Shuka (also Shukadeva, Shuka deva, Suka, Sukadev, Sukadeva Gosvami, ) was the son of the sage Vyasa (credited as the organizer of the Vedas and Puranas) and the main narrator of the Bhagavata Purana. Most of the Bhagavata Purana consists of Shuka reciting the story to the dying king Parikshit. Shuka is depicted as a sannyasi, renouncing the world in pursuit of moksha (liberation), which most narratives assert that he achieved.
According to the Mahabharata, after one hundred years of austerity by Vyasa, Shuka was churned out of a stick of fire, born with ascetic power and with the Vedas dwelling inside him, just like his father. The Mahabharata also recounts how Shuka was sent by Vyasa for training to King Janaka, who was considered to be a Jivanmukta, or one who is liberated while still in a body. Shuka asked Janaka about the way to liberation, with Janaka recommending the traditional progression of the four ashramas, which included the householder stage. After expressing contempt for the householder life, Shuka questioned Janaka about the real need for following the householder path. Seeing Shuka's advanced state of realization, Janaka told him that there was no need in his case.
Stories recount how Shuka surpassed his father in spiritual attainment. Once, when following his son, Vyasa encountered a group of celestial nymphs who were bathing. Shuka's purity was such that the nymphs did not consider him to be a distraction, even though he was naked, but covered themselves when faced with his father. Shuka is sometimes portrayed as wandering about naked, due to his complete lack of self-consciousness.
A completely different version of the later life of Shuka is given in the Devi-Bhagavata Purana, considered a secondary Purana (upapurana) by many, but an important work in the Shakta tradition. In this account, Shuka is convinced by Janaka to follow the ashrama tradition, and returns home to marry and follow the path of yoga. He has five children with his wife Pivari—four sons and a daughter. The story concludes in the same vein as the common tradition, with Shuka achieving moksha.
A place called Shukachari is believed to be the cave of Shuka, where he disappeared in cave stones as per local traditions. Shuka in Sanskrit means parrot and thus the name is derived from the large number of parrots found around the Shukachari hills. Shukachari literally means abode of parrots in the Sanskrit language.
- Matchett, Freda (2001). Krishna, Lord or Avatara?: the relationship between Krishna and Vishnu. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-7007-1281-6.
- Hiltebeitel, Alf (2001). Rethinking the Mahābhārata: a reader's guide to the education of the dharma king. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-34054-8.
- Sullivan, Bruce M. (1990). Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana Vyāsa and the Mahābhārata: a new interpretation. BRILL. p. 40. ISBN 978-90-04-08898-6.
- Gier, Nicholas F. (2000). Spiritual Titanism: Indian, Chinese, and Western perspectives. SUNY series in constructive postmodern thought. SUNY Press. pp. 70–71. ISBN 978-0-7914-4527-3.
- Venkatesananda, S. (1989). The Concise Srimad Bhagavatam. State University of New York Press.
- Purdy, S.B. (2006). "Whitman and the (National) Epic: a Sanskrit Parallel". Revue Francaise d Etudes Americaines 108 (2006/2): 23–32. Retrieved 2008-05-12.
- Prabhavananda, Swami (1979 (see also Wikipedia page for book)). Spiritual Heritage of India. Vedanta Press. p. 137. ISBN 978-0-87481-035-6. Check date values in:
- Fort, Andrew O.; Patricia Y. Mumme (1996). Living liberation in Hindu thought. SUNY Press. pp. 170–173. ISBN 978-0-7914-2705-7.