Understanding The Learning Process From Satyakama Jabala

Story of Satyakama and Jabala

In the age where education is merely a business, the student-teacher relation is more of a financial transaction where students give money in return teacher gives education. The student sees the teacher as if he is teaching because he is paying, and the teacher looks at students a source of income. In this situation, where and how does the educating process can happen? That is the reason why we see today, students don’t have respect for teachers and the same is with teachers too. So only the divinity and morality in the knowledge transfer process is lost, this is the reason why our present education system is unable to produce students with great character.

This is a  story is from Chhandogya Upanishad that inspired Adi ShankaracharyaJi too.

One fine day Sathyakaama hearing about Rishi Gautama went to his gurukulam and by offering humble pranamas (salutations) to rishi, the boy said, “ Guruvaryaha, with your divine your blessings and by serving you I am very keen to gain the holy knowledge. Please accept me as your student.”  

Then with a smiling face, Gautama asked: “my dear boy, may I know your gotra(lineage)?”.

Satyakama replied “Guruji, I don’t know my gotra I will ask my mother and come back

Satyakama went to Jabala and asked her “Oh! mother can you please let me know to which gotra I belong to

With a sorrow face, the mother Jabala said: “My dear son, my life was spent serving many guests at home was very busy, so I don’t gotra of your father. Now he is no more. So, I do not know it. All I know is I am Jabala and you are my son Satyakama. So, call yourself Satyakama -Jabala.”

With so much excitement Satyakama ran back to Gautama Rishi and conveyed pranams to rishi and conveyed the information his mother said and said, “I am Satyakama and I belong to Jabala”.

On hearing it, the Rishi smiled and said: “The true eligibility to gain knowledge is being truthful.  I appreciate you my boy being truthful. I will initiate you into brahmacharya and accept you as my student.”  As a ritual, Gautama did Upanayana samaskara(ritual) to the Satyakama (giving the sacred thread and the Gayatri Mantra) and accepted him as his student.

Knowledge is power and it brings great responsibility with it if given to a wrong person can harm the society. So, in gurukula system teachers won’t just like that transfer the knowledge as student requested. Instead, they used to test the student’s eligibility only upon proving eligibility, the student is blessed with knowledge. So,  Gautama too wanted to check the eligibility of Satyakama.

As a part of it, one fine day Gautama asked the boy “take four hundred thin and weak cows for grazing into forest and come back when they become strong and grow in number”.  Humbly obeying his guru orders, Sathyakama said: “Guruvaryaha, I will come back to ashram only when these become healthy and multiply into a thousand.” By taking Gautama blessings Satyakama left ashram.

Satyakama constructed a hermitage for him and cows and looked after the cows for years by strictly following the duties adhered to him by his father. As he promised, cows became healthy, strong and even multiplied in number.  All these years, the boy with great respect and divinity has been doing all the duties suggested by guru without fail and every minute his heart is deeply passionate for the eternal knowledge.

One fine day a bull said to the boy: “Hey Satyakama! How many days you keep grazing these cows, is it all? As you promised cows to have grown into thousands, take all of them back to guru and I will teach you about ‘one- fourth’ knowledge called Prakasavan and the god of Fire Agni will teach you more”. And the bull taught him as promised.

On his journey back to Gautama ashram, as it was night, he halted at one place and lit fire for warmth. There appeared the God of fire Agni and said: “My dear boy, I am here to teach you another quarter about eternal knowledge called Anantavan.”

One evening, when Satyakama was sitting beside a lake surprisingly a swan came and said, “Hey Satyakama! I am here to teach you the third quarter of knowledge called Jyotishman.”

One day when he was sitting under a peepal tree, a diver bird came and said, “Oh Satyakama! I am here to teach you the last quarter knowledge called “Ayatanavan.”

(Here these four teachers symbolize the Vayu, Agni, Āditya and Prāṇa, the elements that form the life on this earth.)

After Satyakama returned to ashram with, Gautama delightfully with lot of affection looking at the boy said “my dear son, I see that your face is shiny with Brahma Jnana- the eternal knowledge. May I know how you gained this eternal knowledge?

By humbly falling on his guru feet and offered pranams to his guru Gautama and explained him what all happened and who all taught him. After explaining everything, the boy with an intense desire to gain knowledge, obediently and devotedly Satyakama prayed to his guru “Guruji, I am keen to learn the eternal knowledge, Brahmajanana. Please bless me with the knowledge, without this I am incomplete and imperfect.”

Hearing upon intense whole-hearted request of Satyakama and deeply moved by his student quest for knowledge, Gautama with a gentle smile and happy heart blessed the boy and replied,” my dear boy! You are already initiated with the true knowledge of Brahma Jnana (eternal knowledge), not much is there for me to teach you and all I need to do is just add a little”

Finally, Satyakama became a great sage…

This was the beauty of the relation between A Teacher and a Student which is missing nowadays! A teacher would be aware of his responsibility in molding a kid into a worthy human being. The student was aware of the necessity to serve his teacher to earn knowledge. It is not the teacher who has to serve his student, it’s the student who must serve his teacher to receive knowledge from him! Even a prince had to do the same in the gurukul. No special treatment or knowledge was imparted to a student, whoever may it be and how much ever money he or she might be willing to pay!

Only a worthy, humble student would receive his teacher’s blessings in the form of knowledge. Students were carefully selected by a teacher and taught what they would really deserve

By serving the Guru faithfully one gets real knowledge:

अज्ञान तिमिरान्धस्य ज्ञानाञ्जन शलाकया ।  चक्षुरुन्मीलितं येन तस्मै श्री गुरवे नमः ॥ 

I salute to the Guru (teacher) who opened my eyes filled with the darkness of ignorance, with knowledge!

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