SukaMuni and King Janaka
Shuka Muni was the son of Veda Vyasa. To read more about the Shukamuni early life (click here). Shuka is also known as Sukadeva, Shukadeva, Suka, Sukadev, Sukadeva Gosvami. Shuka was said to have been knowledgeable right from the time he was in his mother’s womb. Shuka is often, portrayed as a delicate handsome person with dark skin just like his father Veda Vyasa, he had a pleasing personality with wide black eyes. Shuka Maharishi was at such an enlightened state that had no consciousness of his body. He lived the life of a Digambara (without clothes). From an early age, he used to live on alms. Since, he had heard the secret of Amaratwa by Lord Shiva, his soul by birth was greater than Veda Vyasa. Shuka surpassed his father in spiritual attainment.
Once Shuka Maharishi and Ved Vyasa passed a group of celestial nymphs who were bathing in a pool. These celestial nymphs were sporting in the water without clothes. Shuka was not wearing any clothes, but, his purity was such, he remained unmoved as he took no notice of them, nor they of him, though he was young, handsome, and unmarried. But when Veda Vyasa came, the ladies hurriedly covered themselves up, although Veda Vyasa was old and a Rishi. Vyasa was surprised with this and he asked why did they behave differently when they saw him even though he was an old man. Then they explained that Suka Maharishi was a Samadrik, a person who saw no difference between man and woman, but that Veda Vyasa had not yet reached that stage.
Shuka was a born philosopher. He was performing penance when, Indra (lord of heaven) sent celestial nymph Rambha to distract him and thus, stop him from doing penance. But by his moral eloquence, he successfully resisted all the attempts of the Rambha from winning him in the path of love. Shuka Muni was not interested in Grihastha ashrama (family life), But his father Vedavyasa wanted his son to settle down in his Grihastha ashrama. Shuka wanted to skip Kama, Krodha, Lobha, Moha, Mada, and Matsaryam and continue his spiritual journey. He wanted to start his spiritual journey towards the Himalayas. To stop Shuka from going to the spiritual journey, Veda Vyasa sends him to King Janaka (Janaka was the adoptive father of Sita). Janaka was King of Videha. Videha is the kingdom in the Mithila region (Mithila comprises of certain parts of Bihar and Jharkhand of India and eastern Terai of Nepal). Janaka even though a King, he was a perfect example of non-attachment to material things and he was free from worldly illusions.
Suka Muni goes to King Janak after his father’s advice. King Janaka was the noblest saint who was living in a palace yet not attached with worldly affairs. Janaka said he would do some test to know Suka had renounced world affairs, to which Suka agreed. King then gave a cup filled with oil and asked him to go around the city without spilling a drop of oil. The condition was he would lose his head if he spilled a single drop of oil. There were lots of distraction on his route, but fear of losing head solely, lead to his concentration. Finally, Shuka reached the palace without spilling a single drop of oil. When he reached the palace, King questioned him what did he see in the city? To which Shuka answered, “he did not see anything as his whole concentration was on the oil cup”. While coming back, Shuka had left his clothes and kamandala outside the palace gate. While both were engaged in conversation, a palace guards came and announced the city was on fire. King Janaka didn’t respond, he just stayed calm. Sometime later again guards came and told the whole city is burning. To the soldier’s surprise, King had the same response he just sent the guards away. Third time again, the guards came and told him fire had reached the palace gates. Suka Maharishi immediately rushed to get his clothes and kamandala This is when King stopped Shuka and questioned when he wanted to renounce everything why can’t he let go of his clothes and Kamandala. The King then explained that he did not go to save them as he was unattached to them, unlike Suka Maharishi who wanted to save his belongings. At this point, Shuka Muni realized that he was attached to worldly matters, Unlike King, who lived with all luxuries but was least attached to all those things.
Shuka got his initiation from that King Janaka. It is believed that Suka Maharishi was born as an avatar with 12 supernatural powers. Every time he was with King Janaka, he lost one of his supernatural powers. Eventually, he lost all of them. Shuka learnt about grihastha ashram from Janaka for many years. King extremely pleased and accepted Shuka as his student. Janaka changed the talented, arrogant, skilful Shuka into a humble, humane, wise Shuka.
Shuka returned to his father Ved Vyasa, even went on to have a family of his own. Shuka married Pivari. Shuka had five sons—Bhurisrava, Prabhu, Saṃbhu, Krishna and Gaura and a daughter called Kisrtimati. A place called Shukachari (present in the modern-day Sangli district of Maharashtra) is believed to be the cave of Shuka, where he disappeared in cave stones as per local traditions. Ultimately, Shuka achieved Moksha.