The term “Avatar” in Sanskrit means “fallen”. The Infinite fallen from its supreme state into an apparent state of finitude is ”avatar”. In fact, as the entire universe is but an expression of the Infinite Reality, everyone of us — every inert thing and every sentient being is an avatar just as every link in a chain of gold is also nothing but gold. Even though we are thus the Supreme, ex¬pressing through matter in the world of names and forms, we do recognize the avatars as direct divine manifestations. This is because an avatar is ever conscious of its own Infinite Nature. Its mind is always pure and as such there is greater resplen¬dency of divinity beaming out from such a mighty incarnation. The sages, saints, prophets are all examples wherein we find a greater Divine Presence. Yet they are not considered as avatars—an avatar is the Infinite directly appearing in our midst. From the womb onwards, the avatar is ever conscious of its divine nature.
The Infinite Lord, as the total cause of the Universe, often has to come down to express in the mani¬fested world, to serve the creatures and set the rhythm of life for the purposes of directing and hastening the great grand general evolution. This avatar—concept is not so easy for the West to apprehend and Max Mueller characterized it as “mere metaphysical twaddle and scholastic hair splitting”.
The Supreme identifying with the limited microcosm is the jiva—the individualized ego: you and I. The same Supreme Consciousness functioning through the totality, the macrocosmic world, is God, Ishwara. The Supreme, on account of His unquestioned freedom, by His own perfectly free will, takes upon Himself the conditioning of matter, and manifests Himself in a particular embodiment in the world, for serving the deluded generation-of that time. To the Lord, His “ignorance” is but a pose assumed, not a fact lived. A mortal becomes victimized by his avidya, while the Lord is the master of maya. The Lord uses the matter envelopments and their limitations as a convenience and as a set of neces¬sary tools in this game of protecting the creation.
Thus, though the Lord is Unborn and Changeless, in His Nature, and ever a Lord of matter, yet keeping His maya perfectly under His own control, He comes into the world, through His own freewill. All the time He is fully conscious of His own Divine status and unchallenged prerogative.
The Supreme, which is the substratum for the pluralistic world, puts on the body-gown and, as it were, walks into the dusky atmosphere of the immoral life of mankind, for the purpose of re¬organizing and conducting a thorough spring-cleaning of the bosom of man.
In the descent of God, He reserves for Himself the Divine freedom to be in it and yet not of it: “then I body myself forth”.