In padma purana it classifies some puranas as rajasic and tamasic, specifically it says tamasic puranas will lead to hell. I do not understand this verse, as it seems to contradict what I have known as Veda Vyasa's intentions of to provide help to those in the Kali Yuga. The way I understand tamasic puranas is that they are more appreciated by a tamasic mind, but it would seem that its effects would be to elevate a person, otherwise why would Vyasa write it? I believe the verse in padma purana is like tathaiva tamasa nirayapraptihetavah. niraya meaning the hell. It seems like this is a pretty direct statement, so I guess this means that if one believes tamasic puranas literally and does not rise above its meaning, then one will go to hell. But perhaps the potential is still there that by reading, it will cause one to go beyond? Does anyone have any practical experience with this, the tamasic puranas leading one to advaita realization and god realization?
What can be more ridiculous as saying reading Purans will lead you towards Hell. It can be refuted just by using common sense, common logic and simple intellect.
Padma Purana itself is sufficient in refuting this statement. The verse you are talking comes in Padma Purana Uttar Khanda chapter 236
मात्सयं कौर्मं तथा लैङ्गम् शैवं स्कान्दं तथैव च ।
आग्नेयं च षडेतानि तामसानि निबोधत ।।
Matsya Purana, Kurma Purana, Linga Purana, Shiva Purana, Skanda Purana, Agni Purana these six are Tamasic (236.20)
सात्विका मोक्षदाः प्रोक्ताः राजसा सर्वदा अशुभाः ।
तथैव तामसा देवि निरयप्राप्तिहेतवः ।।
Among these puranas Satvika Puranas lead one to liberation, Rajasa do not cause good > and tamasa puranas lead one to hell. (236.21)
Padma Purana itself refutes this verse in Swarga Khanda chapter 62. (ie. 2.62)
PURANAS--THE EMBODIMENT OF SRIHARI
Puranas are nothing but the mediums through which Sri Hari manifests himself. Brahma Purana is said to be the Forehead of Srihari, Padma Purana is said to be the 'heart' of Srihari, Vishnu Purana is said to be the 'right arm' of Srihari, Shiva Purana is said to be the 'left arm' of Srihari, Shrimad Bhagawat is said to be His 'thigh', Narad Purana is said to be His 'navel', Markendeya Purana is said to be His 'right-foot', Agni Purana is said to be His 'left foot', Bhavishya Purana is said to be His 'right-knee', Brahma Vaivrata Purana is said to be His & apos;left-knee', Linga Purana is said to be His 'right ankle', Varaha Purana is said to be His 'left ankle', Skanda Purana is said to be the hair on the body of 'Sri Hari, Vamana Purana is said to be His Skin, Kurma Purana is said to be His Back, Matsya Purana is said to be His Stomach, Garuda Purana is said to be His Bone Marrow and Brahmanda Purana is said to be His Bone.
All the Puranas being manifestation of different parts of Sri Hari's body are very sacred and capable of bestowing salvation.
Here it clearly mentions that " all the Puranas being manifestation of different parts of Sri Hari's body are very sacred and capable of bestowing salvation." Hence there is no question of going to Hell by reading Purans.
Imagine a man without his Stomach, Back, Right ankle, Left arm, Hair and Left foot. How would he look like? Such is his condition if he rejects these 6 Purans.
He himself is doing a grave sin by depriving Lord Hari with his Stomach, Back, Right ankle, Left arm, Hair and Left foot.
Then why is there such verse in Uttar khanda of Padma Purana ?
There can be various answers. The most fitting answer is interpolation. Even if you do not believe it to be interpolation then also you can take it positively.
God sometimes propagates false message for specific reason. For eg. For killing the demon Tripurasur false philosophy and texts were created. Similarly it could also be a part of divine leela. May be it is for generating 'Virodhi Bhakti' for those who can't take divinities positively. For those they may meditate on Lord by their criticism.
For eg. In Shiva Gita of Padma Purana it is said:
अनादरेण शाठ्येन परिहासेन मायया ।
शिवभक्तिरतश्चेत्स्यादन्त्यजोऽपि विमुच्यते ।।
"Anyone while doing criticism or while > disrespecting or due to jealousy if meditated or gains devotion for Shiva, he would get cleansed of all the sins immediately. "
The concept 'Virodhi Bhakti' itself has a great importance on its one. Its for those whose intellect can't grasp the divinities positively. for eg. Kamsa, Chanur and Sishupal were liberated through it. They were constantly thinking of Lord Krishna (like in meditation) every time even it was as hatred and anger. Bhagavata Purana 10.29.15 also justifies it. It says
"15. Persons who constantly direct their lust, anger, fear, protective affection, feeling of impersonal oneness or friendship toward Lord Hari are sure to become absorbed in thought of Him."
Hence you can yourself think that verse as an interpolation or a Verse to generate Virodhi Bhakti for those who can't grasp divinities positively or you can also believe reading those 6 Purans will lead it you to Hell or you can also be a non-believer. You are always free to choose it as per your intellect.
Actually Shaivas consider Vaishnava puranas as Tamasic. This is based on what Brahmaji said in Rudra Samhita of the Shiva Purana itself which claims to be the greatest of all Puranas. Vishnu is stated as only a demi-god on the same level as Rudra. While Shiva is free from all Gunas. And Vishnu is not only on the same level as Rudra, he is called Tamasic. Also Laxmi is called Tamasic.
Vishnu, Rudra and I (Brahma) represent the Gunas.
Siva is free from Gunas. He is the Supreme Brahman, the undecaying.
Vishnu is of Sattva attribute, I (Brahma) am of Rajas attribute and Rudra is of Tamas attribute. This is only in the view of activities in this world. But in fact in name it is otherwise.
Vishnu is Taamasik nature within
Goddess of speech is Rajasic nature; Sati is of Saattvika nature and Lakshmi is of Taamasika nature; the great Goddess Sivaa is of three natures.
So this naturally means that Vaishnava puranas are glorifying a tamasic demi-god and goddess if we believe this. There is also a major Vaishnava purana (Narada purana) which claims that a Shaiva purana (Linga purana) is the greatest. This is given in Chapter 102:
It indicates the greatness of Hara. It is greater than all the other Puranas. It is the essence of the three worlds.
This and some other points I'm not mentioning here are taken as evidence that Vaishnava puranas actually accept the supremacy of Shiva and are contradicting their own statements so they are proved to be tamasic / full of ignorance.
Other puranas apart from Srimad Bhagvata and Shiva Purana say they are the greatest such as Agni Purana and Devi Bhagvata. Shaktas generally do not consider Vishnu equal to Shiva.
CONCLUSION: There is no consensus on what is a Satvik, Tamasic, superior or inferior purana so it's impossible to answer this question.
What is the purpose of tamasic purana if it leads to hell?
To punish people according to their karma.
According to the Varaha Purana, Asuric-natured people will be born in Kali Yuga, and Rudra will deceive these people by propagating the non-Vedic Shaiva and Pashupata Agamas that are endorsed by the Tamasic Puranas. These Agamas will delude people due to their karma, and send them to hell as punishment for improper practices like drinking from a skull, etc. that are enjoined by the Kalamukha sect.
70.35 - In the last yuga (Kali), people who resort to me are very rare. I shall produce delusion which will confuse the people.
70.36 - “You, Rudra, of mighty arms, shall produce the (seemingly) instructive texts [the Pashupata and Shaiva Agamas] which cause delusion. By just a little effort, produce a large result!”
This verse is not an interpolation since the medieval Sri Vaishnava scholar, who lived in the 10th century, cites that verse. His citation is slightly different due to errors in oral transmission of the Puranas, but the gist is the same:
“You indeed Rudra, having large powerful arms, (I command to) teach scriptures that are intended to delude. Thus shall you propagate illusions, trickery, jugglery, and the like, as well as contradictory doctrines. Having shown the way for practices that need little effort, present the fruits (of those actions) swiftly. Having shown, delude all these people quickly.”
The purpose of this delusion is only beneficial to those people, because according to the blog Narayanastra:
This new doctrine propagated by Rudra is the pAShupata maTha which was intended to confuse people. This has two-fold purpose. Firstly, it prevents them from seeking worse paths whereby they could fall. Secondly, by making them follow a misleading path, it means they are experiencing the fruits of their pApa karmas by suffering such delusion – thus, these pApa karmas are getting diminished which in turn would eventually lead to them being purified and resorting to vishNu. Therefore, such delusion is an act of compassion by bhagavAn and there is no malicious intent in it, as otherwise they could never expend their pApa karmas and would continue to have asura bhAva.
This doctrine of Rudra thus has a particular purpose and is not entirely worthless, but this does not mean it is an honorable path or the true knowledge. It is unvedic.
However, even though these Puranas are Tamasic, they are not to be rejected entirely. They are valid insofar as they do not contradict the Sattvic Puranas, Itihasas, and Shruti. The Tamasic Puranas are also not entirely Tamasic, since they have parts that are Sattvic, such as passages where Vishnu is praised.