|When Darkness Threatens|
In the Hindu tradition, the Supreme Godhead is said to incarnate from age to age when evil is rampant and righteousness is in danger of extinction. He comes to reestablish justice and spiritual order. By an act of divine will, he assumes a human form to reverse the trend of social decline.
The Lord takes human birth to save the good and subdue evildoers. When evil threatens to overwhelm righteousness and devotees pray for redemption, the Lord incarnates to renew the path of spiritual endeavor. The call of earnest aspirants draws the Lord to manifest himself. Their prayers and his compassion culminate in this epochal event.
The Lord takes birth to show us the means to achieve God-realization. Only by appearing as a human being can be illustrate correct paths of action. Only by living among us can he encourage aspirants to understand and love God. We require an example to demonstrate divine qualities.
By assuming human form, the Lord sets an example of ideal human behavior. By appearing among us, he captures our love and motivates us to action. The epic tales of ancient India (the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and the Puranas) recount the lives of the avatars such as Rama and Krishna in past ages. These accounts are not simply histories: they are guidebooks of spiritual living. They set forth-ideal examples of right conduct, compassion, and truth. They illustrate the tender and "human" side of God as well as his might.
The reason for God to incarnate in each age vary in detail. The manifestation must suit the time and circumstance. Some incarnations appear for a specific and limited purpose. Others avatars come for more general reasons, such as reestablishing truth and spiritual direction.
For this reason, some incarnations are born with only the power requisite for the task at hand. Others, such as Sathya Sai, are endowed with powers beyond the immediate need. The Rama avatar manifested part of his power through his brothers. However, Krishna was a poorna (full) avatar, an incarnation manifesting complete divine powers.
The goal of the avatar suits the requirements of the age. During the four spiritual ages of humanity, the message is taught according to human capacity to learn. In the Kritha Yuga, the spiritual "Golden Age," meditation was emphasized. In the Treta Yuga, the following era, ritual acts and sacrifices held primary importance. In the declining Dwapara Yuga, ritual worship dominated spiritual endeavor. In the current age, the Kali Yuga, which is characterized by spiritual decline, the principal lesson is implying remembrance of the name of the Lord. The Kali Yuga commenced at the time of Krishna’s death, February 20, 3102 B.C. It will have a duration of 11,000 years.
It is not possible for human beings to fully understand the nature of the avatar. Although he appears as a human being, his power and capacity soar beyond our understanding. He sees the past, present, and future of all. By his unique powers, he guides individuals and society toward spiritual regeneration.