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SB 1.1 - Question 5 - What are the incarnations of the Lord?

(Q5) (1.1.18) The sages asked Sūta to describe the transcendental pastimes of the Lord’s multi-incarnations, which are performed by His internal powers. Question four is an inquiry into the pastimes of the Lord’s incarnations, whereas question five is what are the Lord’s different incarnations. According to Jīva Gosvāmī question four is asking about the activities of the Lord’s three puruṣa-avatāras, and five asks about the narrations concerning the Lord’s descents.

Both those who are present during such activities and those who hear the transcendental narrations of such activities are benefited. The sages never tire hearing the pastimes of the Lord and they relish hearing them at every moment because they had developed a taste for transcendental relationships. The histories of the universe such as Rāmāyaṇa, Mahābhārata and the Purāṇas contain the pastimes of the incarnations of the Lord. They remain fresh even after repeated readings unlike mundane history and stories.

Mundane news is static whereas transcendental news is dynamic, inasmuch as the spirit is dynamic and matter is static. One may read Bhagavad gītā and Bhāgavatam throughout his whole life and yet find in them new light of information. The literatures pertaining to uttama-śloka is above the mode of darkness and its light becomes more luminous with progressive reading and realization of the transcendental subject matter. The artificial realization of Brahman becomes hackneyed, and so to relish pleasure the impersonalists turn to the narrations of Bhāgavatam. Those who are not so fortunate turn to altruism and philanthropy.

The exploits of the Lord become more relishable for those who have knowledge of rasa. There are 3 ways one knows that one has had enough of something and is satisfied: by sufficiency of quantity (like food in the belly), by lack of taste and by lack of relishing the object. There is insufficiency for the sages here because the exploits are not directly present, being present only as sound vibrations. A person who is like an animal is incapable of appreciating rasa and so cannot be satisfied. However, the sages have appreciation of rasa. But still they are not satisfied. Unlike chewed sugarcane which loses its taste and becomes detestable, the topics of the Lord are most excellent because of the increase in taste at every moment after tasting.