Satyakam's Odyssey for Truth

    This is the story of how Satyakam attained enlightenment yet retained his humility.

Satya, the most revered virtue in the Sanatan Culture has been the core of its principles and ideas.


Beginning with the Vedas, almost all the prominent scriptures find its mention. Satya is the energy behind Rta in the Vedic period. Rta, the cosmic order, is the reverberation of the Satya in the universe. Satya is that absolute truth of which all the Vedic Seers speak reverentially and significantly.


The supreme truth which is called Brahman in the Upanishads is taken as the ultimate goal of every human being. The human life is treated as a progression to attain that transcendentalism, which results in the final liberation of the Atman. Satya here becomes a moral rectitude and a cherishable quality.


Realizing its mammoth importance, Sage Patanjali included it in his Yamas and made it an integral path of the Yoga for Self Realization. It means being perpetually aware of one’s true nature. Likewise, the Upanishdas explicitly states,


तेषामेवैष ब्रह्मलोको येषां तपो ब्रह्मचर्यं येषु सत्यं प्रतिष्टितम्!

To them alone, is this Brahmalôka, in whom tapas, brahmacharyam and truth abide.Thus, truth is impeccability and honesty and being in a state of Sattva. Rta, Dharma, and Satya are the triple guardians of creation who keep the worlds free from chaos. In our tradition, the Rishis or the Sages are considered as the ultimate epitome of this Guna i.e. Satya. There exist umpteen stories of them nurturing it scrupulously in their lives that they perennially stand as the tallest icons of inspiration for us. One such manifestation of Sat, which we come across in the Chandogaya Upanishad is Satyakam Jabal.Satyakam was an inquisitive child who dreamt dream of becoming a Brahma-Jnani but he had one worry, which was about his lineage, of which he was unaware and it was a pre-requisite to get admission in any Gurukul. So, one day he spoke to his mother,

ब्रह्मचर्यं भवति वित्स्यामि किंगोत्रो न्वहमस्मीति’

Mother, I am considering studying the Vedas. Thus, I have to observe celibacy and stay in a Gurukul. So please tell me my ancestral family name. (Chandogaya Upanishad; 4/4/1)


Jabaal, his mother, though, a woman of resolute immediately got engrossed into deep thought as she did not know the answer to her son’s question. She told Satyakam,


‘जबाला तु नामाहमस्मि सत्यकामो नाम त्वमसि स सत्यकाम एव जाबालो ब्रुवीथा इति’ –‘ब्रह्मचर्यं भगवति वत्स्याम्युपेयां भगवन्तमिति’ –  

My name is Jabala and Your name is Satyakam and this is an unequivocal truth. Therefore, if your Guru asks anything regarding this, tell him honestly that You are Satyakam, the son of Jabala. (Chandogaya Upanishad 4/4/2)


This straightforwardness of Jabala turned out to become the most important trait of Satyakam’s personality i.e. Honesty and Truthfulness. Being satisfied with the answer, he moved towards the Gurukul of the Sage Haridrumat Gautam. 


After reaching there as he meets his Guru , he utters the following words;


O Lord, I have come to study. I will observe celibacy. I wish to become your disciple. Please accept me. (Chandogaya Upanishad: 4/4/3)

Sage Gautam asked,

‘किंगोत्रो नु सोम्यासीति’

What is your ancestral family name?

He replied,

नाहमेतद्‌ वेद भो यद्‌गोत्रोहमस्मि...’


I am completely unaware of it and all that I know is that I am Satyakam and my mother is Jabala, so I am Satyakam Jabala. This statement of Satyakam reflected his mother’s candour and sincerity, which impressed his Guru so much that he accepted him as his disciple.


After initiating him, once the Guru asks him to visit the pastureland with him. When Satyakam reaches there he sees, many cows grazing. The Guru Gautam directs him to take 400 cows along with him to the forests and only return when they have grown into a flock of 1,000.


Satyakam obeys the order of his Guru and leaves for the forests. There he takes care of the cows patiently. Years pass by, Satyakam looks after the cows with loving care. When they become thousand in number he planned to return to the Ashram.


On his way back, at dusk they halted for the night. Having confined the cows and collected some fuel, he lit a fire and sat down just behind it facing east. There begins his conversation with Agni on Brahman. Agni says,


ब्रह्मणः सोम्य ते पादं ब्रवाणीति ब्रवीतु मे भगवानिति तस्मै होवाच पृथिवी कलान्तरिक्षं कला द्यौः कला समुद्रः कलैष वै सोम्य चतुष्कलः पादो ब्रह्मणोऽनन्तवान्नाम ॥ ४.६.३ ॥

‘The earth is one part, the mid-region is another part, heaven is a third part, and the ocean is a fourth part, these are the four parts that make up a foot of Brahman. This foot is named Anantavān, the Unlimited’.


स य एतमेवं विद्वांश्चतुष्कलं पादं ब्रह्मणोऽनन्तवानित्युपास्तेऽनन्तवानस्मिँल्लोके भवत्यनन्तवतो ह लोकाञ्जयति य एतमेवं विद्वांश्चतुष्कलं पादं ब्रह्मणोऽनन्तवानित्युपास्ते ॥ ४.६.४ ॥

He who knows this foot of Brahman, which has four parts and is known as “the Unlimited,” and worships it as such becomes long-lived in this world.


After obtaining this quarter Jnana about Brahman, he moves on his path and the other day he has a dialogue with a Swan, who imparts him the other quarter of knowledge of Brahman. Swan tells,

ब्रह्मणः सोम्य ते पादं ब्रवाणीति ब्रवीतु मे भगवानिति तस्मै होवाचाग्निः कला सूर्यः कला चन्द्रः कला विद्युत्कलैष वै सोम्य चतुष्कलः पादो ब्रह्मणो ज्योतिष्मान्नाम ॥ ४.७.३ ॥

‘Fire is one part, the sun is another part, the moon is a third part, and lightning is a fourth part. O Somya, these are the four parts that make up a foot of Brahman. This foot is named Jyotiṣmān, the Luminous’.


स य एतमेवं विद्वांश्चतुष्कलं पादं ब्रह्मणो ज्योतिष्मानित्युपास्ते ज्योतिष्मानस्मिँल्लोके भवति ज्योतिष्मतो ह लोकाञ्जयति य एतमेवं विद्वांश्चतुष्कलं पादं ब्रह्मणो ज्योतिष्मानित्युपास्ते ॥ ४.७.४ ॥

He who knows this foot of Brahman, which has four parts and is known as “the Luminous,” and worships it as such becomes illustrious in this world. He who knows this foot of Brahman, which has four parts and is known as “the Luminous,” and worships it as such attains worlds which are luminous.


After getting the wise words from Swan, he again resumes his voyage. Again in the evening he halts at some place and takes rest, here he attains the wisdom of Prana from Madgu, who says;

ब्रह्मणः सोम्य ते पादं ब्रवाणीति ब्रवीतु मे भगवानिति तस्मै होवाच प्राणः कला चक्षुः कला श्रोत्रं कला मनः कलैष वै सोम्य चतुष्कलः पादो ब्रह्मण आयतनवान्नाम ॥ ४.८.३ ॥

Prāṇa is one part, the eyes are another part, the ears are a third part, and the mind is a fourth part. O Somya, these are the four parts that make up a foot of Brahman. This foot is named Āyatanavān, the Support’.


In this way, Satyakam attained Brahmajnana and finally arrived at Guru’s Ashram, his face was shining with the lustre of that epochal knowledge, the Guru became astonished and proclaimed, 


Satyakam, you have become a perfect Tattva Jnani.  He asks him, who rendered this enlightenment to you? Satyakam shares with his Guru, the events that occurred on his way back to the Gurukul.


Sage Gautam is delighted on listening to the wonderful experiences of Satyakam and says, You have become purely an enlightened Atman and so no further knowledge on this subject is required to you. Hearing such words full of humility from his Guru, Satyakam speaks, no matter, I have attained wisdom of Brahman but the actual insight of this Jnana will strike me when I acquire it from you. Then he goes on elucidating the majesty of Guru and its importance in one’s life. 


Hence, on being requested by Satyakam, Rishi Gautam agrees to impart more knowledge of Brahman to him and so Satyakam becomes one of the greatest sages of the Sanatan Adhyatmic tradition.


Satyakam’s tale illustrates, the pinnacle of truth one could ever wish and then achieve in one’s life. His desire for truth makes him a personification of integrity and probity, which needs to be emulated by us to enable India forge ahead on the path of Dharmic advancement.


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Author is a practicing Sanatani Dharmic Hindu who has obtained M. Phil and Ph. D. in History. She has published articles on a variety of historical, Dharmic and Samskritic aspects.

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