Story of “Satyakama Jabala”


This story appears in Fourth Chapter of “ChAndogya Upanishad”, which is part of “ChAndogya Brahmana” of the Sama Veda.  It is one of the largest Upanishads with Eight Chapters (Prapathakas) which contains many Khandas(sections) including some stories as themes to gain Upanishadic knowledge. This Upanishad is placed in the 9th position in the list of Ten Principal Upanishads. The name of the Upanishad is derived from the word   “Chanda” (Rhythm~ poetic meter). This Upanishad directly deals with the true nature of Brahman, the Supreme Self, without a second.
For full Text of ChAndogya Upanishad (छान्दोग्योपनिषत्) in Sanskrit, please use this link:—

Here we will learn some Vedantic philosophy through the story of Satyakama Jabala to Know “Brahma Vidya” as described in Fourth Chapter: Fourth Khanda to Ninth Khanda (4.4-4.9)

Story of Satyakama Jabala:–

Gautama, the son of the sage Haridruman, was a celebrated Rishi of the Vedic age. He was known as Haridrumata Gautama. He was well versed in the Vedic lore and had many students in his Tapovana(Place of spiritual practices at forest).

A young boy named Satyakama once expressed a desire to his mother Jabala to go to Rishi Gautama’s Tapovana to study and practice BrahmaCharya. Therefore one day the young boy went to Ashrama of Sage Haridrumata Gautama and said, ” Revered Sir, I desire to live under you as a Brahmacharin. Please accept me as your disciple.” Rishi Gautama said,          ” Most affectionate blessings!”.  Rishi asked Satyakama, “Dear boy, of what gotra or lineage (ancestry) are you?” The boy replied, ” Sir, I do not know of what gotra I am. I asked it to my mother. She said:” I also do not know of what gotra you are. I used to serve many people and I got you in my youth. So I am not sure of what lineage you are. However, I am Jabala by name and you are Satyakama”. Therefore, Sir, I reveal myself to you as Satyakama Jabala.”

Appreciating Satyakama’s honesty and courage to speak the truth, Rishi Gautama smiled and said, ” No one who is not Brahmin can speak thus. Dear boy, bring the sacrificial fuel. I shall initiate you as a Brahmacharin, for you have not deviated from truth.” In that way Satyakama Jabala initiated into the life of a Brahmacharin.

After a few days, Rishi sorted out four hundred lean and weak cows and said to Satyakama, ” Dear boy, take these cows to the forest and graze them.” Satyakama bowed down with submission and while driving the cows said,      ” Sir, I shall not return these cows multiply into a thousand.” Satyakama lived in the forest and looked after the cows. Years went by. The number of cows increased to a thousand. 

The story continues. During the stay in forest, Satyakama got some spiritual knowledge from Four entities. Please read the following paragraphs.

Satyakama with his cows in the forest.

1. Knowledge imparted by the Bull:

[Here Vayu (The Air) represents Bull]

One day in the evening a bull came to Satyakama and said him,” Dear boy! now we are a thousand in number. Take us to the house of Rishi Gautama”.  The Bull said that there are four quarters for “Brahman”(The Supreme). The first quarter(foot) consists of four quarters of Universe. I shall teach you one quarter of the Brahman. It is Prakashavan or the Radiant. He who meditates on this Brahman as the Radiant, becomes Radiant in this world.” Thus having spoken the Bull told Satyakama that Agni, the God of fire, will teach him more later. At dawn, Satyakama drove the cows towards his Guru’s Ashram.

2. Knowledge imparted by the Agni (Fire) :

In the evening when the cows came together, Satyakama kindled a fire there, added fuel to the fire, penned the cows and sat down near them behind the fire, facing east.

Then the Fire addressed him and said: ” Dear Boy, I will teach you the second quarter (foot) of the Brahman. It has four parts. They are: The Earth. The Sky, The Heaven and The Ocean. It is Anantavan or the Endless. One who knows Him (Brahman) to be thus and meditates upon Him as Endless, becomes endless in this world.”  After that the Fire told him that a Swan was going to tell him about the third quarter of the Brahman.

3. Knowledge imparted by the  Swan:

[Here The Swan represents Aditya(SUN)]

At dawn, Satyakama continued to drive the cows towards the Guru’s ashram. Towards evening when the cows came together, he kindled a fire there, added fuel to the fire, penned the cows and sat down near them behind the fire, facing east. All of a sudden a swan came flying and said,” Satyakama! I shall teach you the third quarter of Brahman. The third foot consists of four parts. They are: Fire, Sun, Moon and the lightning. He is called “Jyotishman” or the Effulgent. One who knows him thus and meditates upon him as the Jyotishman, becomes Jyotishman in this world.” Then the swan told him that a “Madgu” (waterfowl, a kind of diver bird) would teach him the last part of the Brahman.

4. Knowledge imparted by the Water-fowl (Madgu) :

[The Water fowl represents Prana (Breath) here]

On the following day, once again, Satyakama drove the cows in the direction of his Guru’s ashram. Towards evening when the cows came together, he kindled a fire there, added fuel to the fire, penned the cows and sat down near them behind the fire there, facing east. Then a water-fowl came before him and said,” Satyakama! I shall teach you the fourth and final part of Brahman which again has four parts. They are: Prana, Eye, Ear and Mind. He is Ayatanavan or the all supporting. One who knows him thus and meditates upon Him as the Ayatanavan (All supporting), becomes that in this world.”

Satyakama returned to Rishi’s Ashram:

When Satyakama reached the Guru’s ashram with the thousand cows, the Guru greeted him, ” O Satyakama” ! Satyakama replied “Yes Lord”.  Guru said, ” Your face shines with the knowledge of Brahman. Who taught you that?”

Satyakama told his Guru, ” Certainly no human being. But will you, O Lord, please teach me now about Brahman, the subject closest to my heart. Sir, I now request you to expound it to me personally. Because  I know that the knowledge received directly from one’s own Guru becomes perfect.”

Then Rishi Haridrumat Gautama, replied, “Brahman is everywhere. Brahman is everything ( Brahmaivedam Sarvam). It has no beginning and no end. ” And Brahman is realized by knowing the Self, which is our True nature.  This is Supreme knowledge known as Brahma Vidya”.

And that is how Satyakama got the full knowledge of Brahman from his Guru and later, he himself became a great teacher of Brahma Vidya .


What is the important message we get through this story?

  • Rishi Haridrumata Gautama ignored the issue of family lineage. That means Rishi did not consider the cast of Satyakama.

  • The eligibility for learning Vedanta philosophy require two important points. One is genuine desire to learn the ultimate truth which is known to be “Brahma Gyan”(Knowledge of Supreme). The other point is freedom from impediments and worthiness to enter the sacred realm. In the case of Satyakama, both were present in Satyakama as was observed by the Rishi.

  • The most important message of this story is the fact that sources other than human can impart knowledge and Wisdom. The teachers of Satyakama were:  The Bull. The Fire, The Swan and The Waterfowl and Rishi Haridrumata Gautama.

Recommended readings:

  1. Back to the Truth: 5000 years of ADVAITA by Dennis Waite.**
  2. THE TEN PRINCIPAL UPANISHADS: Translated by Shree Purohit** Swami and W.B.Yeats
  3. Brahma Sutra Bhasya of Sankaracharya: Translated by Swami Gambhirananda.**
  4. Commentary of ChAndogya Upanishad: By Swami Krishnananda.
  5. ChAndogya Upanishad: By Swami GuruBhaktananda.
  6. EIGHT UPANISADS -VOL-1 with commentary of Sankaracharya, Translated by SWAMI GAMBHIRANANDA.
  7. THE TAITTIRIYA UPANISHAD: SHIKSHAVALLI-ANANDAVALLI-BHRIGUVALLI with Sri Shankara’s Commentary By Sri Swami Satchidanandera Saraswati.
  8. A-U-M Awakening to Reality : By Dennis Waite***
  9. Panchadasi: Swami Vidyaranya: 
  10. Information available on internet.

Useful links:

Links of other posts on Chhandagyo Upanishad are given here. Readers are requested to read those posts one by one. Take time to read and understand the essence.
  1. Essence of Chhandogya Upanishad: Part-1A: First chapter starts and deals with the meditation on OM ” Udgitha Vidya” which has been discussed in my previous blog on ChAndogya Upanishad. The link is here:—
  2. “Panchagni-Vidya” [the doctrine of five fires]: 

It is my sincere request to the esteemed readers to share their opinion or queries if any. Suggestions to make the site attractive will be highly helpful for me. Readers are requested to read all the posts to have continuation of the topic from the beginning. My mail ID is :

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Arun Singha

Retired from AIRPORTS AUTHORITY OF INDIA as Dy. General Manager (CNS).BSc(Mathematics Honors). Age 60years. Studying ancient Indian Philosophy along with modern physics and modern Biology. Follow Dr. Bruce H Lipton, Dr. JOE DISPENJA , Gregg Braden and Swami Sarvapriyananda among others. Writing consolidated articles on Upanishads, Advaita Vedanta and other ancient Indian Texts. Wish to work for the society to help people through personal guidance, motivation. Self has work experience of 36 years in the field of Air Navigation Service at different Airports in India. Gained vast experience in handling man and machine. Would like to reach to the people to share my life experiences, how I had overcome great challenges and difficulties at different times and positions.

15 thoughts on “Story of “Satyakama Jabala””

  1. Sir, It is truly inspiring to glimpse on the vedanta teachings especially the katho Upanishad which is flourishing and no turning back. The introductions of satyakama to the rishi display the interest he carries to learn of this wisdom. And this was possible because satyakama had a jnani behavior and his knowledge is dependent on his past samskara present in mind just before he bowed towards his rishi who tested his caliber. For example we have Sri Ramakrishna and Ramana Maharshi as latest Jnani in modern age. Well is ayatanavan the same chanting verse orated during the mantra pusham in rituals? Verse –

    agnirva apamayatanam, ayatanavan bhavati
    yO-agnerayatanam veda, ayatanavan bhavati
    apo va angerayatanam, ayatanavan bhavati
    ya evam veda, yopamayatanam veda, ayatanavan bhavati!

    I believe that world is full of learning mediums and experiences teaches many things. May be that is why Adi Sankaracharya says ‘Everything is brahman’. Thanks once again for this valuable inputs.

    1. You are also Brahman. Vishnupriya you are also an aspirant. Your lines reflect that.
      I always get highest positive feedback from you. These feedback reminds me of my previous studies or suggest me to read further what you said.
      You have given everything in the context is excellent 👌😌🙏

      1. Sir, I am thankful to the almighty and gain blessings from elder souls like you. You are sharing the Vedanta concepts which is itself a big task and a great social work in my opinion. Thank you. 🙏😌

        1. Thank you so much for your support and encouragement 🤗
          You are reciprocating with appropriate comments/ references in the context of Vedanta Darshan. I am thankful to you for inspiring me. I get strength out of such positive, motivational feedback.
          Stay blessed always 👍😊🙏

    2. Ramana Maharshi and Ramkrishna Paramhans both along with others like Nisargadatta Maharaj and others have shown us the truth. The supreme truth. Thank you so much for your comments 😊🙏

  2. As Haridrumata Gautama said, “No one who is not Brahmin can speak thus.”

    Indeed, a Brahmin is not about one’s birth, but one’s character, deeds and self-realizations, that often extremely simplified as “one who knows Brahman”, one who possesses the Brahma-Gyan.

    It is not caste-system, rather nepotism when one uses birth-right as a proof of being Brahmin, instead of using one’s qualities. Unfortunately, instead of rekindling these values in society, the caste-system has been countered by law with reservation-system.

    1. You are absolutely right. That is why the story highlights that Rishi Gautama, though wanted to know family linage but did not bother about it later on by the reply from the aspirant. It implies that Rishi was satisfied with the true reply from the boy. Brahmin caste is not the criteria. The qualities of the person is the criteria. That is what is visible throughout the Upanishadic teachings. It is the system fault who has developed caste feelings. System is made by the people. You have projected the actuality ” Unfortunately, instead of rekindling these values in society, the caste-system has been countered by law with reservation-system.”
      Birth right is no right in any case. Caste itself is wrong word.
      Thank you so much for highlighting the points.
      Best regards.

      1. In fact, the solution of reservation-by-law, has also created differences and disharmony among people, because it does not employ the ideal solution i.e rectifying the meaning of caste. The knowledge of the Upanishads is needed now more than ever, in order to abolish the low-high meaning and mindset, permanently. After all, this incorrectness of solution exists because it began from an incorrect interpretation by foreign religions – that is caste, instead of varna. So, the natives who would know the language, the philosophy, the culture, are needed to resolve this matter once and for all.

        1. Sampurna Sahamat 👍🙏
          One day will come, when people will understand. Will go beyond this caste system. This reservation system is not correct. It is not solving the problems, but creating more problems.
          Poors and needy people are in all classes. But politics and votebank policies are above all now.
          Thank you so much for projecting the truth.
          Regards 😊🙏

    1. True ☺️
      A lot to learn from this story.
      Rishi Gautama accepted Jabala to give highest teachings proves that the cast was not important to get Brahma Vidya.
      Thank you so much for your valuable comments.
      Stay blessed always 😊

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