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Garuda Purana Essentials
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A Purana is a holy text among Hindus (and Buddhists and Jains). The word purana means “of ancient times”. Puranans are old works, a group of religious texts. There are many puranas. What most of them have in common, is a build-up that tells of creation, genealogies of the kings, heroes, sages, and demigods, and describes Hindu cosmology, philosophy, and geography. In other words, a Purana is a collection of myth, legend, and genealogy, and tells versions of how the world was made.
Puranas are usually written in the form of stories told by one person to someone else. Purana texts might have been written all over India, although Vyas is traditionally considered the compiler of them. Common ideas are found throughout the various Puranas. The age and origin of Puranas vary greatly, and they have been added to in the course of time as well.
In Puranic texts sectarianism has crept into ancient mythology, usually with one god extolled above others. Puranas are structured similarly, but are devoted to or they extol different gods, even though various Puranas contain the same stories or similar stories.
About eighteen of the many texts called ‘Puranas’ are called Mahapuranas, great puranas. Dimmitt and van Buitenen have listed twenty – the numbers in brackets are verses each contains):
There are also at least twenty Puranas more to be found.The Garuda Purana is in the Atharva-Veda and is classified as one of the Vishnu Puranas.
More on Puranas
The Puranas constitute a class of literature that deals with legends of gods, asuras (demons), sages and kings of old, and contans abstracts of works in arts, sciences, medicine, grammar, dramaturgy, music, astrology and other subjects, affords insight into different phases and aspects of Hinduism – its mythology, idol-worship, theism, pantheims, love of God, philosophy, superstition, festivals and ceremonies. Puranas are “folk encyclopedies” of ancient and medieval Hinduism. [From a definition – Gpu xvi]
Puranas also tell of duties among men, and they are written in an easy, flowing style. About eighteen surviving Puranas are called more important than other Puranas. The Garuda Purana is among the main ones, who – to repeat – deal with quite similar material. This means Puranas is an eclective genre.
The speaker of the Garuda Purana is Garud(a), who narrates it to Kasyapa, who tells it to Vyasa, to in turn narrates it to Shiva. The work has three parts (kandas). They are Acara kanda (also called karma kanda) of 240 chapters, which deals with karma; preta kanda (dharma kanda), which deals with dharma (law, justice, etc.); and Brahma kanda (moksha kanda), which speaks of liberation, freedom (moksha) [Gpu ix-xx]
The Garuda Purana was produced through several stages, and was subjected to revisions and redactions. And therefore it is difficult to fix the date of the Purana as a whole, writes J. H. Shastri. Further, as a Purana devoted to Vishnu, the Garuda Purana gives prominent place to him, before Shiva, Brahma, and other ancient, Vedic gods. Although the work describes Vishnu as the Supreme Being, that does not exclude attention to or honour of other deities. The supreme deity can be realized by knowledge and not worship (kriya), it is held (Gpu III 12:59), and the Purana holds that the individual self and the Supreme Self are identical. To realize this is liberation, explains Shastri, and tells the Lord is eternal and formless (etc.). [Gpu xxvii-xxxv].
The content of this Purana reflects a sad fact: that in the Puranic literature of AD 500 to 1000, sectarianism creeps into mythology, and one god is extolled above the others. The tendecy to theism in the Puranic universe exalts several supreme gods who are not prominent in the Vedic pantheon (the ancient assembly of gods and goddesses). Of prime interest are cosmology, myths, and ascetics who sometimes eclipse the old gods through their tapas (penance).
In the Puranic world-picture the mountain Meru stands at the centre. Some interpret Mt. Meru symbolically to mean the spine. There are seven layers of heaven, and the summit of heaven is the world (loka, level) of God the Creator.
Puranic myths develop around the notion of four yugas (world ages): (1) The Satya or Krita Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dvapara Yuga, and Kali-Yuga. In the order given, they show increasing deterioration of moral and features and social conditions. “The more Kali-Yuga, the more predicaments”. Each yuga has its “dawn” and “dusk” (skandas).
– Tormod Kinnes
The most unfortunate women sinned against their husbands
GOD the Creator and others can see Srinivasa as of eternal form of lustrous body. [3.24.8-11]
During sports wearing of blue cloth is not forbidden. Nor it is forbidden as a bedsheet. An indigo dyed cloth should not be touched otherwise. Persons regularly using blue cloth will fall into hell. [1.222.49]
A woman who commits sins against her husband alive or dead shall never get a husband in her rebirth. She will be the most unfortunate creature among women. [2.26.59]
A soft-hearted, truthful, pure, and kind-natured brahmin went to a forest to practice penance. He used to perform homas and great sacrifices. He was afraid of the other world. He strictly followed the instruction of his preceptor. He was delighted in serving guests. He observed yogic practices. He spent years in the secluded forest. Then the idea of visiting holy centres entered his mind. [2.22.22-27]
He who transcribes Itihasas (epics) or Puranas or makes a gift of them, attains merit equal to that of gifting Vedic text or even twice the fruit. [1.98.16-17]
In the Krita age they extol penance; in the Treta they extol knowledge, in Dvapara sacrifices and charities and in the Kali only gifts are extolled. [2.34.2]
One should feed a brahmin every day faithfully. [cf. 1.50.73]
I tell a great secret. There is nothing that the preceptor will not disclose to his disciple. [3.21.33]
The universe evolved out of the Cosmic Egg is secondary creation.
The giver of the Vedas (in manuscript) attains the region of Brahma not accessible even to gods. Those who transcribe the Vedas with meanings, yajna sastras, dharma sastras, on payment, also attain the region of Brahma. [1.98.14]
There are five types of boats [panca pravahana] to succour saintly men who may otherwise get drowned in the ocean of worldly existence – tulasi, brahmins, cows, Primeval Being, and the Ekadasi day. [2.29.23]
Getting “drowned” in Primeval Being is all-good, and Self-Knowledge, gurus say, on the other hand.* [Added commentary]
The wise declare . . . where there is no exegesis or commentary on the supreme songs . . . where there are no people who understand the substance thereof, one should not live even for a moment. [3.20.26]
The wise declare knowledge to be manifold, consisting of various grades – high, low and middling. All that knowledge is found in the Bhagavata Purana. [3.1.45]
Prana (vital airs) is called ahamkara; it is a part of Garutmat [Garuda]. It is inferior to Kama and Indra by ten percent. [3.28.36]
There are people who are dead by fasts [hunger?], killed by fanged animals, dead by strangulation, who are slayers of preceptors, killed by wolves, who die of arson or imprecations of Brahmins, who die of cholera, who commit suicide, who fall from a peak and die, who hang themselves to death, who are drowned in tank, river or ocean – listen to their plight. These go to hell. [2.40.4-12]
Abiding in the hearts of his devotees, he multiplies their devotion to God the Being. Therefore he [Wind, Vayu] is called the devotee of God. [3.16.28]
They study the Vedas and discuss. But they do not realize the Ultimate Reality just as a spoon does not know the taste of food. [2.49.78]
One should enjoy the essence of the Bhagavata Purana – a rare thing in this mortal world. One should enjoy the essence so that tears of joy may trickle down the eye – a phenomena very rare to occur. [3.20.43]
He who eats sweets only becomes rheumatic [2.2.73]
The ghost torments his family [too if ] while he was in human body he was affectionate to his people – and now that he is dead he becomes hostile to them. [2.20.15]
Sumati, the wife of Kratu, gave birth to Balakhilyas (Valikhilyas). Sixty thousand in number, resplendent like the blazing sun, although they were of the size of thumb – they became sages of sublimated vitality. [1.5.14-16]
Bodies are perishable, riches are transitory, death is ever present. Hence, virtue should be accumulated. [2.47.24]
When the soul of the dying person does not leave the body but lingers on, salt should be gifted as it opens the door of the heaven. [2.4.15]
The seekers of eternal wisdom should know that the material objects consist of infinitesimal particles. Y [3.3.39-40]
When the expiatory and deterrent tortures in hell cease, the living beings are born again in human (or animal) form with the characteristic traits of their sins. [2.46.9-10] (2)
One should worship Primeval Being with all eight organs of the body [astanga-pranama]. [cf. 3.24.40]
The amount of sleep, fears, and riches is not evenly distributed among people. City folks tend to suffer most.
A person who has mastered all the systems of Vedanta [philosophy] can be better than thousands of who perform sacrifice reciting mantras. A devotee of the Primeval Being may be better than ten millions of such Vedantins. [1.227.12] (3)
He who does not keep a cow at home, is unaware of the art of milking it or is averse to nourishing it, passes his life [quite] in vain. [3.29.45]
By means of japas, homas and danas he should sanctify his body. If this is performed, all obstacles and hindrances are dispelled. [2.21.23] (4)
If a man calls out the name of the Lord even in his dream it destroys all his sins. [1.227.13]
Praya is a penance wherein the mind is controlled. [3.21.4]
He who hears [no] praise of the good suffers from ear disease. [2.2.85]
Sleep, fear, sex and food are equal for all creatures. [2.49.53]
Certain men of sinful actions become ghosts after death [2.22.3.]
After eating garlic and onion one could [try to] perform Candrayana. [cf. 1.96.72]
People praise a rich man with great respect wishing for some monetary profit. [1.230.50]
If the woman is in a mood to receive the husband on any night he should satisfy her, remembering that lust in women is terrible. [1.95.24-26]
Those alone are worthy of recital who remain satisfied with whatever money is offered willingly by devotees. [3.20.35-37]
If a person steals flowers he is born as a poor beggar. [1.225.30]
There are many attributes of the beginningless soul. [cf. 2.46.31-32]
Going for wealth, delicate pleasures, and freedom are worthy goals in Hinduism. Do not wait to secure your happiness, then.
Vedas can be spoiled by misinterpreters. [cf. 1.223.28] (5)
Conception usually takes place within eight days. On the fifth day the woman is given sweet dishes which is a good tonic for the embryo. Astringent and pungent things should not be taken at all. [2.32.15-16]
God has created the universe with Vedas as the basis. [1.98.15]
He who rapes an immature girl becomes a serpent. [2.46.20-21]
For those walking on the path of Yama, dharma, artha, kama and moksa – or righteousness, wealth, pleasure (lust), and freedom – are secondary [2.48.4-6]
It is very rare to keep company with the good and noble people who can throw light on the nature of tattvas. [3.24.125]
In the house where there is no cow or the holy basil plant in the courtyard, where the inmates do not celebrate any festival for the gods, where there is no recitation of the narrative of God, one should never stay even for a moment, for association with the inmates of that house will lead to misery. [3.29.43-44]
[In Yamaloka (in a death-realm) a dead man gives up his dreadful body and receives an airy body of the size of a thumb. [cf. 2.18.39-40]
They say penance is a self-reflection, whereby reality is sought to be determined, or it is a way of repentance for the sins of previous life. [3.21.3]
Primeval God alone is the son because He protects against the hell Pum which is none other than this body itself. [3.26.16]
People do not realize the true form of Lord Hari. [3.24.12]
If a person casts off food and water and drinks only the water from My feet [caranamrta], he is not reborn on the earth. [2.36.16]
More important than fasting is the constant thought of Vasudeva.* [1.230.11]
One shall do today what is to be done tomorrow, before noon what is to be done afternoon – but whether done or not done, death does not wait whether a person has completed the task or left in incomplete. [2.49.41]
The Primeval Being alone is real. [3.28.68]
In this world of mortals . . . Kali is known as . . . the endless pain incarnate. [3.12.82-83]
Vaisva deva (oblations to fire before meals intended for all deities collectively) shall be performed – it is called Deva yajna. The offering to bhutas – living beings or spirits – is to be known as bhuta yajna. [1.50.71]
A ghost once said to a brahmin: “Excellent brahmin, our ghosthood is the outcome of our own misdeeds. We had been engaged in harassing others. [2.22.33]
He who imparts knowledge to the undeserving becomes a bull. [2.46.16]
There is no sin in accepting food from an ascetic, Vedic scholar or a high-souled person. [cf. 3.23.25]
Rare are the devotees of [God] in Kali age. [3.19.39]
A man depositing his semen in a vagina is actually sowing a seed. For the proper growth of the child the woman should avoid excessive sunshine. Cooling articles should be resorted to. [cf. 2.32.17]
Get a jar of heated gold manufactured by the smith. Fill it with milk or butter. With full devotion to God the Creator, Primeval Being (Guardian), God the Destroying Agent, and the guardians of quarters [dik-palas] give the same to a brahmin. What avails hundreds of other gifts is compared to this. [2.27.57]
People are content with their routine work. But that does not help them to reach the goal. It is the knowledge of truth or reality that effects release. [2.49.70]
Right action does not put one into bondage. [2.49.94]
By accepting duality as a matter of fact, one feels quite happy. [3.28.73]
[The nine “planets”:] The Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Rahu and Ketu [Rahu and Ketu are no planets, they are the Moon’s nodes against the constellations (TK).] The malignant aspect is countermanded respectively by wearing copper, bell metal, crystal, the red sandalwood, gold, silver, iron, lead and bell metal on their bodies. [1.101.2-3]
The eternal Goddess Laksmi is inseparable from the Lord. . . . She is always awakened. [3.16.3]
In this world, there are several women who though married are always widows. Those who do not regard Hari as their husband – Hari who is beginningless, eternal, the quintessence of the universe, beautiful, bestower of liberation and accomplisher of desires – are always widows. [3.19.31]
The existence of the universe is actual and not a fiction. Those who speak otherwise are slayers of truth. The course of the universe is true, o Lord, the service of the Lord is also true. [3.10.52-54]
Eyes are prone to gaze at men and women. Excessive doting takes away sleep. [3.28.77] (7)
There are ten principal “nerves” [nadis, energy vessels] in the body: Ida, Pingala, Susumna, Gandhari, Gajajihva, Pusa, Yasa, Alambusa, Kuhu and Sankhini. [2.32.43-44]
Can the ignorant fools get release by torturing their body? [2.49.62]
He who slanders Brahmins becomes a tortoise. [2.46.23-24]
The very sight of good men is better than the holy places of pilgrimage. [1.221.23]
Gold is the first offspring of fire, land of God, and cow of the sun. [2.42.4]
Usually, man completes the allotted span of life, dies and is born again. As a result of the influence of sacred rites and gifts he is able to complete his life’s term. [cf. 2.24.32-33]
A personal soul is an eye that perceives the universe. The knowledge of the universe is the knowledge belonging to Laksmi. [cf. 3.16.2]
Rare is the dialogue with God. [3.19.41]
Rise up, God, that are ever watchful. Deprived of true knowledge and engrossed in worldly affairs from kalpa to kalpa, I undergo tortuous pains. [3.2.64]
He who lays down his life for the sake of his preceptor, a brahmin, a woman or a child attains salvations. [2.38.16] (8)
Unfortunate women sin against their husbands, and then by stages get whiny, nervous and fearful and mad as a result. Wise women, on the other hand, secure their calm and happiness by reciting mantras, doing daily chores like milking, keeping good company, and thinking of God. They may also reach right action.
Shastri, J. H. ed. The Garuda Purana, 3 Vols. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1978.
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