Swami Vivekananda has said that avataras are always different from ordinary gurus even if they have attained the highest state.

Complete Works/Volume 5/Questions and Answers:

Q.—Cannot the spiritual teacher make the aspirant fit?

A.— An Avatâra can. Not an ordinary Guru.

Q.—Is there no easy way to liberation?

A.—"There is no royal road to Geometry"—except for those who have been fortunate enough to come in contact with an Avatara. Paramahamsa Deva used to say, "One who is having his last birth shall somehow or other see me."

Q.—What is the meaning of "क्षणमिह सज्जनसंगतिरेका"—"Even a moment's association with the holy ones serves to take one beyond this relative existence"?

A.—A fit person coming in contact with a true Sadhu attains to liberation. True Sadhus are very rare, but their influence is such that a great writer has said, "Hypocrisy is the tribute which vice pays to virtue." But Avataras are Kapâlamochanas, that is, they can alter the doom of people. They can stir the whole world. The least dangerous and best form of worship is worshipping man. One who has got the idea of Brahman in a man has realised it in the whole universe. Monasticism and the householder's life are both good, according to different circumstances. Knowledge is the only thing necessary.

He is saying that Avataras can give liberation so why can't ordinary realized gurus do that?

One who can alter the doom of people is the Lord. No sadhu, however advanced, can claim this unique position.

Why no sadhu can claim this unique position? Speaking from Advaita perspective, the moment you get realized, you become aware of your true nature. You realize that you are no different from indivisible Brahman and that is what Avatara is: God in human form.

So what exactly is the difference between avataras and normal gurus?

  • Your question itself says "A fit person coming in contact with a true Sadhu attains to liberation". Maybe, Avatars have more Kalas, and hence more impact in the relative. They are both realized in the Absolute though. May 21, 2016 at 11:56
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    We can only speculate what Swami Vivekananda meant. However from an Advaita perspective, according to my understanding, this is my opinion. Nobody can liberate you, because nobody has bound you (yes!). You have bound yourrself. Only You can liberate yourself. Who's this 'You' (with a capitalized You)? It's your very Self. Your true nature, what you call God. Thus when your Self comes in the form of a man (or your Guru) to liberate you, how can you call Him a sadhu? No way. He is definitely God come in human form, i.e. Avatar. That's why if you see, all sects believe in their Guru being Avatar.
    – Sai
    May 24, 2016 at 4:52
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    Avatara is Suguna Brahman. Suguna Brahman is superior to Jeevanmuta. But after Jeevanmukta leaving body, Maya and world disappears and there exist only Nirguna Brahman. See this answer and comments.
    – The Destroyer
    Jul 30, 2016 at 2:34
  • so can you accept an answer which is against vivekanandas views? Nov 20, 2017 at 17:38
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    krishna also said to make good use of time. When someone has predecided notions then making efforts is futile isnt it ? Nov 20, 2017 at 18:07

3 Answers 3


Guru is God. God is Guru. Guru’s lineage starts from the ultimate parambrahma to the current Guru. So we praise the Guru lineage/parampara like

Narayana samarambham vyasa sankara madhyamam asmad acarya paryantam vande guru paramparaam


Sadasiva samarambham sankaracarya madhyamam asmad acarya paryantam vande guru paramparam


Dattatreya Samarambham Nrisimhadika Madhyamam Saccidananda Paryantam Vande Guru Paramparam

Gnana or true knowledge can be gained only by the grace of Guru. He knows our eligibility and uplifts us to attain self realization. This may happen in one lifetime or may take several hundreds of births. After attaining the ultimate oneness state of gnana by experience and realization, he is equal to all other Gurus and Gods.

When God purposely descends to earth as Guru, it is presumed that avatar Guru teaches knowledge where as realized Guru may or may not teach others unless otherwise asked. Realized Guru may choose to have low or zero disciples (May also can have more or equal no of disciples compared to avatar Guru). He may teach or indulge Himself into samadhi. A Guru who meditates in forests or mountains is doing equal favor compared to a guru who physically teaches & guides the disciple.

In a word avatar guru has knowledge by birth since god himself decided to come in the form of guru where as a normal human until self realization will face his karma and progress towards enlightenment. After this both are same and realized soul will experiences & realizes himself as reflection of parambramha and merges into oneness.


This question was asked to Sri Ramana Maharshi by one of his disciples.

Question: What is the difference between God [Ishwara] and the liberated one [jnani]?

Ramana: God and the jnani are one and the same except that the jnani was at first forgetful of the Self. Later, by the strength of his practice, he eventually came to know the Self. For God, it was not like that. Being the eternally liberated, God is performing the fivefold functions of creation, preservation, destruction, veiling and Grace. Because of this, his functioning is called activity in the form of the Absolute [Brahman]. That is like calling the river which has merged in the sea the river in the form of the ocean. The activities or functioning of God and the jnani are one and the same. But for the avatara purushas [pure incarnations of God] the bodies will change until the end of the kalpa [the longest age in hindu philosophy lasting several billion years]. This does not happen with the jnanis.

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    what is body will change util end of the kalpa, its will change or will not change?? so avatar life is less brahma life?? because we are in swetha varaha kalpa?? see being guru is not to contradict scripture is first quality, when it contradicts the guru need to correct himself..
    – Prasanna R
    Mar 4, 2019 at 7:54

Avatars are those enlightened being (realized souls) who descend down and start executing their mission even before they become enlightened. However, their ultimate purpose of their is to raise the consciousness of humanity.

Enlightened beings get transformed on "realization" and then start with their "action" whereas Avatars descend down with a very specific purpose (however narrow or broad it maybe).

For eg:

Rama Avatar (LilaAvatar) purpose was to establish how to live life as an being following the path of Dharma in-spite of innumerable obstacles. And push the humanity to live like a civilization from a disconnected groups of isolated tribe clusters. And compiled upanishads.

Krishna Avatar (PoornaAvatar) purpose was to reduce the BhuBhara by removing rot in society i.e. eliminating people with power without responsibility.

AdhiShankara Avata (AmsaAvatar) purpose was to organize the Hindu scriptures and traditions; and reintroduce Jnana marga along with Agamas.

Avatars being to exhibit the actions since their birth. They come down with the necessary tools to perform those actions (Lila).

Once their "mission" is executed, they leave the body. Hence Lord Krishna went on to live for over 130 years where as AdhiShankara in barely in early 30s.

Sanatana Hindu Dharma Shastras have a very specific way of classifying Avatars based on their purpose and tools they come down with.

Instead of repeating rest of the answer, I'll references to my answer to a similar question at Is there any incarnation of God currently living among us?

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