Ramakrishna said Krishna and Jesus were incarnations of God. Yogananda said they were spiritual masters who established their union with God. Why is there such a difference in their teachings? Yogananda said that spiritual masters are free to come and go because they are one with God. Ramakrishna said that God himself incarnates on earth. What exactly is the difference between a spiritual master and an avatar (incarnation)? Who is a guru? Is he someone sent by God or God himself?
Ramakrishna and Yogananda are saying exactly the same thing. It just appears to be different. Both explained that Krishna and Jesus were incarnations of God, or avatars. An avatar is a soul like you and me, who, after many lifetimes, has reached the climax of spiritual evolution and then descends again on Earth, completely free. His “I” is gone. He feels only “I am one with God”. There is no difference between him and God, no duality, in his consciousness. When that soul incarnates again, you can say that it is God incarnating on Earth, or can say that it is a true spiritual Master returning to Earth: it just matters from which angle you look at it.
So there is no difference in the teachings between Ramakrishna and Yogananda. Only we unenlightened people always see differences.
In short: a spiritual master is one who has achieved oneness with God, saying, “I and the Father are one”, or “Aham Brahm asmi.” An avatar is when that soul takes on human form.
Ramakrishna himself was such an avatar, a Yogi-Christ. So was Yogananda.
What is a guru? A guru is a teacher. There are many levels of gurus. A Sat-Guru is one who is one with God, a true spiritual master, and who teaches people.
God bless you,