Starting from the unity of God, Nanak and his successors rejected the idols and incarnations of the Hindus, and on the ground of the equality of all men rejected also the system of caste.
Outwardly they are Mussulmans of the Shiah branch, but most of them show little veneration for either Prophet or Koran, and the religion of some of them seems to be a mixture of Ali-Illahism involving a belief in successive incarnations combined with mysterious, ancient, heathen rites.
Their babies are incarnations of spirits which quitted a bush or rock passed by the mothers at the moment of conception.
The historic Buddha - the man Gautamais taught as only one of a limitless series of incarnations or (better) appearances.
But despite the artificial character of the Trimurti, it has retained to this day at least its theoretical validity in orthodox Hinduism, whilst it has also undoubtedly exercised considerable influence in shaping sectarian belief, in promoting feelings of toleration towards the claims of rival deities; and in a tendency towards identifying divine figures newly sprung into popular favour with one or other of the principal deities, and thus helping to bring into vogue that notion of avatars, or periodical descents or incarnations of the deity, which has become so prominent a feature of the later sectarian belief.
It is not, however, so much the original figure of the god himself that enlists the sympathies of his adherents as the additional elements it has received through the theory of periodical" descents "(avatara) or incarnations applied to this deity.
Whilst the Saiva philosophers do not approve of the notion of incarnations, as being derogatory to the dignity of the deity, the Brahmans have nevertheless thought fit to adopt it as apparently a convenient expedient for bringing certain tendencies of popular worship within the pale of their system, and probably also for counteracting the Buddhist doctrines; and for this purpose Vishnu would obviously offer himself as the most attractive figure in the Brahmanical trinity.
And accordingly it is exactly in connexion with these two incarnations of Vishnu, especially that of Krishna, that a new spirit was infused into the religious life of the people by the sentiment of fervent devotion to the deity, as it found expression in certain portions of the epic poems, especially the Bhagavadgita, and in the Bhagavatapurana (as against the more orthodox Vaishnava works of this class such as the Vishnupurana), and was formulated into a regular doctrine of faith in the Sandilya-sutra, and ultimately translated into practice by the Vaishnava reformers.
His followers, the Ramanujas, or Sri-Vaishnavas as they are usually called, worship Y Y, P Vishnu (Narayana) with his consort Sri or Lakshmi (the goddess of beauty and fortune), or their incarnations Rama with Sita and Krishna with Rukmini.
Although the Vaishnava sects hitherto noticed, in their adoration of Vishnu and his incarnations, Krishna and Ramachandra, usually associate with these gods their Brot wives, as their saktis, or female energies, the sexual element is, as a rule, only just allowed sufficient scope to enhance the emotional character of the rites of worship. In some of the later Vaishnava creeds, on the other hand, this element is far from being kept within the bounds of moderation and decency.
Indeed, Chaitanya himself, as well as his immediate disciples, have come to be regarded as complete or partial incarnations of the deity to whom adoration is due, as to Krishna himself; and their modern successors, the Gosains, share to the fullest extent in the devout attentions of the worshippers.
The two queens have become semi-divine personages, and are worshipped under the name of the two Dard-Eke, the " glorious mothers," being regarded as incarnations of the wife of Siva, representing respectively two of the qualities which she personifies, divine vengeance and divine love.
It will have been noticed that it was an old idea of the northern Buddhists to look upon distinguished members of the order as incarnations of Avalokitesvara, of Manju-sri, or of Amitabha.
Like the Great Lamas, they bear the title of Rinpotshe or Glorious, and are looked upon as incarnations of one or other of the celestial Bodhisats of the Great Vehicle mythology.
He has made himself known to men by successive incarnations, of which the last was Hakim, the sixth Fatimite caliph.
How many these incarnations have been is stated variously; but seventy, one for each period of the world, seems the best-attested number.
The souls of the virtuous pass after death into ever new incarnations of greater perfection, till at last they reach a point at which they can be re-absorbed into the Deity itself; those of the wicked may be degraded to the level of camels or dogs.
The Maronites, the Ansarieh, the Metawali and the "Isma`ilites," also profess creeds which, like the Druse system, differ from Sunni Islam in the important feature of admitting incarnations of the Deity, it is impossible not to suspect that Hamza's emissaries only gave definition and form to beliefs long established in this part of the world.
We see that he, like his father and his successors, were worshipped as gods, probably as incarnations of a secondary deity of the Persian creed.