“Chatur varnam maya srushtya guna karma vibhagasaha”-
Bhagawan Sri Krishna told Arjuna the above sentence when he did ‘Geetopadesha’.
I have created the four varnas or classes based on their qualities or gunas and their deeds or karmas. In other words a Kshatriya, Vaisya, or a Sudra can become a brahmin by his sterling qualities of conduct and character.
As with every story of the Upanishad, the tale of Satyakama Jabala also teaches a profound truth. The name Satyakama is very significant. It means one who desires Satya or Truth which is Brahman itself.
The story basically tries to awaken the understanding that “Everything in the world is Brahman”. Meditating on the story of Satyakama Jabala brings us closer to the realization to that everything that exists is a part of the Brahman or the supreme reality.
One day a boy named Satyakama approached his mother called Jabala and said, “Respected mother, I want to understand the realty of the Brahman. For this purpose, I want to go and study under a Guru. Please tell me which lineage I belong to. Who were my ancestors?”
Jabala replied to Satyakama, “Dear son, I am not sure of your lineage. I worked as a maid servant when I was young and thus worked in many households. I do not know who were your ancestors. I had company of many men as I was a slave, I dont even know who is your father.But if you want, you can take my name Jabala. You should tell the Guru that your name is Satykama Jabala.”
Satyakama Jabala took leave of his mother and went to Sage Gautama, who was a knowledgeable teacher.
Satyakama told Sage Gautama, I want to study the truth about Brahman from you. Please accept me as a student.
Gautam asked Satyakama Jabala,” O Boy, tell me about your lineage. Who is your father?”
Satyakama Jabala replied, promptly ” I do not know my lineage. My mother worked as a maid-servant in many houses when she was young. When I enquired about my lineage from her, she declared that she is not aware who is my father. However, since she goes by the name Jabala, she told me to call myself Satyakama Jabala. Will you accept me, Satyakama Jabala, as your student?
Gautama told him, “O Satyakama Jabala, you have spoken the truth. Hence you are honorable. Since you did not deviate from the truth, I will initiate you into the highest wisdom.”
Gautama then initiated and accepted Satyakama Jabala as a student.
Gautama then entrusted the first assignment to Satyakama. Gautama told him, “O Satyakama Jabala, go and take care of my four hundred cows.”
Satyakama replied, “I will look after your cows and not return until I increase their number to one thousand.”
For years, Satyakama took care of the cows until their number reached one thousand. Upon reaching his goal, he decided to return to this master’s abode with the cows.
Then a bull in the herd spoke to Satyakama Jabala, “O Satyakama, shall I teach you one-fourth of Brahman?”
He replied to the bull Please teach me.
The bull stated, “The east is one fragment, the west is one fragment, the south is another fragment, and the north is another fragment, These four fragments together form the one-fourth of Brahman. This portion of Brahman is called prakasavan (the radiant).
One who meditates on this one-fourth of Brahman, will become radiant in this world.”
Next morning, Satyakama Jabala proceeded forward on his journey to Gautama’s abode with the cows. In the evening, he stopped to take rest and lit a fire.
The Fire asked Satyakama, “O Boy, should I teach you one-fourth of Brahman?”
“Please teach me” replied Satyakama.
Then the fire stated, “The earth is one fragment, the sky is one fragment, the heaven is one fragment, and the ocean is yet another fragment. These four fragments form one-fourth of Brahman, This portion of Brahman is called anantavan, the Endless.
One who meditates on this one-fourth of Brahman becomes endless in this world and wins the endless world as well.”
Next morning, Satyakama again proceeded to this master’s abode. A swan spoke to him, “O Boy, should I teach you about one-fourth of Brahman?”
“Please teach me” replied Satyakama.
The swan stated, “Fire is one fragment, the sun is one fragment, the moon is one fragment and the lightning is yet another fragment, These four fragments form one-fourth of Brahman,. This portion of Brahman is called jyotisman, the luminous.
One who meditates on this one-fourth of Brahman, becomes luminous in this world.”
Next morning Satyakama Jabala again proceeded on this journey and was approached by a bird. The bird said, “O Satyakama, should I teach you one-fourth of Brahman?”
“Please teach me,” replied Satyakama.
The bird stated, “Prana is one fragment, the eye is one fragment, the ear is one fragment and the mind is yet another fragment. These four fragments form one-fourth of Brahman. This portion of the Brahman is called ayatanavan, the abode-possessor.
One who meditates on his one-fourth of Brahman becomes abode possessor in this world.”
Satyakama reached the Gauthama’s house.
Gautama told Satyakama Jabala, “O boy, you shine with the knowledge of Brahman. Who taught you?”
Satyakama replied, “Beings other than humans taught me sir. But it is my humble request that you teach me.”
Gautama then taught Satyakama the knowledge of Brahman which was the same knowledge that Satyakama had learnt on his journey back.
The symbolic conversation of Satyakama with a bull,fire, a swan and a diver bird represent Vayu, Agni Aditya and Prana. He learns from these creatures that forms of Brahman are all in cardinal directions, north,south,east and south, world bodies – earth, atmosphere, sky and ocean, sources of light– fire,sun, moon and lightning and in man– breath, eye, ear, and mind! Satyakama thus graduates and becomes a celebrated teacher! A Vedic School is named after him! He is also the author of ‘ Jabala Upanishad, a treatise on sanyasa!
Dr Sindhu Prashanth