Cultural Context of this question
Individuals exposed to Indian culture are probably familiar with the term ‘Avatar’. Avatar essentially means a bodily manifestation or re-incarnation of an ultimate reality or God. Sri Krishna is considered to be the bodily manifestation of the ultimate reality, Vishnu. Vishnu is known to have ten manifestations therefore, Sri Krishna is referred to as one of the Dasavatar (das meaning ten) of Vishnu. The teaching states that the supreme God keeps manifesting in human form to rescue and/or protect devotees from adharma which is non-righteousness or evil in the world.
The popular belief is that Vishnu had previously come in the form of 1) a fish, 2) a turtle, 3) a wild boar, 4) a half-man/ half-lion, 5)a dwarf, 6) a Parasuram (Rama with an axe), 7) Ram (noble king from the Ramayana), 8) Krishna (key figure of the Gita) and 9) Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama). (Some believe that the 8th is Bhalaram, 9th is Krishna.) It is thought that the last avatar of Vishnu will come as Kalki. Kalki will be the rider on a white horse with a blazing sword to destroy all evil.
According to the Gita 4:8 (Paritranaya Sadhunam …) Krishna says, “To deliver the righteous, to annihilate the evil and to establish the law of Dharma(righteousness), I will appear, millennium after millennium”. The emphasis of that statement is on returning again and again.
People who ask this question is Krishna and Christ one and the same, probably have noticed the personality and life of Jesus and wondered if Jesus may be another incarnation of Krishna. I have heard this question asked in a different manner as well: ‘Just like Ram came to Ayodhya and Krishna came to Dwaraka, why couldn’t the same God have come to Israel as Jesus?’
So what is the real question?
It is natural for a person who has been exposed to avatars (varying from fish to human) to ask if the noble Jesus was another avatar. However, the real question is “Is the God, that manifested in all these avatars, the same God that came as Jesus?”.
Let’s take a couple of simple aspects about the nature of God and asses this train of thought. Most of us can agree that God is beyond the dimension of time. God has always existed and will continue to exist. In addition, we all can agree that God is all-powerful (sovereign) to execute his plan. Let us then take a quick peek at the time when the plan of redemption was made along with the actual method of redemption. Then, let us look at the personality of the redeemer. I invite you to join me in this assessment.
Plan according to God of the Bible
According to 2 Timothy 1:9, “This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time”. The plan according to the God of the Bible was established before the beginning of time.
It is a three fold package-
1. The plan was for God to come as Jesus and become our prayaschit, which is the compensation for our Karma. This not alone gives the devotee a clean slate but also has defeated the embodiment of evil within. In the Bible, it states; “God made him who had no sin to become sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This makes for justification before a Holy God.
2. The plan provides God’s Spirit taking residence within the devotee as an internal Guru. The Spirit of God begins a NEW LIFE in the devotee such that the devotee is free from past karma and is given the power to overcome evil. The passages in the Bible states: “power to overcome the defeated foe”… “because through Christ Jesus the law of Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). This makes for the sanctification of the devotee with the world.
3. The plan imparts eternal life. As God’s Spirit (paramatma) unites with the devotee at the moment of first belief, the believer acquires eternal life from that time onwards. The internal Guru sustains and strengthens one’s spiritual life even past the point of death. The passage in the Bible states: “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies’..” (John 11:25). This is referred to as the Glorification of the believer.
God’s blueprint for redemption was revealed gradually since the beginning of time. Clear revelations began to appear at least 700 years before the birth of Jesus.
The redemption approach in the Bible shows how much God is striving for our sake. The message in Gita places the emphasis on human striving. If it’s the same God, why should the approach be so different? Let’s explore this further.
The nature of God:
Examining this we find there are some similarities- The God of the Bible and the Dasavatar express serious intention to uphold dharma/righteousness. They both possess supernatural abilities and also transcend the dimension of time.
The Heart of God:
While they may be somewhat similar in nature, examining the actual character, reveals significant differences.
According to the God of the Bible, God pays for our prayaschit with His own death thus, demonstrating the expression of unconditional and sacrificial love. The best expression of sacrificial love, known to us is the love of a mother for her child. A mother’s love is exemplary. Now, if God is greater than a mother, then we should expect greater love, expressed through greater sacrifice. We can imagine how big of a sacrifice it is when one human gives their life for another. But can we even begin to comprehend what it means for God (the immortal) to surrender His life for us, with the full knowledge that many would reject this expensive prayaschit? I have never been able to find this level of sacrificial love anywhere else. We are not worthy enough by any means that God should do this for us. But, somehow we matter so much to this God of the Bible, that He did this for us.
The Personality of God:
Given the premise that the moral strength of a person is tested during adversity, let us examine the reactions of each personality.
According to the Mahabharatha, during the battle at Kurukshetra, (a war between the Pandavas and Kauravas) the warrior Acharya Drona was un-stoppable until Krishna devises a plan. Krishna plots to trick Acharya Drona into believing that his son Aswatthama, has been killed. Krishna involves three of the five Pandava brothers(Yudishtra, Beemasena, and Arjuna) to deceive Acharya Drona.
This incident is described by the following quotation from the Mahabharata, translated by C Rajagopalachari. Chapter XC, page 381-382, the 44th edition, 2004 states:
“ ‘O Arjuna’, said Krishna, ‘there is none that can defeat this Drona, fighting according to the strict rules of war. We cannot cope with him unless dharma is discarded. We have no other way open. There is one thing that will desist him from fighting. If he hears Aswatthama is dead ….’
Arjuna shrank in horror at the proposal as he could not bring himself to tell a lie. Those who were nearby also rejected the idea …
Yudhistra stood for a while reflecting deeply. ‘I shall bear the burden of this sin’, he said to resolve the deadlock.
To save his friend who had wholly depended on him, Rama was driven to bear the sin of killing Vali, in disregard for the rules of fair play.
‘I have killed Aswatthama’, Bhemasena uttered these words, greatly ashamed. “
Observation of the excerpt above:
The plan succeeded, but Dharma was compromised.
When I heard this story for the first time during my early teens, I was deeply saddened. In fact, it still does not resonate well with me. How could Krishna suggest this?
The God of the Bible:
According to the Bible, the toughest time in Jesus’ life occurred within the last hours before His crucifixion. This conversation takes place after Pilate, the Roman governor, found no fault with Jesus deserving the punishment of crucifixion.
The following are excerpts from the Bible (NIV translation):
John 18:37-38: “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason, I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of the truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” Pilate asked.
John 19:10-11: Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have the power to either free you or crucify you? Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above”
Observation of the excerpt above:
Even when faced with false accusations, mockery, insults, and eventually crucifixion, Jesus did not waiver from the truth. He knew that Dharma will be established, even through his death. God’s plan succeeded, Dharma was restored for all mankind.
From the beginning of time, it was God’s plan to allow Jesus to die for all our sins however, He was perfect (sinless, holy) so even death could not hold him.
The Bible states in Romans 1:4:
and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from dead: Jesus Christ our Lord
The Bible states in 2 Corinthians 5:21:
“God made him, who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”
Do you still think that the God of the Bible is the same as the God of the Dasavatar?
If you have understood God’s redemption plan through Jesus, you can invite Jesus to come and live with you today and experience the new beginning. Since God knows even our deepest thoughts, you can sincerely utter a prayer like this, “Jesus, thank you for all you have done. I surrender my life to you, please come and live in me”. We know that God will respond to a sincere request like that. So, if you earnestly requested that of Jesus, the new life has begun in you. You will begin experiencing the joy and transformation Jesus promises.
If you want to discuss this further please write to us to let us know how we can be of help.