Wthout proper understanding, Dr. Radhakrishnan has given his opinion about the descent of the Lord's incarnation. He writes, "An avatāra is a descent of God into man and not an ascent of a man into God." What he means by "descent of God into man" is that the avatāras, or incarnations, possess physical bodies made up of the five gross elements. Of course, it remains to be clarified what he means by "not an ascent of man into God." Nowadays it is very much in vogue to designate a man as God. And it is not just a few who are said to be avataras: many philosophers go as far as to say that every human being is God. For the present we do not wish to delve into this subject.
We would like to inform Dr. Radhakrishnan, however, that when the Supreme Lord empowers a jīva with His divine potency so that the jīva can carry out some specific work, then that jīva is known as a śaktyāveśa avatāra. But this is not the only type of incarnation. The scriptures describe innumerable incarnations of the Supreme Lord, such as svayaṁ-rūpa, svayaṁ-prakāśa, āveśa, vilāsa, prābhava, vaibhava, yuga-avatāra, puruṣa-avatāra, guṇa-avatāra, and manvantara-avatāra. If we calculate the duration of one manvantara-avātara's life, it comes to an incredible number of years—more than three hundred million. And there are other incarnations who live longer. The scriptures give details of the Lord's authorized incarnations—the purposes for their appearance, their forms, the places of appearance, their pastimes, etc. There is no room for the vox populi whimsically choosing an ordinary mortal as an incarnation. And if despite the scriptural injunctions some people still accept a human being as an incarnation, it is easy to surmise the extent of their scriptural knowledge.
The goddess of learning, Sarasvatī, inspired Dr. Radhakrishnan to say "Man cannot become God." We would like to clarify this statement by saying "Even after becoming liberated, a man cannot become God." A liberated person can become a pure devotee of God, but he cannot become God or merge into God and lose his identity. There are innumerable instances in which a liberated soul, failing to become God, also refused to become God's devotee. The only option then open to him is aptly described in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.2.32):
- ye 'nye 'ravindākṣa vimukta-māninas
- tvayy asta-bhāvād aviśuddha-buddhayaḥ
- āruhya kṛcchreṇa paraṁ padaṁ tataḥ
- patanty adho 'nādṛta-yuṣmad-aṅghrayaḥ
O lotus-eyed Lord, although nondevotees who accept severe austerities and penances to achieve the highest position may think themselves liberated, their intelligence is impure. They fall down from their position of imagined superiority because they have no regard for Your lotus feet.
Attracted by material nature's external glare, such "liberated" souls have to come down to this earth and become wrapped up in some sociopolitical or altruistic work.
Besides the eternally conditioned jīvas, there are others, who are eternally liberated (nitya-mukta). They never come to this material world. Among the eternally conditioned jīvas (nitya-baddha) are those who make a big show of gaining liberation from this world. An analogy the Māyāvādīs often repeat is "All rivers flow into the ocean." This means that all jīvas merge into Brahman. But the truth that escapes them is that many large aquatics are permanent residents of the ocean and are never attracted to go and live in the river. The eternally liberated souls need not strive for liberation.
Dr. Radhakrishnan has used the expression "self-conscious man." We do not object to this term if it indicates a state of consciousness of the self in which a person realizes he is an eternal servant of God, Kṛṣṇa. Lord Caitanya came to teach this truth. Once the jīva realizes he is an eternal servant of Lord Kṛṣṇa, he ends his life of misery. He becomes liberated by that realization. And later he understands that liberation personified is standing nearby, waiting to serve him and all other eternal servitors of the Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa.
The authorized scriptures have declared that Kṛṣṇa is the original Supreme Lord and the source of all incarnations. In the Bhagavad-gītā (7.7), He says in His own words, mattaḥ parataraṁ nānyat: "O conqueror of wealth, there is no Truth superior to Me." Lord Kṛṣṇa came personally to teach that the highest Absolute Truth is not an impotent material concept. He is the full manifestation of absolute spiritual potencies. Those who cannot grasp this profound truth are fools spinning out endless speculations. That person who, although one, desires to expand and thus becomes many—can such a person be a human being or a formless impersonal entity? When this person decides to expand Himself manyfold, is He doing so in order to destroy Himself? If the Lord were to lose His own identity by expanding Himself into many, that would mean destruction of Himself. Has the Supreme Lord committed such a foolish blunder? Or has the blunder been committed by those who misinterpret the Vedic statements and say that God expanded Himself into many entities and lost His identity? The Supreme Lord can do as He pleases: He can expand Himself as countless incarnations or as multifarious separated energies. And even after expanding Himself in this way, He remains complete and fully Himself, as He is. If this were not so, then how could He be the complete Absolute Whole?