Satyakama Jabala: The Seeker of Truth

Feb 24, 2015
Chhandogya Upanishad contains a very beautiful parable about Satyakama Jabala, the seeker of truth.

Satyakama lived with his mother Jabala in a small hut in the forest. One day he came to his mother and said, “Dear mother, I want to live the life of a student, studying about Brahman in the ashram of my teacher. Please tell me of what family am I ?”

“My dear son, I do not know your family name.” Said Jabala.

“Then what shall I tell my teacher ?” asked Satyakama.

Jabala led a pure life. She loved the power of truth. “You were born when I was young and working as a maid in many houses. Your name is Satyakama and my name is Jabala; why not call yourself Satyakama Jabala ?” said Jabala.

With his mother’s blessings, Satyakama left home. He passed through thick forests. He saw singing streams of water dashing against the rocks. He enjoyed the beauty of nature.

Satyakama came to the ashram of the great teacher Gautama. He bowed to the teacher. He requested the teacher, “Will you accept me as your student, revered Sir ?”

Gautam looked at the healthy and humble boy. “Of what family are you my boy ?” asked the teacher.

“My mother’s name is Jabala and my name is Satyakama. I am Satyakama Jabala”, said Satyakam without fear.

Gautam was pleased and loved Satyakama’s love for truth. “I will gladly accept you as my student. Now bring the firewood inside, my dear”, said the teacher.

Satyakama was happy that at last he would be able to study the knowledge of Brahman.

Gautam Started teaching Satyakama the knowledge of Brahman called Supreme Knowledge.

To know who you really are is the first step. Satyakama experienced his own inner Self which was like a vast ocean of Bliss.

Then Gautam selected four hundred thin and weak cows. “Take these cows, tend them carefully. You may return when they have become a thousand”, said Gautam.

At first Satyakama felt lonely in the forest. But he sang and the cows mooed back to him. The cows ate green grass, drank clean water and grew plump and happy.

Satyakama led a peaceful life here with his cows, in the forest, on the lap of mother nature. ‘All this beauty is a part of Brahman. I am also a part of the eternal cycle of life”, Satyakama thought.

Then one day the bull of the herd said to Satyakama : “Satyakama !”

“Sir ?” he replied.

“We have become a thousand”, said the bull. “Please, take us to your teacher’s ashram. And I will teach you the nature of Brahman, which has many aspects.”

The bull told him, “Brahman shines from the east and west and from the north and south. Brahman is everywhere. It is universal. This is one quarter of Brahman. The Fire, Agni will teach you more about Brahman.”

Satyakama set out for his teacher’s ashram. When evening came, he lit a fire. He penned the cows and sat by the fire facing east. Agni spoke to him about the nature of Brahman : “Brahman is the earth and the atmosphere, the sky and the ocean. Brahman is endless. It is without begining or end. This is one quarter of Brahman.”

Then Agni added, “A swan will tell you more about Brahman.”

The next day Satyakama drove his cows onward. Toward evening he lit a fire, penned the cows and sat by the fire facing east. He saw a swan gliding down the river towards him.

The swan said, “Brahman is fire and Brahman is the sun. Brahman is the moon and Brahman is lighting. This quarter of Brahman is light. Brahman is the light of life.”

“A bird will tell you more about Brah-man”, said the swan.

The next day Satyakama drove the cows onward. Towards evening, he lit a fire, penned the cows, and sat by the fire facing east. Then a purple bird flew down from a tree.

The sun bird sang, “Brahman is the breath, and Brahman is the eye. Brahman is the ear and also the mind. This quarter of Brahman is the seat, the resting place. Brahman is the seat of everything. Everything rests upon Brahman.”

Finally Satyakama returned to his teacher’s dwelling. Gautam noticed Satyakama’s lustrous face and said to him, “I see that you have found Brahman. For it is said that the knower of Brahman has settled senses, a smiling face, freedom from worry and has found the purpose of life.”

But Satyakama humbly spoke, “Please, revered Sir, teach me about the nature of Brahman.”

“You have heard that east and west are Brahman, the earth and sky are Brahman, that the sun and the moon are Brahman, and that the eye and ear are Brahman”, Gautam replied. “Like waves stirring within ocean, all these are a part of Brahman. Brahman is everywhere and everything. It is endless. It is the light of life. Everyhing finds its rest in Brahman.”

“And Brahman is realized by knowing the Self, your own true nature. Then you realize that you are everywhere-you are endless and you are radiant. This is the Supreme Knowledge, Brahma Vidya.”

And that is how Satyakama Jabala came to know Brahman, and grew up himself to become a great teacher of Brahman.

- Dr. Vishnu Pathak