The strongest and most powerful ability that the Avatar can invoke is the Avatar State. It was created when Wan permanently bonded with Raava by touching the energy coming through the spirit portal during the Harmonic Convergence in 9,829 BG. It allows the Avatar to channel vast cosmic energies and the knowledge of previous Avatars, granting them superhuman strength and allowing for the ability to perform especially powerful and extraordinary feats of bending. The Avatar may unconsciously enter the State in response to perception of mortal danger, utilizing the State as a defense mechanism, or emotional distress. While in the State, the Avatar has access to bending techniques that may have not yet been learned in their current lifetime, but has no conscious control over the resulting actions, which can cause great collateral damage. An Avatar with full mastery of the Avatar State has conscious control over the State and can enter and exit it at will. It was by entering the Avatar State reflexively that Aang was able to freeze himself and Appa inside an iceberg for a hundred years by using a combination of airbending and waterbending. He did not physically age at all during the century, as he was in suspended animation, but it took a great physical toll on his body after being in the Avatar State for such an extended period of time.
While in the Avatar State, the Avatar's eyes glow, as do any markings following chi paths along the body, such as Air Nomad tattoos; however, if the body has received an injury deeper than the tattoos, that specific area will not glow in the State. The white glow is the result of Raava's spirit in the Avatar, resulting in the combination of all the Avatar's past lives focusing their energy through a single body. When Aang spoke in the Avatar State, his voice encompassed a combination of several different voices at once. When Korra spoke in the Avatar State, her voice was simultaneously encompassed with Raava's.
It is possible for an Avatar to control the Avatar State, as Aang, Roku, Kyoshi, Kuruk, Yangchen, and the unnamed Fire Nation Avatar have demonstrated in numerous flashbacks, but this requires great spiritual discipline and concentration. Guru Pathik attempted to teach Aang to control the Avatar State by helping him clear his chakras, but Aang could not let go of Katara in exchange for cosmic power. Fire Sage Kaja informed Roku to clear his mind, but Roku found emptying his mind of thoughts to be quite challenging and was initially unable to do so. More often, the Avatar State is activated by danger or emotional turmoil. Aang inadvertently entered the Avatar State when he discovered that his friend and teacher, Monk Gyatso, was killed bycomet-enhanced Fire Nation soldiers. Aang also entered the Avatar State when General Fong placed Katara in danger by sinking her into the ground with earthbending. When in complete control of the Avatar State, an Avatar's eyes glow momentarily, rather than continuously.
It is possible for an Avatar to channel a specific previous incarnation while in the Avatar State. When this happens, the Avatar briefly takes on the appearance and voice of that previous incarnation. Aang did this on multiple occasions, channeling Roku twice, and Kyoshi once. The appearance of these incarnations seems to vary as Roku always appeared as an old man while all the other Avatar incarnations appeared youthful and in their prime. It is unlikely the age of the Avatar's death is the deciding factor in their appearance since Avatar Kyoshi lived for 230 years and would not have kept a young appearance at that time. It is possible that those in the Spirit World manifest visually as they see themselves and not as they currently are: Aang saw himself garbed in Air Nomad attire and with a shaved head within the Spirit World, even when he was wearing a Fire Nation outfit in the physical world and had hair.
Entering the Avatar State allows the Avatar to break free from the effects of bloodbending, as demonstrated by Aang when he dispelled Yakone's hold on him.
Ways the Avatar State works
There seems to be two distinct ways to how the Avatar State works:
When the State activates without the Avatar calling on it, the Avatar's eyes, and tattoos in the case of an Air Nomad Avatar, glow white constantly, and Raava's spirit allows for active channelling of the energy, skills, and knowledge of past Avatars through the body of the current Avatar, heavily augmenting the current incarnation's bending abilities.
The State works this way almost exclusively when it is triggered as an instinctive, unconscious reaction, a 'defense mechanism' for when an Avatar's physical capabilities would be insufficient to confront the current threat, or in situations of extreme emotion, specifically rage and sorrow. So it may be more accurate to describe the State being used this way as 'reflexively' rather than 'continuously'. When the State is triggered this way, the current Avatar has little to no control over the performed actions and may retain little to no memory of what happened, though this is not always the case.
Aang appeared to use the State this way against Fire Lord Ozai after the scar on his back was forced against a rock unlocking his final chakra. Just as Guru Pathik had said, this event led to Aang being able to control the State himself, and unlike previous times where he entered the State, he was not physically exhausted.
When the State is used intentionally, the Avatar's eyes, and tattoos in the case of an Air Nomad Avatar, glow momentarily, and during that time the current Avatar stores the knowledge and energy needed so that it can be released once exiting the State, taking only the power needed for a specific task. This reduces the danger of being killed in the Avatar State and enables a more willful, controlled use of the Avatar State's power. This can only be done by an Avatar who has mastered the State as it is a conscious use rather than an instinctual response. Mastery of this technique is part of what distinguishes an Avatar as "fully realized". However, Avatar Korra was seen several times entering the Avatar State continuously, despite having mastered it.
The Avatar State also allows an Avatar to join with certain spirits. This was demonstrated when Aang entered the Avatar State in order to aid the frantic Ocean Spirit. Both Aang in his Avatar State and the Ocean Spirit combined their abilities to defend the Northern Water Tribe after all waterbenders were rendered defenseless.
While the Avatar is all but invincible in the Avatar State, having access to the bending experiences of all the past lives, there is one grave weakness: while in effect, the Avatar Spirit can be harmed. If the Avatar were to be killed while in the Avatar State, the cycle would break and the Avatar would cease to exist.
Aang was mortally wounded by a lightning strike from Azula while in the Avatar State. As a result, the Avatar Spirit was jeopardized, resulting in the Avatar Spirit's fall from the plane of existence. Katara was able to use the spirit watershe received from Pakku to revive Aang and consequently the Avatar Spirit.The strain of the revival caused Aang to slip into a coma for several weeks, and during that time, he managed to retain his connection to his past lives by meeting with the four most recent ones. However, it took longer for his ability to use the Avatar State to be restored.
Another downside to the Avatar State is the considerable mental strain it can cause to less experienced Avatars. Prior to his tutelage under Guru Pathik, Aang would often leave the Avatar State feeling horrified at what he had done under its influence. Furthermore, use of the State, at least in extraordinary circumstances, can place such a large physical strain on an Avatar's body such that their life span can be affected, as seen when Aang's one hundred-year time in the iceberg contributed greatly to his eventual death at sixty-six years of age biologically and 166 years chronologically.
Known incidents of use
- About ten thousand years before Korra's time, Wan created the Avatar State by bonding with Raava when he touched the geyser of energy from the Southern spirit portal during the Harmonic Convergence. He used this newfound power to defeat Vaatu and restore balance to the world.
- At some point, Wan entered the Avatar State when he intervened in a war between clashing armies from three nations with simultaneous bending.
Unnamed fire Avatar
- At some point in his life, the unnamed fire Avatar entered the Avatar State, causing four volcanoes to erupt, and bending the lava from the eruption.
- Yangchen reflexively entered the Avatar State to fight General Old Iron to save a nearby town prior to the establishment of Yangchen's Festival.
- At some point in her life, Yangchen entered the Avatar State in a field while practicing her airbending, causing great winds to blow.
- At some point in his life, Kuruk entered the Avatar State, creating a massive wave with waterbending to propel his raft.
- Kyoshi entered the Avatar State in her battle with Chin the Conqueror. Masterfully, she used the non-continuous Avatar State to split her homeland from the mainland; by using her earthbending to break apart the peninsula, summon lava from the Earth's crust, and push the mass of land out to sea, while using airbending to hold back Chin and his army, she created Kyoshi Island.
- At some point in her life, Kyoshi entered the Avatar State to levitate two massive badgermole statues.
- Roku entered the Avatar State on three known occasions. The first was during the winter solstice at the Fire Temple; while learning how to enter the State, he became trapped in it, subsequently destroying the temple. This was his only known continuous use. The second time was non-continuous in a brief fight with Fire Lord Sozin, and the last known time was in an attempt to stop a volcanic eruption that threatened to destroy his home island.
Before 99 AG
- Aang entered the Avatar State to save himself and Appa from drowning after their fall into the ocean. Both were sealed into an ice encrusted air pocket that eventually froze into an iceberg. Aang would remain in the State until he was released from the iceberg around one hundred years later, hinting at the incredible power available to the Avatar.[nb 2]
Winter 99 AG
- Aang entered the Avatar State to escape another fall into the ocean and to stop Zuko. He waterbent a water spout in the form of a twister.
- Aang later entered the Avatar State after witnessing the skeleton of his former mentor Monk Gyatso. In his anguished-induced state, he generated hurricane-force winds. In this event, it is shown that depictions of previous Avatars (such as sculptures or murals) may react to the Avatar State, even when far away, glowing in the same manner that the Avatar in the image would.
- When Aang met Avatar Roku in the fire temple, Roku helped him and friends escape by directly taking over Aang's body and activating the volcano underneath the temple.
- Aang almost entered the Avatar State while telling Katara that Monk Gyatso and he were to be separated.
- Aang entered the State after saving Sokka and a fisherman, rounding up everyone that fell into the ocean and pulling them out of the water into the calmness of the storm's eye.
- During the Siege of the North, Aang combined the Avatar State's power with the spirit of the Ocean, La, after all waterbenders were rendered powerless, and proceeded to lay waste to the Fire Nation fleet besieging the city.
Spring 100 AG
- Aang entered the Avatar State when General Fong used earthbending to bury Katara underground to force Aang into the Avatar State. He used airbending to knock the general to the floor, rose into the air on a tornado, and crashed down to the earth, releasing a powerful earthbending attack on the general, his guards, and his fortress. A small air sphere surrounded Aang before the spirit of Avatar Roku took him to the Spirit World to explain to him about the true nature of the Avatar State. In several flashbacks, Avatar Kyoshi, Avatar Kuruk, Avatar Yangchen, and an unnamed fire Avatar were seen in the Avatar State.
- Aang entered the Avatar State when infuriated at a group of sandbenders for kidnapping Appa. A large air sphere surrounded him, lifting him up into the air, but was brought down by Katara, who grabbed his arm and embraced him.
- While battling in Ba Sing Se, Aang let go of his attachment to Katara and willingly entered the Avatar State. When Azula struck him with lightning, the Avatar State became inaccessible to Aang.
Summer 100 AG
- Aang suffered a blow to the back while fighting Phoenix King Ozai in the same spot where Azula struck him with lightning, reopening his chakra and enabling him to effectively use the Avatar State. He collected all four elements and compressed them in a sphere around him, moving at incredible speed, plowing straight through obstacles whereas Ozai had to dodge said obstacles. The sphere could be used both for offense and defense. Since the sphere contained all four elements, it allowed Aang to earthbend and waterbend while away from a source. After the fight was over, Aang used it once again; pulling in the ocean to put out the fire at Wulong Forest, before lowering the tide back again, this time entering a momentary glow with realized control.
After the Hundred Year War
- During a confrontation with Fire Lord Zuko over Yu Dao, Aang entered the Avatar State with intent to fulfill his promise to kill the Fire Lord if he became like Ozai, though was brought out of it by Katara.
- During the battle for Yu Dao, Aang entered the Avatar State once more to stop the Earth King and Fire Lord's armies from reaching Yu Dao by creating a massive chasm around it. When he did this, he made a sphere with all four elements reminiscent of his fight with Ozai.
- Aang entered the Avatar State twice non-continuously to defeat Yakone and used his energybending to take the criminal's bending away.
- Aang entered the Avatar State three times during his battle with General Old Iron: once to destroy the refinery, once in the midst of the battle itself, and a third time to save Toph from being hurt by the spirit.
- Korra entered the Avatar State after having her bending abilities unlocked by the spirit of Avatar Aang when "she was at her lowest point". She formed an air spout to lift herself into the air and released air, fire and earth rings around her before forming a large wave from the ocean below her and sending it crashing against the cliff.
- Korra entered the Avatar State again while using energybending to restore Lin Beifong's earthbending abilities.
- Korra entered the Avatar State to win an air scooter race against Tenzin's children, though Tenzin admonished her for abusing her power.
- Korra entered the Avatar State while encountering a dark spirit in the Southern Water Tribe.
- Korra entered the Avatar State in a desperate attempt to break free from dark spirits while trying to open a dormant spirit portal in the South Pole.
- Korra entered the Avatar State to make an opening in the Northern Water Tribe blockade at the Southern Water Tribe.
- Korra entered the Avatar State after encountering a dark spirit while traveling to the Fire Nation by speedboat.
- Korra entered the Avatar State briefly when she awoke from her spiritual cleansing journey at the Bhanti Village Temple.
- Korra entered the Avatar State when she successfully traveled to the Spirit World alongside Jinora.
- Korra entered the Avatar State while in the Spirit World to open the Northern spirit portal.
- Korra entered the Avatar State while in the Spirit World again to engage Vaatu during Harmonic Convergence to prevent Vaatu from fusing with Unalaq and to re-imprison him into the Tree of Time.
- Korra again entered the Avatar State in both realms several times to engage the newly created Dark Avatar who was in his own unique Avatar State to decide the fate of the world.
- Korra entered the Avatar State again in the Spirit World after being reunited with Raava shortly before the end of Harmonic Convergence.
- Korra entered the Avatar State in an attempt to clear the spirit vines that were overtaking Republic City.
- Korra was forced into the Avatar State after being poisoned by Zaheer in the latter's attempt to kill the Avatar and end the Avatar Cycle.
- Korra briefly entered the Avatar State after bending the residual traces of mercury out of her system, restoring her connection to Raava.
- Korra entered the Avatar State in her battle with Kuvira, though lost control and exited the state upon witnessing a hallucination of herself in the Avatar State.
- Korra entered the Avatar State while bending the energy within a bubble created by spirit vines in order to save the trapped souls of Jinora, Ryu, and several tourists.
- Korra entered the Avatar State in order to scare Baatar Jr. into exposing the secrets behind Kuvira's spirit energy cannon, though she exited after he called her bluff.
- Korra entered the Avatar State while she was performing an airbending attack against Kuvira's giant mecha suit in order to make it fall down.
- Korra entered the Avatar State during her second attack against the giant mecha suit, in order to increase her speed and avoid its spirit beams.
- Korra entered the Avatar State and bent the spirit beam of the spirit energy cannon which was about to blast Kuvira, creating a new spirit portal.
- Avatar Wan
- Avatar Yangchen
- Avatar Kyoshi
- Avatar Kuruk
- Unnamed Fire Avatar
- Avatar Roku
- Avatar Aang
- Avatar Korra
- Chin the Conqueror
- Fire Lord Sozin
- Fire Lord Zuko
- General Fong
- Fire Lord Azula
- Phoenix King Ozai
- Dark Avatar