The Chhandogya Upanishad (excerpt)
translation from Sanskrit by Eknath Easwaran
The Story of Satyakama is one of the most famous stories of the Upanishads. Satyakama, a boy of low descend seeks a master. The master accepts him and gives him a difficult task that lasts for years.
4.1 “Mother,” Satyakama said’ “I feel the time has come for me to go to the home of a spiritual teacher. From whom does our family come, so that I may tell him when he asks my lineage?”
4.2 “I do not know, dear;” she replied. “You were born when I was young and going from place to place as a servant. Your name is Satyakama and my name is Jabala; why not call yourself Satyakama Jabala?”
4.3 Satyakama went to Haridrumata Gautama and said to him, “Sir, I want to become your disciple.”
4.4 “What family are you from, bright one?”
“Sir, I don’t know. My mother says she bore me in her youth and doesn’t know my ancestry. She says that since my name is Satyakama and hers is Jabala I should call myself Satyakama Jabala.”
4.5 “None but a true brahmin could have said that. Fetch the firewood, my boy; I will initiate you. You have not flinched from the truth.” He selected four hundred lean and sickly cows and gave them to Satyakama to care for. “l shall not return; the boy said to himself’ “until they become a thousand.”
5.1 For years Satyakama dwelt in the forest, tending the herd. Then one day the bull of the herd said to him: “Satyakama!” “Sir?” he replied. “We have become a thousand. Let us now rejoin our teacher’s family,
5.2 and I will tell you one of the four feet of Brahman.” “Please tell me, revered sir,” the boy said.
“There are four quarters: east, west, south, and north. This is one foot of Brahman, called the Shining. To meditate on these four is to become full of light and master the resplendent regions of the cosmos, knowing this portion of the truth.
6.1 Agni, fire, will tell you more.” The next day Satyakama set out for his teacher’s house with the herd. Toward evening he made a fire’ penned the cows’ and sat by the fire facing east.
6.2 The fire spoke: “Satyakama!” “Sir?”
6.3 “Friend, I can teach you another foot of Brahman.” “Please do, revered sir.”
“There are four quarters: earth, sky, heaven, and ocean. This is one foot of Brahman, called Without End. Know this, meditate on this reality, and your life will be without end on this earth.
7.1 A swan will tell you more.” The next day Satyakama drove the cows onward. Toward evening he lit a fire, penned the cows, and sat by the fire facing east.
7.2 Then a swan flew near and said: “Satyakama!” “Sir?”
7.3 “Friend, I can teach you another foot of Brahman.” “Please do, revered sir.”
“There are four quarters: fire, the sun, the moon, and lightning. These make one foot of Brahman, called Full of Light.
7.4 To meditate on this fourfold foot of truth is to be filled with light in this world and master the world of light.
8.1 A diver bird will tell you more.” The next day Satyakama drove the cows onward. Toward evening he lit a fire, penned the cows, and sat by the fire facing east.
8.2 Then a diver bird flew near and spoke to him: “Satyakama!” “Sir?”
8.3 “Friend, I can teach you another foot of Brahman.” “Please do, revered sir.”
“There are four parts: breath, eye, ear, and mind. This is one foot of Brahman, called Established.
8.4 To meditate on this fourfold foot of Brahman is to be at home in this world and master space. Whoever knows this fourfold foot of Brahman is called established.”
9.1 So Satyakama returned to his teacher’s home. “Satyakama,” his teacher called,
9.2 “you glow like one who has known the truth. Tell me, who has taught you?”
Satyakama replied, “No human, sir. But I wish to hear the truth from you alone.
9.3 For I have heard that only the teacher’s wisdom comes to fruition for us.”
Then his teacher taught Satyakama that same wisdom. Nothing was left out from it; nothing was left out.