In the introduction to the recent post of Hazrat Inayat Khan’s reflections on Rama, the term ‘Avatar’ was mentioned. This is a Sanskrit word indicating the divine fully manifest in human form. According to Hindu belief, there have been many such incarnations through the innumerable cycles of time: Rama was one such avatar, and Krishna was another. To some, particularly in the West, the thought that a human can be a god is hard to swallow, and indeed, there have been many examples throughout history of self-proclaimed ‘man-gods’ and ‘divine mothers’ who were notably less than perfect. Nevertheless, for the Sufi, there is wisdom to be found in the belief.
In the usual conception, there is an infinitely wide gulf between the human and the divine. ‘God’ should be perfect, at least according to our criteria of perfection (and we seldom stop to think how a limited human being could ever successfully judge the Infinite), whereas humans seem to be riddled with faults. The result of this view is an insurmountable duality: ‘God’ somewhere–in heaven perhaps, but certainly far away, and humanity here on earth, living, struggling, suffering and dying.
In the view of the Sufi, though, God is One, beside Whom there is no other, and that means that the separation of human from the Divine is an error of perception. As it is said in the prayer Saum, God is ‘…Omnipresent, All-pervading, the Only Being.’ If we do not see that Unity, it is only because we are so intoxicated with our own individuality, with the distinctions and differences that divide us from each other, that we do not see the Whole.
We are all expressions of the same Divine Source; it cannot be otherwise. What is lacking, though, is our awareness of that Divinity, a lack which causes us to be selfish and limited in our behaviour, and consequently disappointed with ourselves. If we drop the veils of ‘me’ and ‘mine’, we discover that the pain of my neighbour is my pain, that the happiness of my neighbour is also my happiness.
The one who truly recognises this (and not just intellectually!) then devotes an entire lifetime to making a reality of the Divine Presence, a task which, by the way, keeps us far too busy to make any presumptuous claims about our own ‘perfection.’