Whenever we sign into our Facebook accounts or even our email accounts, we instantly enter the virtual world. Although we don’t physically enter this matrix, we still interact with others much like in the real world. We begin to know where there’re from, their interests, what’s going on in their lives and the list goes on. To communicate with others, an important piece needs to come into play. This piece works with the interface and connects you to this realm. It does this by usually through a picture or a profile page that would represent you. Your entire being is represented in that one picture or character, commonly known as an avatar. The Oxford English Dictionary defines avatar as a graphical manifestation of a person in a computer generated environment1. This is the common, well-known use of the word. However, the term avatar was used long before the computer age.
Deriving from the Sanskrit word avatara (ava - meaning down, and tar - meaning to pass over), the word avatar was frequently brought up in Hindu mythology. It was used to describe the deities who would reincarnate on the earth. In Hinduism, the notion of reincarnation was highly regarded. It was believed that once one had passed away, their soul or atman would carry on to the next body and they would live again2. This didn’t necessarily mean that they would live again in human form. Depending on their karma, or their past actions, their form could vary from a tree in a forest to a fish in the sea. In many Hindu mythologies, the hero would often be depicted as an avatar. The well-known Bhagavad Gita portrays the conversation between Krishna, the avatar who embodies the Hindu God Vishnu, and Arjuna, the prince of a kingdom that is soon going into battle. In this conversation, Krishna explains why Arjuna must win this battle and eventually guides him to victory. The avatar teaches Arjuna many life lessons including the importance of fulfilling one’s duty3. Therefore the role of the avatar is to coach humanity towards liberation and prosperity by placing humans back on the right track.
As we living in a world filled with war poverty, and greed, there have been many prophecies stating the arrival of another avatar. Similar to the second coming of Jesus, many believe that this avatar would bring order back into this day and age called the Kali Yuga, which is basically the age of darkness we live in now. Perhaps we ourselves are this proclaimed avatar and we would soon come to realise our mistakes. Maybe we all are reincarnates of God born this earth, waiting to take action and set humanity on the right path. Therefore it is up to us to represent ourselves carefully from either on the internet or in real life. How we go about our own lives really does affect the world.
1 "avatar, n.". OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. http://oed.com/view/Entry/13624?redirectedFrom=avatar (accessed November 21, 2012).
2 Jayaram, . The Concepts of Hinduism- Avatar, "Hindu Website." Last modified 2012. http://www.hinduwebsite.com/hinduism/concepts/avatar.asp. Accessed November 2o, 2012.
3 Sivananda, . The Bhagavad Gita, "dlshq." Last modified 2004. http://www.dlshq.org/religions/gita.htm. Accessed November 20, 2012.