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XXXII. Puranas and Incarnations

Answering the king's query, sage Suka said, "If these ten characteristics of Puranas have to be described in a few words, it will be hard; for, each has to be indicated clearly, as when the processes of butter-making have to be described, each item from the milking to the churning has to be touched upon. Each step is important. The ten names relate to the attributes as marked out by their meanings. But the purpose of all is the gaining of the 'butter', 'liberation'. It is for the attainment of that liberation that the ten characteristics are assumed. The Puranas are all designed to confer on the eager and earnest listener the support and sustenance necessary for the pilgrim proceeding to liberation. What the Vedas (Sruthi) indicate by means of a statement here or an axiom there, or by an implied suggestion in another context, or even by a direct description of the actual experience in some other section, is elaborated by the Puranas for better clarification and inspiration", said Suka.

A question arose in Parikshith's mind as he listened to these words. He gave utterance to it thus: "Master! You said that you will be relating a Purana to me. Therefore, I would like to hear more of these characteristics. That will make the listening happier and more beneficial."

Suka made ready to answer this question, starting with the description of the ten marks of the Puranas. He said "Listen, O king! I have decided to relate to you the Bhagavatha Purana. It is saturated with answers for all the doubts that arise in your mind and all your questions. There is no Purana for higher than this."

"Of its characteristics, the first one, namely, is Sarga. I shall tell you what it means. When the three Gunas or attributes - Sathwa, Raja and Thamas - are in equilibrium, it is called Prakrithi, the primeval substance, Moola. By the disturbances in the equilibrium, the dis-balance, the five elements are produced; Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and Sky. Also, the subtle attributes of these five: Smell, Taste, Form, Touch, and Sound, creating also as the subtle senses that can cognise each; the nose, the tongue, the eye, the skin and the ear. The mind and the ego too arise from the same principle. This process of creation is what is meant by the expression: Sarga."

"The second mark of a Purana is Visarga, that is to say, Sarga or creation in a special sense. The proliferation into manifold varieties of beings through the interaction of various oddities and peculiarities in activity is what is described as Visarga. It is intimately associated with the all embracing super-person in whom the universe is immanent."