What Is the Difference Between a Saint and an Avatar?


What is the difference between Yogananda and a saint? I know that we that are devotees of Yogananda say he is one with God, an avatar, but what can he do that a saint can not? Why do we think he is more then just a saint. I know he said about himself: I was free long time ago. I killed Yogananda long time ago. I have read many many books about master s in books from himself but I ask myself what makes him greater spiritually than lets say, Padre Pio? Can a saint from another faith take you to God?

—jas, Norge


Dear Jas,

You asked an important question. There is a distinction between a saint and an avatar.

A saint is one who dedicated his (or her) life to living according to the will of God, and his (or her) actions are an expression of the will of God.

Being a saint is a great step toward oneness with God, but it does not mean that the saint has attained final liberation from ego-consciousness. Some saints have done that, and some have not.

An avatar has not only done that, but also has come back as a free soul, to help others. As Yogananda put it, an avatar has the spiritual power to bring many, many souls to God, whereas someone who is not yet free can bring only a few to the spiritual heights.

Avatars are not the only free souls. There are also param muktas, perfected beings who, in this lifetime, have become free from all karma.

There are jivan muktas, who no longer accrue any karma, although they might still have past karma to work out. In fact, Yogananda said that sometimes a jivan mukta will hang onto past karma in order to be drawn to reincarnate again, that he or she might help others. Although they are not yet totally free themselves, jivan muktas are no less one with God than an avatar is.

Yes, any spiritual tradition can give rise to saints who can take one to God. Padre Pio is an excellent example. We cannot know precisely what his spiritual stature was — he might have been a jivan mukta, or even param mukta — but in any case, he used his spiritual power to help many souls grow closer to God. For that, we can all say a prayer of gratitude to him.

Each soul has only one Sat (true) Guru, destined by God, to guide them to final liberation from ego consciousness. But along the way, each soul can be helped by other saints.

I hope this is helpful.

Blessings, Nayawami Diksha