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The Essence of 18 Maha Puranas in 2 sentences

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Vyasa is the author of the 18 Maha Puranas that are part of Hindu scriptures.  It is said, that Purāṇas are called Purāṇa because they make the Veda “Pūrṇa” (complete).  With elaborate illustrations and stories that are easy to understand for anyone, be it a pundit or a layman, Puranas explain how the philosophy of Dharma (virtuous living) laid out on Vedas are to be applied in daily life.  If we were to compare the Vedas and Upanishads to the constitution that describes fundamental laws, then Puranas are the text that deal with the practical application of the laws and  the voluminous 'case laws', that are used to interpret the constitution and take precedence from previous rulings, examples, etc.  Like how the interpretation of laws are derived from case law and previous precedents in applying laws, one can turn to Puranas, for the interpretation and application of Dharma.  One of the reason they are so voluminous is because, they attempt to address every possible situation that may arise in human life and provide multiple precedents of how dharma was applied by others under such circumstances and what were the outcome.  Also to address seeming conflict in dharma (dharma samkat) , when both or all options seem to be opposed to dharma.


There was one Swami who described this beautifully.  He said Vyasa was smart.  He knew that  philosophy from Vedas and Upanishads are not appealing to common man.  To take it to the ordinary man and ensure that it sticks in their mind, like everything else, this needed great presentation style and marketing.  If there is a storyline, some spice and some masala, that normally gets the attention.  Why not use this same logic in spirituality to convey the philosophies?  If there is a struggling but brave hero, a beautiful heroine, a powerful villain and a storyline with twists, that certainly should get the job done.  The Puranas  do this exactly in elaborate ways to achieve the  result mentioned above.  They are largely successful to this day.  It does not mean all of the illustrations from Puranas are just stories or myth.  I feel most of these things happened at different point in time, in may be different dimensions.  Like how, some exaggeration and some spice is added to the real life stories to make them screen worthy, turn and them into movies these days.  The same logic in puranas.  We can even notice this from some of the same stories that are narrated with minor variations depending on the context and which Puranas they appear.  


These Puranas are comprehensive to say the least.  For example, the popular Bhagavat Purana that talks about the glories of Krishna, has approximately 20,000 verses.  The largest among the major 18 Puranas happens to be the Skanda Purana with about 60,000+ verses.  If someone wants to study or research any of these major Puranas in depth, they can spend a lifetime easily over this task.  Not for repetitive study, but to study one Maha Purana once in-depth, verse by verse and understand.  Who has the time to study all these?  One need not study all Purnas to understand Dharma.   Different people have different tendencies, likes and dislikes.  Some people tend to be sattvic (pure) in nature, some others rajasic (active) and some tamasic (slow, lethargic).  These 18 major puranas are also classified into these 3 gunas, 6 each.  Each person can chose the one that is aligned with their tendencies and about the deity they like.


What is the core message from these Puranas.  They are supposed to explain and elaborate on the Vedas and Upanishads.  Therefore the essence of the Puranas must also be the essence of the core scriptures or Vedas.  If someone were to question Vyasa, we don't have time to read these elaborate Puranas, can you please summarize them in 2 pages for us?  Even better, how about a summary in 2 sentences?


The essence of 18 Maha Puranas

Ashta dasa puraneshu vyasasya vachanadhvayam| 
Paropakara punyaaya paapaya parapeedanam||

Sage Vyasa says two things in summary of the 18 Maha Puranas. 

1) Serving others or mutually helping each other has good merits (puNya).

2)  Actions that harm others is sin (pApa).


This is Dharma






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