“Another day, when Krishna and Balarama were playing with Their friends, all the boys joined Balarama and told mother Yashoda that Krishna had eaten clay.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 8)
This incarnation and that. A full, personal expansion versus a partial. A plenary incarnation compared to a divinely empowered being. Identifiable and definable attributes belonging to the Personality of Godhead. His gunas are different. He is the great enjoyer, purusha, to the many who are enjoyed, prakriti.
With a wealth of information preserved through the timeless Vedic literature, it is seen that the one Supreme Being is not limited in travel. He can appear and disappear at will, and the manifestations in the material world are referred to as descents; hence the term avatara.
As there have been good guys [suras] since the beginning of time, so the opposite end persists as a rival. The asuras exhibit poor behavior due to their bad qualities, and they can be found even within religious circles. It is easy to be fooled by the pretenders, who take advantage of the avatara concept.
1. They deliver compelling lectures
“My goodness, have you heard this person speak? They are spellbinding. Something like the George Whitefield from the colonial period in America, their voice can reach many thousands of audience members simultaneously. People who were not previously inclined towards religion in the slightest now cannot wait to attend his lectures. This preacher must be an incarnation of God.”
Despite the popularity of the person being praised, upon listening for only a few minutes you are able to spot obvious deviations. They barely make mention of God or service to Him. The focus is entirely on aspects of material nature that are in duality.
“Work hard towards your goal. Forgive every single time. Love is the only way.”
You know that if the criminals are forgiven for every offense against society, they will never learn. Love, for sure, but what exactly does that mean? Give away stuff? Never chastise someone, even if they are doing something wrong?
With these flaws so crystal clear, you wonder how anyone would mistake the preacher to be God. There is certainly some exceptional talent. There is something in their karma to enable them to attract followers, but that alone shouldn’t establish equivalence with the original person.
2. They perform magic
This is an area where it is easier to understand the vulnerability towards falling for the pretender. They can appear and disappear at will. Put them in a locked room and they are able to escape. They can make an apple appear from nowhere. They are able to read minds, place curses on others, and go many days without food and water.
The Vedas explain that these are siddhis, which are perfections in the practice of mysticism. The idea is that the body is something like a holding cell. The spirit soul has almost boundless potential in ability, but the type of body acts as a covering. The human body is the most auspicious because it allows for the natural ability to extend to the greatest degree possible.
Even within that one body type there is variation. An expert yogi has mastered the ways of escaping the influence of the local material elements, though only temporarily. Through public displays of magic, they can easily fool others into thinking that there is some extraordinary divine influence.
3. They simply proclaim it
No need to be captivated by an impassioned speech. No reliance on a magic show. Just hear it directly stated:
“I am God. I am an avatara of Vishnu. I know this myself and I am revealing it to you. There is the possibility for you to become the same. That is the meaning of the Vedas and religion. Become God yourselves.”
In the concept presented by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, there are the cheaters and the cheated. The person wanting to cheat others and those who are willingly duped. Anyone can say anything. Just because they proclaim something very important, does it mean we should believe them, blindly? Should we not ask pressing questions? If you are God, how did you become Him? Why are you on this earth? Can you show the virata-rupa, the universal form?
On the other end of the spectrum we have the residents of Vrindavana in the setting of the genuine Divine appearance. Shri Krishna was there as the darling child of Nanda and Yashoda. He did truly amazing things, like survive attacks from wicked characters. He emerged victorious while only as an infant, showing that the form is not limiting with Him as it is with others.
Despite the overwhelming evidence in plain sight, the people were unsure. The mother had seen the universal form when once looking into Krishna’s mouth, after He was accused of eating dirt. How could that be? Her child was certainly amazing, but could He be Vishnu Himself?
In fact, the covering of maya was intentional, for increasing the outpouring of affection from those connected to Krishna. Saintly people tend towards this side; they accept the genuine incarnations. When closely aligned with the personal form, they reach the stage of forgetting the Divine nature, basking in the mood of connection of their choice.
Incarnation not so easily to be,
Fooling with magic tricks to see.
Or impassioned lecture giving,
That all and every forgiving.
But from shastra description when,
Identifying genuine avatara then.
Yashoda and others still not believing,
Despite Krishna personally receiving.
Categories: the three