Sincerity pays1

A young boy named Satyakama came to a venerable sage named Gautama for initiation. In those days, in order to be initiated one had to be a Brahmin, a member of the highest caste. Most of the Brahmin sages would not accept, as a rule, any aspirants from the lower castes.

Gautama asked the boy, “What is your full name?”

“My name is Satyakama. I do not know my family name.”

Gautama said, “My boy, go home, ask your mother and come back tomorrow. I have to know your full name; otherwise I cannot accept you as a disciple of mine.”

So Satyakama went back and asked his mother, “Mother, tell me, what is my family name?”

His mother said, "My child, I do not know your family name. I do not know who your father was. In my youth I used to work at various places and I had to mix with many people. There were many men. I do not know who your father was. But you can tell your teacher that your name is Satyakama Jabala. My name is Jabala, so you use my name as your family name. Satyakama Jabala.”

The following day the young boy went to his teacher and said, “My mother has told me that she does not know what my family name is. When she was young she used to work at various places and she does not know actually who my father was. Jabala is her name, my mother’s name. She asked me to tell you that my full name is Satyakama Jabala.”

The sage, Gautama, was overwhelmed with inner joy to see sincerity in its purest form. He said, “My child, I accept you as my dearest disciple. Your mother is sincere. You are sincere. I accept you. Now just bring me a little fuel and I will initiate you.” (In India this is our custom: the initiate brings dry wood and then only the teacher initiates him. He lights a fire and then initiation takes place.) So Gautama initiated Satyakama.

Now after Satyakama was initiated, Gautama gave him four hundred cows; they were weak, sickly, nearly dead cows. He said, “My boy, take these cows to the distant forest and take good care of them.”

Satyakama made an immediate vow to the Guru. “My Guru, I shall come back only when I can bring you a herd of one thousand.”

He went into the deep forest with his four hundred cows and started feeding them. Days ran into weeks, weeks into months, months into years.

One day the mightiest of the bulls came toward and said, “Have you forgotten your promise? You told your Master that you would return when you had one thousand cows. Now we are one thousand in number.” The God of the Wind, Vayu, had entered into that particular bull and had spoken in human language.

Satyakama counted the cows and there were actually one thousand.

Then the God of the Wind said, “I have something to offer you. I want to tell you something about Brahman, the Absolute. Brahman has four feet. I will tell you about one foot. East, West, North, South: these cardinal points constitute one foot of Brahman. Tomorrow the God of Fire, Agni, will tell you about the second foot of Brahman.”

The following day, when evening set in, Satyakama lighted a fire and started to meditate. From the fire a voice said, “I have come to teach you about the second foot of Brahman. Earth, air and water form the second foot of Brahman. Tomorrow you will know about the third foot from a swan.”

The following evening, while Satyakama was meditating on God, a swan appeared before him and said, “This fire that you have right in front of you and the setting sun and the moon and the lightning, these things form the third foot of Brahman. You will learn about the fourth foot from a loon.”

The following day a loon appeared and said to Satyakama, “I have come to teach you about the fourth foot of Brahman. Life energy, the mind and the senses, these constitute the fourth foot of Brahman.”

Satyakama had learned about the four feet of Brahman. He returned to his Master’s place with enormous joy, within and without. His face was shining with supernal joy. When he came in, Gautama asked, “My son, what makes you so happy? Your whole face is flooded with divine joy. What has happened to you? Has anybody instructed you?”

“Yes, my Lord,” he said and narrated the whole story about how the God of the Wind, the God of Fire, the Swan and the Loon came, one by one, to instruct him. Gautama was extremely pleased with Satyakama.

Then Satyakama said to Gautama, “Master, it is true that they have taught me, but you know that the scriptures say that unless you learn the truth from your Master, the truth is not complete. They came to me and I learned from them, but I know that my true realisation will come only from you. Only when you teach me will I have my realisation, not before.”

Gautama was exceedingly pleased with Satyakama. He said, “Liberation is granted. From now on enjoy freedom boundless.”

“It is absolutely true that truth is spoken by many. Truth is offered to an individual by many. But when the same truth is offered to the seeker by the Master, only then does it bear fruit.”

Look at Satyakama’s sincerity. First he was sincere about his father. He did not know whose son he was. Then he received lessons from other spiritual masters — let us call them masters — but he admitted this. Some disciples may not tell their masters, but they do go to other spiritual places and teachers. They do not tell because they feel that they will be exposed and others will look down upon them. That is why they hide this. But Satyakama’s sincerity was exemplary. He took lessons from them and he spoke to his Master about the wisdom that he had received. Finally, he knew the truth that only his Master could give him the real knowledge, the knowledge supreme. Who has the authority to do this? He who has realised the Truth has the authority. A thief can tell you not to steal; a liar can tell you not to tell lies. But when a thief asks you not to steal, he will not be able to inspire you. When a liar asks you not to tell lies, his words will never inspire you. But when a Master, one who has reached the highest, tells you to tell the truth and be honest, then immediately he inspires you with his inner power. He energises your inner strength. Not what is said, but who says it is of real importance. The Master has the capacity to make you do what the Supreme Lord wants you to do.


  1. AUM 758. from the Chandogya Upanishad