From the Srimad Bhagavatam:

Text 2: Śrīla Sūta Gosvāmī said: Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto that great sage [Śukadeva Gosvāmī] who can enter the hearts of all. When he went away to take up the renounced order of life [sannyāsa], leaving home without undergoing reformation by the sacred thread or the ceremonies observed by the higher castes, his father, Vyāsadeva, fearing separation from him, cried out, “O my son!” Indeed, only the trees, which were absorbed in the same feelings of separation, echoed in response to the begrieved father.

Also, did he become a Shudra by doing this?


3 Answers 3


First of all, the Madhwa commentator Viijayadhvaja Tirtha and the Pushtimarga Acharya Vallabhacharya both say that the word "pravrajantam" in this verse does not mean taking up Sanyasa, and that Shuka did not take Sanyasa without doing Upanayana; see page 15 of this book. Second of all, the Sri Vaishnava Acharya Vedanta Desikan actually discusses Shuka in this excerpt from the Alepakamatabhangavada, a chapter of his Satadhusani devoted to refuting the Advaita view that those who have attained Brahmajnana do not have to follow the rules of Varnashrama Dharma.

The Advaita opponent cites Shuka as an example of someone who didn't follow Varnashrama Dharma because he had Brahmajnana. Here is how Vedanta Desikan responds:

[Opponent:] "Since the authoritative texts disclose that Ribhu, Shuka, Samvarta and the like practised nudity and other similar vows, we believe that they were outside all the ashramas." [Response:] That is not true, because even nudity is a special kind of vow that aims at enduring rain, wind, heat, and the like; a vow that is associated with the special practice of eating each mouthful completely (as soon as it is received). It is a vow that only certain unique men of ancient times were qualified to perform. If he were outside the ashramas, how could the king have chosen Samvarta, who was subsisting on air alone, as the priest for his sacrifice? Nudity, therefore, is just a special vow common to all varnas and ashramas, for only householders can perform priestly functions and the like. In the olden days even a widower, after fulfilling certain conditions such as taking a (new) wife, was considered fit to function as a priest.

[Opponent:] "'Over five hundred royal courtesans flocked to him.... After he had eaten, my dear, each of them in turn showed him the beautiful park of the female quarters in the palace.' [Mahabharata 12.312.37,39] Surely, these texts show that the great seer, Shuka, a knower of Brahman, also ate in the company of courtesans." [Response:] Wrong, because that statement is also made with reference to a situation in which these women were employed as servants to feed Brahmins and others who had completed their Vedic initiation, and, after the meal, to perform such services as fanning. It is quite clear that the intent here, indeed, was only to test Shuka's chastity and other such virtues. The text does not indicate that he ate forbidden food....

In the following passage of the Bhagavata Purana describing the appearance of the Paramahamsa Shuka, moreover, the phrase "he had no visible emblem" is used to indicate the concealment of the emblem, because such concealment is associated with the vow of nudity: [...] "He had the appearance of an Avadhuta, he had no visible emblem, and he was surrounded by children." [Srimad Bhagavatam 1.19.25]

  • @Ikshvaku does this mean he did not undergo upanayana AND hence did not take up sanyasa, and being naturally renounced (shuka-BRAHMAM), he needed neither. Also, while the women may have been employed to feed vedic initiated people, this janaka's test being a special occasion, they could have fed shuka too, i'm not sure if we can categorically say, from that bolded part, that he got initiated.
    – ram
    Feb 6, 2019 at 1:24
  • @ram The whole point of the Alepakamatabhangavada chapter of Vedanta Desikan's Satadhushani is to refute the Advaita notion that those who have attained Brahmajnana are not bound by the rules of Varnashrama Dharma. And Vedanta Desikan says that when the Bhagavatam says he had no visible emblem, it just means that it was concealed because that's what the vow of nudity requires, it's not that he's beyond such things. Feb 6, 2019 at 1:28
  • there is story, that vyasa wanted to do upanayana of shuka, but he wouldn't speak, which is necessary for veda mantras, so he waited till shuka was 16, the max. limit for upanayana, after which when he tried, shuka left, and vyasa called out his name and trees responded. does this story have scriptural basis ? if so, did shuka have upanayana after 16 ?
    – ram
    Feb 6, 2019 at 1:43
  • 3
    @Satya, above answer refutes that point of 'no need'
    – ram
    Feb 6, 2019 at 2:13
  • 1
    @RakeshJoshi Vrajantam means going or walking, Pra is a prefix meaning forward or forth. So it basically means that he went forth, but Prabhupada interprets it as he went forth to take Sanyasa, whereas other commentators disagree with him. Feb 6, 2019 at 14:18

Your question is how come shukadeva did not undergo upanayanam did he become a Shudra by doing this ?

In Mahabharata - Shanti Parva -Moksha Dharma Parva - Chapter 324 It is mentioned that Shukadeva undergo upanayanam .

This chapter whole is about birth of Shuka deva , his Mauji Bandhana i.e. upanayana , Veda Adhyayana and Samavartana Samskara. Intrestengly Lord Mahadeva and Devi Parvati themselves performed Upanayana of Shuka Deva the son of Maharshi Veda Vyasa.

तं महात्मा स्वयं प्रीत्या देव्या सह महाद्युति: |
जातमात्रं मुने: पुत्रं विधिनोपानयत तदा || 18 ||

P. 84 The high-souled Mahadeva of great effulgence, accompanied by the Goddess, and moved by affection, came there and soon after the birth of the Muni's son invested him with the sacred-thread.

Shuka deva also took vow of Brahmacharya ,learned Vedas and made Bruhaspati as his guru..

  • But bhagavata suka is different, is it not?
    – user17439
    Feb 6, 2019 at 6:09
  • It looks to me that they both are same, the narration is almost same in SB and MB. Feb 6, 2019 at 6:12
  • I think devi bhagvatam is correct cos we have many parashara gotra brahmins so shuka must have propagated the gotra Feb 6, 2019 at 15:07

The Vedic scriptures are suitable for both materially-inclined and spiritually-inclined people:

SB 10.16.44: We offer our obeisances again and again to You, who are the basis of all authoritative evidence, who are the author and ultimate source of the revealed scriptures, and who have manifested Yourself in those Vedic literatures encouraging sense gratification as well as in those encouraging renunciation of the material world.

Both can be neglected by someone who has acquired Brahmajnana:

SB 4.4.20: In the Vedas there are directions for two kinds of activities — activities for those who are attached to material enjoyment and activities for those who are materially detached. In consideration of these two kinds of activities, there are two kinds of people, who have different symptoms. If one wants to see two kinds of activities in one person, that is contradictory. But both kinds of activities may be neglected by a person who is transcendentally situated.

It is very clear from the Srimad Bhagavatam that Shukadeva was Brahmajnani:

SB 1.4.4: His [Vyāsadeva’s] son was a great devotee, an equibalanced monist, whose mind was always concentrated in monism. He was transcendental to mundane activities, but being unexposed, he appeared like an ignorant person.

SB 1.4.5: While Śrī Vyāsadeva was following his son, beautiful young damsels who were bathing naked covered their bodies with cloth, although Śrī Vyāsadeva himself was not naked. But they had not done so when his son had passed. The sage inquired about this, and the young ladies replied that his son was purified and when looking at them made no distinction between male and female. But the sage made such distinctions.

Therefore, there's no issue in Shuka not undergoing Upanayana as he is beyond all rules. It doesn't make him a Shudra.

  • 1
    Dear downvoter, what is your problem with this answer?
    – user9969
    Feb 6, 2019 at 15:37

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