To recognize an avatar, we must have some enlightened perception. How
much more difficult the task has become in this age of spiritual decline!
People believe that God will manifest in a form suitable to their preconceptions,
if they even consider the possibility of divine incarnations. Today,
peopleís images of divinity are drawn from history books whose information
is not appropriate to this age. So when the Lord arrives, we must look
to the examples, the signs, and the teaching.
Many are drawn away by the outer signs of sainthood: the long gown,
the beard, the rosaries, and the matted hair. They keep tract of many
such who move about in this land and follow them into the wilderness.
It is very difficult to demarcate clearly the manifestation of the
Lord, and so I am announcing myself, and am myself describing my mission,
the task, the characteristics, and the qualities, which mark out the
avatar from the rest.
Sathya Sai Speaks 4
The ancient teachings of India offer some hints on how to discern an
avatar. They say that an avatar is recognized by certain attributes.
The more attributes possessed, the greater the scope of the incarnation.
The greatest avatars possess power over the sixteen "activities."
The first fifteen attributes involve mastery over physical function,
the senses, and the elements. They are described in various ways to
illustrate the avatarís power over the physical elements. The sixteenth
attribute is universal omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence. This
power is held only by poorna (full) avatars. Poorna avatars incarnate
very rarely; the last historical poorna avatar was Krishna, who lived
approximately five thousand years ago.