away the oys
who came to as5 for food for 8im7 and when the men
refused/ 8e sent them ac5 to the women, to see if they
too would refuse the food their husands had declined to
give/ And the women 1 who have ever loved the Lord 1
caught up the food from every part of their houses where
they could find it and went out, crowds of them, earing
food for 8im, leaving house, and husand, and
household duties/ And all tried to stop them, ut they
would not e stopped7 and rothers and husands and
friends tried to hold them ac5, ut no, they must go to
8im, to their Lover, Shri *rishna7 8e must not e hungry,
the child of their love/ And so they went and gave 8im
food and 8e ate/ But they say0 They left their husandsH
they left their homesH how wrong to leave husands and
homes and follow after Shri *rishnaH The implication
always is that their love was purely physical love, as
though that were possile with a child of seven/ + 5now
that words of physical love are used, and + 5now it is said
in a curious translation that >they came under the spell of
$upid/> +t matters not for the words, let us loo5 at the
facts/ There is not a religion in the world that has not
taught that when the Supreme calls, all else must e cast
aside/ + have seen Shri *rishna contrasted with Cesus of
'a4areth to the detriment of Shri *rishna, and a contrast
is drawn etween the purity of the one and the impurity
of the other7 the proof given was that the husands were
left while the wives went to play with and wait on the
Lord/ But + have read words that came from the lips of
Cesus of 'a4areth7 >8e that loveth father or mother more
than me, is not worthy of me7 and he that loveth son or
daughter more than me is not worthy of me/> >And every
one that hath forsa5en houses, or rethren, or sisters, or
father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my
name?s sa5e, shall receive an hundred fold, and shall
inherit everlasting life/> IMatt 3/ (A, and 3i3/ &#/J And
again, yet more strongly0 >+f any man come to me and
hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children,
and rethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he
cannot e my disciple/> ILu5e 3iv/ &B/J That is e3actly the
same idea/ %hen Cesus calls, husand and wife, father
and mother, must e forsa5en, and the reward will e
eternal life/ %hy is that right when done for Cesus, which
is wrong when done for Shri *rishna:
##/ +t is not only that you find the same
teaching in oth religions7 ut in every other religion of
the world the terms of physical love are used to descrie
the relation etween the soul and 9od/ Ta5e the >Song
of Solomon>/ +f you ta5e the $hristian Bile and read the
margin you will see >The Love of $hrist for 8is $hurch>7
and if from the margin you loo5 down the column, you
will find the most passionate of love songs, a description
of the e3=uisite female form in all the details of its
attractive eauty7 the cry of the lover to the eloved to
come to him that they might ta5e their fill of love/ >$hrist
and 8is $hurch> is supposed to ma5e it all right, and +
am content that it should e so/ + have no word to say
against the >Song of Solomon>, nor any complaint
against its gorgeous and lu3uriant imagery7 ut + refuse
to ta5e from the 8erew as pure, what + am to refuse
from the 8indu as impure/ + as5 that all may e 2udged y
the same standard, and that if one e condemned the
same condemnation may e levelled against the other/
So also in the songs of the Sufis, the mystics of the faith
of +slam, woman?s love is ever used as the est symol
of love etween the soul and 9od/ +n all ages the love
etween husand and wife has een the symol of union
etween the Supreme and 8is devotees7 the closest of
all earthly ties, the most intimate of all earthly unions, the
merging of heart and ody of twain into one 1 where will
you find a etter image of the merging of the soul in its
9od: -ver has the o2ect of devotion een symolised
as the lover or husand, ever the devotee as wife or
mistress/ This symology is universal, ecause it is
fundamentally true/ The asolute surrender of the wife to
the husand is the type upon earth of the asolute
surrender of the soul to 9od/ That is the 2ustification of
the ,asa of Shri *rishna7 that is the e3planation of the
story of 8is life in Fra2a/
!GG/ + have dwelt specially on this, my
rothers, you all 5now why/ Let us pass from it,
rememering that till the nineteenth century this story
provo5ed only devotion not rialdry, and it is only with the
coming in of the grosser type of western thought that you
have these ideas put into the Bhagavad-<urana/ + would
to 9od that the ,ishis had ta5en away the Shrimad
Bhagavata from a race that is unworthy to have it7 that as
They have already withdrawn the greater part of the
Fedas, the greater part of the ancient oo5s, they would
ta5e away also this story of the love of Shri *rishna, until
men are pure enough to read it without lasphemy and
clean enough to read it without ideas of se3uality/
!G!/ <ass from this to the ne3t great stage,
that of the Destroyer of evil, shortly, very shortly/ From
the time when as a ae ut a few wee5s old 8e suc5ed
to death the ,a5shasi, <utana7 from the time 8e entered
the great cave made y the demon, and e3panding
8imself shivered the whole into fragments7 from the time
8e trampled on the head of the serpent *aliya so that it
might not poison the water needed for the drin5ing of the
people7 until 8e left Fra2a to meet *ansa, we find 8im
ever chasing away every form of evil that came within the
limits of 8is aode/ %e are told that when 8e had left
Fra2a and stood in the tournament field of *ansa with 8is
rother, 8is rother and 8imself were mere oys, in the
tender delicate odies of youths/ After the whole of the
Lila was over They were still children, when They went
forth to fight/ From that time onwards 8e met, one after
another, the great incarnations of evil and crushed them
with 8is resistless strength0 we need not dwell on these
stories, for they fill 8is life/
!G&/ %e come to the third stage of
Statesman, a marvellously interesting feature in 8is life
1 the tact, the delicacy, the foresight, the s5ill in always
putting the man opposed to 8im in the wrong, and so
winning 8is way and carrying others with 8im/ As you
5now, this part of 8is life is played out especially in
connection with the <andavas/ 8e is the one who in
every difficulty steps forward as amassador7 it is 8e
who goes with Ar2una and Bhima to slay the giant 5ing
Carasandha, who was going to ma5e a human sacrifice
to Mahadeva, a sacrifice that was put a stop to as
lasphemous7 it was 8e who went with them in order that
the conflict might ta5e place without transgressing the
strictest rules of 5shattriya morality/ Follow 8im as 8e
and Ar2una and his rother enter into the city of the 5ing/
They will not come y the open gate, that is the pathway
of the friend/ They rea5 down a portion of the wall as a
sign that they come as foes/ They will not go
undecorated7 and challenged why they wore flowers and
sandal the answer is that they come for the celeration of
a triumph, the fulfilling of a vow/ ;ffered food, the answer
of the great amassador is that they will not ta5e food
then, that they will meet the 5ing later and e3plain their
purpose/ %hen the time arrives 8e tells him in the most
courteous ut the clearest language that all these acts
have een performed that he may 5now that they had
come not as friends ut as foes to challenge him to
attle/ So again when the =uestion arises, after the
thirteen years of e3ile, how shall the land e won ac5
without struggle, without fight, you see 8im standing in
the assemly of <andavas and their friends with the
wisest counsel how perchance war may e averted7 you
see 8im offering to go as amassador that all the magic
of 8is golden tongue may e used for the preservation of
peace7 you see 8im going as amassador and avoiding
all the pavilions raised y the order of Duryodhana, that
8e may not ta5e from one who is a foe a courtesy that
might ind him as a friend/ So when he pays the call on
Duryodhana that courtesy demands, never failing in the
perfect duty of the amassador, fulfilling every demand
of politeness, 8e will not touch the food that would ma5e
a ond etween 8imself and the one against whom 8e
had come to struggle/ See how the only food that 8e will
ta5e is the food of the *ing?s rother, for that alone/ 8e
says, >is clean and worthy to e eaten y me/> See how
in the assemly of hostile 5ings 8e tries to pacify and
tries to please/ See how 8e apologises with the gentlest
humility7 how to the great 5ing, the lind 5ing, 8e spea5s
in the name of the <andavas as suppliant, not as
outraged and indignant foe/ See how with soft words 8e
tries to turn away words of wrath, and uses every device
of oratory to win their hearts and convince their
2udgments/ See how later again, when the attle of
*uru5shetra is over, when all the sons of the lind 5ing
are slain, see how 8e goes once more as amassador to
meet the childless father and, still itterer, the childless
mother, that the first anger may rea5 itself on 8im, and
8is words may charm away the wrath and soothe the
grief of the ereft/ See how later on 8e still guides and
advises till all the wor5 is done, till 8is tas5 is
accomplished and 8is end is drawing near/ A statesman
of marvellous aility7 a politician of 5eenest tact and
insight7 as though to say to men of the world that when
they are acting as men of the world they should e
careful of righteousness, ut also careful of discretion
and of s5ill, that there is nothing alien to the truth of
religion in the s5ill of the tongue and in the use of the
5een intelligence of the rain/
!G(/ Then pass on again from 8im as
Statesman to 8is character as Friend/ %ould that + had
time to dwell on it, and paint you some of the fair pictures
of 8is relations with the family 8e loved so well, from the
day when, standing in the midst of the self-choice of
*rishna, the fair future wife of the <andavas, 8e saw for
the first time in that human incarnation Ar2una, 8is
eloved of old/ Thin5 what it must have een, when the
eyes of the two young men met, with memories in the
one pair of the close friendship of the past, and the
drawing of the other y the tie of those many irths to the
ancient friend whom he 5new not/ From that day when
they first meet in this life onwards, how constant 8is
friendship, how ceaseless 8is protection, how careful 8is
thought to guard their honour and their lives7 and yet how
wise7 at every point where 8is presence would have
frustrated the o2ect of 8is coming, 8e goes away/ 8e is
not present at the great game of dice, for that was
necessary for the wor5ing out of the divine purpose7 8e
was away/ 8ad 8e een there, 8e must needs have
interfered7 had 8e een there, 8e could not have left 8is
friends unaided/ 8e remained away, until Draupadi cried
in her agony for help when her modesty was threatened7
then he came with Dharma and clothed her with
garments as they were dragged from her7 ut then the
game was over, the dice were cast, and destiny had
gone on its appointed road/
!G)/ 8ow strange to watch that wor5ingH
;ne o2ect followed without change, without hesitation0
ut every means used that might give people an
opportunity of escaping if only they would/ 8e came to
ring aout that attle on *uru5shetra/ 8e came, as we
shall see in a moment, in order to carry out that one
o2ect in preparation for the centuries that stretched in
front7 ut in the carrying of it out, 8e would give every
chance to men who were entangled in that evil y their
own past, so that if one of them would answer to 8is
pleading he might come over to the side of light against
the forces of dar5ness/ 8e never wavered in 8is o2ect7
yet 8e never left unused one means that man could use
to prevent that o2ect ta5ing place/ A lesson full of
significanceH The will of the Supreme must e done, ut
the doing of that will is no e3cuse for any individual man
who does not carry out the law to the fullest of his power/
Although the will must e carried out, everything should
e done that righteousness permits and that compassion
suggests in order that men may choose light rather than
dar5ness, and that only the resolutely ostinate may at
last e whelmed in the ruin that falls upon the land/
!G@/ As Teacher 1 need + spea5 of 8im as
teacher who gave the Bhagavad-9ita etween the
contending armies on *uru5shetra: Teacher not of
Ar2una alone, not of +ndia alone, ut of every human
heart which can listen to spiritual instruction, and
understand a little of the profound wisdom there clothed
in the words of man/ ,ememer a later saying0 >+, ;
Ar2una, am the Teacher and the mind is my pupil>7 the
mind of every man who is willing to e taught7 the mind
of every one who is ready to e instructed/ 'ever does
the spiritual teacher withhold 5nowledge ecause he
grudges the giving/ 8e is hampered in the giving y the
want of receptivity in those to whom his message is
addressed/ +ll do men 2udge the divine heart of the great
Teachers, or the faint reflection of that love in the mouth
of Their messengers, when they thin5 that 5nowledge is
withheld ecause it is a precious possession to e
grudgingly dealt out, that has to e given in as small a
share as possile/ +t is not the withholding of the teacher
ut the closing of the heart of the hearer7 not the
hesitation of the teacher ut the want of the ear that
hears7 not the dearth of teachers ut the dearth of pupils
who are willing and ready to e taught/ + hear men say0
>%hy not an Avatara now, or if not an Avatara, why do
not the great ,ishis come forward to spea5 Their golden
wisdom in the ears of men: %hy do They desert us:
%hy do They leave us: %hy should this world in this age
not have the wisdom as They gave it of old:> The answer
is that They are waiting, waiting, waiting, with tireless
patience, in order to find some one willing to e taught,
and when one human heart opens itself out and says0 >;
Lord, teach me>, then the teaching comes down in a
stream of divine energy and floods the heart And if you
have not the teaching, it is ecause your hearts are
loc5ed with the 5ey of gold, with the 5ey of fame, with the
5ey of power, and with the 5ey of desire for the
en2oyments of this world/ %hile those 5eys loc5 your
hearts, the teachers of wisdom cannot enter in7 ut
unloc5 the heart and throw away the 5ey, and you will
find yourselves flooded with a wisdom which is ever
waiting to come in/
!GB/ As Searcher of hearts 1 AhH here
again 8e is so difficult to understand, this Lord of Maya,
this Master of illusion/ 8e tests the hearts of 8is eloved,
not so much the world at large/ To them is the teaching
that shall guide them aright/ For Ar2una, for Bhima, for
6udhishthira, for them the 5eener touch, the sharper trial,
in order to see if within the heart one grain of evil still
remains, that will prevent their union with 8imself/ For
what does he see5: That they shall e 8is very own, that
they shall enter into 8is eing/ But they cannot enter
therein while one seed of evil remains in their hearts/
They cannot enter therein while one sin is left in their
nature/ And so in tenderness and not in anger, in wisest
love and not with a desire to mislead, the Lord of Love
tries the hearts of 8is eloved, so that any evil that is in
them may e wrung out y the grip that 8e places on
them/ Two or three occasions of it + rememer/ + may
mention perhaps a couple of them to show you the
method of the trial/ The attle of *uru5shetra had een
raging many a day7 thousands and tens of thousands of
the dead lay scattered on that terrile field, and every
day when the sun rose Bhishma came forth,
generalissimo of the army of the *urus, carrying efore
him everything, save where Ar2una arred his way7 ut
Ar2una could not e everywhere7 he was called away,
with the horses guided y the $harioteer Shri *rishna
sweeping across the field li5e a whirlwind, carrying
victory in their course7 and where the $harioteer and
Ar2una were not there Bhishma had his way/ The hearts
of the <andavas san5 low within them, and at last one
night under their tents, resting ere the ne3t day?s
struggle, the itter despondency of *ing 6udhishthira
ro5e out in words, and he declared that until Bhishma
was slain nothing could e done/ Then came the test
from the lips of the searcher of hearts/ >Behold, + will go
forth and slay him on the morrow/> %ould 6udhishthira
consent: A promise stood in his way/ 6ou may
rememer that when Duryodhana and Ar2una went to
Shri *rishna who lay sleeping, the =uestion arose as to
what each should ta5e/ Alone, unarmed, Shri *rishna
would go with one, 8e would not fight7 a mighty attalion
of troops 8e would give to the other/ Ar2una chose the
unarmed *rishna7 Duryodhana, the mighty army ready to
fight7 so the word of the Avatara was pledged that 8e
would not fight/ .narmed 8e went into the attle, clad in
his yellow sil5en roe, and only with the whip of the
charioteer in 8is hand7 twice, in order to stimulate Ar2una
into comat, 8e had sprung down from the chariot and
gone forth with 8is whip in 8is hand as though 8e would
attac5 Bhishma and slay him where he fought -ach time
Ar2una stopped 8im, reminding 8im of 8is words/ 'ow
came the trial for the lameless *ing, as he is often
called7 should Shri *rishna rea5 8is word to give him
victory: 8e stood firm/ >Thy promise is given>, was his
answer7 >that promise may not e ro5en/> 8e passed
the trial7 he stood the test But still one wea5ness was left
in that nole heart7 one underlying wea5ness that
threatened to 5eep him away from his Lord/ The lac5 of
power to stand asolutely alone in the moment of trial,
the ever clinging to some one stronger than himself, in
order that his own decision might e upheld/ That last
wea5ness had to e urnt out as y fire/ +n a critical
moment of the attle the word came that the success of
Drona was carrying everything efore him7 that Drona
was resistless and that the only way to slay him was to
spread the report that his son was dead, and then he
would no longer fight Bhima slew an elephant of the
same name as Drona?s son, and he said in the hearing of
Drona0 >Ashvatthama is dead/> But Drona would not
elieve unless *ing 6udhishthira said so/ Then the test
came/ %ill he tell a practical lie ut a nominal truth, in
order to win the attle: 8e refused7 not for his rother?s
pleadings would he do it %ould he stand firm y truth
=uite alone when all he revered seemed to e on the
other side: The great ;ne said0 >Say that Ashvatthama
is slain>/ ;ught he to have done it ecause 8e, Shri
*rishna, ade him: ;ught he to have told the lie
ecause the revered ;ne counselled it: Ah noH neither
for the voice of 9od nor man, may the human soul do a
thing which he 5nows to e against 9od and 8is law7 and
alone he must stand in the universe, rather than sin
against right And when the lie was told under cover of
that e3cuse, 6udhishthira doing what he wished in his
heart under cover of the command from one he revered,
then he fell, his chariot descended to the ground, and
suffering and misery followed him from that day till the
day of his ending, until in the face of the *ing of the
celestials he stood alone, holding the duty of protection
even to a dog higher than divine command and 2oy of
heaven/ And then he showed that the lesson had wor5ed
out in his purification, and that the heart was clean from
the slightest taint of wea5ness/ ;h, ut men say, Shri
*rishna counselled the telling of a lieH My rothers, can
you not see eneath the illusion: %hat is there in this
world that the Supreme does not do: There is no life ut
8is, no Self ut 8is, nothing save 8is life through all 8is
universe7 and every act is 8is act, when you go ac5 to
the ultimates/ 8e had warned them of that truth/ >+> 8e
said, >am the gamling of the cheat>, as well as the
chants of the Feda/ Strange lesson, and hard to learn,
and yet true/ For at every stage of evolution there is a
lesson to e learnt 8e teaches all the lessons7 at each
point of growth the ne3t step is to e ta5en, and very
often that step is the e3periencing of evil, in order that
suffering may urn the desire for evil out of the very
heart/ And 2ust as the 5nife of the surgeon is different
from the 5nife of the murderer, although oth may pierce
the human flesh, the one cutting to cure, the other to
slay7 so is the sharp 5nife of the Supreme, when y
e3perience of evil and conse=uent pain 8e purifies the
man, different, ecause the motive is other than the
doing of evil to gratify passion, the stepping aside from
righteousness in order to please the lower nature/
!GA/ Last of all 8e shows himself as the
Supreme7 there is the Faishnava form, the universal
form, the form that contains the universe/ But still more is
the Supreme seen in the profound wisdom of the
teaching, in the steadfastness of 8is wal5 through life/
Does it sound strange to say that 9od is seen more in
the latter than the former, that the outer form that
contains the universe is less divine than the perfect
steadfast nature, swerving neither to the right hand nor
the left: ,ead that life again with this thought in your
mind, of one purpose followed to its end no matter what
forces might play on the other side, and its greatness
may appear/
!G"/ %hat did 8e come to do: 8e came to
give the last lesson to the 5shattriya caste of +ndia, and
to open +ndia to the world/ Many lessons had een given
to that great caste/ %e 5now that twenty-one times they
had een cut off, and yet re-estalished/ %e 5now that
Shri ,ama had shown the perfect life of 5shattriya, as an
e3ample that they might follow/ They would not learn the
lesson, either y destruction or y love/ They would not
follow the e3ample either from fear or from admiration/
Then their hour struc5 on the ell of 8eaven, the 5nell of
the 5shattriya caste/ 8e came to sweep away that caste
and to leave only scattered remnants of it, dotted over
the +ndian soil/ +t had een the sword of +ndia, the iron
wall that ringed her round/ 8e came to shiver that wall
into pieces, and to rea5 the sword that it might not stri5e
again/ +t had een used to oppress instead of to protect +t
had een used for tyranny instead of for 2ustice/
Therefore he who gave it ra5e it, till men should learn
y suffering what they would not learn y precept And on
the field of *uru, the 5shattriya caste fought its last great
attle7 none were left of all that mighty host save a
handful, when the fighting was over/ 'ever has the caste
recovered from *uru5shetra/ +t has not utterly
disappeared/ +n some districts we find families elonging
to it7 ut you 5now well enough that as a caste in most
parts of modern +ndia, you are hard put to find it %hy in
the great counsels of the world?s welfare was this done:
'ot only to teach a lesson for all time to 5ings and rulers,
that if they would not govern aright they should not
govern at all7 ut also to lay +ndia open to the world/
!G#/ 8ow strange that sounds + To lay her
open to invasion: 8e who loved her to lay her open to
con=uest: 8e who had consecrated her, 8e who had
hallowed her plains and forests y 8is treading, and
whose voice had rung through her land: Aye, for 8e
2udges not as man 2udges, and 8e sees the end from the
eginning/ +ndia as she was of old, 5ept isolated from all
the world, was so 5ept that she might have the treasure
of spiritual 5nowledge poured into her and ma5e a vessel
for the containing/ But when you fill the vessel, you do
not then put that vessel high away on a shelf, and leave
men thirsting for the li=uid that it contains/ The mighty
;ne filled 8is +ndian vessel with the water of spiritual
5nowledge, and at last the time came when that water
should e poured out for the =uenching of the thirst of
the world, and should not e left only for the =uenching
of the thirst of a single nation, for the use of a single
people/ Therefore the Lover of men came, in order that
the water of life might e poured out7 8e ro5e down the
wall, so that the foreigner might overstep her orders/
The 9ree5s swept in, the Mussulmans swept in, invasion
after invasion, invasion after invasion, until the
con=uerors who now rule +ndia were the latest in time/
Do you see in that only decay, only misery, only that
+ndia is under a curse: Ah no, my rothersH That which
seems a curse for the time is for the world?s healing and
the world?s lessing7 and +ndia may well suffer for a time
in order that the world may e redeemed/
!!G/ %hat does it mean: + am not
spea5ing politically, ut from the standpoint of a spiritual
student, who is trying to understand how the evolution of
the race goes on/ The people who last con=uered +ndia,
who now rule her as governors, are the people whose
language is the most widely spread of all the languages
of the world, and it is li5ely to ecome the world?s
language/ +t elongs not only to that little island of Britain,
it elongs also to the great continent of America, to the
great continent of Australia/ +t has spread from land to
land, until that one tongue is the tongue most widely
understood amongst all the peoples of the world/ ;ther
nations are eginning to learn it, ecause usiness and
trade and even diplomacy are eginning to e carried on
in that -nglish speech/ %hat wonder then that the
Supreme should send to +ndia this nation whose
language is ecoming the world-language, and lay her
open to e held as part of that world-wide empire, in
order that her Scriptures, translated into the most widely
spo5en language, may help the whole human family and
purify and spiritualise the hearts of all 8is sons/
!!!/ There is the deepest o2ect of 8is
coming, to prepare the spiritualisation of the world/ +t is
not enough that one nation shall e spiritual7 it is not
enough that one country shall have wisdom7 it is not
enough that one land, however mighty and however
eloved 1 and do not + love +ndia as few of you love
her: 1 it is not enough that she should have the gold of
spiritual truth, and the rest of the world e paupers
egging for a coin/ 'o7 far etter that for a time she
should sin5 in the scale of nations, in order that what she
cannot do for herself may e done y divine agencies
that are ever guiding the evolution of the world/ Thus
what from outside loo5s as con=uest and su2ection, to
the eye of the spirit loo5s as the opening of the spiritual
temple, so that all the nations may come in and learn/
!!&/ ;nly that leaves to you a duty, a
responsiility/ + hear so much/ + have spo5en so often, of
the descendants of ,ishis and of the lood of the ,ishis
in your veins/ True, ut not enough/ +f you are again to
e what Shri *rishna means you to e in 8is eternal
counsels, the rahmana of nations, the teacher of divine
truth, the mouth through which the 9ods spea5 in the
ears of men, then the +ndian nation must purify itself,
then the +ndian nation must spiritualise itself/ Shall your
Scriptures spiritualise the whole world while you remain
unspiritual: Shall the wisdom of the ,ishis go out to
Mlechchas in every part of the world, and they learn and
profit y it, while you, the physical descendants of the
,ishis, 5now not your own literature and love it even less
than you 5now: That is the great lesson with which +
would fain close/ So true is this, that, in order to gain
teachers of the Brahmavidya, which elongs to this land
y right of irth, the great ,ishis have had to send some
of their children to other lands in order that they may
come ac5 to teach your own religion amidst your
people/ Shall it not e that this shame shall come to an
end: Shall it not e that there are some among you that
shall lead again the old spiritual life, and follow and love
the Lord: Shall it not e, not only here and there, ut at
last that the whole nation shall show the power of Shri
*rishna in 8is life incarnated amongst you, which would
really e greater than any special Avatara: May we not
hope and pray that 8is Avatara shall e the nation that
incarnates 8is 5nowledge, 8is love, 8is universal
rotherliness to every man that treads the soil of earth:
Away with the walls of separation, with the disdain and
contempt and hatred that divide +ndian from +ndian, and
+ndia from the rest of the world/ Let our motto from this
time forward e the motto of Shri *rishna, that as 8e
meets men on any road, so we will wal5 eside them on
any road as well, for all roads are 8is/ There is no road
which 8e does not tread, and if we follow the Beloved
who leads us, we must wal5 as 8e wal5s/