Although we cannot assert any uniform theology of the sacred image within Hinduism, as Klostermaier has explained, "the average Hindu still sees in the images a real and physical presence of God and not only a symbolic one." (26) In other words, although some Hindus today will try to explain the images as only symbols of the gods, the traditional and still widely held view is connected to the idea of avatara, or "descent." In particular, the Sri Vaisnava tradition adheres to the system of Pancaratra.
For a Christian, God has become ultimately immanent by becoming a human, a claim much more radical than the Hindu avatar, for the avatar does not take on human flesh but is composed of a special "pure matter unlike ordinary material bodies." (67) Conversely, whereas Christ's Incarnation attests to a greater immanence, and an avatara to more transcendence, the opposite is true regarding sacred images.
210-212, for a listing of the principal avataras of Lord Visnu.
Note Joseph Neuner, "Das Christus-Mysterium und die indische Lehre von den Avataras," in Aloys Grillmeier and Heinrich Bacht, eds., Das Kanzil von Chalkedon: Geschichte und Gegenwart, vol.
At times these accounts become a formalized aspect of a sect's theology, as may be the case with Vaisnavite vyuha and avatara
theories; at other times the splitting narrative does not lead to philosophical speculation and remains an implicit message as to how the divine is perceived and how the personality of the divine developed over time.
As Jaini carefully documents, the strategy of appropriating adversaries goes both ways, however: the Vaisnava device of proliferating divine incarnations (avataras
) allowed them to incorporate into their fold not only Buddha, but also one of the most popular Jinas, Rsabha, albeit as a minor or partial (amsa) avatara
He makes his argument that the MBh depicts Vyasa "as if he were the amsa or avatara
of Brahma" (p.
An analogous phenomenon related to this may be seen in the contemporary performance of the Raslila in which the adolescent boys who play the roles of the gopis exaggerate the conventionally effeminate speech and gestures that their roles and assumed gender demand.(51) Even in the generally more straitlaced atmosphere of the Rama cult and the general de- erotization of this avatara
of Visnu, compared with the paradoxical mixture of chastity and unbounded sexuality in the Krsna legend,(52) this theme may surface.
Prominent among these has been avatara
("[divine] descent"), the (repeated) decision of Lord Vishnu to descend into the world, a salvific act inevitably compared with Christ's incarnation.
4), namely his claim to be, after Hanumat and Bhimasena, the third avatara
of Visnu's son Vayu, and, thereby, empowered to accomplish the task of Visnu (bhagavatkaryasadhakah).
The text claims that Miharban was an avatara
of Shukdev sent to explain the bani and that he did regular katha of the Bhagvata Purana, the Bhagvad Gita and the "Bharathu" (presumably the Mahabharata).