The Skanda Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words

This page describes The Rebirth-motif in Puranas which is appendix 4 of the English translation of the Skanda Purana, the largest of the eighteen Mahapuranas, preserving the ancient Indian society and Hindu traditions in an encyclopedic format, detailling on topics such as dharma (virtous lifestyle), cosmogony (creation of the universe), mythology (itihasa), genealogy (vamsha) etc.

Appendix 4 - The Rebirth-motif in Purāṇas

Note: This appendix is extracted from a note of Chapter 13 (Previous Life of Satyabhāmā) of the Kārttikamāsa-māhātmya of the Vaiṣṇava-khaṇḍa:

Satyabhāmā said: ‘I am blessed. I am contented. My life has become fruitful. I have (surely) done something good formerly by way of charitable gifts, holy rites or austerities, whereby, O Lord, I have become your wife, though born of mortals. In the previous birth, what had been my conduct? Who was I? Whose daughter? (How) did I become your beloved? Recount everything to me’”.

Rebirth, curses, boons etc. have been favourite motifs with ancient Indian story-tellers.

(Buddhism:) For example, Jātaka Tales in Pali connect some incident in the previous birth of the Buddha or rather the Bodhisattva (Atīta-Vatthu) with a similar incident in his present birth and the identification of the persons in the previous birth with those in the present birth of Buddha (Paccupanna Vatthu and Veyyākaraṇa), explaining or justifying the present happening, has been a special characteristic of those tales. Thus in Makhādeva Jātaka (1.1 -9) King Makhādeva of the previous birth was the Buddha, the barber Bhikku Ānanda and Makhādeva’s prince was Rāhula, the son of Buddha.

(Jainism:) Jain Tales (both canonical and non-canonical) use the device of Jāi-Saraṇa (recollection of the previous birth) for the same. These ancient story-writers insisted on establishing the principle of justice in Karma-vāda.

(Brahamanism:) Brahmanical Purāṇa-writers followed the same norm and sometimes invented stories of previous birth to establish the law of Karma, in this story ‘re-birth’ is used as the motif in the life of the Jīva which came to be called Satyabhāmā and became the spouse of Kṛṣṇa. More authentic Purāṇic accounts of Kṛṣṇa as in Mbh or BhP do not necessarily support these late Purāṇic stories.


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