I watched Avatar last night with my family. Good flick from James Cameron. Part Tarzan, part Pocahontas with a hint of LOTR Revenge of the Forest People on the Wicked Machines. Romanticism meets pantheism. And an Avatar figure to save the day who just happens to be tall and skinny [yeah!] rather than a mountain of towering muscle.
I was wondering what they would do with the Avatar idea and how it would be received. Best response I read was a blog comment from TJ:
"We watched the movie here in India in room packed with Hindus, for whom the Hindi/Sanskrit word “avatar” means “incarnation”. Interestingly, Cameron’s Avatar is a blend of the 2 species physically , but mentally, culturally, and ethically, he is 100% human. And not just human, but American-human. The Christ figure of Avatar ’saves’ the people and the planet out of an individualistic, American ethic rather than the panentheistic resolve of the native god-worshippers. His sense of “justice” and right/wrong bend his allegiance to a new “cause.” He is not acting as the Na’vi act, or thinking as think (believing, feeling… etc). His consciousness is pricked within the cultural worldview of his home, rather than his recent biological synthesis.
What a great way to think about Jesus, who acted, thought, believed and felt just like we do. In every way, he was like us (excepting sin). He was not merely a “skyperson-in-a-cool-body” but truly human, truly god." Comment on A Different Take on Avatar, First Things by Hunter Baker
Regarding the idea of Christ as Avatar, I have been doing a little research lately on the possibility of Christ being the Prajapathi of the Reg Vedas.
Some websites say its a fraud, and involves eager Christians taking Sanskrit verses out of context. Negative phrases like "Prajapathi Heresy" "Prajapati Cult" "Prajapati Affair" appear. And on the other hand, there are plenty of sites claim that Christ is prefigured in the Ancient Vedas [see PDF] and is a fulfilment of certain Arian prophecies.
This might be a hot topic in 2010 not just in India but for the whole world of Christian missions, as it celebrates 100 years since the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, 1910. It was at that conference that the "fulfilment theory", which had its origins with Krishna Mohan Banerjea and some others in the 1800's, found its way to a wider audience. The 1990's saw a resurgence in the idea of Christ in the Ancient Vedas, in particular the Prajapathi figure, and with it a new round of controversy. The discussions can get quite heated, as they are on this Hindu site.
On a different note, but still on the Avatar theme, I visited the Ramayana exhibition in the British Library last year and found it to be fascinating. The Ramayana mythology, so central to many of Hinduism's beliefs, existed on palm leaves and birch bark until it was finally printed as a book in the Sanskrit language. This work was done, according to information posted at the library, in 1806 by two Christian missionaries named William Carey and Joshua Marshman on their press at Serampore, India. Interesting!