Jan 04, 2015 CANADA (SUN) A serial exploration of Sri Garuda, the transcendental carrier of Lord Visnu beginning with a summary description of the Introduction to Sri Garuda Purana.
Lord Visnu's Incarnations
Sutji once reached Naimisharanya in the course of his pilgrimage. There he found numerous sages engaged in austerities and penance. All of them were delighted to find Sutji in their midst and considered it a God-sent opportunity to get their doubts related to various religious topics cleared. The Sage Shaunak was also present there, and he asked Sutji --' O revered sage! Who is the creator of this world? Who nurtures it and who annihilates it in the end? How can one realize the supreme Almighty? How many incarnations has the Almighty taken till now? Please enlighten us on all these things, which are shrouded in mystery.'
Sutji replied--' I am going to reveal to you the contents of Garuda Purana, which contains the divine tales of Lord Vishnu. This particular Purana is named after Garuda because he was the one who first narrated these tales to the sage Kashyap. Kashyap subsequently narrated them to the sage Vyasa. I came to know about these divine tales from the sage Vyasa. Lord Vishnu is the supreme almighty and the source of all creations. He is the nurturer of this world and the annihilator as well. Though he is beyond the bondage of birth and death, yet he takes incarnations to protect the world from the tyranny of sinners. His first incarnation was in the form of the eternal adolescent Sanat kumar and others who were all celibates and extremely virtuous.'
Lord Vishnu took his second incarnation in the form of a boar (Varaha) to protect the Earth from the mighty demon named Hiranyaksha, who had abducted her to Patal loka (the nether world). In his third incarnation as Narad, he propagated the virtues of nishkaam karma (performing one's duties without bothering about the results). In his fourth incarnation as Nara-Narayan, he performed arduous austerities for the protection and propagation of Dharma or religiousness.
Lord Vishnu's fifth incarnation was as Kapila, which he took to protect the sashtra, which was on the verge of becoming extinct. He took his sixth incarnation in the house of Atri and Anusuya as Dattatreya, with the specific objective of propagating the most secret Brahma vidya to worthy people. His disciples included virtuous souls like Prahlad and others. Lord Vishnu took his seventh incarnation as the son of Ruchi Prajapati and Aakuti and was known as Yagya deva. His eighth incarnation was as Rishabh deva - the son of sage Naabhi and Merudevi.
In this incarnation he established the norms for Grihashtha ashram, which later on became the guidelines for every householders. Lord Vishnu took his ninth incarnation as Prithu and 'milked' (extracted) various nutrients (cereals, pulses etc.) from the Earth, who had disguised herself as a cow and thus protected the populace from being starved to death.
In his tenth incarnation as Matsya (fish), he protected the life of Vaivaswat Manu, who would not have survived otherwise. Lord Vishnu took his eleventh incarnation in the form of a tortoise (Kurma) and held the Mandarachal mountain on his back at the time when the ocean was being churned. His twelfth incarnation was as Dhanvantari and thirteenth as the most enchanting beauty-Mohini, to retrieve the ambrosia pot from the possession of the demons. He subsequently distributed it among the demigods, as a result of which they became immortal.
In his fourteenth incarnation, Lord Vishnu manifested himself as Nrisimha (partly human and partly lion) and to protect his devotee Prahlad, killed the wicked demon Hiranyakashipu by tearing apart his abdomen with his sharp claws. His fifteenth incarnation was as Vaman (dwarf) in which he demanded all the three worlds from Bali-the most benevolent demon king and then sent him to Patal loka. In his sixteenth incarnation as Parasurama, he wiped out the whole caste of kshatriyas from the face of the earth for twenty-one times, as they had all become immoral.
In his seventeenth incarnation he was born as Vyas to Parashar and Satyavati and accomplished his mission of propagating the knowledge of Vedas by categorizing them into four parts. In his eighteenth incarnation he manifested himself as Sri Ram. His nineteenth incarnation was as Krishna and his twentieth incarnation as Balarama. He will take his twenty-first incarnation as Buddha to bring the mankind back to virtuous path by preaching against the rituals and proving that it is not proper for a seeker to get bound by them. Lord Vishnu will next take incarnation as Kalki and will be born to a Brahmin named Vishnuyasha to liberate the earth from the sinners.'
How Garuda Purana was Propagated
On being asked by the sages as to how did he come to know about the contents of the Garuda Purana, Sutji told them-- 'Once, I had gone to Badrikashram, where I met the sage Vyasa. I requested him to enlighten me on various spiritual matters, to which he agreed saying that he was going to narrate the tales of Garuda Purana, which was first spoken by Lord Brahma to Narad, Daksha Prajapati and myself. The sage Vyasa then told Sutji how once he, along with Narad, Daksha and Bhrigu had gone to Brahmaloka to see Lord Brahma. After reaching there, all three of them requested Lord Brahma to shed light on the essence of the real knowledge.
Lord Brahma revealed to them that the Garuda Purana contained the essence of all the scriptures and Lord Vishnu himself had narrated its divine tales to him (Brahma). Describing the incident when Lord Vishnu had told the divine tales of Garuda Purana to him as well as Shiva, Lord Brahma said-- 'I once went to Kailash mountain accompanied by Indra and other demigods. We found Shiva engrossed in his meditation. We were amazed and asked him as to who was he meditating upon.
Lord Shiva told us that he was meditating upon the omnipresent, omniscient and the omnipotent Vishnu, in whom the entire universe exists. Lord Shiva also revealed to us that this was all he knew of Vishnu's power and also that if we wanted to know more about him then we will have to ask Lord Vishnu himself. So, all of us including Shiva went to Vishnu loka and requested Lord Vishnu to clear our doubts on various topics which confused us. Lord Vishnu gave a long discourse covering all the major religious topics.
Lord Visnu Reveals Hiw Omnipotent Nature
Dwelling at length about his power, Lord Vishnu told Shiva-- 'O Rudra! I am the lord of all the deities. I am the one who controls each and every event that occurs in the Universe. I am the one whom mortals worship with the desire of attaining salvation. The universe would have ceased to exist but for me. I am the creator, the nurturer as well as the supreme annihilator. I manifest myself in the sacred mantras as well as their meanings. People meditate on me. Matter is nothing but a medium through which I manifest myself.'
Lord Visnu Blesses Garuda
Describing how Garuda pleased him with his deep devotion, Lord Vishnu said-- 'During ancient times, Garuda once did an austere penance to please me. I appeared before him and expressed my willingness to fullfil anything that he wished for. Garuda wanted to liberate his mother, Vinta, from the slavery of Kadru - the mother of serpents. He also wanted to avenge his mother's humiliation at their hands. He also expressed his desire of becoming immortal by having a Purana credited to his name and finally, he requested me to give him the privilege of becoming my mount. I blessed Garuda, as the result of which all his wishes were fulfilled.
Once, on being requested by the sage Kashyapa, Garuda narrated the divine tales of Garuda Purana to him. The sage Kashyapa had once brought a dead tree back to life with the help of Garudi Vidya - a sacred mantra found in Garuda Purana. Similarly, Garuda too had brought numerous dead creatures back to life with the help of the same mantra.'