The subject this morning, my brothers, is in some ways an easy and in other ways a difficult one; easy, inasmuch as the stories of the Avatâras can be readily told and readily grasped; difficult, inasmuch as the meaning that underlies these manifestations may possibly be in some ways unfamiliar, may not have been thoroughly thought out by individual hearers. And I must begin with a general word as to these special Avatâras. You may remember that I said that the whole universe may be regarded as the Avatâra of the Supreme, the Self-revelation of I´shvara. But we are not dealing with that general Self-revelation; nor are we even considering the very many revelations that have taken place from time to time, marked out by special characteristics; for we have seen by 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 Avatâras.
Now on one point I confess myself puzzled at the outset, and I do not know whether in your exoteric 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. On that point I must simply state the question, leaving it unanswered. It may be a matter familiar to those who have made researches into the exoteric literature. It is not a point of quite sufficient importance for the moment to spend on it time and trouble, in what we may call the occult way of research. I leave that then aside, for there is one reason why some of these stand out in a way which is clear and definite. They mark stages in the evolution of the world. They mark new departures in the growth of the developing life, and whether it was that fact which underlay the exoteric choice I am unable to say; but certainly that fact by itself is sufficient to justify the special distinction which is made.
There is one other general point to consider. Accounts of these Avatâras are found in the Purânas; allusions to them, to one or other of them, are found in other of the ancient writings, but the moment you come to very much detail you must turn to the Paurânic accounts; as you are aware, sages, in giving those Purânas, very often described things as they are seen on the higher planes, giving the description of the underlying truth of facts and events; you have appearances described which sound very strange in the lower world; you have facts asserted which raise very much of challenge in modern days. When you read in the Purânas of strange forms and marvellous appearances, when you read accounts of creatures that seem unlike 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 given; the modern mind, trained within the limits of the science of observation, is necessarily circumscribed within those limits and those limits are of an exceedingly narrow description; they are limits which belong only to modern time, modern to men, in the true sense of the word, though geological researches stretch of course far back into what we call in this nineteenth century the night of time. But you must remember that the moment geology goes beyond 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. If you take half a dozen modern geologists and ask each of them in turn for the date of the period of which records remain in the small number 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 remember in what science can tell you of the world, however accurate it may be within its limits, that these limits are exceedingly narrow, narrow I mean when measured by the sight that goes back kalpa after kalpa, and that knows that the mind of the Supreme is not limited to the manifestations of a few hundred thousands of years, but goes back million after million, hundreds of millions after hundreds of millions, and that the varieties of form, the enormous differences of types, the marvellous kinds 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 make fail far short of the realities that actually existed in the past kalpas through which the universe has gone. That word of warning is necessary, and also the warning that on the higher planes things look very different from what they look down here. You have here a reflection only of part of those higher forms of existence. Space there has more dimensions than it has on the physical plane, and each dimension of space adds a new fundamental variety to form; if to illustrate this I may use a simile I have often used, it may perhaps convey to you a little idea of what I mean. Two similes I will take each throwing a little light on a very difficult subject. Suppose that a picture is presented to you of a solid form; the picture, being made by pen or pencil on a sheet of paper, must show on the sheet, which is practically of two dimensions--a plane surface--a three dimensional form; so that if you want to represent a solid object, a vase, you must draw it flat, and you can only represent the solidity of that vase by resorting to certain devices of light and shade, to the artificial device which is called perspective, in order to make an illusory semblance of the third dimension. There on the plane surface you get a solid appearance, and the eye is deceived into thinking it sees a solid when really it is looking at a flat surface. Now 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 but only a flat. They will not recognise the picture as being the picture of a solid object they have seen in the world round them; they will not see that that artificial representation is meant to show a familiar solid, and it passes by them without making any impression on the mind; only the education of the eye enables you to see on a flat surface the picture of a solid form. Now, by an effort of the imagination, can you think of a solid as being the representation of a form in one dimension more, shown by a kind of perspective? Then you may get a vague idea of what is meant when we speak of a further dimension in space. As the picture is to the vase, so is the vase to a higher object of which that vase itself is a reflection. So again if you think, say, of the lotus flower I spoke of yesterday, as having just the tips of its leaves above water, each tip would appear as a separate object. If you know the whole you know that they are all parts of one object; but coming over the surface of the water you will see tips only, one for each leaf of the seven-leaved lotus. So is every globe in space an apparently separate object, while in reality it is not separated at all, but part of a whole that exists in a space of more dimensions; and the separateness is mere illusion due to the limitations of our faculties.
Now I have made this introduction in order to show you that when you read the Purânas you consistently get the fact on the higher plane described in terms of the lower, with the result that it seems unintelligible, seems incomprehensible; then you have what is called an allegory, that is, a reality which looks like a fancy down here, but is a deeper truth than the illusion of physical matter, and is nearer to the reality of things than the things which you call objective and real. If you follow that line of thought at all you will read the Purânas with more intelligence and certainly with more reverence than some of the modern Hindus are apt to show in the reading, and you will begin 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 impossible on the physical is what is really seen when you pass beyond the physical limitations.
From the Purânas then the stories come.
Let me take the first three Avatâras apart from the remainder, for a reason that you will readily understand as we go through them. We take the Avatâra which is spoken of as that of Matsya or the fish; that which is spoken of as that of Kûrma or the tortoise; that which is spoken of as that of Vârâha, or the boar. Three animal forms; how strange! thinks the modern graduate. How strange that the Supreme should take the forms of these lower animals, a fish, a tortoise, a boar! What childish folly! "The babbling of a race in its infancy," it is said by the pandits of the Western world. Do not be so sure. Why this wonderful conceit as to the human form? Why should you and I be the only worthy vessels of the Deity that have come out of the illimitable Mind in the course of ages? What is there in this particular shape of head, arms, and trunk which shall make it the only worthy vessel to serve as a manifestation of the supreme I´shvara? I know of nothing so wonderful in the mere outer form that should make that shape alone worthy to represent some of the aspects of the Highest. And may it not be that from His standpoint those great differences that we see between ourselves and those which we call the lower forms of life may be almost imperceptible, since He transcends them all? A little child sees an immense difference between himself of perhaps two and a half feet high and a baby only a foot and a half high, and thinks himself a man compared with that tiny form rolling on the ground and unable to walk. But to the grown man there is not so much difference between the length of the two, and one seems very much like the other. While we are very small we see great differences between ourselves and others; but on the mountain top the hovel and the palace do not differ so very much in height. They all look like ant-hills, very much of the same size. And so from the standpoint of I´shvara, in the vast hierarchies from the mineral to the loftiest Deva, the distinctions are but as ant-hills in comparison with Himself, and one form or another is equally worthy, so that it suits His purpose, and manifests His will.
Now for the Matsya Avatâra; the story you will all know: when the great Manu, Vaivasvata Manu, the Root Manu, as we call Him--that is, a Manu not of one race only, but of a whole vast round of kosmic evolution, presiding over the seven globes that are linked for the evolution of the world--that mighty Manu, sitting one day immersed in contemplation, sees a tiny fish gasping for water; and moved by compassion, as all great ones are, He takes up the little fish and puts it in a bowl, and the fish grows till it fills the bowl; and He placed it in a water vessel and it grew to the size of the vessel; then He took it out of that vessel and put it into a bigger one; afterwards into a tank, a pond, a river, the sea, and still the marvellous fish grew and grew and grew. The time came when a vast change was impending; one of those changes called a minor pralaya, and it was necessary that the seeds of life should be carried over that pralaya to the next manvantara. That would be a minor pralaya and a minor manvantara. What does that mean? It means a passage of the seeds of life from one globe to another; from what a we call the globe preceding our own to our own earth. It is the function of the Root Manu, with the help and the guidance of the planetary Logos, to transfer the seeds of life from one globe to the next, so as to plant them in a new soil where further growth is possible. As waters rose, waters of matter submerging the globe which was passing into pralaya, an ark, a vessel appeared; into this vessel stepped the great Rishi with others, and the seeds of life were carried by Them, and as They go forth upon the waters a mighty fish appears and to the horn of that fish the vessel is fastened by a rope, and it conveys the whole safely to the solid ground where the Manu rebegins His work. A story! yes, but a story that tells a truth; for looking at it as it takes place in the history of the world, we see the vast surging ocean of matter, we see the Root Manu and the great Initiates with Him gathering up the seeds of life from the world whose work is over, carrying them under the guidance and with the help of the planetary Vishnu to the new globe where new impulse is to be given to the life; and the reason why the fish form was chosen was simply because in the building up again of the world, it was at first covered with water, and only that form of life was originally possible, so far as denser physical life was concerned.
You 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 Purâna rightly starts in the previous Kalpa, rightly starts the manifestations with the manifestation in the form of the fish. Not so very ridiculous after all, you see, when read by knowledge instead of by ignorance; a truth, as the Purânas are full of truth, if they were only read with intelligence and not with prejudice.
But some of you may say that there is confusion about these first Avatâras; in several accounts we find that the Boar stands the first; that is true, but the key of it is this; the Boar Avatâra initiated that evolution which was followed unbrokenly by the human; whereas the other two bring in great stages, each of which is regarded as a separate kalpa; and if you look into the Vishnu Purâna you will find there the key; for when that begins to relate the incarnation of the Boar, there is just a sentence thrown in, that the Matsya and Kûrma Avatâras belong to previous kalpas.
Now if we take the theosophical nomenclature, we find each of these kalpas covers what we call a Root Race, and you may remember that the first Root Race of humanity had not human form at all but was simply a floating mass able 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 possible at that stage of its evolution. It was a seed of form rather than a form itself; it was the seed planted by 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 fish; and geology there gives a true fact, though it does not understand, naturally, the hidden meaning; while the Purâna gives you the reality of the manifestation, and the deeper truth that underlies the stages of the evolving world.
Then we find, tracing it onward, that this great age passes, and the world begins to rise out of the waters. How then shall types be brought forth in order that evolution may go on? The next great type is to be fitted either for land or for water; for the next stage of the earth shows the waters draining gradually away, and the land appearing, and the creatures that are the marked characteristic of the age must exist partially on land and partially in water. Here again there must be manifestation of the type of life, this time of what we call the reptile type; the tortoise is chosen as the typical creature, and while the tortoise typifies the type to be evolved, reptiles, amphibious creatures of every description, swarm over the earth, becoming more and more land-like in their character as the proportion of land to water increases. There is meanwhile going on, in the "imperishable sacred land," a preparation for further evolution. There is one part of the globe that changes not, that from the beginning has been, and will last while the globe is lasting; it is called the "imperishable land." And there the great Rishis gather, and thence they ever come forth for the helping of man; that is the imperishable sacred land, sometimes called the "sacred pole of the earth." Pole itself exists not on the physical plane but on the higher, and its reflection coming downward makes, as it were, one spot which never changes, but is ever guarded from the tread of ordinary men. There took place a most instructive phenomenon. The type of the evolution then preceding, the Tortoise, the Logos in that form, makes Himself the base of the revolving axis of evolution. That is typified by Mandâra, the mountain which, placed on the tortoise, is made to revolve by the hosts of Suras and Asuras, one pulling at the head of the serpent, and the other at the tail--the positive and negative forces that I spoke of yesterday. So the churning begins in matter, evolving types of life. The type is ever evolved before the lower manifestation, the type appears before the copies of it are born in the lower world. And how often have the students of the great Teachers themselves seen the very thing occur; the churning of the waters of matter giving forth all the types of the many sorts and species that are generated in the lower world; 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 by one the archetypes, the elephant, the horse, the woman, and so on, one after another, showing the track along which evolution was to go. And first of all, Amrita, nectar of immortality, comes forth, symbol of the one life which passes through every form--and that life appears above the waters the taking of which is necessary in order that every form may live.
We cannot delay on details; I 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.
Then comes the third Avatâra, the Vârâha. No earth is to be seen; the waters of the flood have overwhelmed it. The types that are to be produced on earth are waiting in the higher region for place on which to manifest. How shall the earth be brought up from the waters which have overwhelmed it? Now once again the great Helper is needed, the God, the Protector of Evolution. Then in the form of a mighty Boar, whose form filled the heaven, plunging down into the waters that He alone could separate, the Great One descends. He brings up the earth from the lower region where it was lying awaiting His coming; and the land rises up again from below the surface of the flood, and the vast Lemurian continent is the earth of that far-off age. Here 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. Quite so; that was exactly what the sages taught thousands upon thousands of years ago; that when the Boar, the great type of the mammal, plunged into the waters to bring 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 kingdom. Just as the Fish had typified the Silurian epoch, just as the Tortoise had started on its way the great amphibian 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. Not so very ignorant after all, you see, the ancient writings! For men are only re-discovering to-day what has been in the hands of the followers of the Rishis for thousands, tens of thousands of years.
Then we come to a strange incarnation on this Lemurian continent: frightful conflicts existed; we are nearing what in the theosophical nomenclature is the middle of the third Race, and man as man will shortly appear with all the characteristics of his nature. He is not yet quite come to birth; strange forms are seen, half human and half animal, wholly monstrous; terrible struggles arise between these monstrous forms born from the slime as it is said--from the remains of former creations--and the newer and higher life in which the future evolution is enshrined. These forms are represented in the Purânas as those of the race of Daityas, who ruled the earth, who struggled against the Deva manifestations, who conquered the Devas from time to time, who subjected them, who ruled over earth and heaven alike, bringing every thing under their sway. You may read in the splendid stanzas of the Book of Dzyan, as given us by H. P. B., hints of that mighty struggle of which the Purânas are so full, a struggle which was as real as any struggle of later days, an absolute historical fact that many of us have seen. We 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 battling, against whom the great Lords of the Flame came down. One of these conflicts, the greatest of all, is given in the story of the Avatâra known as that of Narasimha--the Man-Lion. You know the story; what Hindu does not know the story of Prahlâda? In 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 sexual man may be born. I need not dwell on that familiar story of the devotee of Vishnu; how his Daitya father strove to kill him because the name of Hari was ever on his lips; how he strove to slay him, with a sword, and the sword fell broken from the neck of the child; how then he tried to poison him, and Vishnu appeared and ate first of the poisoned rice, so that the boy might eat it with the name of Hari on his lips; how his father strove to slay him by the furious elephant, by the fang of the serpent, by throwing him over a precipice, and by crushing him under a stone. But ever the cry of "Hari, Hari," brought deliverance, for in the elephant, in the fang of the serpent, in the precipice, and in the stone, Hari was ever present, and his devotee was safe in that presence: how finally when the father, challenging the omnipresence of the Deity, pointed to the stone pillar and said in mocking language: "Is your Hari also in the pillar?" "Hari, Hari," cried the boy, and the pillar burst asunder, and the mighty form came forth and slew the Daitya that doubted, in order that he might learn the omnipresence of the Supreme. A story? facts, not fiction; truth, not imagination; and if you could look back to the time of those struggles, there would seem to you nothing strange or abnormal in the story; 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 take place.
We pass from those four Avatâras, every one of which comes within what is called the Satya Yuga of the earth--not of the race remember, not the smaller cycle, but of the earth--the Satya Yuga 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 next age, that which we call the Treta Yuga, that which is, in the theosophical chronology--and I put the two together in order that students may be able to work their way out in detail--the middle of the third Root Race, when humanity receives the light from above, and when man as man begins to evolve. How is that evolution marked? By the coming of the Supreme in human form, as Vâmana, the Dwarf. The Dwarf? Yes; for man was as yet but dwarf in the truly human stature, although vast in outer appearance; and He came as the inner man, small, yet stronger than the outer form; against him was Bali, the mighty, showing the outer form, while Vâmana, the Dwarf, showed the man that should be. And when Bali had offered a great sacrifice, the Dwarf as a Brâhmana came to beg.
It is curious this question of the caste of the Avatâras. When we once come to the human Avatâras, They are mostly Kshattriyas, as you know, but in two cases. They are Brâhmanas, and this is one of them; for He was going to beg, and Kshattriya might not beg. Only he to whom the earth's wealth should be as nothing, who should have no store of wealth to hold, to whom gold and earth should be as one, only he may go to beg. He was an ancient Brâhmana, not a modern Brâhmana.
He came with begging bowl in hand, to beg of the king; for of what use is sacrifice unless something be given at the sacrifice? Now Bali was a pious ruler, on the side of the evolution that was passing away, and gladly gave a boon. "Brâhmana, take thy boon," said he. "Three steps of earth alone I ask for," said the Dwarf. Of that little man surely three steps would not cover much, and the great king 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 next step covered sky. Where could the third step be planted, where? so that the gift might be made complete. Nothing was left for Bali to give save himself; nothing to make his gift complete--and his word might not be broken--save his own body. So, recognising the Lord of all, he threw himself before Him, and the third step, planted on his body, fulfilled the promise of the king and made him the ruler of the lower regions, of Pâtâla. Such the story. How full of significance. This inner man--so small at that stage but really so mighty, who was to rule alike the earth and heaven--could for his third step find no place to put his foot upon save his own lower nature; he was to go forward and forward ever; that is hinted in the third step that was taken. What a graphic picture of the evolution that lay in front, the wondrous evolution that now was to begin.
And I may just remind you in passing that there is one word in the Rig Veda, which refers to this very Avatâra, that has been a source of endless controversy and dispute as to its meaning; there it is said:
Through all this world strode Vishnu; thrice His foot He planted and the whole
Was gathered in His footstep's dust. (I. xxii., 17.)
[Footnote 9: See also I. cliv., which speaks of His three steps, within which all living creatures have their habitation; the three steps are said to be "the earth, the heavens, and all living creatures." Here Bali is made the symbol of all living things.]
That too is one of the "babblings of child humanity." I know not what figure the greatest man could use more poetical, more full of meaning, more sublime 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 His footsteps, and how would it have any life save as His foot has touched it?
So we pass, still treading onwards in the Treta Yuga, and we come to another manifestation--that of Parashurâma; a strange Avatâra you may think, and a partial Avatâra, let me say, as we shall see when we come to look at His life and read the words that are spoken of Him. The Yuga had now gone far and the Kshattriya caste had risen and was ruling, mighty in its power, great in its authority, the one warrior ruling caste, and alas! abusing its power, as men will do when souls are still being trained, and are young for their surroundings. The Kshattriya caste abused its power, built up in order that it might rule; the duty of the ruler, remember, is essentially protection: but these used their power not to protect, but to plunder, not to help but to oppress. A terrible lesson must be taught the ruling caste, in order that it might learn, if possible, 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 kings of the earth, the rulers of men, a lesson that had to be repeated over and over again, and is not yet completely learnt. A divine manifestation came in order that that lesson might be taught; and the Teacher was not a Kshattriya save by mother. A strange story, that story of the birth. Food given to two Kshattriya women, each of whom was to bear a son, the husband of one of them a Brâhmana; and the two women exchanged the food, and that meant to bring forth a Kshattriya son was taken by the woman with the Brâhmana husband. An accident, men would say; there are no accidents in a universe of law. The food which was full of Kshattriya energy thus went into the Brâhmana family, for it would not have been fitting that a Kshattriya should destroy Kshattriyas. The lesson would not thus have been so well taught to the world. So that we have the strange phenomenon of the Brâhmana coming with an axe to slay the Kshattriya, and three times seven times that axe was raised in slaughter, cutting the Kshattriya trunk off from the surface of the earth.
But while Parashurâma was still in the body, a greater Avatâra came forth to show what a Kshattriya king should be. The Kshattriyas abusing their place and their power were swept away by Parashurâma, and, ere He had left the earth where the bitter lesson had been taught, the ideal Kshattriya came down to teach, now by example, the lesson of what should be, after the lesson of what should not be had been enforced. The boy Râma was born, on whose exquisite story we have not time long to dwell, the ideal ruler, the utterly perfect king. While a boy He went forth with the great teacher Visvâmitra, in order to protect the Yogî's sacrifice; a boy, almost a child, but able to drive away, as you remember, the Râkshasas that interfered with the sacrifice, and then He and His beloved brother Lakshmana and the Yogî went on to the court of king Janaka. And there, at the court, was a great bow, a bow which had belonged to Mahâdeva Himself. To bend and string that bow was the task for the man who would wed Sîtâ, the child of marvellous birth, the maiden who had sprung from the furrow as the plough went through the earth, who had no physical father or physical mother. Who should wed the peerless maiden, the incarnation of Shrî, Lakshmî, the consort of Vishnu? Who should wed Her save the Avatâra of Vishnu Himself? So the mighty bow remained unstrung, for who might string it until the boy Râma came? And He takes it up with boyish carelessness, and bends it so strongly that it breaks in half, the crash echoing through earth and sky. He weds Sîtâ, the beautiful, and goes forth with Her, and with His brother Lakshmana and his bride, and with His father who had come to the bridal, and with a vast procession, wending their way back to their own town Ayodhya. This breaking of Mahâdeva's bow has rung through earth, the crashing of the bow has shaken all the worlds, and all, both men and Devas, know that the bow has been broken. Among the devotees of Mahâdeva, Parashurâma hears the clang of the broken bow, the bow of the One He worshipped; and proud with the might of His strength, still with the energy of Vishnu in Him, He goes forth to meet this insolent boy, who had dared to break the bow that no other arm could bend. He challenges Him, and handing His own bow bids Him try what He can do with that. Can He shoot an arrow from its string? Râma takes this offered bow, strings it, and sets an arrow on the string. Then He stops, for in front of Him there is the body of a Brâhmana; shall He draw an arrow against that form? As the two Râmas stand face to face, the energy of the elder, it is written, passes into the younger; the energy of Vishnu, the energy of the Supreme, leaves the form in which it had been dwelling and enters the higher manifestation of the same divine life. The bow was stretched and the arrow waiting, but Râma would not shoot it forth lest harm should come, until He had pacified His antagonist; then feeling that energy pass, Parashurâma bows before Râma, diviner than Himself, hails Him as the Supreme Lord of the worlds, bends in reverence before Him, and then goes away. That Avatâra was over, although the form in which the energy had dwelt yet persisted. That is why I said it was a lesser Avatâra. Where you have the form persisting when the influence is withdrawn, you have the clear proof that there the incarnation cannot be said to be complete; the passing from the one to the other is the sign of the energy taken back by the Giver and put into a new vessel in which new work is to be done.
The story of Râma you know; we need not follow it further in detail; we spoke of it yesterday in its highest aspect as combating the forces of evil and starting the world, as it were, anew. We find the great reign of Râma lasting ten thousand years in the Dvapara Yuga, the Yuga at the close of which Shrî Krishna came.
Then comes the Mighty One, Shrî Krishna Himself, of whom I speak not to-day; we will try to study that Avatâra to-morrow with such insight and reverence as we may possess. Pass over that then for the moment, leaving it for fuller study, and we come to the ninth Avatâra as it is called, that of the Lord Buddha. Now round this much controversy has raged, and a theory exists current to some extent among the Hindus that the Lord Buddha, though an incarnation of Vishnu, came to lead astray those who did not believe the Vedas, came to spread confusion upon earth. Vishnu is the Lord of order, not of disorder; the Lord of love, not the Lord of hatred; the Lord of compassion, who only slays to help the life onward when the form has become an obstruction. And they blaspheme who speak of an incarnation of the Supreme, as coming to mislead the world that He has made. Rightly did your own learned pandit, T. Subba Row, speak of that theory with the disdain born of knowledge; for no one who has a shadow of occult learning, no one who knows anything of the inner realities of life, could thus speak of that beautiful and gracious manifestation of the Supreme, or dream that He could take the mighty form of an Avatâra in order to mislead.
But there is another point to put about this Avatâra, on which, perhaps, I may come into conflict with people on another side. For this is the difficulty of keeping the middle path, the razor path which goes neither to the left nor to the right, along which the great Gurus lead us. On either side you find objection to the central teaching. The Lord Buddha, in the ordinary sense of the word, was not what we have defined as an Avatâra. He was the first of our own humanity who climbed upwards to that point, and there merged in the Logos and received full illumination. His was not a body taken by the Logos for the purpose of revealing Himself, but was the last in myriads of births through which he had climbed to merge in I´shvara at last. That is not what is normally spoken of as an Avatâra, though, you may say, the result truly is the same. But in the case of the Avatâra, the evolving births are in previous kalpas, and the Avatâra comes after the man has merged in the Logos, and the body is taken for the purpose of revelation. But he who became Gautama Buddha had climbed though birth after birth in our own kalpa, as well as in the kalpas that went before; and he was incarnated many a time when the great Fourth Race dwelt in mighty Atlantis, and rose onward to take the office of the Buddha; for the Buddha is the title of an office, not of a particular man. Finally by his own struggles, the very first of our race, he was able to reach that great function in the world. What is the function? That of the Teacher of Gods and men. The previous Buddhas had been Buddhas who came from another planet. Humanity had not lived long enough here to evolve its own son to that height. Gautama Buddha was human-born. He had evolved through the Fourth Race into this first family of the A´ryan Race, the Hindu. By birth after birth in India He had completed His course and took His final body in A´ryâvarta, to make the proclamation of the law to men.
But the proclamation was not made primarily for India. It was given in India because India is the place whence the great religious revelations go forth by the will of the Supreme. Therefore was He born in India, but His law was specially meant for nations beyond the bounds of A´ryâvarta, that they might learn a pure morality, a noble ethic, disjoined--because of the darkness of the age--from all the complicated teachings which we find in connection with the subtle, metaphysical Hindu faith.
Hence you find in the teachings of the Lord Buddha two great divisions; one a philosophy meant for the learned, then an ethic disjoined from the philosophy, so far as the masses are concerned, noble and pure and great, yet easy to be grasped. For the Lord knew that we were going into an age of deeper and deeper materialism, that other nations were going to arise, that India for a time was going to sink down for other nations to rise above her in the scale of nations. Hence was it necessary to give a teaching of morality fitted for a more materialistic age, so that even if nations would not believe in the Gods they might still practise morality and obey the teachings of the Lord. In order also that this land might not suffer loss, in order that India itself might not lose its subtle metaphysical teachings and the widespread belief among all classes of people in the existence of the Gods and their part in the affairs of men, the work of the great Lord Buddha was done. He left morality built upon a basis that could not be shaken by any change of faith, and, having done His work, passed away. Then was sent another great One, overshadowed by the power of Mahâdeva, Shrî Shankarâchârya, in order that by His teaching He might give, in the Advaita Vedânta, the philosophy which would do intellectually what morally the Buddha had done, which intellectually would guard spirituality and allow a materialistic age to break its teeth on the hard nut of a flawless philosophy. Thus in India metaphysical religion triumphed, while the teaching of the Blessed One passed from the Indian soil, to do its noble work in lands other than the land of A´ryâvarta, which must keep unshaken its belief in the Gods, and where highest and lowest alike must bow before their power. That is the real truth about this much disputed question as to the teaching of the ninth Avatâra; the fact was that His teaching was not meant for His birthplace, but was meant for other younger nations that were rising up around, who did not follow the Vedas, but who yet needed instruction in the path of righteousness; not to mislead them but to guide them, was His teaching given. But, as I say, and as I repeat, what in it might have done harm in India had it been left alone was prevented by the coming of the great Teacher of the Advaita. You must remember, that His name has been worn by man after man, through century after century; but the Shrî Shankarâchârya on whom was the power of Mahâdeva was born but a few years after the passing away of the Buddha, as the records of the Dwârakâ Math show plainly--giving date after date backward, until they bring His birth within 60 or 70 years of the passing away of the Buddha.
We come to the tenth Avatâra, the future one, the Kalki. Of that but little may be said; but one or two hints perchance may be given. With His coming will dawn a brighter age; with His coming the Kali Yuga will pass away; with His coming will also come a higher race of men. He will come when there is born upon earth the sixth Root Race. There will then be a great change in the world, a great manifestation of truth, of occult truth, and when He comes then occultism will again be able to show itself to the world by proofs that none will be able to challenge or to deny; and He in His coming will give the rule over the sixth Root Race to the two Kings, of whom you read in the Kalki Purâna. As we look back down the past stream of time we find over and over again two great figures standing side by side--the ideal King and the ideal Priest. They work together; the one rules, the other teaches; 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 Race. Each Race has its own Teacher, the ideal Brâhmana, called in the Buddhist language the Bodhisattva, the learned, full of wisdom and truth. Each has also its own ruler, the Manu. Those two we can trace in the past, in Their actual incarnations; and we see Them in the third, the fourth, and fifth Races; the Manu in each race is the ideal King, the Brâhmana in each race is the ideal Teacher; and we learn that when the Kalki Avatâra shall come He shall call from the sacred village of Shamballa--the village known to the occultist though not to the profane--two Kings who have remained throughout the age in order to help the world in its evolution. And the name of the Manu who will be the King of the next Race, is said in the Purâna to be Moru; and the name of the ideal Brâhmana who will be the Teacher of the next Race is said to be Devapi; and these two are King and Teacher for the sixth Race that is to be born.
Those of you who have read something of the wondrous story of the past will know that the choosing out of the new Race, the evolving of it, the making of a new Root Race, is a thing that takes centuries, millenniums, sometimes hundreds of thousands of years; and that the two who are to be its King and Priest, the Manu and the Brâhmana, are at Their work throughout the centuries, choosing the men who may be the seeds of the new Race. In the womb of the fourth Race a choice was made out of which the fifth was born; isolated in the Gobi 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 A´ryan family was led forth to settle in A´ryâvarta. Now in the womb of the fifth Race, the sixth Race is a choosing, and the King and the Teacher of the sixth Race are already at Their mighty and beneficent work. They are choosing one by one, trying and testing, those who shall form the nucleus of the sixth Race; They are taking soul by soul, subjecting each to many a test, to many an ordeal, to see if there be the strength out of which a new Race can spring; and in fulness of time when Their work is ready, then will come the Kalki Avatâra, to sweep away the darkness, to send the Kali Yuga into the past, to proclaim the birth of the new Satya Yuga, with a new and more spiritual Race, that is to live therein. Then will He call out the chosen, the King Moru and the Brâhmana Devapi, and give into Their hands the Race that now They are building, the Race to inhabit a fairer world, to carry onwards the evolution of humanity.