The theology of avatāra in the bhāgavata purāṇa

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The idea of avatāra no doubt presents a philosophical challenge, as it appears to stand in contrast to the Vedāntic principle of non-duality; the Bhāgavata purāṇa (BhP) offers an opportunity to look into this question due to its unique structure, which combines the Vedānta and Rasa traditions. As such, this paper looks into the theology of Avatāra in the Bhāgavata purāṇa; it argues that reading the purāṇic genre in light of Śaṅkara’s Advaita Vedānta is not as conducive to the understanding of the avatāra as reading it in light of Rāmānuja’s Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta, which indeed is compatible with the purāṇic genre. Moreover, uncovering the underlying assumptions of Western notions of personhood, it seems that classical ideas of “the person” have to be looked into, and offering an alternative idea of personhood may be necessary in order to better understand the theology of avatāra.

Original languageEnglish
Article number457
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Avatāra
  • Bhāgavata purāṇa
  • Personhood
  • Viśiṣṭādvaita

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies


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