Does an Avatar Have Karma?


Why did Sri Yukteshwar need to burn the karma of Sri Paramhamsa Yogananda? Wasn’t he already born an avatar and free from the process of karma many lives ago?

—dimonsumy, Nepal


Dear Friend,

The great saints and masters, and especially the rare to find avatars, enact the drama of human life in terms we can understand.

When an avatar takes on human form, he or she also takes on the “karma” (that is the required efforts and duties) of all human beings. An avatar is born as a baby; has to learn to walk and talk; go to school, become a teenager and grow in adulthood learning skills and having experiences.

No avatar is 100% infallible in merely human terms. An avatar, moreover, isn’t continuously in cosmic consciousness. Rather, instead, an avatar acts from a sense of inner freedom rather than on the basis of desires even if that freedom doesn’t always result in outward success.

Yogananda started a school for children in Los Angeles; he started a world brotherhood colony in Encinitas; he built a small temple overlooking the Pacific Ocean. In each of these cases he later had to abandon these efforts as untimely (or in the case of the temple, it fell into the ocean!)

So an avatar is NOT simply pretending to be human but in fact also has to struggle and experience success and failure. Not, however, because of PAST karma that is unresolved but by the very nature of maya into which the avatar has voluntarily entered by taking human birth.

A careful reading of the Autobiography of a Yogi will disclose that Sri Yukteswar’s taking on karma was for his “disciples” but Yogananda wasn’t specifically named.

But, no matter, the important principle here is that such a one can help a disciple by subtly taking on the karma of a disciple. This is the point being made. Thus, out of love, out of a sense of spiritual connection, a great saint, master or avatar can, to varying degrees, bring spiritual advancement to a disciple.

So whether the karma being spoken of is Yogananda’s or whether the intention was with respect to OTHER disciples that he had, the main point is that he had the power to do so. If it WAS Yogananda’s karma we can interpret this as giving to Yogananda a spiritual boost to help him achieve the divine goals for which he was sent back to earth.

I hope this is a useful response for you.

With Blessings,
Nayaswami Hriman
Seattle WA USA