Śukadeva and the Bhāgavatam (07/23/10)
If this verse “ahaṁ vedmi śuko vetti” is saying that Śiva and Śuka know the full import of the Bhāgavatam while Vyāsa’s knowledge of it is questionable, how is it that Śuka is as a loudspeaker or machine? It would seem that the verse indicates dynamic knowledge similar with Śiva’s knowledge. Is there a discrepancy? Also it is accepted the Śiva also has a position in Goloka. How can we explain this, that Śuka is as a machine, while Mahāprabhu quotes Śiva as saying both he (Śiva) and Śuka know the import of the Bhāgavatam while Vyāsa may or may not know?
Vyāsa is speaking and the message is passing thru him to Śukadeva. Śukadeva is receiving the message attentively and he is understanding whereas Vyāsadeva is the speaker and he is in trance. At that point the message is passing thru Vyāsa and he may know or not know what is passing thru him to Śukadeva.
Again (later), Śukadeva is speaking to Parikṣit Mahārāja and the message is passing thru him (like a machine/empowered), at which point he may know or not know what that is. After speaking, he vanished into the unknown quarter. Bhāgavatam has never been just one thing although originally just four verses. With each speaking, especially from Śukadeva onwards, it has increased.
The speaker (the real qualified speaker of the Bhāgavatam) is always a ‘machine’. Our Śrīla Prabhupāda also marveled over what he had written in his books. When referring to his Bhāgavatam commentary, Śrīla Prabhupāda said, “I have not written these books, Kṛṣṇa has written.” Prabhupāda marveled over what he had written, means that it was passing thru him and when reading it later he was amazed. Similarly, Vyāsadeva went to listen to Śukadeva speak to Pariṣkit because he wanted to observe what it was that passed thru him to Śukadeva. That is the mystic way of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. That is the answer in a nutshell.
In addition – Sūta Gosvāmī was there when Śukadeva spoke to Parikṣit and Sūta Gosvāmī later spoke Bhāgavatam to the ṛṣis of Naimiśāraṇya, at which point the Bhāgavatam as we know it today was written down. But who wrote it after Sūta Gosvāmī spoke it at Naimiṣāraṇya? That is another interesting question and one with some varying answers. Śrīla B.P. Keśava Mahārāja for one has said that Vyāsadeva wrote the Bhāgavatam for a second time after Sūta Gosvāmī had spoken it. That seems to simplify the question, but personally I think the real answer is a little more complicated than that. But I have no definitive reference from any other ācārya on that at present, so it is still a question that is being discussed from time to time amongst devotees.