S4 E2: Avatar

Sutras & Stuff: A Philosophy Podcast

03-02-2023 • 35 mins

What do the Metaverse, blue aliens, and airbenders have in common? They’re all based on the idea of the avatar, which goes back thousands of years to the Sanskrit term avatāra. In this episode, we’ll explore what an avatar is and how thinking about these ideas in ancient Hindu and Buddhist contexts can help us think about reality, the divine, and even our survival after death.

Sounds and Music All music excerpts and soundbites used with an understanding of fair use modification for educational purposes.

Theme music by Kevin MacLeod’s music https://incompetech.filmmusic.io

Bibliography and Further Reading

Clough, Bradley S. “The Ambivalence of the Hindus: The Buddha as Avatāraṇa of Viṣṇu in the Mahhāpurāṇas and Beyond.” The Journal of Hindu Studies (2021): 1–19. Parrinder, Geoffrey. Avatar and Incarnation: The Divine in Human Form in the World's Religions. Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 1997.

Sheth, Noel. “Hindu Avatāra and Christian Incarnation: A Comparison.” Philosophy East and West 52, no. 1 (2002): 98–125.

Stevenson, Robert W. “The Concept of Avatāra in Ancient and Modern Commentaries on the Bhagavadgītā.” Journal of Studies in the Bhagavad Gītā 3 (1983): 56–86.

Vaidya, Anand. Review of Reality+ by David Chalmers in Philosophy East and West, forthcoming.

Wolfendale, Jessica. “My avatar, my self: Virtual harm and attachment.” Ethics and Information Technology (2007) 9:111–119.

Clips and Sound Effects

Watch Mark Zuckerberg Reveal Next-Gen Avatars With Legs!, 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njvp-E8gzqA.

https://freesound.org/s/403005/ by InspectorJ

https://freesound.org/s/326404/ by MorneDelport

Avatar | Official Trailer (HD) | 20th Century FOX, 2009. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PSNL1qE6VY.

“Avatar: The Last Airbender” Theme Song (HQ) | Episode Opening Credits | Nick Animation, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1EnW4kn1kg.

New Books Network. Raj Balkaran, host. “Podcast | Simon Brodbeck, "Divine Descent and the Four World-Ages In….” Accessed February 2, 2023. https://newbooksnetwork.com/divine-descent-and-the-four-world-ages-in-the-mah%C4%81bh%C4%81rata-or-why-does-the-krsna-avat%C4%81ra-inaugurate-the-worst-yuga.

Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. Ramesh Pattni. “Three Faces of Vedanta: Shankaracharya, Madhvacharya, and Ramanujacharya - YouTube.” Accessed February 3, 2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlmdRFz1DVs.

New Books Network. Raj Balkaran, host. “Podcast | Sucharita Adluri, "Textual Authority in Classical Indian….” Accessed February 3, 2023. https://newbooksnetwork.com/sucharita-adluri-textual-authority-in-classical-indian-thought-ramanuja-and-the-vishnu-purana-routledge-2014.

David Chalmers: Reality+ from the Matrix to the Metaverse, 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ov_BTAsgDU. Little Buddha (1993). Clip via Crescendo on YouTube.com https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xf4e4tbkmCM

Dalai Lama Wants to Be a Machine Avatar, 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JNyUVSoiAE.

The Dalai Lama on Why Reincarnation Is Not Important, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqOMZP6HPP8.

DW Shift. How You Can Become Immortal as a Digital Avatar, 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8EiTfOggbI.

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