The Garuda Purana is one of the eighteen principal Puranas, as stated in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (SB 12.7.23-24): The eighteen major Puranas are the Brahma, Padma, Visnu, Siva, Liriga, Garuda, Narada, Bhagavata, Agni, Skanda, Bhavisya, Brahma-vaivarta, Markandeya, Vamana, Varaha, Matsya, Kurma and Brahmanda Puranas.
In a Bhagavad-gita lecture given in Los Angeles on February 15, 1969, Shrila Prabhupada said, “There are eighteen Puranas. Men are conducted in three qualities: the modes of goodness, modes of passion, and modes of ignorance. To reclaim all these conditioned souls in different varieties of life, there are presentation of the Puranas. Six Puranas are meant for the person who is in the modes of goodness. And six Puranas are meant for the persons who are in the modes of passion. And six Puranas are for those who are in the modes of ignorance.” The Garuda Purana confirms that it is one of the six Puranas that are meant for persons in the mode of goodness. It says that the Bhagavata Purana is the foremost, the Vishnu Purana is next, and the Garuda Purana is third in importance.
Srila Prabhupada often quoted this famous verse from the Garuda Purana that describes the sublime position of the Shrimad-Bhagavatam. This verse was also used by Krishnadasa Kaviraja in his Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita (Madhya 25.145):
artho ‘yam brahma-sutranam
“The meaning of the Vedanta-sutra is present in SrimadBhagavatam. The full purport of the Mahabharata is also there. The commentary of the Brahma-gayatri is also there and fully expanded with all Vedic knowledge. Srimad-Bhagavatam is the supreme Purana, and it was compiled by the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His incarnation as Vyasadeva. There are Twelve cantos, 335 chapters and eighteen thousand verses.”
The primary characteristic of a Purana in the mode of goodness is that it exclusively glorifies Lord Vishnu as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Shrila Prabhupada quoted many verses from the Garuda Purana. In his purport to the Shrimad-Bhagavatam (SB 2.9.36), Shrila Prabhupada wrote:The same truth is also indirectly described in the Garuda Purana as follows:
param gato ‘pi veddnarh
yo na sarvesvare bhaktas
tam vidyat purusadhamam
“Even though one may have gone to the other side of all the Vedas, and even though one is well versed in all the revealed scriptures, if one is not a devotee of the Supreme Lord, he must be considered the lowest of mankind.”
In another purport to Shrimad-Bhagavatam (SB 2.9.36) , Shrila Prabhupada wrote: Therefore the devotional service of the Lord with perfect knowledge through the training of a bona fide spiritual master is advised for everyone, even if one happens not to be a human being. This is confirmed in the Garuda Purana as follows:
urdhvam eva gatirh manye
kim punar jnanindrh nrndm
“Even the worms, birds and beasts are assured of elevation to the highest perfectional life if they are completely surrendered to the transcendental loving service of the Lord, so what to speak of the philosophers amongst the human beings?
In his purport to Shrimad-Rhagavatam (SB 6.2.7) , Srila Prabhupada quoted this verse:
puman vimucyate sadyah
simha-trastair mrgair iva
“If one chants the holy name of the Lord, even in a helpless condition or without desiring to do so, all the reactions of his sinful life depart, just as when a lion roars, all the small animals flee in fear.” (Garuda Purana)
In his purport to Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita (Madhya 2.46), Shrila Prabhupada wrote: The Garuda Purana similarly states:
brahmananarh sahasrebhyah satra-yaji visisyate
sarva-vedanta vit-kotya visnu-bhakto visisyate
vaisnavanarh sahasrebhya ekanty eko visisyate
“It is said that out of thousands of brahmanas, one is qualified to perform sacrifices, and out of many thousands of such qualified brahmanas expert in sacrificial offerings, one learned brahmana may have passed beyond all Vedic knowledge. He is considered the best among all these brahmanas. And yet, out of thousands of such brahmanas who have surpassed Vedic knowledge, one person may be a visnu-bhakta, and he is most famous. Out of many thousands of such Vaisnavas, one who is completely fixed in the service of Lord Krsna is most famous. Indeed, a person who is completely devoted to the service of the Lord certainly returns home, back to Godhead.”
Later in the Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita (Antya 4.197), the author quotes Lord Chaitanya as saying: “Sanatana GosvamI is one of the associates of Krsna. There could not be any bad odor from his body. On the first day I embraced him, I smelled the aroma of catuhsama [a mixture of sandalwood pulp, camphor, aguru and musk].
An associate of the Lord is one whose body is fully engaged in the service of the Lord. A materialist might see Sanatana Gosvaml’s body as being full of itching sores that exuded foul moisture and a bad smell. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, however, said that actually the aroma of his body was the excellent scent of a mixture of sandalwood pulp, camphor, musk and aguru. In the Garuda Purana this mixture, which is called catuhsama, is described as follows:
kasturikaya dvau bhagau catvdras candanasya tu
kunkumasya trayas caikah sasinah syat catuh-samam
“Two parts of musk, four parts of sandalwood, three parts of aguru or saffron and one part of camphor, when mixed together, form catuhsama.”
In another purport of Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita (Antya 16.29) , Shrila Prabhupada wrote:A brahmana must be a Vaisnava and a learned scholar. Therefore in India it is customary to address a brahmana as pandita. Without knowledge of Brahman, one cannot understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore a Vaisnava is already a brahmana, whereas a brahmana may become a Vaisnava. In the Garuda Purana it is said:
bhaktir asta-vidha hy esa yasmin mlecche ’pi vartate
sa viprendro muni-sresthah sajnant sa ca panditah
“Even if one is bom a mleccha, if he becomes a devotee he is to be considered the best of the brahmanas and a learned pandita.”
In his Nectar of Devotion, Shrila Prabhupada wrote: In the Garuda Purana the stress on hearing is expressed very nicely. It is said there, “The state of conditioned life in the material world is just like that of a man lying unconscious, having been bitten by a snake. This is because both such unconscious states can be ended by the sound of a mantra.”
There is no doubt that the Garuda Purana is an important Vaishnava literature. Not only did Shrila Prabhupada quote the Garuda Purana on numerous occasions, Sanatana Gosvami quoted many verses from the Garuda Purana in his famous book, Hari-bhakti-vilasa, which is a handbook for practicing devotees. I am confident that the readers of this small summary will be not only be entertained but astonished at the wisdom contained in the Garuda Purana.