Suka, the son of Vyasa, शुक महर्षि

Suka was the best of the four sons of Veda Vyasa.

  • One was Dhritarashtra, the blind son, born through Niyoga, of Ambika, per the order of his mother Satyavati. Ambika was the widow of his step-brother Vichitravirya and by birth, the princess of Kasi. Dhritarahtra’s kingly aspirations turned him to adharma and was one of the causes of the Mahabharata war. His blindness is also seen as symbolic of his partiality to his son and blindness to his faults. His name itself is suggestive of someone who held to his kingdom firmly and there are those who wonder what his actual name was. His sons were Duryodhana and the other Kauravas.
  • Another was Pandu, the albino, born through Niyoga, per the order of his mother Satyavati, of Ambalika, the widow of his step-brother Vichitravirya and by birth, the princess of Kasi. He was valorous but eventually cursed and left the kingdom. His sons (through Niyoga) were the Pandavas. Again Pandu means Albino, so we are not very sure of his real name.
  • The wise Vidura, was born of Vyasa and a maid deputed by the princesses, to avoid directly disobeying Satyavati’s order. His knowledge of law and ethics was so perfect that he was also called Dharma. Again Vidura derived of the root Vid, means the knowledgeable one. Sri Krishna preferred staying with Vidura rather than with Duryodhana. Kunthi too stayed with Vidura rather than Dhritarashtra when her sons were unfairly exiled.

But it is Vyasa’s son born in the forest of a Suka Jathi Sthri, who was his perfect and greatest son. There are many who believe that Suka’s mother was not a lady of the Suka tribe but a real parrot. Faith is faith! I have no arguments against faith. It may also be that he was the only son and student of Vyasa with a perfect memory who was able to recite without any omissions the entire Bhagavatham. The epithet Suka, may actually refer to his perfect memory. Some illustrations draw him with a green parrot head. Some puranas say that Suka was born of the Vedic fire when Vyasa was attracted to the apsara ghRtaci, who flew away in a parrot’s form.

a7-suka maharshi

A Vigraha of Suka Muni, shown traditionally with a parrot head

Suka  as we learn from the Srimad Bhagavatham :

Suka was a realised soul by birth. More advanced than Vyasa himself.

Source : 1.4.4

tasya putro mahāyogī

sama-dṛń nirvikalpakaḥ

ekānta-matir unnidro

gūḍho mūḍha iveyate

He was such a perfect Yogi and Advaitin, that he appeared to some like a dullard.

One day Suka took off to renounce the world even though his Yajnopavitam ceremony had not been performed. Vyasa called after him. But since Suka was one with the universe., it was nature herself who answered Vyasa on behalf of Suka.

Source : 1.4.5

dṛṣṭvānuyāntam ṛṣim ātmajam apy anagnaḿ

devyo hriyā paridadhur na sutasya citram

tad vīkṣya pṛcchati munau jagadus tavāsti

strīpumbhidā na tu sutasya viviktadṛṣṭeḥ

When Suka passed past some bathing damsels, he took no notice of them nor they of him, though he was young and unmarried. When Vyasa followed behind Suka trying to catch up with him, the ladies hurriedly covered themselves up, though he was old and a rishi. Vyasa asked them why they took notice of an old man, when they took no notice of his young son. Then they explained that Suka was a Samadrik, a person who saw no difference between man and woman, but that Vyasa had not yet reached that stage.

Source 1.19.25: Once, Suka came to the place where Parikshit was sitting on the banks of the Ganga, with a plan to fast to death. (Parikshit was the father of Janamejaya, and the son of Abhimanyu and grandson of Arjuna)

“He did not manifest any symptoms of belonging to any social order or status of life. He was surrounded with women and children, and he dressed as if others had neglected him. SB 1.19.26: This son of Vyāsadeva was only sixteen years old. His legs, hands, arms, shoulders, forehead and the other parts of his body were all delicately formed. His eyes were beautifully wide, and his nose and ears were highly raised. He had a very attractive face, and his neck was well formed and beautiful like a conchshell. His arms were long, and curly hair was strewn over his beautiful face. The hue of his body reflected that of Lord Kṛṣṇa. SB 1.19.28: He was blackish and very beautiful due to his youth. Because of the glamor of his body and his attractive smiles, he was pleasing to women. Though he tried to cover his natural glory, the great sages present there were all expert in the art of physiognomy, and so they honored him by rising from their seats.”

Then questioned by Parikshit and all the sages assembled there, Suka Deva narrated the Srimad Bhagavatam.

The Story of Suka  from the Devi Bhagavatham :

Chapter 10, first Skanda, Devi Bhagavatham : Source and Reference :

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Suka Muni Refuses to get Married : Devi Bhagavatham 14th and 15th Adhyaya, first Skanda

Suka was a perfect student. He learnt the Vedas and the sastras from his Guru Brhaspati and gave him his guru-dakshina. (fee) at the end of his study. He was a perfect brahmachari. (Brahmacharya, is the first stage of a man’s life where he contemplates the Brahman and is a student serving his guru. During this stage he is also required to be a celibate, in addition to his other duties. Of course in modern India any unmarried man is casually referred to as a brahmachari, even if he spends zero time contemplating the brahman.)

When Suka came home, his father, Krishna Dwaipayana, Veda Vyasa welcomed him lovingly and started anxiously searching for the right sort of a bride for Suka Muni, as any father of the present Kaliyuga would.

He told his son, that a man without sons would be kept out of heaven and implored him to marry an appropriate girl. He told him how hard a penance he had to undertake before getting Suka as his son. He did not want Suka going through all that. “Vyâsa deva said :– “O son! I have got you after I had performed very severe tapasyâ, for one hundred years, and worshipped Bhagavân S’ankara in the sole object of having you. O highly wise one! I will ask some king and will give you sufficient wealth for your family expenses. So that you, having attained this much desired youth, enjoy the householder’s life.””

Much as boys today refuse to get married and lose their freedom, Suka also protested. “S’ûka Deva said :– “O father! Kindly say this to me what pleasure is there in this earth that is not mixed with pain. The happiness, that is mixed with pain, is not called happiness by the wise. O highly fortunate one! when I will marry, I will become certainly submissive to that woman; see then how happiness can be possible to one who is dependent; especially to one, dependent on one’s wife. Rather freedom can be obtained one day when one is tied to an iron or wooden pillar; but never freedom will come to that man who is tied by his wife and children.”

He continued, “When I studied first, the Veda in detail, it struck me that the Vedas dealt with the S’âstra of Karma mârga and it is all full of Himsâ. Then I took Brihaspati as my Guru to show me the way to true wisdom; but soon I found that he, too, was attacked with the dreadful disease Avidyâ (ignorance) and plunged in the terrible ocean of world, full of Mâyâ… The house is called “Griha” because it catches hold of a man firmly. So what happiness can you expect from the house which is like a prison? O father! I am therefore afraid.”

(While I respect Suka Muni’s views on Vedas, Marriage and on Brishaspati – I do not endorse them).

Vyasa then tried to correct Suka’s way of thinking. He said, ” O Son! The house is never a prison, nor is it the cause of any bondage; the householder whose mind is unattached, can get Moksa, in spite of his being such. Truthful, holy, earning wealth by just means and performing, according to rules the rites and ceremonies, as stated in the Vedas and doing S’râddhas duly, a householder can certainly get Moksa. See a man who is a Brahmachâri, who is an ascetic, who is a Vânaprasthî or follows any other method or vow, all have got to worship the householder after mid-day. The dharmic householder, too; welcomes them all, with sweet words, and gives them food, with great love and respect, and thus does them an amount of good. For this reason the householder’s stage is the most excellent of all; and I have not seen or heard of any other Âs’rama superior to it. For this reason Vas’istha and other Âchâryas resorted to householder’s life, in spite of their being endowed with great wisdom O highly fortunate one! If one performs duly the rites and ceremonies of the Vedas, there is nothing that is impracticable to him. Be it the birth in a good family, or the enjoyment of heavens say, or be it Moksa, whatever desires, it is fructified to success.”

Then Vyasa explained to Suka that after the Grihastha Asrama, he could take up, Vanaprastha and then finally Sannyasa Asramas.

Suka argued in favour of bachelorhood, he said that neither Indra, the king of the devas, nor the Trimurthis themselves were free in marriage. He said that even the wise brahmans perfect in Vedas had to praise the rich for wealth and for food. “If there be contentment in the mind, any how the belly can be filled with leaves, roots and fruits; but if there be wife, sons and grandsons and many dependent relatives, then to feed them all, much trouble and anxiety are experienced… So teach me, O Father! the S’âstras on Yoga and eternal truth that will give perfect happiness; no advice in karma kânda (the series of actions) will bring me pleasure. Now advise me how the karmas can be exhausted; how the root of the three sorts of karmas, Sanchita, Prârabdha, and Vartamâna, giving torments of birth, death, etc., the Avidyâ, the great ignorance, can be destroyed?”

Hearing Suka’s answer Vyasa was very disappointed and shed many tears of pain and sorrow. Then Suka wondered at the power of Maya (Devi) who controlled the mind of his father, Vyasa, the expert who had divided the Vedas. He realised that Maya was the most powerful and internally bowed to her, the creator of Brahma and all the Devas. Then he persuaded his father that he had absolutely no interest in the Grhastha and Vanaprastha stages of life and that he would move directly to Sannyasa. He begged his father to show him the way.

Then Vyasa relented, finally moved by his son’s firmness in not entering Samsara, and accepting his son’s rejection of the Agni and Karma Kanda of the Vedas, revealed to him the Devi Bhagavatham, suitable for one, who wishes to avoid samsara (worldly life).

  1. Suka is advised to visit Raja Janaka, Sita’s Father – Devi Bhagavatham
  2. Suka reaches Mithila : The first gatekeeper : Devi Bhagavatham
  3. Suka is tested at Mithila : Devi Bhagavatham
  4. Suka meets Janaka to clear his doubts about the Vedic Way : Devi Bhagavatham
  5. Janaka convinces Suka. Suka accepts the Vedic Way. And gets married : Devi Bhagavatham
  6. Suka attains divinity, the grief struck Vyasa goes in search of Satyavati.

The Story of Suka from the Mahabharatam

  1. Bhishma tells Suka’s story to Dharmaraja Yudhisthira.  (Was Suka, earlier to Rama? earlier to the Pandavas? or later to Parikshit?)

The Story of Suka’s meeting with Janaka from the Laghu Yoga Vasishtam.


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