It’s Sunday morning, May 29, 2011 in Seattle. My wife D’Arcy and I have finished our visit with Ammachi (Mata Amritanandamayi – the Mother of Eternal Bliss). The high point of any visit with her is “the hug.” Let me sneak up on that subject, because the whole topic of Amma’s embrace is loaded with significance.
Like Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, and Sri Ramakrishna, Ammachi is an avatar. “Avatar” means the descent of the formless Divine into form. The purpose of life is that God should know God, in a moment of enlightenment. Having created us as the vehicle for God to know Herself (Himself, Itself – God has no gender), we are then led through a process of spiritual evolution, from a point of unconscious awareness of Self to a point of conscious awareness.
Part 2 is found below.
Let me use this occasion to look at what an avatar is. For that, the chief source is that remarkable man of God, Sri Ramakrishna, whose whole life as an avatar was an open book here for humanity to read.
“God has different forms,” he said, “and He sports in different ways. He sports as Isvara, deva, man, and the universe. In every age He descends to earth in human form, as an Incarnation, to teach people love and devotion.” (1) As Sri Ramakrishna would say: “In an Incarnation of God one sees at the same time, the sun of Knowledge and the moon of Love.” (2)
Though the avatar teaches knowledge of God, in fact God assumes a human form mainly for the devotee. Knowledge can be bestowed through visions, revelations, aha! Moments, etc. But God assuming physical form is to provide the devotee with someone to love. Jesus, Krishna, Sri Ramakrishna and Ammachi all offer the devotee a reverential figure to imagine and focus love on. According to Sri Ramakrishna,
“One can taste devotion and love of God only through His Incarnations. Infinite are the ways of God’s play, but what I need is love and devotion. I want only the milk. The milk comes through the udder of the cow. The Incarnation is the udder.” (3)
Some might say that this need for a concrete form to love is intended for those just starting out in spirituality. They assume that dualistic worship is somehow inferior to non-dualistic knowing. But Sri Ramakrishna would never have been guilty of that attitude. He saw nothing inferior in devotion or bhakti. He would say repeatedly that “the way of love is as true as the way of knowledge. All paths ultimately lead to the same Truth.” (4)
The bhakta (devotee) worships his chosen ideal and the jnani (knowledge-seeker) seeks to know the Self, Christ Light, or Atman. But Sri Ramakrishna taught that both were the same thing.
“One’s own Chosen Deity is one’s own Self. The Chosen Deity and the Atman are identical. The vision of the Chosen Deity is equivalent to Self-Knowledge.” (6)
“Perfect jnana and perfect bhakti are one and the same thing.” (7)
It mattered not how one got to God. Getting to Her was the only thing that mattered. Some might walk into the lake, some might jump in, some might fall in and some might be pushed, but all find themselves in the lake.
“You see, the thing is somehow or other to get into the Lake of the Nectar of Immortality. Suppose one person gets into It by propitiating the Deity with hymns and worship, and you are pushed into It. The result will be the same. Both of you will certainly become immortal.” (8)
Another way of seeing the purpose of the Incarnation of God is to say that, whenever humanity is in danger of losing itself, God makes Herself a body and descends to restore righteousness and religion. Many avatars come. Sri Ramakrishna, speaking I’m sure of all dimensions and all regions of space, said that “Divine incarnations without number appear and disappear on the tree of the Absolute Brahman.” (9)
Part 3 is found below.
Today the word avatar is used freely. We even speak of the small personalized graphics that identify us on the Internet as “avatars.” One commentator is calling Inelia Benz an avatar. She may be; she may not be. Time will tell. But the principle use of th term is reserved for God’s descent for the purpose of restoring religion, defeating a planetary threat, offering a figure for the worship and devotion of bhaktas, and so on.
God may incarnate “fully” or partially. Says Sri Ramakrishna:
“Somewhere it is 10 phases (or parts of His Shakti) that are manifested, at others 12; more rarely at others 16 parts. He in whom 16 parts of the Divine Energy incarnate, is hailed as the Full Brahman. He is worshipped, for example, [in] Sri Krishna. In Rama, it is 12 parts.” (10)
Devotees may argue about whether their teacher is a partial or full manifestation, etc., but the argument is pointless. God incarnates in the form and fulness required to accomplish the task at hand and God’s estimation of the power needed is never amiss.
Working back from this generation, we’ve had Ammachi and Mother Meera here with us, Anandamoyee Ma some years back, and Sri Ramakrishna and Babaji Mahavatara before her, and so on back through time. Some avatars may remain almost totally out of the public view as did Babaji Mahavatar for instance and some may be universally visible and available, handing out mantras to all, as is Ammachi.
The significance of receiving a mantram from an avatar is that the avatar agrees to assume your guidance and shoulder the burden of your karma until you are liberated. One does not approach an avatar randomly. Unless one were fit for it, one would not find oneself in her company. So the receipt of a mantram from an avatar is a huge accomplishment. While we cannot simply put our feet up and relax from that moment on, we certainly have our lifebelt firmly secured from that moment on.
I’m of the opinion nowadays that an avatar is a composite creation. It’s as if God, in descending, dipped Herself in progressive layers of chocolate. The formless Father dipped Himself first in the primordial form of the Mother (Shakti or the Holy Spirit – Mother, mater, matter), then entered the form of a higher spirit such as Sananda Kumara and finally spoke through the 3D human form of Jesus. All of these composites go to make up the avatar we see with our eyes.
The same is true of spiritual teachers like Matthew Ward, Imperator, Silver Birch and others. Many voices speaking from many levels combine to speak through them. If the answer to a question is unknown to them, they can quickly draw on higher resources.
There are several other ways we could look at the composite nature of avatars. We could think of Jesus as a step-down transformer for Sananda and Sananda as a step-down transformer for the Divine Mother. On the way back from Seattle, my wife and I were reading aloud from Connecting with the Arcturians and came upon these remarkable passages about Sananda:
“He is one of the masters of the universe… His energy exists simultaneously in many places in our galaxy at this moment.” (11)
“Your experience with Sananda’s energy is, in fact, a manifestation of a larger group soul that is present for galactic healing. You cannot grasp the energy of Sananda-Jesus form his one lifetime. … His earthly incarnation, however, does not represent his entirety.” (12)
By the way, finding this reference at exactly the time I was thinking about the subject is not surprising around Amma.
This then is an acknowledgement of Sananda’s role as a step-down transformer of higher energy sources. Those higher-energy sources in all likelihood also step down the energy of other sources, on up the ladder to God Herself.
Part 4 is found below.
We could also conceive of Jesus as being the outside Babushka doll for a number of other nested Babushka dolls, the next one up being Sananda, and then the group soul that Sananda belongs to, on up to the Holy Spirit and thence to formless God.
The giveaway feature of an avatar is the ability to forgive “sin” or karma and the unfettered ability, of their own volition, to bestow enlightenment.
When one gets a hug from Mother, one is getting three gifts: darshan, sparshan, and sambhavan – the sight, sound, and touch of an Incarnation. That removes a great deal of karma. I regard it as a tune-up.
Mother herself in bestowing her touch takes upon herself the karma of others. It’s said, by doctors who inspected her, that her blood is so toxic that it would kill a normal human being.
A hug from Mother also represents the return of the aspirant to the Divine. It burns an image into the devotee’s mind of the last part of the overall journey of the soul from God to God. In the vision I had in 1987, the small golden star left the realm of the Mother and hurried back to the Father, in which it merged. Sitting in the darshan line as it moves forward toward Mother seems to me like traversing the last few steps in this overall journey. It is the return of the podigal child to God.
Each year that I move forward in the darshan line, I imagine myself walking the last few steps in the return to God. Implanting that image is, I believe, the overall purpose of Mother (Amma) embracing the world.
My wife and I also get our rings blessed at the same time, with Mother telling us what we need to know for the future if such a message is needed. (I don’t mention my wife often because she does not want to be exposed to the spotlight of public attention. She wishes to lead a quiet life.)
So visiting Mother when she passes through Seattle is a yearly rite for us. We also see our sathsang again, many of whom are not only Amma devotees but enlightenment-intensive participants or jnana yogins as well.
The first time we saw Amma in Vancouver twenty years ago, there were perhaps 12 visitors in the room with her. We were permitted to chat with her and go up for hugs as many times as we wished. Now we get one hug a day and there are thousands in the same room. In India the lines can be tens of thousands long, snaking in endless lines hour after hour, while Mother patiently receives them.
Sri Ramakrishna would have to soak his foot in Ganges water in great pain if touched by an impure person. But Ammachi receives everyone, the pure and the impure, the whole and the sick.
(Continued in Part 2.)