The Story of Satyakama Jabala in the Chhandogya Upanishad, Part 3: The Realization

After a number of years tending the herd of cows, Satyakama was approached by a bull who indicated to him that the herd had now reached the required number of 1000 cows.  The bull then gave a teaching to Satyakama, followed by teachings from Agni, a Swan and from a “Water Bird”.  All of these are symbolic and all relate to a power of being.  The bull represents Indra, whom Sri Aurobindo calls the lord of Mind.  Agni, the “knower of all things born” represents the physical plane as its sovereign.  The Swan, or hamsa, is the symbol of the Sun, or supreme soul embodied in the world.  The “water bird” represents prana, the life-energy.  These four represent the “fourfold perfection” which we described previously.

Sri T.V. Kapaly Sastry, in Lights on the Upanishads, (pp. 48-50)  comments:  “They, each in his special line, offered to teach and taught him several aspects of Brahman; indeed, he learnt the truths by their grace, received the knowledge so well that when the teacher saw him later, his very person bespoke the light of Brahmic wisdom housed in it.  Joyous, the guru at the request of the disciple bestowed on him the blessings of the final touch for consummation, as if out of regard for the tradition that effective knowledge is usually propagated by the teacher to the disciple….  Satyakama in due course became an adept in his turn and specialised in more than one method of approach to the knowledge of Brahman.”

“The Gods of the Vedic pantheon — Agni, Vayu, Indra, Surya — are frequently mentioned as having a double function as nature-powers in the universe, … and as the lords of the senses, life, mind and other instruments of the soul within us …. Also we must not miss the significance of Satyakama receiving help from the Gods for Brahmavidya while he was under the care of the Guru for that very purpose.. ”

“In the Upanishads the gods are taken for forms of worship of Brahman, to meditate upon.”

We see in the story of Satyakama, the combination of an individual devoted to learning and embodying the highest principles of existence, someone who was dedicated to truth and who carefully followed the path laid out for a disciple to be accepted and receive the deepest esoteric teachings that lead to the realization of Brahman.  At all times he focused on the assigned task with concentration and perseverance, regardless of the obstacles or difficulties or time involved.  At the same time, he was under the guidance of his Guru, even though physically separated, carrying out the task that the Guru had set for him as his path of learning.  This was not a traditional path of instruction, but a practical one that forced Satyakama to find Brahman while remaining entirely involved in the issues of the manifested world.  He needed to understand the identity of the transcendent Brahman and the manifestation in the world.  As he continued his sadhana, he eventually recognised this truth and was thereby able to receive the teachings from the powers that preside over the different planes of existence that make up the world-creation, the powers of mind, life, body and soul.  He was not asked to abandon life, but to learn how to fulfill life in an integral and complete way, challenging his own mind, life and body to attain their perfection under the guidance of his dedicated soul.


Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Chhandogya Upanishad, pp.349-366

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