In some computer games, you choose your “avatar” or personal representation within the game world. In some cases, significant time is required to design your avatar. Or in commenting on blogs, you register an icon on Gravatar to show by your name. Similarly, in the movie Avatar, some of the characters had the role of temporarily occupying alien life-forms so they could work with the aliens.
When the witness arises prior to or with Self Realization or Cosmic consciousness, if it’s distinctive enough, it may be described much like either of the above. We recognize ourselves as now being something outside of or beyond the body and observing through the body-mind. Experiences of the body-mind are observed by the detached witness, along with other kinds of experiences. Hence the body might be described as like an avatar. Only it’s not one we’re personally operating – just observing through.
There is however another meaning of avatar in spiritual circles. “A manifestation of a deity in bodily form on earth.” Krishna, for example, was said to be an avatar of Vishnu, one of the pancha devata or 5 primary forms of God. (also of the Hindu trinity) In this case, Krishna is God, walking in an avatar form on earth, sent to restore balance. The Mahabharata is his story, with the Bhagavad Gita (Song of God) section being the central teaching. Rama of the Ramayana was the prior avatar of Vishnu.
The occasional teacher also refers to themselves as an avatar of God but if they’re speaking from experience, we’re all such. Recognizing oneself as non-separate from God is a normal developmental stage called God Realization. However, it’s handy to remember that even a fully realized human does not have the capacity of an avatar.
The Kala scale helps illustrate this point. The highest avatar, Krishna, was said to be a 16/16 on the Kala scale of ability. Rama is suggested to be a 12, and Buddha a 10. By comparison, water-born animals are a 2, egg-born a 3, and womb-born a 4. Humans range from 4 – on par with mammals – up to a 7. Thus a fully enlightened person is around half of an avatar.
The development of refined perception in God consciousness can help illustrate who is actually animating the avatar we’re experiencing through. But then, in Unity, the parts are united and the detached separation ends. The avatar effect fades.
Still, it’s a distinctive enough experience during the first post-personal stage that it is widely described across traditions. And when some begin to lose the detachment, they may feel they’re falling backwards when in fact the fading separation is a good thing. That becomes clear in time.