Monday, October 21, 2013

CONCURRENT, CO-EXISTENT, INTRUSIVE AND VARIED CONSTITUENTS OF DASAAVATAR

CONCURRENT, CO-EXISTENT, INTRUSIVE AND VARIED CONSTITUENTS OF DASAAVATAR

(DISCOURSE BY N.R. SRINIVASAN, BRENTWOOD, TN, USA, OCTOBER 2013)

O. INTRODUCTION
Hindu Puraanas abound in stories of Lord Vishnu’s incarnations, which may be full manifestations (Poornaavataaraas) like Krishna, Rama etc., partial manifestations (Amsaavataras) like Kapila or   temporary in-filling of the divine power of Vishnu (Avesaavataras) like Parasuraama. These are contained in the 22 Avatars of Vishnu described in Bhagavata Puraana which says that avatars of Vishnu   are innumerable. This has given scope for Hindus to add avatars like Swami Narayan, Aandal, Ramanuja, Santoshi Maa, Saibaba, Bharatmata, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa etc., opening the gate for a never ending list, not confining to Vishnu alone. Hindu pantheon of gods of 330 million is an ever-increasing phenomenon, baffling other religions of the world with its innumerable temples all over the country and world over wherever Hindus are settled.
Vaishnava theology deals with various kinds of Divine manifestations—the three Gunaavataaras known as Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara; the four Vyuhas known as Vaasudeva, Sankarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha; and, the scores of Leelaavataaras or sportive Divine Descents among men and other species of beings, of which the Incarnations of Rama and Krishna dominate their narrative.

1. CONCURRENT AVATARS IN DASAAVATAR AND OUR MANY UNANSWERED QUESTIONS
We read of Parasurama going to Rama after Sita’s wedding and taunting him about his valor in breaking a worn out Siva Dhanus and winning the hands of Sita, called him for a battle and in the process completely got deprived of his divine powers in Valmiki Ramayana. How do we justify these concurrent and challenging avatars?   Why Vedanta Desika a profound saint-scholar glorifies the two Avataras of Parasurama-Rama and Balarma-Krishna together in his Dasavatara Stotra both being Avatars of Vishnu and Jayadeva another great scholar-saint and poet, Parasuraama and Rama? Was Rama or Krishna alone not good enough to protect the Dharma?  Why Rama needed Vishnu’s selective tools of war and bed of comfort as his step brothers to confront Ravana?    Why we have Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Satrughna descended at the same time? Why two avatars of Koorma and Varaaha seen as one Avatar Koorma-Varaha? Why do two Buddhas confuse us as worshiped in Kaliyuga?  Why one Buddha is not born with that name but changes his name after being an ascetic?  No other Avatar changed its name after descent but glorified by many other attributed names! Of course we have the example of a dacoit who was named Valmiki after becoming a sage of world repute.  Nobody knows his name at birth? Why we hear news about descent and ascent of only few avataras from and to Vaikuntha? Why some avatars descend as a family   group and why main role needed supporting help from additional descents?  Bhagawan says in Bhagavadgeetaa that Avatar takes place over and over again, eon after eon, whenever there is a decline in Dharma beyond manageable level to punish the wicked and protect the innocent and pious.  Here he talks as Bhagawan and not as Krishna Vasudeva? The word Krishna is rarely used in Bhagawadgeeta and that has given rise to some speculation as to the authorship of Geetaa doubting a battle-field instant production? One of the Dasaavatara compositions in Puranas includes Satvata in place of Krshna?  Who is this Satvata?  Why Krishna alone out of ten avatars of Vishnu is not considered as an Avatar by Jayadeva but eulogized as Jagadisa alone?  Is Jayadeva the one who gave inspiration to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Prabhupada much later on Krishna Consciousness? If Rama and Krishna are both full avatars why not Rama considered out of avatar list and elevated to Jagadisa by Ramabhaktas as Jayadeva thought about Krishna, by way of Dasavatara stotraas or songs or Bhajans? Incarnation of Rama is as popular as Krishna in Hindu worship.  Of course Rama was no match to Krishna as a diplomat and politician!  Rama   followed scriptures true to their letters. Krishna interpreted scriptures to his convenience. Narasimha, Vaamana and Varaaha avatars follow these two avatars in popular worship though they are not   all that popular as Rama or Krishna.  
The dominating importance of Krishna is so great that there are sects of Vaishnavism which hold that the Bhaagavata depicts Krishna as the deity and Mahaavishnu as an emanation of his. This idea rather difficult to substantiate is maintained on the strength of the Bhaagavata verse: “While all other manifestations mentioned before are only aspects of and parts of the Purusha, Krishna is Bhagavan Himself”. Though one may not agree with the above sectarian interpretation, it has to be granted that in Krishna all the Bhagas or divine qualities of the Bhagavan  [Aiswarya (Lordliness, Veerya (Prowess), Yasas (Fame), Sri (Beauty–cum-auspiciousness), Jnaana (Wisdom) and Vairaagya (Renunciation)]  are fully represented and therefore he is unique among Incarnations. Krishna is mostly referred as Bhagavaan in Bhagavadgeetaa.  Jayadeva belongs to this school of thought.
We know Puraanas abound in narrations which confuse us for we do not find ready answers to our questions.  For example Ramayana mentions about Paandiya, Chola Andhra Kingdoms (Athaiva Andhrascha Pundramsacha Cholaan Paandyaamscha—Kishkindaa Kanda LXI-12) existing in Tretaayuga. Sugriva mentions about these kingdoms of the South and assures Rama that he will send his team to these parts of the country to search for Sita.  Again while rebuking Jaabaali for his Nastikavaada, Sri Rama mentions about Buddha of nastikavaada and says such people are punishable by law as they steal away religion from people. How did  this atheist  Buddha (an incarnation of Vishnu)   got  worshiped  by the  religious society as avatar of Vishnu and  how  Jaabaali  occupied prestigious priest-council position in the court  of Dasaratha? How did Buddha an avatar of Kaliyuga appear in Tretaayuga? It is hard find answers to many of these questions.

2. NAASTIK (ATHEIST) BUDDHA OF TRETAAYUGA
Sri Rama in Ramayana Ayodhykaanda CIX has to say the following on Atheism:
Nindaamyaham karma kritam pitustad yastvaamagrihnaad vishamasthabuddhim|
Buddhyaanayaivam-vidhayaa charantam d sunaastikam dharmapataadapetam || 33 ||
[I denounce the action mentioned below, of my father, who picked you (Jaabaali) as his councilor-priest, a staunch unbeliever, who has not only strayed away from the path of dharma but whose mind is set on a wrong path opposed to the Vedic path, nay who is moving about in this world with such an ideology conforming to the doctrine of Chaarvaaka, who believes only in the world of senses as has been set forth in your (Jaabaali’s) foregoing speech.]
Yathaa hi choerah sa tathaa hi buddhas-tathaagatam naastikamatra viddhi |
Tasmaaddhi yah sakyatamah prajaanaam sa naastike naabhimukhoe  Budhah syaat || 34 ||
[It is well-known fact that follower of Buddha (condemning Vedas) deserves to be punished in the same way as a thief (inasmuch as a heretic robs people of their faith); and know an unbeliever, a follower of the Chaarvaaka or materialistic school of philosophy) to be on a par with Buddha. Therefore who is most tame-able should undoubtedly be so punished in the interest of the people; in no other case should a wise man even stand face to face with an unbeliever but should shun him.}
Bheeshma in his Vishnu Sahasranaamavali includes the names of the following Avatars: Varaaha,  Narasimha, Vaamana, Khanda Parasu (Parasurama), Rama, Krishna and Haladhara.  He should have known about the Nastika Buddha of Ramayana and should have avoided. But he had included two other Avatars mentioned in Bhagavata text, Kapila and Hamsa.  Vedavyasa and Vishwaksena though not included in the main body of 108 slokas of VSN are included in the introduction portion which according to some was introduced later.  
Jayadeva glorifies Historic Buddha (as is understood by majority) as an Avatar of Vishnu and elevating Krishna to Jagadisa as you could see later from his Dasaavataara Stotra. Jayadeva belongs to the time when Muslim autocrats like Mohammad Ghori plundered and looted Hindu temples. It was a very troubled period.  Vedanta Desika who came much later, deleted Buddha all-together and made Balaraama as an incarnation in his Dasavataara in accordance with various Puraanas.   Both have moved away from the popular verse of eulogy of the ten incarnations which runs as follows:
“Sree-matsya-koormaakhya-varaahadevaa-nrikasareera-vamana-jaamadagnyau-srirama-krishnaa-vapi Buddha-kalkee kurvantu sarve mama suprabhaatam”-
Here Krishna and Buddha are both avatars as described in Amar Chitra Katha which bases its pictorial representation and narration basing on Bhaagawata Puraana.   

3. BUDDHA AVATARS OF   KALIYUGA—CONFUSING OR CONCURRENT OR INTRUSIVE?
In the Hindu temples of Vishnu, Buddha Jayanti is celebrated on   the tenth day of bright half of Aswin in the evening. Buddha Poornima which is a National Holiday in India and celebrated all over the world falls on Full Moon Day in May. This is the day on which Prince Siddharta got his enlightenment and acquired a new name as Buddha or the Enlightened. Buddha Jayanti in Vishnu Temples is for the Buddha avatar celebrated in Puranas which icon in temples goes with the description given in Hayaseersha Samhita (23, 24-36) and  by coincidence or by the imagination of artist  resembles historic Buddha.  Buddha Poornima is a National Holiday for Buddhists all over the world including India.
From the above there seems to be two Buddha avatars one Puraanic and the other historic, being referred as 9th avatar based on different schools of thought.  If Historic Buddha is accepted as an Avataar he is no more with us.   As   historic figure of later date his date of birth and demise (486 B.C.E.) are all well recorded.   Buddha Jayanti of historic Buddha does not also match with Buddha Jayanti of Hindu Panchangas (almanac). Bhaagavata says we are under the jurisdiction of Buddha till Kalki arrives and that Buddha was born at the dawn of Kaliyuga. Here again Puraanas could be interpreted by saying that   Rama was thinking of Kaliyuga in the previous cycle and Bhagavata is referring to this; but this should also be at the dawn of Kaliyuga. Our religious heads have an explanation for everything to justify Puraanas which they do not dismiss as myth but consider them as Itihasa (it was so or it happened so).    We are now in the Kali Year 5115.  It is clear that historic Budddha was not born 3102 years ago. As per the Bhaagavata citation Buddha should have born immediately after the demise of Lord Krishna as the Dwaaparayuga closed; Kaliyuga started 5115 years ago.  As Kali is not yet born Buddhavatara pervades still taking care of us or watching all the chaos and confusion to dissolve the world or handover to Kalki at appropriate time.  If historic Buddha of Kapilavastu is Buddhavataara then Kalki should have been already born. We should be celebrating Kalki Jayanti.  Even  Kalki’s birth day is already predicted in scriptures.  If Vishnu Temples in the South were to observe the Kalki Jayanti it should be on the tenth day of Aswin in the evening.  We do not know whether Buddha Jayanti is for Nastik Buddha of Ramayana or a later Buddha similar in appearance to historic Buddha.   Somebody floated the news in Tamil Nadu some years back that Kalki is born in the present Kaliyuga and there was a big religious commotion which soon died as a false alarm. Had this been true there would have been another Jayanti.  Of course such sensations are created in other religions too time and again.   Amar Chitra Katha bases its Dasavathaara on Bhaagavata and describes Buddhavatara as Prince Siddharta of Kapilavastu who on enlightenment got the title Buddha who passed away in 486 B.C.E. Jayadeva’s description of Buddha according to many also refers to Prince Siddharta.
Bhaagavata (1, 3) describes Buddha Avataara as: Buddha as the prince of the Saakyas who became an ascetic mendicant for clearing the world of evil practices in the name of religion and for re-establishing Dharma.  This description though suits historic Buddha, based on other facts, it can be concluded that it is just a coincidence.  In Bhaagavata we also read that this Buddha was born in the Keekata country as the son of Anjanaa. So this can’t be Siddharta who got enlightened and after whom Buddhism is named. He can’t also be incarnation of Vishnu mentioned in Bhaagavata.   Siddharta   who became Buddha later was born to Maayadevi and Shuddhodhana, the queen and king of Saankhya Dynasty of Kapilavastu. The philosophy based on his teachings is popularly known as Soonyavaada by Hindu philosophers. Gautama Buddha might have been accommodated in Hindu pantheon of Gods probably confused by Puraanas as an Avatar of Lord Vishnu in Hinduism since we find the same in some texts. The teachings of Buddha were oral and were recorded much later.  His philosophy reflected Sankhya philosophy found in Bhagavadgeeta and so it was easy for Hinduism to include him or like of him of their own creation as an Avatar of Vishnu to kill the rapid growth of Buddhism which was attracting Hindus in leaps and bounds to Buddhism in India at one time. Westerners too feel Buddhism, Taoism and Jainism did not believe in Heavenly God and so atheistic in outlook but considered highly philosophical.
It is interesting to note Prince Rishabha was born with that name as an Avatar of Vishnu much later walked out of sacrificial Hinduism and enunciated his philosophy.  He was called Jina, the conqueror after his new Philosophy of Ahimsa. This was not the case with Gautama Buddha. Followers of this philosophy were known as followers of Jain Religion. Jains worship him as Aadinatha on a low key.  Hindus do not worship him in their temples.   Jains worship their 24th Teerthanakra, popularly known as Mahavir Vardhamaana.   Jainism is little bit integrated with Hinduism as many Jains often participate in Hindu worships in India. There is   justification for installing the icon of Adinatha in Hindu Temples but not Mahaveer.
Amar Chitra Katha, a popular text with children, which bases its narration on Bhaagavata Purana has the following narration as to the birth of Prince Siddharta of Kapilavastu: “With Krishna’s departure from earth, the age of Kali set in. Hinduism lost much of its purity. The authority of Vedas became questionable. Empty rituals replaced true devotion to god and power-drunk Brahman priests exploited and oppressed the other castes. Mayadevi, the queen of the Sakhya King, Shuddhodhana of Kapilavastu, had a strange dream. A white elephant with six tusks pierced her womb. A few months later, she was passing through the Lumbini gardens on her way to her parental home. As she rested beneath a Sal tree, she gave birth to a child. Later at the palace, sage Asita came to see the infant and prophesied that this child will either become a great emperor or will renounce the world and become a great sage. He was named Siddharta”.  There was no mention of Vishnu anywhere! This birth did not take place at the dawn of Kali but several hundred years later. Also Bhaagavata says we are now under the protection of Buddhavataara till Kalki arrives. That means his ascension will take place when only Kalki arrives. But we know historic Buddha is not with us.  Puraanas also say Vedvyaasa is an avatar of Vishnu, he is immortal and he lives in Himalayas whom philosopher Madhva met and had his enlightenment.  It looks as though some avatars like Vedavyaasa do not ascend as it happened with Parasurama Avatara. Thus Puraanas confuse us often. He is Chiranjjevi  (ever living) like Hanumaan according to Puraanas.
Siddharta was also not named Buddha at birth. So this Siddharta can’t be Buddha, a Vishnu’s descent mentioned in Dasaavataara list of Bhaagavata.  It is wrong to associate the name of the Enlightened Buddha of Buddhism with the Hindu avatar Vishnu which may constitute intrusion.  Amar Chitra Katha details suit Hindu Philosophy but not Hindu rituals to consider worship of this Buddha of Buddhism to worship in Hindu Temples as an incarnation of Vishnu.  Worship of Saibaba, Swami Narayan and Bharatmata in Hindu Temples suits well Hindu Philosophy but not Aaagama Sastras. May be such worships are ideal for Hindu Americans to promote Universal Oneness of Sanatana Dharma.  Then there arises the question do they need Aagama or Taantric worship in Hindu American Temples?  Do we need Aagama trained   priests?  I have not come across one Hindu temple in India where historic Buddha icon is consecrated by Aagma sastras, though similar looking icons are seen in Hindu temple architecture in Dasvataara panels, which seems to be just an odd coincidence and artist’s imagination to resemble historic Buddha.

4. WHAT DO NAMES SIDDHARTA AND VARDHAMANA OF  BUDDHISM AND JAINISM FOUND IN VSN MEAN?
Occurrence of the name Siddharta in VSN naamaavali can be cited in support of those who think Buddhavatara came from Siddharta. But there is no mention of Buddha or his relation to Siddharta or Vishnu in this.   Vishnu is hailed as Siddharta in Vishnu Sahasranaama meaning one who has gained all that has to be gained---one who is in full control of Dharma, Artha, Kaama and Moksha. Of course VSN also includes the name Vardhamana as Vishnu which could be interpolated to Mahavir Vardhamaana to the exclusion of Rishabha of Jains.   In VSN Vishnu’s name of Vardhamaana is explained as the one who can grow himself to any dimensions in his Vaamana incarnation to measure under his three steps the whole universe.  It is probable the parents of both Siddharta and Vardhamana had Vaishnava leniency and so named their children with Vishnu’s name. Both Rishabha and Buddha walked out of Hinduism being dissatisfied to find their own reality.  Rishabha was born as incarnation of Vishnu and prince with that name alone whereas Siddharta was just a Hindu Prince who later got the title Buddha on enlightenment. Rishaba as Vishnu needed no enlightenment. Mere citation of the names of Siddharta and   Vardhamana in VSN does not explain the situation as to their Avatars of Vishnu.  We can’t include Vardhamana in Dasaavataara because his name just appears in VSN instead of Rishabha. Almost everybody in Hinduism with the exception of few, name their children after some deity; even they name their business enterprises or brand products in the name of their chosen deity. Thus we hear of Ganesh Beedi and Ambal Snuff two popular brand products in South India though loathsome. . That does not bind them to live up to the name chosen or lead a pious life or make the products sacred! It is unfortunate that such misuse of Lord’s name is not considered as disrespect to the Lord by Hindus or punishable by law in civil courts but interpreted as their deep faith in their chosen deity! In other religions they avoid the name of God like Messiah or Jesus or Allah to name a child and sometimes even civil courts consider them as disrespect to the religion if the child can’t live up to the name.  

5. BHAGAVATA PRESENTS BUDDHAAVATAR AT THE DAWN OF KALIYUGA WHILE BUDDHA, THE ENLIGHTENED IS OF RECENT ORIGIN
Yet another possibility is Bhaagavata Puraana might have revealed the description of Buddhaavataara before the birth of Buddha as it has predicted the exact time and the day of birth of Kalki who is not yet born.  Bhaagavata predates Buddha as such this could only be another revelation. It is possible that Buddha’s description there matches that of historic Buddha. Problem again here is we know the exact demise of Buddha of Buddhism and we do not have Kalki yet. Bhaagavata also mentions we are under the care of Buddha till Kalki arrives. Hindus who think of Buddha as 9th Avatar might have taken this description and confused with historic Buddha of Buddhism. May be he is an Amsa-avatar and had limited role to play and gone. Even then question remains why should he be named Siddharta at birth and later needed enlightenment and why he should find a new religion. Another Faith was named after   Jina, perhaps when he gave up his Vishnu Aavesa avatar after fulfilling his short or specific mission like Parasurama.   It was all Sanatana Dharma or Hinduism of present day conception, the Dharma of which the avatars were defending. Buddhaavatara means birth of Buddha as an incarnation of Vishnu and not born as Siddharta or Gautama and that too in some other country to a different mother. Buddha was no longer holding prince title on Enlightenment having renounced the world; only Siddharta was called prince before enlightenment.  So the reference to prince in Bhaagavata while describing Buddha of Keetaka, confirms the existence of another prince Buddha different from the historic Buddha.
We all know both Ashoka and Harsha were not against Hindu gods and Harsha even worshiped Siva. At one time Siva occupied Ratnavedi of Jagannath temple, which icon the Vaishnavites replaced with icon of Jagannath.  Bhaagavata’s reference connected to iconic projection of saintly Buddhaavatara of Samhitas in place of Nastik Buddha, Lord Jaganntha worshiped as Buddha for some time, the strong influence of the Buddhist belt where Jayadeva lived, regional philosopher’s view of those times should have all made Jayadeva or his followers to interpolate historic Buddha as an avatar of Vishnu or another Buddha of similar description to historic Buddha.  Jayadeva belonged to orthodox school of Vaishnavism and I therefore would like to believe the Keetaka prince Buddha should be the one that Jayadeva describes. I am not sure whether Jayadeva has anywhere confirmed Buddha of his description is Buddha born as Prince Siddharta.   Probably his followers may have explained it   that way confused by the resemblance. May be we are misinterpreting Jayadeva who should have also seen the reference in Bhaagavata to Buddha of similar description to historic Buddha! May be we are confused today, as we are confused today about Hinduism, about puraanic Buddha thinking him to be the founder of Buddhism.

 6. INFLUENCE OF AVATARS OF SEVERAL BUDDHAS OF BUDDHISM
Hindus who were in close association with Buddhism were influenced in their thinking by the Mahaayana division of Buddhism   which believed in 54 Buddhas (Lalita Vistara) or a hundred Buddhas (Mahaavastu.) Buddhist prayers mention the numerous Buddhas who lived in the past like Jains believe in 24 Teerthankaras, Mahaveera Vardhamana being the 24th.  Rishabha an Avataar of Vishnu was the one after whose philosophy Jain religion was stated and he was renamed as Adinatha later. Buddhism prayers indicate Buddhas who lived in the past (ye chas buddhaa ateetaa cha), the numerous Buddhas that have to yet take shape in the future (ye cha Buddhaa anaagata) and numerous Buddhas that live now without our knowing (pratytpannacha ye Buddha).   With these thoughts above another similar in description to historic Buddha should have been absorbed as an avatar of Tretayuga Buddha in a more orthodox and conventional pantheon as an incarnation (ninth) of Vishnu born immediately after the ascent of Krishna, moving away from the Naastik Vishnu described in Ramayana, later when Kaliyuga dawned around 3000 years ago.

7.   HINDU ICONOGRAPHICAL MANUALS ON BUDDHAAVATARA VIS-A- VIS BUDDHA, THE ENLIGHTENED
Iconographical manuals like Hayaseersha Samhita (23, 24-36) prescribes Buddha to be represented as seated in the lotus-posture (padmaasanagatam), covered in the clothes of an ascetic (cheevaaraalankritam). His face must be like lotus and his eyes also lotus-like (padmaasyam padmaloechanam). He must be shown as deeply absorbed in meditation, but with one of his hands lifted up (samaadhishttoettaana paanim). His ears must be long (pralmba karna).  This description can easily sway us to historic Buddha or the Buddha the Supreme Principal of Buddhism. Buddhists do not accept their Buddha as an avatar of Vishnu who is their Guru like Dattatreya.  It is probable that Samhitas should have copied their iconic Buddha for our worship. Naaradiya Samhita stipulates Buddha   icon to be a great saint (munivaro vasee) and as an emanation of Pradyumana (Pradyumnaamsaat samudbhootoe) of Vyuha concept of Vishnu. The same text lays down that he must be two-armed, showing the gestures of boon-bestowal (abhaya Mudra) and protection and seated in a bound-lotus posture. He must be lustrous like gold and his eyes must be closed in contemplation. It is interesting to note that Dasavaataara human incarnations are not shown with four hands typical of Vishnu in Hindu iconography. Only we hear in Puaranas as a child born Krishna showed his original forms of Vishnu with four hands to his parents.
 Buddha we find in all Dasavataara carvings in temples and idols we find in shops in India and displayed in Kolu (exhibiton of dolls) during Navaraatri resembles Buddha, the Enlightened.   Even though we do not find separate sanctums for Buddha in India in Vishnu Temples, all Vishnu temples have the sculpted images of Buddha of above description on walls, pillars and frescoes. They also receive Aarati (waving of light) with dhyana slokas (meditational hymns).  But yet Buddha worship does not come under the purview of Aaagma worship. His birthday (Jayanti) if observed is celebrated on the tenth day evening of the bright half of Aswin addressing him as Bauddha in South Indian Vishnu temples. It is customary in such Vishnu temples to celebrate Jayantis for all the Dasaavataaras though there may not be an icon.  Even Kalki Jayanti predicted to come on the sixth day of bright half of Sravana is being celebrated. I have often seen Lakshmi icon being decorated as Aandal and worshiped on her birthday in South Indian Vishnu temples, if they do not have Aandal icon. Do such practices are there to celebrate Buddha or Kalki avatar Jayantis, I do not know?  Hindu iconographers have contributed maximum to our confusion with their artistic imaginations and projections!

8. HINDU AMERICAN TEMPLES CONSECRATE AND WORSHIP HISTORIC BUDDHA AS AN AVATAR
Hindu temple in Albany, NY, USA has consecrated historic Buddha icon after a long controversy and the Aaagama trained priest walked out refusing to extend Aagama worship to Buddha.  Of course USA can always attract Aaagama priests from India to perform worship as per their dictates who are eager to migrate to become rich and affluent walking away from orthodoxy.  There are aagama trained priests who perform Aagama worship to Saibaba. In Albany Buddha Jayanthi is celebrated on Buddha Poornima Day, leaving no doubt he is Prince Siddharta who became Buddha, described in Amar Chitra Katha, which claims its authorship to Bhaagawata. To Americans it gives an impression of integration of two religions of similar morals and ethics. They have also Mahavir Vardhaman consecrated there. Had they instead consecrated Rishaba this would have gone well with within Hindu religious concept! Albany Temple is Naraayana Temple which name signifies Brahman in Vaishnava Philosophy. I am not sure whether this temple is thinking of universal Oneness of Sanatana Dharma—“Eko viprah bahudaa vadadanti”—the one the Wise call by many names.
Mahalakshmi Hindu Temple in Irving, TX, USA includes an icon of Buddha. One of the priests their explained  to a visitor from an Interfaith institution thus: “Even though Buddha went on to begin a new religion, he was for a long time a Hindu, and so he is honored as a Hindu Saint in Hindu Temples”. Here Buddha is explained as the founder of Buddhism. The criterion for the installation of Buddha’s icon here seems to be that he was a Hindu for a long time once and not as an avatar of Vishnu stated in scriptures in spite of his censuring the Vedic religion, walking out of it, instead of reforming from within as an avatar.  He moved away from the belief in God but preached eight –fold paths of duty. How about born Christians, who have become Hindu saints today? Can such saints be considered as avatars within the scope of Bhaagavata one day?

9.  CONCURRENT DESCENTS OF AVATARS OF DASAAVATAR AND CO-EXISTENT AVATARS AS SIBLINGS
Sri Rama the 7th incarnation of Vishnu met 6th incarnation Parasu-Rama soon after his wedding and absorbed his power into himself after defeating him in a battle. Hence Parasu-rama is   considered as Aavesa-avataara, an incarnation by the temporary possession of Vishnu's powers.  Instead of conventional ascent he retired to forest as an ordinary sage deprived of Vishnu’s divinity in him. Parasurama Avatara is controversial (as a murderer of his own mother and killing indiscriminately thousands of Kshatriyas not proving beyond doubt that  they deserved death at his hands or not) and he is not a favorite for worship except in one or two temples of Kerala.  They believe Parasurama redeemed Kerala from the sea.  He is glorified in Dasaavataara stotraas of Jaydeva and Vedanta Desika for terminating Kshatriyas in several rounds.  Rama’s step brothers Lakshmana (an incarnation of Adisesha), Bharata (incarnation of Sudarsana) and Satrughna (incarnation of Paanchajanya) may be aptly called Parivaara avatars born out of  the sharing of the same Paayas (Amrita) by their mothers but  having the same father Dasaratha. Hanuman could also join the team coming out of same pudding (Paayasa).  It is customary for Hindus to invite relatives with their relatives and friends (Saparivara sameta) for Hindu weddings unlike in the Western culture restricted to couples.  Perhaps some times inflicted devotees pray to the Lord to descend with all his Parivaara to save them from the evil by force of habit!   Such a prayer should   have taken place for the descents of Rama and Krishna!  
Even Hanuman is a part of this group descent, as Anjana got a drop of that nectar from Putrakaameshthi to conceive Hanumaan. But we do not hear much about these Parivaaras (family members or associates) as Avatars of Vishnu or the specific role they played as avatars except Lakshmana. Krishna is considered as full Avatar and more talked about whereas Balarama is considered as an incarnation of Adisesha and Amsaavataara, though both are sons of Vasudeva from different wives.  Krishna is glorified most because of his authorship of Bhagavadgeeta which is considered to be a compendium of all Upanishads.   Puraanas are not very clear about Amsaavataaras.  For example we do not know whether Balarama descended as Vishnu or Vishnu’s comfortable mattress Aadisesha.  We are often told he and Lakshmana are incarnation of Adisesha, so also Saint Ramanuja.  All other brother Avataaras of Rama are partial and may be meant to be Amsaavataaras for a specific purpose. It is more appropriate to call them Parivaara avatars!  Krishnaaavataara was not meant for killing Kamsa and other demons alone but to guide and give the people concept of Dharma as defined in Geeta absorbing many schools of philosophy including Nastikavaada (Sankhyaa). Orissa, a powerful Vaishnava center today thinks Krishna is Jagannatha alone   as eulogized by Jayadeva in his Gitagovinda focused on Krishna as Jagannth and not an Avatar and so Krishna is out of the list of avatars and considered as Jagannatha. This necessitated him to elevate Balarama as an Avatar of Krishna or Jagannatha as the 8th incarnation and Historic Buddha or similar in description of Puraanic Buddha as the 9th Avatar.  The paintings of Jagannatha, Subhadra and Balabhadra in Puri temple remind us only of Krishna of Dwaaparayuga even though they have different explanation from Tantric concept. They believe all other avatars are emerging out of Jagannatha in accordance with the Geeta statement Sambhavaami yuge yuge. They have thus diverted people’s attention from puraanic episodes to spiritual aspect of Viswaroopa in Bhagavdgeetaa and Upanishadic thoughts.  I wonder why Tulsidas or Thyaagaraja or Bhadrachalm Ramadas or Kabir did not project this concept about Rama! It is rather surprising that all Puraanaas say Krishna is the eighth incarnation of Vishnu with no exception but for Jayadeva! Strangely Orissa also celebrates Krishna Jayanti like others in Puri-Jagannath when Krishna Jayanti is celebrated all over the country celebrating the 8th incarnation of Vishnu.
According to Naraayaneeyam, a condensed Bhaagavatam, Rama’s incarnation was to show men how “intense affection (Kaama) will lead to pangs of separation (as Rama suffered from his loss of Sita) and how extreme addiction to Dharma, the letter of the law, will push one to Adharma”.  This is an echo of the Bhaagavata verse 5.19.5—6. Many a devotees of Rama will not agree with this, although it may be conveying a subtle point that would interest critical student. Rama and Krishna were two major Incarnations, the former being glorified in Ramayana and the latter in Bhaagavata. Both have been   equally important factors in the devotional life of India. Rama’s Incarnation depicts a model of manhood and human conduct which people are asked to follow, whereas Krishna is a Divine manifestation whose words are to be followed but not deeds. In some Vaishnava sects, Rama is therefore described as Maryaada-purushoettama (Divinity who has restricted Himself by laws) and Krishna as Pushti-purushoettama (Divinity that bestows grace in ways that are not bound by laws and social norms).

10.  JAGANNAATHA PHILOSOPHY TAKES AWAY OUR THOUGHTS ON DASAAVATAARA TO DIFFERENT LEVELS
Out of the 22 avatars mentioned in Bhaagavata, Jayadeva favored Buddha and not Rishabha for the vacuum he created! Jagannatha temple follows Taantric tradition even today. For a long time Jagaanatha was worshiped as Bhairava as you learn from Tantric school  of thought mentioned in my discourse on Jagannatha Ratha Yaatra. There seems to be also the tradition of Sakta worship of Vaamaachara in its complex. Ramanuja was not successful to introduce his Aagama worship there. As we all know Chaitanya Mahaprabhu of Bengal with his Krishna Consciousness Movement gained very strong   grounds in the region to spread the Vaishnava tradition and now Jagannatha is Vishnu whom Indradyumna visualized as Jagannatha linking it to the   reference in Rigveda.  Jayadeva earlier to his period knowingly or by popular will landed on historic Buddha as people think today in place of the Vishnu Avatara mentioned in Bhaagavata.  Is Rama’s Buddha as narrated In Puraanas about Avatars the right one or Jayadeva’s historic Buddhaa as projected is right as the deity glorified in Dasavatara? Knowing the background of the Buddha censured in Ramayana and the description in Bhaagavata as Nastik, philosophers in Orissa should have switched over to historic Buddha of world fame, of noble qualities, high morals and spiritual approach in life. Westerners as well as Bhagavata consider him outside the definition of conventional religion but part of atheist religion. Jayadeva has highlighted   Buddha as the personification of compassion and   opposed to animal–sacrifice:
“Nindasi yajnavidherahaha srutijaatam sadayahridaya darsita pasughaatam kaesvadhrita-buddhasareera jaya  jagadeesa hare||” (Oh Buddha! Pointing your fingers at the killing of animals in sacrifices you censured the entire Vedic assembly.)—Geetagovinda of Jayadeva
Buddha he is referring to is Sidddharta of Modern Hinduism, who walked out of Vedic Hinduism   and got enlightenment as many think. He was hailed as Buddha on enlightenment who was the founder of a new religion called Buddhism. He is not born as Buddha of Buddhaavataara and there is no mention of him as Siddharta in our Puranas.  Puranas may say the name of Buddha existed long before Buddhavataara like Rama and Krishna as I have said before. That does not convince on his birth (descent) he was named Siddharta or Gautma and then after great penance was called Buddha like Valmiki.  Why would Vishnu on descending need a change of name and enlightenment! His descent is for our enlightenment as we see from Krishnaavatara. As a child he revealed his Viswaroopa. Bhagavadgeetaa was a revelation from him. It was not because of his later education or enlightenment.
Jayadeva is a devotee of Lord Jaganntha and has composed Dasavataara telling us that Jaganntha is none other than Krishna.  In Ayodhya Kaanda of Valmeeki Ramayana Brahma reveals to Rama for the first time his avatar of Vishnu and the purpose with which he came to this world as a human being. In his revelation he addresses Rama as Krishna meaning Sat-Chit-Aananda (Truth, Consciousness and Bliss). Jayadeva as a devotee of Vishnu would not have missed this reference to Krishna by none other than Brahman. Located in Jaganntha Kshetra and this thought in mind he decided to consider Krishna as none other than Jagadeesa. So he deleted Krishna as an avatar leaving the slot to Buddha.  There are mythological stories about Jagannatha which say that   he was worshiped as Buddha for some time then Jina, then Siva, then Vishnu etc. They even think Jesus visited   Puri after he left home at his twelfth year. Kalinga was ruled by Kings who were Buddhists and who strongly promoted Buddhism at different times in its long history. It is also believed that Muslims worshiped Jagannath.  Probably Muslims did not want to call Jagannath as Allah or Khuda so paid their obeisance to Jagannath himself for certain personal favors. We say in Vaishnavajanato, a favorite Bhajan song of Gandhiji that Allah and Eeswar   are the same (Easwar Allah tero naam).   I wonder how Muslims can console to idol worship which is their basic conflict with us, but we sing this song before icons. Are we not unnecessarily irritating them by our prayers by mentioning the name of Allah though we can explain this from Sanatana Dharma view point? In America some Hindus have married Muslims and they both visit Hindu temples as I know.  Of course Tamils also claim that Muslims still worship Murugan in Palani at the back entrance to the hills.   It is not fare on the part of Hindus to say who Allah is whom they don’t worship!
It is interesting to note that the author of the publication on Vishnu, Devadutt Pattanaik, Born and brought up in the region of Jgannatah Philosophy coming from Orissa mentions Buddha, the Enlightened One, as Buddhavatara, giving the historic background of Prince Siddharta. It is obvious he is referring to Buddha glorified in Geetaa Govinda of Jayadeva. He dramatically explains the descent of Buddha connecting Nastik Buddha of Bhaagavata to historic Buddha of Buddhism and also as the Avatar of Vishnu for Hindu worship. “Vishnu went to the kingdom of demons taking the form of a wily sage called Mayamoha, the deluder, with Garuda accompanying him as a monk. Clean shaven, dressed in clothes of bark, with a begging bowl in hand, Mayamoha sat amongst the Asuras denouncing the Vedas.  With clever arguments Mayamoha convinced the demons to abandon the Vedic way. They threw the holy texts out of their land and became heretics. The rishis recovered the Vedas and began restoring them to their former glory. Meanwhile, on earth, the distortion of the Vedas by the demons had caused confusion; Mankind had lost touch with the divine. Life lacked direction. There was suffering everywhere. To fight this ignorance with knowledge, Vishnu descended upon the earth as the enlightened teacher. Incarnating as Nara Narayana, Kapila, Naarada, Vyaasa, Dattaatreya, Rishabha, and Buddha, the Lord taught man the true nature of the course. He showed the mysteries of life and showed many ways to attain salvation.” Out of the Gurus his pick for Dasaavataara was Gautama Buddha as he emphatically mentions that he was the one who propagated a disciplined way of life based on compassion known as Buddhism—the path of the enlightened, incorporating Jayadeva philosophy   who is his mentor both being from Orissa. Here he makes Buddhism look not like a separate religion but another philosophy like Advaita, Vishishtaadvaita and Dvaita within Hinduism to make historic Buddha as an avatar of Vishnu--a nice compromising theory. Is this acceptable to Buddhism of today or Aagamas is anybody’s wild guess; may be Buddhism of Dalai Lama of Tibet!
Jayadeva’s Dasavastara stotra became famous because of its focus on Jaganntha which also became famous Vaishnava pilgrimage center.  Invariably this hymn is sung by all his devotees in Jagannatha worship. Historic Buddha as projected in it also became famous and got integrated with Hindu worship as historic Buddha.  They say in Tamil that a thread used to tie a flower also acquire all the smell of the flower! Along with Jagannatha fame Historic Buddha is boosted up religiously and politically. Modern religious literature on Dasaavataara is more in favor of historic Buddha and also in favor of Krishna being the most popular avatar in India except for few well known religious Institutions of the North.
Hinduism before the birth of Sankaracharya was in great array and confusion. In the field of   philosophy the Sankhya propounded a plurality of souls and denied Parmaatman. The Meemaamsa followers swore by the superiority of observing Vedic rituals to the exclusion of other means like Jnaana. The Buddhists and the Jains were content with ethics.  It seems there were as many as 72 schools of philosophy, fighting with each other during Sankara’s time.  In the field of religion and worship the situation was even worse.  Sankara propounded the profound Advaita and cleared the mess.  Buddhism was growing in leaps and bounds due to great Kings like Harshavardhana who made further progress   after the foundation and elaborate initial work started by Ashoka to spread Buddhism all over the globe.  Hinduism not only got back to its past glory due to Sankara lineage and missionary work from the four   Sankar Maths he established and also due to the later Vaishanva movement from Bengal. But during the process historic Buddha got absorbed rightly or wrongly as the eighth avatar of Puraanic Dasaavatara by some schools of thought. This interpolation of historic Buddha should have come from Hindus in the Buddhist belt which included Kalinga with its Jagannatha Kshetra. Sankara had established one of his monasteries in Puri during his life time.  In due course Vaishnavites gained grounds influenced by Krishna Consciousness Movement of Chaitnya Mahaprabhu.  Buddha icon was even worshipped regularly for a while in Puri by the tribals some say.  Some even thought at that time Brahmapadartha in the idol was a tooth of Buddha.  In Hindu cremations only ash is collected not human parts. So Brahma Padartha can’t be his tooth. Tooth is not acceptable to Vaishnavites.  Somewhere around this period the iconography cleverly presented as orthodox Buddha resembling historic Buddha caught the imagination of Hindus.   The impact of Advaita philosophy and the awakening Krishna Consciousness was a blow to Buddhism which was silent on God.    It wisely moved off the shores of India at the right time.  Buddhists were equally intimidated by the Muslim invaders due to their later taking to idol worship or mistaken identity. Their great center of Naalanda was also plundered, looted and burnt for weeks by Muslim invaders.

11.  VISHNU AVATARS ARE INNUMERABLE AND COMPOSITION OF DASAAVATAR VARIED IN DIFFERENT PURAANAS AND RELIGIOUS TEXTS
Avataaras are associated with Vishnu as per Puranas. Later Avatar concept has been used by philosophers and religious thinkers to bring in avatars of their own imagination but they are not in conformity to Bhaagavata and Bhagavadgeeta.  Krishna says in Bhagavad Geeta "tasmat Saastram pramaanam te"- Scripture are your ultimate authority. The concept of Avataara got projected in Bhagavata puraana and Bhagavadgeeta.  Bhagavataa asserts that Vishnu avatars are innumerable but important among them are 22-- Brahma, Varaaha, Naarada, Nara and Naraayan, Kapila, Dattatreya, Yajna, Rishabha, Prithu, Matsya, Koorma, Dhanvantari, Mohini, Nrisimha, Vaamana, Parasu-Rama, Vedavyaasa, Rama, Balarama, Krishna, Buddha and Kalki.
The earlier and more traditional list of the incarnations of Vishnu includes Buddha as the ninth, unlike the later sectarian list which has Balarama instead of Buddha.   This Buddha is referred in Ramayana as Nastik or atheist.  In Bhagavata we read that this Buddha was born in the Keetaka country, as Buddha and as the son of Anjanaa and that the purpose of his appearance was to delude and confound the enemies of gods like Mohini avataara.  He is said to be born at the dawn of Kali age and we are under his jurisdiction till Kalki arrives.  Epic Mahabharata at one place mentions of Dasavatara as: Hamsa, Koorma,  Matsya, Varaaha, Nrisimha, Vaamana, Parasu Rama, Rama, Saatvata (probably referring  to Krishna) and Kalki.   In this   epic as well as Vayupuraana list Buddha is omitted. His place is taken by Hamsa in the former list and Dattatreya in the latter. There is a temple for the avatar of Vishnu Dattaatreya in Baton Rouge in Louisiana in USA where he is worshipped as one of the avatars of Vishnu. Vedanta Desika of orthodox view as a strict follower of our saastras includes Balaraama as Jayadeva did, but excludes Buddha of controversial Buddhaavatara condemned in Ramayana.  Vedanta Desika, coming sometime after Jayadeva realized that Jayadeva had moved away from conventional list of Vishnu Avatars of Dasavatara interfering with our scriptural version and made a choice of the alternate group of Dasaavatara that includes both Krishna and Balarama mentioned in Saastra as deities of Dasaavataara.  Somehow even today Vedanta Desika’s projection of Dasaavataara is viewed as sectarian and is   confined to South India and Aagama worship.  
Ramakrishna Math and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan publications delete Buddhaavatara also and instead make Balarama the eighth incarnation and Krishna the ninth incarnation of Vishnu like Vedanta Desika.
12. CONCLUSION
Dasaavatara complications would not have been there if Rishaba , also an avatar of Vishnu who was in operation in the role of Aavesaaavatar of Vishnu for a considerable period had been picked up by Jayadeva in place of controversial Buddha to complete the list of Dasaavataras after moving Krishna away and adding Haladhara!   Rishabha was equally pious if not more, also sacrificed his princely life and was the one who gave the Jain Philosophy, stressing emphasis on Ahimsa.  He took to forest life for meditation after firmly establishing his principles.  Jain Gurus still practice what they preach. Buddhists have taken to beef and pork eating after preaching Ahimsa and Dharma outside India. But projection of historic Buddha was well suited for Hindus in the North as an Avatar to win over converts back into Vaishnavism in the region and put a stop to their missionary work. Orthodox Hinduism targeting Buddhism was a wrong move. Buddhists were wiser to leave the shores of India at the right time and spread their missionary outside India. Had caste-less Buddhism dominated India Christian and Muslim conversions would not have come in such a big way.  This forced India to put on the garb of  secular state after Independence  and not to declare the religion of India as Hinduism (Hindus are around 90% of India’s population) like Democratic Federal Republic of Germany which declares Germany to be Christian country while  giving opportunity for  people of other religions to practice their religion freely   working there or naturalized. Many Hindus have married Germans there.  But enterprising Buddhists migrated and became popular outside India and established a formidable religion of their own attracting people from Arabic and local faiths instead of being influenced by them and get converted.  But in India many were converted to Arabic faiths because of the resigned philosophy of fate and timidity of Hindus as well as its out-mode  Caste and Out-caste systems. Buddhists did not start their   worship of Buddha icon as an Avatar of Vishnu. Buddha is their Supreme Principal or Guru. Worshiping the idol of Buddha in Buddhism came much later copying rightly or wrongly the tradition of Hindus. They could not move away from that natural instinct being once Hindus themselves.    Secular Indian Government also favored Buddhism for its pick of a minority religion for its projection of its spirit of tolerance knowing their popularity in the world in the Far East countries like Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China Thailand etc., as also the consideration of Buddha as an avatar of Vishnu by significant number of Hindus.
Why Balarama is strongly believed as the eighth incarnation and Krishna ninth by many as in the publications of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Ramakrishna Math etc., who are not influenced by the Srivaishnava Tradition of the South India or the Buddhism of Eastern India.  Balaraama’s many adventures include the slaying of ape Dvivida and the demons Dhenuka and Pralamba, shaking the ramparts of Hastinaapura (the capital city   of Kauravas) and dragging the river Yamuna out of its course. The name Haladhara, as popularly known in the North suggests he was an agricultural hero raised to the status of an avatar in course of time.  Krishna was also cowherd belonging to the family of Nanda. Being associated with Krishna from his infancy, with enhanced perfections, he became more delectable to the world, like milk admixed with Sugar.  He was inseparable from his brother Krishna like Lakshmana from Rama. It is also not clear why Lakshmana who played such a powerful role in Ramayana is not given the same status as Balarama? May be because Balarama was elder and Hindu ethics warrants respect to the elders!  
Summing up,   the dual appearances  of Vishnu  avatars can be found even earlier in the 22  avatars and controversies  and confusion begins  there  and not in  Dasavataara alone whose list varies from region to region and from Gurus to Gurus.   Additional Avataaras as Amsavataras are associated with Krishna and Rama who are both considered as Poorna Avataras to justify the co-existence of minor avatars. While Rama was Poorna Avatar, Lakshmana (Adisesha), Bharata (Discus) and Satrughna (Conch) were   Amsaavataras.  So also is Balarama (Aadisesha) of Krishaavataara is Amsaavataara.  Probably these poorna avatars needed some vacation, rest or support as the sin-load (paapa) was too much; so they have a stand-by support since such avatars are always associated with the main avatar?  There are also presumably Koorma-Varaha dual avatars coexisting at the same period.  There is a famous temple in Andhra for the combined deity. We also hear of Varaaha-Narasimha, combination Avataa.  I wonder why nobody has come out with the possibility of   Rama- Lakshmana or Rama-Krishna avatars as these brothers were close to each other.  The names Ramakrishna and Ramanuja (brother of Rama for Lakshmana) are very popular among Hindus all over India! Hinduism is full of contradictions and confusions   spread over its long history and struggle.  The long history of Jagannatha temple in Puri which came to fame springing from tribal worship to Vaishanva tradition of today is an example.   But this temple though projects its noble caste-creed-race free system, still observes some Vaamaachara traditions within temple complex and certain restrictions prevail for its entry and worship.  Ratha Yatra is open to all and keeps its fame of Universal Jagannatha Kshetra.
Are we not contributing further to our confusion everyday instead of reducing, introducing more deities and incarnations and not thinking of switching back to Sanatana Dharma and wisdom of Vedas?  Our focus is too much on Avatar concept for colorful worship in temples and story-telling that confuses more our American born children who may ask why Jesus is not there in Dasavatara if Buddha of Budhism is worshiped by Hindus? We should therefore be cautious in explaining our Puraanas to children. Hindus do believe Jesus is an Avatar but do not specifically say he is Vishnu Avatar. Our concept of Dasaavatara and other avatars should confine to Vishnu, the Omni-present aspect of Brahman, as they are based on our scriptures. Otherwise there will soon be a population explosion of gods.  From the detailed information   furnished above it is better to avoid Buddha avatar, include Balaraama as Amsaavatara in Dasaavataara and continue with popularly believed and celebrated Krishna Avataara mentioned in our scriptures as full avataara (as 8th and 9th incarnations  of Vishnu) accepting at the same-time Amsaavataaras  and Aavesa avataras  of Vishnu as possible, not questioning the reason or logic behind it  or the authority of our scriptures, clearing the confusions created by us,  till we get a better explanation from someone enlightened.  Till then we may defend ourselves as followers of our scriptures!
It is strange Siva Puranas promote the concept of secondary deities born as children of Siva who are even powerful than Siva, instead of Avatar? There is the compromising powerful deity Aiyappan born out of the wedlock of Siva and Mohini (a female avatar of Vishnu). In Vishnusahasranama the names of Vishnu appear both as male and female. Puranas are also silent on sons of Rama, Lava and Kusa and sons of Krishna. The lone Parthasarathy temple of Chennai has installed Pradyumana and Aniruddha as deities with a low key on dynasty approach of Saivism but explained it away as Vyuhas of Vishnu. Why Lava and Kusa sons of Rama or the sons of Rama’s cousins Bharata and Satrghna are not considered by Puranas as deities like Siva’s sons Ganesha and Kartikeya, we do not know? May be Lava and Kusa were not raised by Rama? Lakshamana is often seen with Rama, Sita and Hanuman and worshiped.
Some Indian Authors in trying to interpret Puraanas as factual in the sense of events in space- time have done as much an injustice to them as the attitude of some Moderns who equate them with stories and fables. Puraanas belong to supra-historical order, and their worth is existential as enduring psychic verities in human consciousness. Their purpose is not to teach, history or geography or science, but to stimulate in man a keen sense of Omniscient, Omnipotent, and all loving Spiritual Reality who can be communed with, prayed to and visualized in various forms of spiritual glory.  It is therefore wise to go by the Saastras and if that is not easy in the absence of a proper Guru with proper interpretation, go by the proper interpretation of Saastras by authoritative religious or spiritual institutions.
Many American Hindu Temples conduct Hindu Religious heritage classes. Their teachings should endeavor to avoid confusion arising out of our understanding of Puraanas while promoting cultural activities like dance, drama etc.,  focusing on subjects like Dasaavataara. More often than not further confusion is created on subjects they teach on young minds. Dasaavataara is one such subject. The discourse above should clear the confusion on the subject of Dasaavataara and pick the right composition from Puraanas which leaves no doubt behind and conforms to our Saastric injunctions.
Hinduism as is practiced to-day is a conglomeration of heterogeneous traditions and plurality of beliefs and worship with a long history of development from the Vedic sacrificial religion through the worship of epic and Puraanic heroes and personal deities, cults and sects, as well as philosophical systems rather than a monolithic tradition or a structure based on a single system of beliefs and worship or a single text as scripture. Dasaavatara worship is a part and parcel of this long tradition.

Here is a Dhyaana sloka on Buddhaa of the puraanic version of Vishnu’s Incarnation:
Athaatah sampravakshyaami buddhamantram mahaaphalam |
Satyatvaanna dvijaadeenam-adhikaaroe hi karhichit || 1 ||
Vaama-maargarataa vipraah kundakaa jaativichyutaah |
Heenaa Vaidika-samskaaraih pramaadaat svechchataam gatah || 2 ||
Golakaascha tathaa Jaatyaa kaayasthaadaya evacha |
Bauddham Vishnum samaaraadhya bhuktim muktim prayaanti te || 3 ||
Namoe bhagavate Buddha samsaaraarnava-taaraka |
Kalikaalaadaham bheetah saranyam saranam gatah || 4 ||
|| Namoe bhagavate Buddhaaya ||

Dhyana Sloka: Buddha eulogized here is the   Buddha who resembles Buddha, the Enlightened from Buddhism:
Padme padmaasanastham tamoorvor-nyarstakaradvayam |
Gauram munditasarvaangam dhyaanastimita-loechanam ||1 ||
Pustakaasanahastaischa naanaasishyaischa soebhitam |
Indraadi loekapaalaischa nutam Svetaabaraavritam || 2 ||
--Dhyaana sloka

Vedaanuddharate (Meena) jagannivahate (Kacchapa) bhoogolam-udbibhrate (Sookara) |
Daityandaarayate (Narahari) balim chchalayate (Vaamana) kshatra-kshayam kurvate (Bhrigupati) |
Paulastyam jayate (Rama) halam kalayate (Haldhar) Kaarunyamaatanvate (Buddha) |
Mlechchaan-moorchayate (Kalki) dasaakriti krite Krishnaaya tubhyam namah |

[Oh Krishna! Obeisance to you the Lord of Ten Incarnations -you restored the Vedas; you lifted the earth the sustainer of the universe; you tore the sons of Diti; You hoodwinked Bali; You destroyed the warrior-race, Kshatriyas, You conquered Ravana; You are the carrier of the plough; you the merciful; you make the nonbelievers swoon]
--Geetagovinda of Jayadeva



 

 APPENDIX


Avatar – the Science of the Lord’s Descent
Posted by The Editor, IndiaDivine.org | Feb 19,   




In the Srimad Bhagavatam it is stated:
anye cha samskrtatmano vidhina abhihitena te  | yajanti tvan mayas tvamvai
bahu murty ekamurtikam ||
“Lord Krishna says: There are others, who are purified and cultured souls, who by understanding my different forms as myself, as one personality in various forms and features, worship me according to their spiritual understanding and convictions following the rules of worship as given in the Vedas.”
Each process of worship given in the Veda scriptures involves understanding the different forms of the Lord, but the ultimate purpose is to worship the same one Supreme Lord Himself.
The various forms of the Lord which are unlimited but one and the same are described in the Veda literatures as follows:
Sri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead manifests Himself in three features in His transcendental form:
svayam rupa – His personal form
tad ekatma rupa – different form but Himself,
avesa rupa – form into which He has entered.
The svayam rupa is the form in which Sri Krishna is directly understood, His personal form.
The tad ekatma rupa is that form which most resembles the svayam rupa, but there are some differences in the bodily features.
The avesa rupa is when Krishna enters either his own expansions or some suitable qualified living entity to represent Himself in any one or more of His opulence or powers. This is also known as shakti-avesha incarnation.
Vasudeva, the identity by which Lord Sri Krishna is known as the original Personality of Godhead, thus expands Himself by innumerable forms, which are all transcendental to matter, known as sat (eternally existent), chit (fully conscious) and ananda (fully blissful).
The personal form of Krishna can be divided into two: svayam rupa and svayam prakasa.
As far as His svayam rupa or pastime form is concerned, it is in this form that He remains always in His personal abode, Vrindavana, with the inhabitants of Vrindavana (vraja vasis).
This svayam rupa form can be further divided into prabhava and vaibhava forms:
(a) When Krishna expanded Himself into multiple forms during the rasa dance in order to dance with each and every Gopi who took part in the dance. (prabhava expansions)
(b) At Dwaraka Krishna expanded Himself into 16,108 forms in order to accommodate His 16,108 wives. Each such expansion was a separate individual, unlike when some yogis expand themselves into eight forms where all of them act as one individual (if one walks the others have to, if one sits the others also sit etc.).
When Narada (who is himself a yogi, who can do such tricks like expanding bodily features into eight forms) visited Dwaraka, he was so astonished to see that in each of the 16,108 palaces, Sri Krishna was acting in different ways with His queens. In one palace He was engaged in playing with His children, and in yet another form He was performing some household work. (vaibhava expansions)
Each of these categories can also be further divided into prabhava prakasha (pastime manifestation forms), prabhava vilasa (pastime extension forms), vaibhava prakasha (emotional manifestation forms) and vaibhava vilasa (emotional extension forms):
a) When Akrura was accompanying both Krishna and Balarama to Mathura from Gokula, he entered into the waters of the Yamuna River and saw within the waters of Yamuna all the planets of the spiritual realm. He saw the Vishnu form as well as Narada and the four Kumaras who were worshiping him. This is a prabhava prakasha category of expansion.
b) When Krishna appeared before His mother Devaki in His four handed form of Narayana just before His divine birth in Mathura, He appeared in His prabhava  prakasha form.
c) When he changed Himself to a two handed form at the request of His parents, He appeared in His vaibhava prakasha form.
d) In His personal form, Krishna is just like a cowherd boy and He thinks of Himself in that way. This is a vaibhava prakasha.
e) When He is in Mathura as a kshatriya prince He thinks and acts as a princely administrator. This is a vaibhava vilasa form. (In this Vasudeva form, sometimes He gets attracted to His own cowherd boy form, as described in some vaishnava literatures).
The Lord performs many wonderful pastimes in His incarnations in the material realm. The different aspects of these pastimes are each a manifestation of certain qualities of the different categories of his expansions in the spiritual realm. Thus many categories of expansions of the Lord may manifest themselves within a particular incarnation in order to perform certain pastimes. These pastimes exhibit the distinct qualities of that category of expansion.
There are also forms of Krishna which are a little different from the svayam rupa category. These are known as tad eka atma rupa forms (same person with different features).
These are further classified into vilasa (expansion form) and svamsha (own portion) forms.
Due to the distinct features both these classifications can be further divided into prabhava and vaibhava forms.
When Krishna expands Himself into Vasudeva, Pradyumna, Aniruddha and Sankarshana He appears as prabhava vilasa, under tad eka atma rupa category.
From these original principal four handed forms there are twenty four principal forms manifest, which are vaibhava vilasa under tad ekatma rupa category.
In the Siddhartha samhita the twenty four forms are named according to the position of symbols (viz, conch, disc, mace and lotus) in their four hands.
These twenty-four forms are known as prabhava vilasa forms identified by the symbols held in their four hands.
The four principal manifestations of Krishna are found in each planet in the spiritual realm, and these planets are called Narayanaloka or Vaikunthaloka.
In the Vaikuntha loka He is manifested in the four-handed form of Narayana. From each Narayana the forms of Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha are manifested.
The Narayana is the center and the four forms of Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha surround the Narayana form.
Each one of these four forms again expand into three:

Vasudeva – Kesava, Narayana, Madhava
Sankarshana – Govinda*, Vishnu, Madhusudana
Pradyumna – Trivikrama, Vamana, Sridhara
Aniruddha – Hrishikesha, Padmanabha, Damodhara

[*This Govinda is a four handed form different from the vaibhava prakasha Govinda, son of Nanda Maharaja, in Vrindavana.]
The four principal manifestations also have their vilasa (expansion) forms:

Vasudeva – Adhoksaja, Purusottama
Sankarshana – Upendra, Achyuta
Pradyumna – Nrisimha, Janardhana
Aniruddha – Hari, Krishna*

[*This Krishna is four handed vilasa form, different from the original svayam rupa form of Krishna.]
In the Hayasirsha Pancharatra it is mentioned that there are nine other forms protecting the Mathura and Dvaraka portions: Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha protect Mathura; Narayana, Nrsmha, Hayagriva, Varaha and Brahma (this is a four handed form of Krishna different from the creator Brahma who is a jiva) protect Dvaraka. These nine forms are different manifestations of prakasa and vilasa forms of Lord Krishna, distinct from the expansions with same names mentioned before in the tables above.
In the spiritual realm all the planets dominated by the Narayana features are eternal. The topmost planet is called Krishnaloka (Goloka) and is divided into three portions: Gokula, Mathura and Dvaraka.
The conclusion is that the Supreme Original Personality of Godhead is Krishna. He is called lila-purushottama (playful perfect person) and He resides principally as the son of Nanda. He has innumerable forms and categorically they are described in various scriptures especially the Pancharatra scriptures.
[About Vedic, Pancharatric and Tantric scriptures refer to the course on Vedic literature.]
All of these forms have their Vaikunta planets in the spiritual realm and are situated in eight different directions. Although all of them are ever situated in the spiritual realm, some of them are nonetheless manifest in the material world also.
The different categories of expansions in the Spiritual world are simply to facilitate the relationships with his separated expansions (the living beings in the spiritual realm) through various mellows.
To cite a few examples:
The svayam rupa form (the simple cowherd boy form) of the Lord is to enhance the parental affection of Nanda and Yasoda who are His eternal parents in the Vrindavana portion of Goloka.
The prabhava expansions of the Lord in the rasa lila are to enhance the conjugal satisfaction of the Gopis with whom He dances.
The vaibhava expansion of the Lord in Mathura as a prince is to enhance the parental affection of Devaki and Vasudeva.
Some of the Lord’s forms expand throughout the material realm as deity incarnations (archa-avatar) to protect various areas. These deity incarnations are manifested to give facility to the devotees of the Lord so that they can worship Him in that particular deity form to whom they have developed attraction.
For example,  Hayasirsa in Bhadrasva-varsa, Matsya in Ramyaka-varsa,  Kesava in Mathura and Padmanabha in Anandaranya (Trivandrum).
In the Mathura portion of the Goloka (the topmost abode of Krishna in the spiritual realm) a form known as Kesava is situated. This form is also represented in earthly Mathura. Similarly there is a Purusottama form in the spiritual realm at the outskirts of Goloka which is represented in Jagannatha Puri on our earth. Some other examples of this kind of representation are the Padmanabha in Anandaranya (Trivandrum of Kerala in India), and Hari in Mayapur (near Calcutta in West Bengal in India) which is the birth place of Lord Sri Chaitanya.
Many other forms are also situated in various places on earth. Not only in this Universe but in all other universes as well, the forms of Krishna are distributed everywhere.
It is indicated that this earth is divided into seven islands, which are the seven continents, and it is understood that on each and every island there are similar forms, but in the recent past these seem to be present only in India. From the Veda  literatures we can understand that there are forms in other parts of the world also.
Through the activities of the worldwide Hare Krishna Movement, many of these places are very recently retraced and the worship of various forms of Lord Sri Krishna are re-established on almost all the continents of the earth.
The different forms of Krishna which are distributed thus throughout the universe are there to give pleasure to the devotees. It is not that devotees are only in the eastern world or in India. There are devotees in all parts of the world, but at times they simply forget their identity. These forms manifest not only to give pleasure to the devotees but to reestablish the constitutional devotional service and perform other activities which vitally concern the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati bharata | abhyutthanam  adharmasya
tadatmanam srijamy aham
“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion – at that time I descend Myself.”
paritranaya sadhunam vinashaya ca duskritam |  dharma-samstapanarthaya
sambhavami yuge yuge
“To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear, millennium after millennium.”
janma karma ca me divyam evam yo vetti tattvah | tyaktva deham punar janma
naiti mam eti s’orjuna
“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” – Bhagavad-gita 4.7-9
The Brahma samhita (5.46) says:
diparcir eva hi dasantaram abhyupetya  |dipayate vivrta-hetu-samana-dharma ||
yas tadrg eva hi ca visnutaya vibhati  | govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami
“The light of one candle being communicated to other candles, although it burns separately in them, is the same in its quality. I adore the primeval Lord Govinda who exhibits Himself equally in the same mobile manner in His various manifestations.”
Such expansion of forms are made possible by His various energies. His energies are also multifarious, and His internal energies are superior and external energies are inferior in quality.
As explained in Bhagavad Gita (7.4-6):
bhumir apo ‘nalo vayuh  kham mano buddhir eva cha | ahankara itiyam me
bhinna prakritir astadha ||
“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego – all together these eight constitute My separated material energies.”
apareyam itas tva anyam prakritim | viddhi me param
jiva-bhutam maha-baho yayedam dharyate jagat
“Besides these, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is another, superior energy of Mine, which comprises the living entities who are exploiting the resources of this material, inferior nature.”
etad-yonini bhutani sarvanity upadharaya aham  | krtsnasya jagatah
prabhavah pralayas tatha
“All created beings have their source in these two natures. Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for certain that I am both the origin and the dissolution.”
Thus His expansions of various forms which take place via His internal energies are superior forms whereas the expansions which take place via the external energies are inferior forms.
The living entities are also His expansions. The living entities who are expanded by His internal potency are eternally liberated persons, whereas those who are expanded in terms of the material energies are eternally conditioned souls.
In a prison house, there are the prisoners who are undergoing punishment and the managers who staff the prison house. Even though both these categories are bound by the laws of prison house ordained by the king, the prisoners have no freedom and are there for punishment (the conditioned souls in the material world, expanded in terms of external energy).
The managers have freedom, they are there simply to make sure that the law and order is maintained (the invisible controllers of the material world, known as demigods. Also,  expanded in terms of external energy).
Sometimes a missionary comes to preach to the prisoners, he also has to follow a certain code of behavior under the laws of the prison, but he is free and he tries to correct the prisoners so that they can become free or at least behave better so that they won’t suffer too much in the prison (the eternally liberated souls, expanded in terms of internal energy, who come to deliver the conditioned souls from the material creation are like these missionaries).
But the king himself sometimes visits the prison house. He is never bound by the laws of the prison neither he needs to follow any code of conduct while visiting the prison. He is totally above all the laws of prison, and simply he visits so that everything goes on properly as ordained by his law. (The Lord is like the king, always transcendental to the laws of the material world).
The Lord is all spiritual and has nothing to do with the qualities of the material world, which are qualitatively distinct from the all spiritual qualities of the Lord. Because the causal and effectual energies required for the creation of the material world are also His energies, fully under His control, He is never affected by the material modes of nature. His position is always transcendental even within the material manifestation.
He is also superior and transcendental to the eternally liberated souls who are expanded by His internal energy because He is the Purusa uttama (Perfect Original Person, source of both internal and external energies):
dvav imau purushau loke ksaras caksara eva cha | ksarah sarvani bhutani
kuta-stho ‘ksara ucyate
“There are two classes of beings, the fallible and the infallible. In the material world every living being is fallible, and in the spiritual world every living entity is called infallible.” – Bhagavad-gita 15.16
yasmat ksaram atito ‘ham aksarad api chottamah | ato ‘smi loke vede cha
prathitah purusottamah
“Because I am transcendental, beyond both the fallible and the infallible, and because I am the greatest, I am celebrated both in the world and in the Vedas as the Supreme Person.” – Bhagavad-Gita 15.18
The living entities are separated parts and parcels of the Lord , and the conditioned living entities, who are unfit for the spiritual realm, are strewn within the material world to fulfill their desire to enjoy matter to the fullest extent.
As the eternal friend of the living entities, the Lord expands as Paramatama the Super-soul (one of His plenary portions). Accompanying the living entities to guide them in their pursuit of material enjoyment and to become witness to all their activities  so that they can reap suitable reactions for their material activities in their multiple lives in matter.
The Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.1 describes the soul and Super-soul as two birds in a tree. One eating the fruit of the tree  while the other is just witnessing the actions.
cva suparna sayuja sakhaya samanam vriksham parisasvajate
tayor anyan pippalam svadv atty anasnann anyo ‘ abhichakasita
Thus the conditioned soul is controlled by the laws of material nature, but the Supersoul is the controller of both the spiritual and material energies.
Thus Vasudeva, the original Personality of Godhead by one of His plenary parts expands Himself all over the material world not only by accompanying the conditioned soul in all lives in different material bodies (numbering in 8,400,000 species), but also within the atoms, which combine to form the material bodies and the whole material universe. Matter, antimatter, proton, neutron etc. are all simply different effects of this Super-soul, or Paramatma feature of the Lord.
The gross material bodies of the living entities are combination (in different proportions) of five gross elements (the atoms which are pervaded by His presence within them) and the subtle bodes consist of mind , intelligence and false identity (which are directed by His presence as Super-soul , Paramatma).
Bhagavad gita confirms that the Lord is the father of all living entities who are conceived within the womb of the material nature:
sarva-yonisu kaunteya murtayah sambhavanti yah | tasam brahma mahad yonir
aham bija pradhah pita
“It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kunti, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father.” – Bhagavad-gita 14.4
Since the living beings are His sons, the sufferings and enjoyments of the sons are also indirectly the sufferings and enjoyments of the father, even though the Father is not anyway directly affected. Being so kind He accompanies the living being as Super-soul always trying to divert the attention of them towards their constitutional nature, which is one of real happiness, ananda (bliss).
There are innumerable material universes, and in each and every universe there are innumerable planets inhabited by different grades of living entities in different modes of nature, in 8,400,000 species of bodies. The Lord incarnates Himself in each and every one of them and in each and every type of living species. He manifests His transcendental pastimes amongst them just to create a desire in them to go back to the spiritual realm, back home, back to Godhead.
This science of incarnations, their appearance and disappearance is nicely described in the Gopala Tapani Upanishad as follows:
The Lord does not change His original transcendental position, but He appears to be differently avirbhava tirobhava svapadetisthati tamasi rajasi satviki |
manusi vijnanadhana anandadhana saccidanandaikarase bhaktiyoge tisthati ||
Manifested according to the particular time, circumstance and society. He is understood by the linking process of Bhakti, pure devotional service.
Whatever conditions the living beings undergo in the material realm due to their imprisoned situations, the Lord also manifests His incarnations pertaining to those situations. Starting from the one cell entity known as indra-gopa up to the most elevated Brahma (the demigod in charge of creation), different sages have observed different types and numbers of incarnations, which are revealed in the vedic literatures.
They are seen as eight, ten, eighteen and twenty four types by different scriptures.
In the Chaturveda Sikha it is stated:
vasudeva sankarsana pradyumno’ niruddhoham matsya kurma varaho nrsmho vamano rama ramo buddha kalkir aham iti
The Supreme Lord Sri Krishna said: I am Vasudeva, Pradyumna, Aniruddha and Sankarsana. I am also the ten incarnations, viz., Matsya, Kurma , Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parasurama , Ramachandra , Buddha,and Kalki.”
Ten different definite conditions of living beings are construed generally, from the beginning of their bondage up to the end.

Invertebrate – Matsya
Testaceous, shelly – Kurma
Vertebrate – Varaha
erectly vertebrate, Half man half beast – Narasimha
Manikin – Vamana
Barbaric – Parasurama
Civilized – Ramachandra
Wise – Krishna
Ultra-wise – Buddha
Destrucive – Kalki

Sometimes He incarnates Himself or empowers some suitable living being to act for Him (sakti- avesa avatar – empowered incarnation). In either case the purpose is one and the same. The suffering living being should go back home, back to Godhead. The happiness that the living beings are hankering for is not to  be found within any corner of the innumerable universes in any material planet. The eternal happiness which the living being wants is only obtainable in the kingdom of God, but the forgetful living beings under the influence of the material modes have no information of the kingdom of God.
The Lord therefore, comes to propagate the message of the kingdom of God, either personally as an incarnation or through His bona fide representative as the good son of God. Such incarnations or sons of God are not making propaganda for going back to Godhead not only within the human society, but also amongst the higher human beings called demigods as well as amongst lower species such as animal, plant , bird , insect and aquatic . This is how the vedic literatures describe the descents of the Lord, the Incarnations.
There are also svamsa (His own, unseparated) forms of Krishna, different from the forms in the spiritual realm, and these have two divisions, the Sankarshana division and the lila (pastime) avatar (incarnations) division.
From the Sankarshana division come the three purusa-avatars (Personalities who are the source and control for material creation) and from the lila avatar division come the incarnations like matsya-fish, kurma-tortoise etc.
The Satvata tantra describes that Krishna’s energies are divided into three aspects: thinking, feeling and acting. He is known differently in these three aspects:
Thinking – Krishna
Feeling – Vasudeva
Acting – Sankarshana Balarama

The material creation is due to the thinking, feeling and acting of Sankarshana Balarama.
Even though there is no creation in the spiritual realm where everything is eternal, the whole spiritual realm also depends on the acting energy of Balarama. Everything there is manifested by the Balarama or Sankarshana form.
As far as the material creation is concerned, the forms by which the energy of material nature works to bring about creation is called the Sankarshana form, and it is understood that this cosmic manifestation is created under the superintendence of the Supreme Lord.
This is further explained in the Srimad Bhagavata Purana (10.46.31):
etam hi visvasya cha bija-yoni ramo mukundah purusah pradhanam
anviya bhuteshu vilakshanasya jnaanasya chesata imau puranau ||
“These two Lords, Mukunda and Balarama, are each the seed and womb of the universe, the creator and His creative potency. They enter the hearts of every livingbeings and control their conditioned awareness. They are the primeval Supreme.”

[The above concept  is based on the Philosophy of Krishna Consciousness linking it to  Paancharaatra Theology]




REFERENCES:

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