[Advaita-l] SatyamkAma jAbAlah

Siva Senani Nori sivasenani at yahoo.com
Mon Apr 17 03:27:41 CDT 2006

While resonding to the thread 'Women and Vedas', I had cited the example of SatyakAma jAbAli, to which
  Sri Jaldhar Vyas responded thus:

  > Incidently, the story of Satyakama does not prove what people think it
> proves.

  which in turn elicited this response from Sri Aditya Varun Chadha:
  >> Incidentally, your stating that you think you know what people think
>> it proves does not show that you really know what people think it
>> proves. maybe you can elaborate at your convenience.
  While the point made by Sri Chadha is clear enough, Sri Vyas's mails are normally so knowledgeable that it is difficult to believe that he would make a comment flippantly. I decided to check out a) what the story actually is, and b) whether it matches with I thought it is supposed to prove.
  Before reproducing the story (texts, commentary, references and all that) - the result of the checking out is: I always thought that the story proves that if one is dedicated to Truth, that is sufficient for initiation. What it actually means is more nuanced. The very fact that a person is dedicated to Truth is proof of the person's brAhmaNa origin (Sri Sankara's words: Rijavo hi brAhmANa na itare svabhAvatah), and hence the eligibility of such a person for initiation. In the context of the discussion, this is a significant difference, and in that sense Sri Vyas was right: it doesn't, in orthodox explanation, prove what at least I thought it proved. 
  Now, for those interested, the context, the references etc. -----------------------------
  This occurs in IV.4.1 to IV.4.5 of ChAndogya-upanishat. The English translation of the same by Max Muller is:
  1. SatyakAma, the son of JabAlA, addressed his mother and said: 'I wish to become a BrahmachArin (religious student), mother. Of what family am I?'
  2. She said to him: 'I do not know, my child, of what family thou art. In my youth when I had to move about much as a servant (waiting on the guests in my father's house), I conceived thee. I do not know of what family thou art. I am JabAlA by name, thou art SatyakAma (Philalethes). Say that thou art SatyakAma JAbAlA.'
  3. He going to Gautama HAridrumata said to him, 'I wish to become a brahmachAârin with you, Sir. May I come to you, Sir?'
  4. He said to him: 'Of what family are you, my friend?' He replied: 'I do not know, Sir, of what family I am. I asked my mother, and she answered: "In my youth when I had to move about much as a servant, I conceived thee. I do not know of what family thou art. I am JabAlA by name, thou art SatyakAma," I am therefore SatyakAma JAbAlA, Sir.'
  5. He said to him: 'No one but a true BrAhmaNa would thus speak out. Go and fetch fuel, friend, I shall initiate you. You have not swerved from the truth.'
  The orignial text of the fifth mantra (first fragment, relevant to us here) is: tam hovAca na etad abrAhmaNo vivaktum arhati. 
  Sri Sankara's commentary on the same is (available at http://www.sankara.iitk.ac.in/upnishad.php3?toption=13): 
  tam ha uvAca Gautamah -- na etad vacah abrAhmaNo viSesheNa vaktum arhati. ArjavArthasamyuktam. Rijavo hi brAhmANa na itare svabhAvatah. yasmAnna satyAt brAhmaNajAtidharmAt agAh nApetavAnasi. atah brAhmaNam tvAm upaneshye.

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