Srimadbhaagavatam - the story of Shuka muni

elmec elmec at GIASBG01.VSNL.NET.IN
Mon Sep 11 02:48:53 CDT 2000

Hari Om
Om Sri Ganeshaaya nama.h

Namaste Everybody.
I am thrilled to be back with all of you after such a long gap. My
computer is repaired and I am very eager to continue the Bhagavatam
presentation. Lord Krishna has tested all of us for 'Titiiksha' and we
have successfully borne this 'vijna' for one long month. May there be no
more obstacles in our Bhaagavatam rendering/reading. Om Shaanti.h
Shaanti.h Shaanti.h
Om Namo Bhagavate Vaasudevaaya

The following story about sage Shuka is not mentioned in  the
Bhaagavatam story as such.  It must be an extract from one of the
Puraanaas.  Since the story is interesting and relevent to our
Bhaagavatam, I am including this in my series.  If any of you are aware
of the source of the story kindly let us know.

Once devarshi Naarada visits mount Kailash to enquire the wellbeing of
Lord Shiva’s family. Lord Shiva at that time was in a deep samaadhi and
Naarada meets Godess Paarvathi and enquires how everybody is. She says
everybody is happy and they are all living in wonderful harmony – her
vaahana ( the vehicle ) the Lion is friendly with Ishwara’s Bull Nandi,
Ganesha’s vaahana mouse is friendly with Ishwara’s snakes, Shanmuga’s
vaahana peacock is friendly with the snakes around Shiva and thus there
is no dearth of love among all the family members. Sage Naarada wants to
bring in a short rift between Ishwara and Paarvathi and hence he asks
her if Lord Shiva truly loves her. “ Ofcourse ”, says Paarvathi. Naarada
says that if Lord Shiva truly loves her, then there should be no secret
hidden from her by her husband, for which Paarvathi says that there was
absolutely no sectret hidden from her by her Lord. Naarada questions her
whose skulls does her husband always sport around his neck ?? Parvathi
is unable to answer this and Naarada quietly leaves the place and goes
away. Parvathi is very perturbed and as soon as Shiva comes out of his
Samaadhi, she angrily asks him why he has all these days not revealed to
her one particular secret and puts to  him that question which Naarada
had asked her. “ Well, you never had asked this before and hence there
was no opportunity for me to tell you this.  Now let me tell you, all
these skulls are yours ”, Ishwara says. Parvathi is surprised and asks
him how there can be so many skulls of her . Ishwara says that in every
birth Parvathi used to love Ishwara and marry him only. After her death
from each birth, unable to bear the seperation from her, he used to put
her skull round his neck as a momento ! Parvathi is once again surprised
that while she alone was being born and dying each time, how come
Ishwara never died ?! For this the Lord says that he knows the secret of
“ Amaratwa ” ( immortality ), while she did not know it. Now Parvathi
becomes all the more angry that he should have hidden such an important
secret from her all these days. Now she becomes adamant and forces
Ishwara to tell her the secret of immortality . Ishwara agrees to tell
her the story of Amaratwa on two conditions – (1) no one else other than
Paarvathi should listen to the story and (2) he would close his eyes and
narrate to her the story, but she should be saying “um” “um” “um” after
each sentence so that he would know she is listening attentively.  But
the moment she stopped saying “um” he would stop the narration and she
would never again be able to hear the story from him. Parvathi agrees to
these two conditions and before starting the narration Lord Shiva shakes
his “ Damaru” so hard that all birds and beasts around the area flee
that place out of fear. Siva tells parvathi to check once again and make
sure that no one else is around the place.  Parvathi surveys the place
all over and says no one is around and that he can start the narration.
But she would have ignored one egg of a  parrot lying there thinking
what could an egg which has still not hatched hear !

The story session begins and Parvathi is all attention and listens well
interspersing the session with her “um” “um” “um”.  As the narration was
taking place the chick inside the egg was also listening the story and
in a short while breaks the shell and comes out. Since the parrots are
good in imitating human voice, very soon the chick picks up the word
“um” “um” and starts repeating the same. In the mean while Parvathi has
fallen asleep without noticing the chick and the parrot chick continues
to mumble “um” “um” “um” maintaining the continuity of the narration and
listens to the story carefully. When the story ends, Lord Shiva opens
his eyes and asks loudly how the story was , for which Parvathi suddenly
wakes up from sleep and asks him what happened next . Ishwara is
surprised at her question and enquires if she was truly awake all the
while and had she heard the story properly ? Now Parvathi, unable to
tell him a lie, confesses that she had fallen asleep midway through the
session.  Ishwara is surprised and asks her who else was sitting there
who was listening and saying “um” “um” ? When he looks around he spots
the parrot and is furious that the chick had stealthily listened to the
story. In a fit of anger he decides to kill the bird and runs after the
bird trying to catch it.

The bird flies far away and Ishwara follows the bird with vengence.  At
one place in the forest there would be an aashram of sage Vyaasa and
there his wife would be standing ouside the ashram when the bird arrives
there.  She opens her mouth in a wide yawn and the parrot suddenly
enters her mouth and goes and hides itself inside her womb. Ishwara also
arrives there and requests Sage Vyasa to ask the bird to come out of his
wife’s womb. When asked why, Shiva says that the parrot has stealthily
listened to his story of “ Amaratwa ” and hence he wants to kill the
bird. Sage Vyaasa laughs at this because if the bird has truly listened
to the story, then the bird would have attained Amaratwa and there is no
point in killing the bird ;  if he really kills the bird, then there is
no truth at all in his story of Amaratwa and hence the incident would
become shameful to Ishwara !  Either way,  Ishwara is defeated and he
goes away realising the futility of his anger.

This bird Shuka was the pet parrot of Raadha.  When Raadha and Krishna
decide to come down to earth to play their leelaas, Shuka insists that
Radha should take him along. For this she agrees and blesses  Shuka to
become a young sage who would revel in singing the praise of Lord
Krishna on earth.

Shuka who enters the womb of sage Vyaasa’s wife stays there for 12 years
! No amount of cajoling by the sage would make him come out. Shuka feels
that as long as he is inside the womb, he can be in his natural Jnaana
swaroopa, but the moment he comes out of the womb Maaya would besiege
him and he would be bound by her for ever. Only when Lord Naaraayana
himself would assure him that he would not be a victim to Maaya he would
agree to come out. Sage Vyaasa offers prayers to Lord and Naaraayana
himself appears and gives assurance to the boy Shuka that his maaya
dared not touch the young boy and he may please come out now. Thus Shuka
is born a Jnaani and the young boy without even lingering there even for
a moment with Vyaasa or his wife, leaves them and goes away to the
forest to meditate upon the Lord.

He comes back to sage Vyaasa later on in the story when Vyaasa has
finished composing the Bhaagavatam and he teaches the shlokas to Shuka
who later on popularises this by narrating it to King Parikshit.

Hari Om
Om Namo Bhagavate VaasudEvaaya

Latha Vidyaranya

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