Q: What is meant by “messiah” versus “avatar”? How are Jesus and Krisna similar and how are they different? Are they both Messiahs? Are they Avatars?
“Messiah” is a Hebrew word meaning “anointed one” as does the Greek word Christos from which “Christ” is derived. Almost always “messiah” refers to that single person whose coming was predicted by the Jewish prophets. He was expected to be both a spiritual and a political figure, both teaching and leading Israel.
Many people have appeared over the centuries and been considered the Messiah by differing numbers of people. Also, in Jewish mysticism “Messiah” refers to a supreme level of enlightenment and is also the name of the high spiritual realm in which those who have attained such enlightenment usually dwell and from which they may descend into lower worlds for the welfare of others. (This is the basis of the concept of Christ found in the Aquarian Gospel.)
An avatar is an incarnation of God. Some believe that the Absolute takes on a form and lives in this material world and in the higher, subtler worlds. Others, especially the yogis who ascribe to the Sankhya philosophy, consider that an avatar is someone who has attained total enlightenment and perfect union/identity with God and then returns to lower worlds for the upliftment of those living there.
Only God, Jesus and Krishna know their spiritual status whatever their devotees may believe about them. Certainly Jesus taught some of the same things that Krishna did, but Jesus lived most of his life in India and would have known the Bhagavad Gita, as he also knew the teachings of Buddha. One thing both Krishna and Jesus have in common is the exaggeration and misunderstanding on the part of those who claim to be their followers.
This we can know: both Krishna and Jesus pointed people to God. As Buddha said, a true teaching or teacher is like a finger pointing to the moon. The moon is the message–not the finger. Both indicated that Self-knowledge and God-knowledge are interdependent and fundamentally the same. Again: yoga is the path.
More Questions and Answers:
- Yogis Who Saw Jesus
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- Karma and Reincarnation: Fundamental Spiritual Laws