The storyteller Suta is narrating to Shaunaka how the Lord of the Universe manifested on Earth. It is called an avatara when the mind expresses itself in its fullest potential. The Lord had 16 aspects to him, the Suta said. The 16 are our five sense organs of action, five sense organs of perception, the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and space and the mind. So the 16-factored being we call the Lord is none other than you and me. However, we do not know the greatness of what it is, but an avatara is one who is born with that knowledge and realisation as Sri Krishna was.
This primeval manifestation was to create the whole world of beings. From this cosmic being’s navel came Brahma seated on a lotus flower. This is the supreme form of the Lord from which all the universes and great beings manifested to return back into him.
The first beings to be created on earth by Brahma were the four mind-born sons. They were Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana and Sanat Kumara. They did not have any intention of further procreation and were ever absorbed in a state of deep meditation, even as they were very young boys who remained that age for ever.
The second avatara was when the earth was lost in the causal waters, the supreme being took the form of a wild boar to retrieve the earth from his snout. Many manifestations are listed in the Bhagavatam and each time, there is a very noble purpose, either in the gross world of matter or to clarify doubts in the mind and set right ideologies at the intellectual level. However, while the numerous avatars or manifestations had only some parts of the 16 aspects, Sri Krishna is a Purna Avatar with all the 16 aspects manifested in full expression.
When Shaunaka Rishi asked Suta how Sri Veda Vyasa got to compose the great poem called the Srimad Bhagavatam, the Suta first told him about Shuka, the son of Veda Vyasa. Shuka was a born realised being. He was a digambara, meaning the sky was his clothes. As he passed by a lake where many women were happily bathing with their clothes on the shore, they continued with their frolic, as they were alone among themselves.
However, just behind the young boy came his father Veda Vyasa, long grey beard and top knot. No sooner than the girls saw him, they became shy and covered themselves with their clothes. Veda Vyasa was perturbed by this and asked them how they did not do it when his son passed by, being a youth. The women replied, “You see differences between man, woman and objects, while your son who is none other than that supreme truth in human form sees none of these differences. That is why we did not have any sense of shyness when we saw him. With yourself, being an elder, we had to do it as a mark of respect too.”
The author is Acharya, Chinmaya Mission, Tiruchi firstname.lastname@example.org (www.sharanyachaitanya.blogspot.in)