0ur- ancient system of Education was completely
different from the modern one. Students in those
days had their education in Ashramas. They used
to sit and study under the trees or in huts. The
teacher allowed them to study till he was completely
satisfied with the knowledge gained by them. Only
then did he allow the students to go home and live
the life of householders.
Gautam Rishi was teaching some students in his
Ashrama. One day a boy came there and saluted
the Rishi by prostrating before him. In Sanskrit
such prostration is called Sashtang Dandvat Pranama.
He lay there like a stick, with his face down
both hands folded saluting the teacher. This was the
mode of saluting the teacher in ancient India. The
boy appeared healthy and cheerful. He attracted the
attention of the students present there. With folded
hands he said to Gautam Rishi: "Sire, I have come
here to learn. Please accept me as your student. I will
follow your advice faithfully.' When they heard this.
the other students became surprised and some even
laughed, because he was the only boy who had come
to the Ashrama without being escorted by his parents.
Other students had been brought by their parents.
Moreover, the newcomer displayed no signs of be-
longing to a rich and prosperous family. He was
poorly dressed, though physically he appeared healthy,
and mentally keen and alert. The students of the
Ashrama thought: Here is a boy of ten years, but
without the sacred thread around his neck, or the
deer-skin on his shoulder. Either something is wrong
with his family or something is wrong with him.'
Soon some students began to make fun of him, but
Gautam Rishi gave a stern look at the boys in order
to rebuke them. Turning to the newcomer the Rishi
said : "Young one, you have done a good thing by
coming here in search of knowledge. Tell me, where
is your father? To which family do you belong? I will
certainly give you as much knowledge as you can
In reply the boy said humbly : "Sire, I
have not seen my father and I do not even know
his name; I will ask my mother and only then can
I tell you my father's name." Hearing the boy's
answer, the other students began to laugh. They
said among themselves: "Look here! There are
people who do not even know their parents' name.
He is one of them. Still they come here to learn
spiritual knowledge." Presently, one boy stood up
and asked the teacher: "Sire, can anyone who does
not even know the name of his father also learn
here?" The teacher replied: "For one without a father I act as one, and he may get all sorts of knowledge
without any hesitation in my Ashrama."
Gautam Rishi then said to the boy: "You
should go and get from your mother the name of
your father and also your surname. Indeed these
particulars are needed for performing your thread
ceremony. Go to your mother just now and return
by tomorrow morning; for tomorrow is a good day
for the thread ceremony." The boy saluted the teacher
and the students, and hurried off to his mother to get
his father's name.
The next morning the boy came back to the
Ashrama when the teacher was taking the class. He
saluted the teacher and stood in one corner. Gautam
Rishi bade him sit down and said : "Did you ask
your mother the name of your father and your surname?" The boy stood up and replied: "Yes, Sir,
I asked my mother. She said that she did not know
my father's name either. In her youth she was serving ^
the sages and saints when she conceived. She confessed she did not know the name and surname of the
man whose child she bore. She wanted me to tell you
this. If by mother's name anything could be done,
she asked me to tell you that her name is 'Jabala'
This is all that my mother told me. Now what is
more, dear sir, I am prepared to follow your advice."
The students were surprised on hearing the words of
Gautam Rishi said: "My dear boy! I am extremely pleased with you. This is the first opportunity in
my life to meet a boy like you. My heart is full of
joy. From today, I am both your father and teacher.
Now you do not have to say that you do not know
your father's name. I believe my Ashrama will
become brighter by your presence. I am naming
you Satyakam Jabala, and I will teach you all that
you are capable of learning on the spiritual path."
The teacher then explained to the other students:
"Today I will make him my disciple by performing the thread ceremony. I want all of you to go and collect the essential things for the ceremony."
At the appointed holy hour the thread ceremony
was performed, with the Rishi's wife putting the sacred
thread around the boy's neck, and Gautam Rishi accepting Satyakam as his disciple.
Only four days had passed after Satyakam started
living in the Ashrama. He soon won the affection of
all, by his pleasing behaviour and gentle manners- The
teacher had come to know, by this time. that he was
the only student who could do something worthwhile.
Therefore, one day he called all the students together
and said to Satyakam : "Satyakam, today I shall
give you some very simple and easy work which is
going to take you away from this place." Actually
it was a very difficult task that the teacher had
thought of, but he wanted to let the other students
know that they were not prepared for it. Therefore, he
described it as a simple task.
"Respected Sir, I am always ready to go wherever you
want to send me, and do whatever you want me to
do. It is my great fortune to have the opportunity
of receiving your order."
Gautam Rishi continued:
"My dear Satyakam! As you know, at present there is hardly any grass available in this place for our
cows. Our cows are day by day becoming weaker
and weaker. So, I have decided that you should take
four hundred cows from here and move them some-
where else in the forest where grass and water are
available in plenty. When these cows multiply and
become one thousand, you should bring them back to
the Ashrama. I think only you can accomplish this
task. What do you think? Let me know."
Satyakam humbly replied : "Sir. I am indeed
fortunate to get the opportunity to receive your
order. But I still feel a little uneasy that you should
doubt my loyalty."
Another student interrupted :
"Sir, Satyakam is a very small boy. How can he
control four hundred cows?" At this another student
got up and said: "Sir, our cows are very trouble-
some. Satyakam alone will not be able to control
them. He requires the assistance of a few friends.
Besides there are wild animals which may attack our
cows. Kindly let more students go with him."
But Satyakam answered: "My dear friends, I have such power that none can disturb me. By the grace of God and blessings of Gautam Rishi, all
troubles will disappear and the wild animals will turn
into friends of our cows. I think, fear is only in
one's mind. If you want to run. then fear will follow
you, and if you are prepared to suffer, then fear will
not be there."
Hearing the courageous words of Satyakam,
Gautam Rishi was very pleased and praised the
enthusiasm of the young disciple, saying : "Whatever
you say, Satyakam, is absolutely correct. I am sure
you will be able to serve our cows and there will be
no difficulty." Satyakam bowed at the feet of
Rishi Gautam; after that he touched the feet of
Cautam's wife and took from her some food to be
had on the way. Then bidding goodbye to his
fellow-students, he set out with four hundred cows
in search of green pastures.
Here was a quest, a wandering, with no other
purpose than that of saving the dumb animals from
starvation and slow death. All that Satyakam needed
was ample grass and plenty of water anywhere under
the benevolent blue sky. Nothing would please him
more than seeing his cows well-fed and contented.
This became his prayer as the herd moved on;
sometimes he would walk in front of the herd,
sometimes he would be seen in he rear: four hundred cows and one young boy, out to seek the
bounty of Mother Nature to whom no child is
unwanted — neither quadruped, nor biped.
As if Mother Nature smiled on them, Satyakam
soon came to a place where grass and water were
available in plenty. He decided to stay with his
four hundred friends- As the cows began grazing
Satyakam busied himself in building a hut for him-
self where he could pray and meditate.
Now Satyakam was fully absorbed in the service
of the cows. He was so busy that he did not even
notice when the day began and the night ended. His
whole aim was to keep the cows in a state of contentment in all possible ways. If some cows fell ill Satyakam was very upset. He took all the
blame on himself. He thought: ‘Is it because
of my carelessness? Otherwise, how could my cows
fall ill?' And he did not forget to pray to God: '0
God! You should punish me alone; whatever illness
you want to give, I am prepared to undergo it. But
you should not make my cows ill. They are innocent animals; they do not know how to express their pain. 0 my supreme God! Kindly make my cows
healthy.’ Satyakam's prayers were answered, and
the sick cows soon became healthy, and the colony
of cows flourished. Their number too increased.
Many years passed and the number of cows increased to over one thousand, but Satyakam did not notice it, as he was totally absorbed in their service-
One day when he was performing his spiritual
practices, in the morning, he heard a human voice
nearby, and was startled. When he turned towards
the cows, he saw a bull who was the leader of the
cows calling Satyakam in words like a human being. Satyakam folded his hands in salutation and said:
‘0 my Lord, what is your order? What can I do
for you? Order me, and I will obey."
The leader of the cows said: "0 Satyakam! As
you know I am the Lord of cows, I am pleased
with your service and sacrifice. I have come here
to teach you spiritual knowledge. By my blessings
you will obtain all branches of knowledge which none
else can get, even after several years of penance. You
do not know that your cows have become more than
one thousand. Take them to your teacher, Gautam
Rishi, as he will be happy to receive you." After saying these words the Lord of the cows disappeared.
Now Satyakam remembered the words of Gautam
Rishi about returning to the Ashrama. He
gathered his cows and proceeded to the Ashrama,
which he reached before sunset. When Gautam
Rishi and the Ashrama students saw Satyakam with
the large number of cows, they were very pleased.
Gautam Rishi welcomed him saying: "Satyakam, I
am so happy to have you amidst us in the Ashrama.
I am sure our cows are now more than one thousand.
I think you have met some sage there who has taught
you spiritual knowledge." In humble words Satyakam
replied: "Sir, one day before coming here, the Lord
of the cows blessed me and assured me of his guidance
in he matter of spiritual knowlege. He said he was
pleased with my service and sacrifice for the cows."
Hearing these words Gautam Rishi said: 'My dear boy, by your truthfulness and sacrifice, you
succeeded in your work, and the Lord of the cows
was pleased to bless you. I am doubly pleased that
you are a student of my Ashrama." Satyakam reverentially touched the feet of Gautam and said that it was all due to the Rishi's kind grace without
which nothing was possible.
Gautam Rishi assured
him that whatever he needed to learn of the spiritual
path, he had already learnt, and added: "Now you
should go home. Your mother has been waiting for
you for several years. Live like a householder."
Satyakam once again saluted Gautam Rishi and taking leave of him, walked out of the Ashrama.
Thus we see in the story of Satyakam, that no work is too lowly if the aim is spiritual progress.
What would appear to most of us as a drab and
uninteresting task, like tending cows, yielded
rich dividends to young Satyakam. This only shows
that in the great scheme of things—which we call the
Universe — with life pulsating in all beings, each
and every bit of work is equally important, just as
each and every brick is essential for the existence of
a building. When the work is done with a sense of
dedication, what a difference it creates! In fact, it
no longer is work, but transforms itself into worship.