Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī Mahārāja was in the womb of his mother for 16 years and even so, he refused to come out. When he was of 16 years of age in his mother’s womb, his father Śrīla Vyāsadeva said, “You should come out of your mother’s womb, and not give any suffering to her.” How did Śukadeva Gosvāmī Mahārāja enter his mother’s womb? There is a history.
Śukadeva Gosvāmī Mahārāja was a parrot of Śrīmatī Rādhikā. She would always nourish and nurse the parrot. Śrīmatī Rādhikā had taught this parrot to call out the name of Kṛṣṇa very sweetly in the same tune and voice of Śrīmatī Rādhikā Herself. Śrīmatī Rādhikā would always call out, “Kṛṣṇa! Kṛṣṇa!” and She taught Her parrot to sing Kṛṣṇa’s name very sweetly, in Her own voice. Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s voice is sweeter than Kṛṣṇa’s flute and when She spoke or sang, Kṛṣṇa would become enthralled and He would forget to play on His flute. So Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī was a parrot who was nursed by Śrīmatī Rādhikā since he was a fledgling. He was very dear to Śrīmatī Rādhikā.
Śrīmatī Rādhikā would feed the parrot, Śuka, with sweet rice. Sometimes She would also feed Śuka pomegranate seeds which were reddish and succulent, and the parrot (Śuka) would peck at the seeds with great gusto. Stroking the parrot, Śrīmatī Rādhikā would say to it, “My dear Śuka, you should chant, ‘Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa’.”
The parrot then said, “Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa.” Listening to the parrot chant Her beloved Kṛṣṇa’s name, tears flowed from the eyes of Śrīmatī Rādhikā and all Her sakhīs wept even though Śuka was, after all; a bird. Anyhow, he flew from Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s home in Varsānā to Nandagāon. The distance between Varsānā and Nandagāon was not much. So the parrot flew from Varsānā to Nandagāon. The distance between Varsānā and Nandagāon was not more than four miles. At that time, the two places were adjacent. Reaching Nandagāon, the parrot flew to Kṛṣṇa’s garden. In the garden, Kṛṣṇa and Madhumaṅgala were talking to each other. The parrot settled on a very calm and quiet place; atop the branch of a greenish Tamāla tree. Do you know what a Tamāla tree is? It is a beautiful tree, with a dark complexion like Kṛṣṇa. So the parrot perched on the branch of that tree and began to call, “Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa,” in the same tune of Śrīmatī Rādhikā. Kṛṣṇa was astonished to hear His name being called out, and He started to think from where this sweet sound was coming. He saw that near His side, on the branch of a Tamāla tree, a beautiful parrot was perched and his beak was reddish. The greenish colored parrot was calling out, “Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa.”
Kṛṣṇa thought, “Is Rādhikā here and calling out My name? How is this possible?” And then He saw that parrot. The parrot bemoaned, “I am very dear to Śrīmatī Rādhikā, She loves me very much and nourishes me. Sometimes She gently strokes my back with Her beautiful hands and long fingers. She would always feed pomegranate seeds to me and She has so much affection towards me. Yet I am not worthy of Her love and affection; I am an ungrateful bird. I flew from Her and came to Nandagāon, and now I repent that I shouldn’t have left my mistress, who was so lovely and beautiful. I have left Her, so now I want to die.” In this way, the parrot bewailed time and again. Kṛṣṇa enticingly called the bird, “Oh come on, come on!” He called the bird to Him in an alluring way, employing His sweet words. Anyone who hears the words of Kṛṣṇa, cannot but be spellbound; they will be charmed at once. The animals in the forest, like the deer, birds, cuckoo birds, serpents; they are all charmed by the words of Kṛṣṇa.
Exhibiting His charming demeanor, face, and crooked eyes, Kṛṣṇa beguiled the parrot and said, “Come on, come on.” The bewitched parrot flew over and sat on the shoulder of Kṛṣṇa. Taking the parrot onto His hand, Kṛṣṇa asked it, “What did you just say? Can you repeat what you just said?”
The parrot called out, “Kṛṣṇa! Kṛṣṇa!” Kṛṣṇa became exceedingly pleased, and He began to caress the parrot in the same manner Śrīmatī Rādhikā would. Kṛṣṇa asked the parrot to chant His name again and again, and the parrot chanted as he was told. The parrot said, “My mistress is Śrīmatī Rādhikā, and She nourishes me with so much affection, giving me so many things, but being an ungrateful creature, I left Her and came here.” Saying so, the parrot began to cry. Kṛṣṇa was moved by the parrot’s delectable speech and He decided, “I will never give this parrot up. I will keep him with Me forever.” If Kṛṣṇa sees anything or anyone that is beautiful, melodious, soft, fragrant, He at once takes. So you should not be like the parrot, [Laughter from audience] otherwise Kṛṣṇa will charm us, and take us with Him. So if Kṛṣṇa approaches you, you must reject His advances. [Laughter from audience] Don’t take the name of Kṛṣṇa, otherwise you will go mad. If anyone sings “Hare Kṛṣṇa,” you should block your ears, otherwise He will cheat you; certainly He will. [Laughter from audience] I am not saying this, the gopīs are saying so. [Laughter from audience]
The gopīs’ say, “I believed Kṛṣṇa and I fell for His charming ploy. So no one else should be cheated by Kṛṣṇa; that dhūrta (cheater).” So Kṛṣṇa cheated this parrot, and He was giving so much honor and affection to the parrot. In the meantime, two girls came running from Varsānā; they were Lalitā and Viśākhā. They told Kṛṣṇa “Oh, Vrajendra-nandana return our parrot, it is very much loved and held dear by our sakhī (Śrīmatī Rādhikā). Our sakhī cannot live without this parrot, so return the parrot at once!”
Kṛṣṇa replied, “I have not bound this parrot, he is free to act as he wishes. He is contently seated on My hand, so call him, and if he comes, you can take him.” The sakhīs called to the parrot, but the parrot did not go to them.
Kṛṣṇa said, “You can take the parrot if he comes willingly to you, but I will not let you take the parrot forcibly.”
Lalitā and Viśākhā retorted, “If our sakhī Śrīmatī Rādhikā was here, and if She had called the parrot, it would leave You, and at once fly to Śrīmatī Rādhikā, but She is not present here, so the parrot is not coming to us. So please return him to us.”
Kṛṣṇa replied, “I cannot return him. You can only take him, if he is willing.”
Lalitā and Viśākhā went to mother Yaśodā and said, “Kṛṣṇa has taken the parrot of Śrīmatī Rādhikā. Oh mother! Please have the parrot returned to us,” but Kṛṣṇa was determined to not let the parrot go, anything that comes to Kṛṣṇa will not be returned, only if Śrīmatī Rādhikā is present will it be returned, and not otherwise.
Mother Yaśodā told Lalitā and Viśākhā, “Wait a little, I’m going to Kṛṣṇa.” She came to Kṛṣṇa and saw how Kṛṣṇa was enraptured by the parrot’s sweet movements. Kṛṣṇa told the parrot, “Please repeat what you have just said, please repeat!” Being immersed in the parrot’s sweet voice, Kṛṣṇa forgot all His senses.
Meanwhile, Yaśodā came and said, “Oh, You have become like an animal! Do You only wish to play with animals and birds? This is wrong!” Chastising her son this way, Yaśodā gently took the parrot away from Kṛṣṇa’s hands and handed him over to the sakhīs.
Yaśodā told Kṛṣṇa, “If You continue Your play with the animals, I will give You a tight slap and Your ears will be twisted!” [Laughter from audience] “You are always playing with animals; sometimes with dogs, and sometimes with serpents. Your father is hungry and it is time for mahā-prasāda. bhoga has been offered to the deities, so You should come along with me.” Mother Yaśodā held Kṛṣṇa by His hand and dragged Him to the house.
Yaśodā requested her servants, “Please arrange for Kṛṣṇa to be bathed.” So Kṛṣṇa was unable to do anything. And the parrot was given back to Lalitā and Viśākhā, who then joyfully handed over the parrot to Śrīmatī Rādhikā. So by this incident, you can see how the parrot was loved so much by Śrī Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. The parrot would serve Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa day and night. Even in solitary kuñjas (groves), where Rādhikā and Kṛṣṇa would sleep, the parrot’s services would continue without cessation.
When Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes drew to a close, and Kṛṣṇa was preparing to return to His aprakaṭa-līlā (unmanifest pastimes) in Goloka Vṛndāvana with all His associates, Kṛṣṇa and Śrīmatī Rādhikā told Śukadeva Gosvāmī (the parrot), “You should live in this world, We are going, but you should preach hari-bhakti to all, and so many important tasks will be done by you. So you should please stay back.”
The parrot began to cry and bitterly weep. He said, “I cannot live without You both.”
Pacifying the parrot, Kṛṣṇa said, “You will be re-united with Us, but for some time you have to be here in this mortal realm. Because We are all going, the world will be empty, so you should help all others.”
When Kṛṣṇa and all His associates left, that parrot wanted to hear kṛṣṇa-kathā from a good devotee. His search for kṛṣṇa-kathā extended to all the corners of the world. The work of his search bore fruit, when the parrot reached Kailāśa. There, he saw Sadāśiva speaking hari-kathā to Pārvatī-devī. Sadāśiva was explaining hari-kathā, beginning from Kṛṣṇa’s birth, until the time of His divine disappearance. This hari-kathā is called, “amṛta,” nectar, more than nectar. Pārvatī listened while Śaṅkarajī recited hari-kathā from the first, second, and third canto. Gradually, Śaṅkarajī started to explain the third canto. Third canto is about some siddhānta (philosophy) and creation, so it eluded Pārvatī-devī’s interest. Pārvatī would often reply in the affirmative to re-assure her husband that she was listening to his kathā.
She would tell Śaṅkarajī, “Yes, yes, after that?” but as time passed, she dozed off. Then the parrot sitting on the branch of the tree, which was covered by green leaves, began to say, “Yes, very good. After that? Yes, yes.” He faultlessly imitated Pārvatī’s voice. [Laughter from audience]. Śaṅkarajī was so intently absorbed in speaking hari-kathā, that he couldn’t realize who was responding to him; if it was his wife Pārvatī or someone else. When the 11th canto finished, and when even the 12th canto was about to be completed, Pārvatī woke up startled and said, “Oh, Svāmī I didn’t hear hari-kathā as I was asleep!”
Śaṅkarajī replied, “This is astonishing! How were you asleep when you were repeatedly saying, ‘Yes, yes.’ ”
Pārvatī replied, “No, no. It wasn’t me.”
Śaṅkarajī asked his wife, “Then who was it responding in your tune?”
Pārvatī replied, “It wasn’t me Prabhu, as I had fallen asleep.”
Śaṅkarajī said, “Whoever hears the hari-kathā will never die; he will become amara (immortal). He will become qualified to go to vraja-dhāma and will never return. Therefore, any unqualified person should not hear this hari-kathā. I’m thinking that an unqualified person has heard Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, but who is he?” Śaṅkarajī took his triśūla (trident), and began to search intently. On the branch of a tree, he saw a parrot. Śaṅkarajī wanted to attack the parrot by throwing his triśūla at him, but the parrot flew from the tree and went to the nearby āśrama of Vyāsadeva. Śaṅkarajī followed him quickly, but the bird was quick to flap its wings, and it flew away. In the āśrama of Vyāsadeva, the parrot saw that Vyāsadeva was telling the same hari-kathā to his wife Vīṭikā-Devī. She was listening to the hari-kathā attentively; with her mouth wide open. The parrot flew into her mouth and entered her womb. Vyāsa continued speaking hari-kathā to his wife. For 16 straight years, Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī heard hari-kathā from Śrīla Vyāsadeva. He also heard the Vedas, Upaniṣads, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Purāṇas, and many other scriptures. Śaṅkarajī reached Vyāsadeva’s āśrama immediately. Vyāsadeva and Śaṅkarajī offered their praṇāmas to each other.
Vyāsadeva is more respectable than Śaṅkarajī because he is Nārāyaṇa, and Śaṅkarajī is also a very renowned Vaiṣṇava. He should also be respected. Therefore they respected each other and offered sāṣṭāṅga daṇḍavat-praṇāmas to each other. They are not like us; they welcome each other with their arms wide open. While certain devotees ban Vaiṣṇavas from entering temples. Can anyone forbid devotees by telling them, “Don’t go to Vaiṣṇavas!” Can the devotees be controlled this way? But no śāstra encourages this breach of conduct. No guru will tell his disciple, “You cannot go meet this renowned Vaiṣṇava.” If any guru orders his disciples this way, then he is avoiding all the rules and he must be punished, anyone who is guilty of transgressing Vaiṣṇava etiquette will be punished. He will be punished. So we should fear committing offenses.
We should not proclaim, “We are controllers of the whole world!” Kṛṣṇa is the controller, and Gurudeva is the controller. We cannot control. Rather, we should be controlled. But if any guru is telling his disciples that, “Don’t go to any qualified Vaiṣṇava.” Then know that he is degraded and his orders must definitely not be carried out. He is fallen and if we follow his orders, thinking it to be our duty; then we are also fallen. Those, who are guilty of murder, and those who inspire the murderer to carry out this act, will also be found guilty and punished regardless of the person not directly committing the murder himself. So we should not encourage vaiṣṇava-aparādha. We should honor all Vaiṣṇavas, whether they are kaniṣṭha, madhyama, or uttamā. Even if an ant chants the name of Kṛṣṇa; then the ant is worshipable for us. You should always be of this mentality. Don’t see any difference between Prabhupāda’s disciples and disciples of other Vaiṣṇavas. If the Vaiṣṇavas are qualified, we should honor them. And even if they are not qualified so much, if they are kaniṣṭha-adhikārīs, still, they must be honored. If any dog is taking mahā-prasāda and following Vaiṣṇavas, then even the dog should be honored. I will recall a memory of when we were doing parikramā with our Gurudeva.
21 May 1996 Radlett, UK
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