Q: Gurudev, there is some confusion regarding Lord Vishnu’s Avatar (incarnation) in the form of Parshurama.
How was it possible for Lord Rama to be born at the same time when Parshurama was present as well, as both are considered to be incarnations of Lord Narayana?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: We first need to understand what an Avatar is.
It is not that an Avatar can only be present at one place and not at another place at the same time. An Avatar simply represents a part of the Divinity. And where would you not find the Divinity?
A part of Divinity is present everywhere and in everything. Wherever this element of Divinity manifests itself completely, such that one can behold it, that is an Avatar. That is all. It is not that it suddenly appears somewhere from space. God is omnipresent and he is in everything.
See, a house can have four windows, is it not? And one can see the sun completely from each window, isn’t it?
If you ask me about a Jivatma (a living being with a physical body); how can a Jivatma take birth at one place and also be born in another place at the same time? This question you can ask. But this does not hold true for the Paramatma (Supreme Being). The Divinity (here referring to Paramatma) being omnipresent can manifest and appear anywhere.
It is very fascinating to be able to see God in the form of Parshurama.
If you take a look at the life story of Parshurama, there is no act of his that would make you think that he is an incarnation of God.
First he beheaded his own mother.
Is it easy for any child to behead his own mother? No, it is very difficult. It is impossible actually. And then he went after vanquishing all the Kshatriyas (military and ruling elite of the Vedic-Hindu social system).
According to me, this was a very foolish thing to do. We are far more evolved than this.
So what is the meaning behind this? It actually means that there is an astonishing Supreme power that is also capable of performing such brutal acts.
‘The acts performed by Parshurama were inhuman and out of the ordinary. Such acts cannot be performed by a normal human being, but only God Himself can perform such acts. So Parshurama has to be an incarnation of the Supreme Being.’ This was the understanding.
Parshurama’s Avatar is seen in this light, with this understanding.
The acts performed by Parshurama were inhuman and are not worthy of being performed by an ordinary human being. And no one has ever preached to follow the ways of Parshurama.
His acts are actually not worthy of emulation, yet they are worthy of respect. Why?
Firstly, because whatever actions he did, he did them without a sense of doership, as a witness (sakshi bhav) to it. He never did anything with a sense of doership.
Secondly, if you are able to see God in Parshurama also, then you will see only God everywhere. In every child and every human being you will see an Avatar.
This is why Parshurama is considered as an Avatar.
If you can see God in a fish (Matsya Avatar), a boar (Varaha Avatar), a tortoise (Kurma Avatar), a lion (Narsimha Avatar), a swan, a crow and so on; in everything around you, and even in a stone hearted human being like Parshurama who killed thousands of Kshatriya warriors, then the job is done! Then you will see Divinity in all of Creation, all around you and everywhere. After that there will be nothing in the world in which you cannot see God.
To understand this knowledge, Parshurama was also considered to be an incarnation of God.
Have you understood this?
So, do not think God is limited to one particular region, country or time. God is omnipresent and resides in every particle of this Creation.
Lord Rama as an Avatar is said to be Maryada Purushottam (One who is supreme among mortals and the upholder of the principles of Dharma), yet he would humbly bow down and touch the feet of all sages. He treated everyone with great respect and honor. He sat at the feet of Sage Agastya and received knowledge from him.
Such was his greatness that He even asked his brother Lakshmana to go and touch the feet of Ravana and receive knowledge from him as he lay dying on the battlefield.
So He sent his younger brother to become the disciple of Ravana and gain knowledge from him in his last moments.
Lord Rama said, ‘If I go to him (Ravana) then he will leave his body and his soul will merge into Me. So before that happens, go and learn all that you can from him. After that, I will give him darshan and his soul will merge into Me.’
Lord Rama worshiped Lord Shiva. Lord Krishna also worshiped Lord Shiva, and Lord Krishna was also a great devotee of the Devi (Mother Divine). He always worshiped Mother Divine.
Devi here refers to the Divine Power which is present in everyone in the form of Chetna (Consciousness), in the form of a jiva (embodied living being), in the form of hunger, intellect, glory, strength, and in multiple other forms.
Today Mother Divine is present before us as Annapoorna (a form of the Mother Divine associated with bestowing food and nourishment). There is so much food here before us! (Gurudev refers to the 451 food items prepared by devotees from Gujarat on the festival of Annakuta).