The Meaning of the Word Avatar

Sanskrit words from the Hindu Vedic culture have been entering the English language for many years, e.g, “pundit,” “karma,” “guru” and of course “yoga”. Recently the word, “avatar” has made its way into every day English. Avatar, first became prevalent in colloquial English when technology companies used it to describe a user’s digital identity. More recently, it appeared as the title of a James Cameron movie! When, in a Time magazine interview, James Cameron was asked why he decided to title his movie “Avatar” he said, “[Avatar] is an incarnation of one of the Hindu gods taking a flesh form. In this film what that means is that the human technology in the future is capable of injecting a human being’s intelligence into a remotely located body, a biological body.” Mr. Cameron is partially right! In this video, Jeffrey Armstrong, Author of Spiritual Teaching of the Avatar and founder of the Vedic Academy of Science and Arts (VASA) shares his knowledge on the true meaning of Avatar.

Mr. Armstrong reveals the meaning of the word “avatar”: a manifestation of the Supreme Being in bodily form, which can be both male and female. “Ava” means to descend and “tara” means to heal or restore the balance. Avatars do not reincarnate. They come to Earth intentionally to fight evil, restore the balance of nature, and to teach the enlightened atmas the secrets of their own transcendental nature. Throughout the history of Hindu/Vedic culture there have been many descents from the Transcendental but the most well-known are recorded in the Smriti texts the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Sri Sita Ram and Sri Radha Krishna are described as “purna” or the most complete avatars of which the Vedas have a record.

This video is an initiative by Hindu Students Association to bring proper understanding of Hindu philosophy and practices to Hindus and non-Hindus. We would like to thank Jeffrey Armstrong/Kavindra Rishi and Sandi Graham for their work with this initiative.

Jeffrey Armstrong is an award-winning author of numerous books on Vedic knowledge including his recent book: Spiritual Teachings of the Avatar, Ancient Wisdom for a New World, published by Beyond Words/Atria/Simon & Schuster. He has been a philosopher, practitioner and teacher of the Vedas for over 40 years and spent five years in an ashram as a brahmacharya. He has degrees in Psychology, History & Comparative Religion, and Literature, had a successful career as an executive in Silicon Valley, and was a motivational speaker to Fortune 500 companies for 10 years before turning to teaching full time. Jeffrey Armstrong (Kavindra Rishi) is the founder of VASA – Vedic Academy of Sciences & Arts in Vancouver Canada. VASA is an on-line learning institution that makes available a large curriculum of the ancient wisdom of India presented in easy to understand English.