I would love to tell you a story. It needs to be told thousands and thousands of times because each time you will find some new fragrance, some new sweetness, some new height, some new door opening, some new sky with new stars. And there are skies beyond skies.
I used to live in a place…I lived there for twenty years, in Jabalpur. Its ancient name was Jabalpur; it was named after a great mystic and seer of the Upanishads, Satyakam Jabal. And this story is concerned with Satyakam Jabal.
Satyakam was a very inquiring child. He did not believe in anything unless he had experienced it. As he became a young man — he must have been near about the age of twelve — he asked his mother: “Now it is time. The prince of the kingdom has gone to the forest to join the family of a seer. He is my age. I also want to go, I also want to learn what this life is all about.”
The mother said: “It is very difficult, Satyakam, but I know that you are a born seeker. I was afraid that one day you would ask me to send you to a master. I am a poor woman, but that is not a great difficulty. The difficulty is that when I was young I served in many houses — I was poor, but I was beautiful. I don’t know who your father is. And if I send you to a master, you are going to be asked what the name of your father is. And I am afraid they may reject you.
But there is no harm in making an effort. You go and tell the truth, in the same way I have told the truth to you. Many men have used my body because I was poor. Just say that you don’t know who your father is. Tell the master that your name is Satyakam, your mother’s name is Jabala, so they can call you Satyakam Jabal. And as far as the search for the truth is concerned, who your father is does not matter.”
Satyakam went to an ancient seer in the forest, and sure enough the first question was: “What is your name? Who is your father?”
And he repeated exactly what his mother had said.
There were many disciples — princes, rich people’s sons. They all started laughing.
But the old master said: “I will accept you. It does not matter who your father is. What matters is that you are authentic, sincere, unafraid — capable of saying the truth without feeling embarrassed. Your mother has given you the right name, Satyakam. ‘Satyakam’ means one whose only desire is truth. You have a beautiful mother, and you will be known as ‘Satyakam Jabal’. And the tradition is that only brahmins can be accepted as disciples. I declare you a brahmin — because only a brahmin can have the courage of such truth.”
Those were beautiful days. The old seer’s name was Uddalak.
Satyakam became his most loved disciple. He deserved it, he was so pure and so innocent.
But Uddalak had his own limitations. Although he was a man of great learning, he was not an enlightened master. So he taught Satyakam all the scriptures, he taught him everything that he was capable of, but he could not deceive Satyakam as he had been deceiving everybody else. Not that Satyakam was raising any doubts; it was just that his innocence had such power that the old man had to confess: “Whatever I have been telling you is knowledge gathered from the scriptures. It is not my own. I have not experienced it, I have not lived it. I suggest that you go deeper into the forest. I know a man who has realized, who has become an embodiment of truth, love, compassion. You go to him.”
Uddalak had heard about the man, but did not know the man personally. Uddalak was far more famous, he was a great scholar….
Satyakam went to the other man. This man taught him many new scriptures, and all the Vedas, the most ancient scriptures of the world. And after years he told him: “Now you know everything; there is nothing more to know. You can go back home.”
First he went to see Uddalak. From his window, Uddalak saw Satyakam coming on the footpath through the forest. He was shocked. Satyakam’s innocence was lost; in place of innocence there was pride — naturally, because now he thought he knew everything in the world that is worth knowing. The very idea was so ego fulfilling.
He came in. As he started to touch the feet of Uddalak, Uddalak said: “Don’t touch my feet! First, I want to know where you have lost your innocence. It seems I have sent you to the wrong man.”
Satyakam said: “To the wrong man? He has taught me everything that is worth knowing.”
Uddalak said: “Before you touch my feet, I would like to ask you — have you experienced anything or it is just information? Has any transformation happened? Can you say that whatever you know is your knowledge?”
Satyakam said: “I cannot say that. What I know is written in the scriptures; I have not experienced anything.”
Uddalak said: “Then go back, but now go to another person I have come to know about while you were gone. And unless you have experienced, don’t come back. You have come here not more than when I sent you but less. You have lost something of immense value.
And what you call knowledge — if it is borrowed, it only covers your ignorance; it does not make you a knower. Go to this man and tell him that you have not come for more information about truth, about God, about love. Tell him you have come to know truth, to know love, to know God. Tell him: ‘If you can fulfill the promise, only then waste my time; otherwise I will find another master.’”
Satyakam said exactly this.
The master was sitting under a tree with a few of his disciples.
After listening to the request, he said: “It is possible, but you are asking something very difficult. There are so many disciples here — they all want more knowledge. They want to know about and about. But if you insist that you are not interested in information, that you are ready to do anything, that your devotion to truth is total, then I will find a way for you.”
Satyakam said: “I am ready to sacrifice my life, but I cannot go without knowing the truth. Neither can I go to my teacher, nor can I go to my mother, who has given me the name ‘Satyakam’. And the teacher accepted me without knowing whether I was a brahmin or not, just on the simple grounds that I was truthful. Tell me what has to be done.”
The master said: “Take all these cows that you see here deep into the forest. Go as deep as possible, so you don’t come in contact again with any human being. The purpose is that you forget language, words. Live with the cows, take care of the cows, play on your flute, dance — but forget words. And when the cows have grown to one thousand, come back.”
The other disciples could not believe what was happening — because there were just a dozen or two dozen cows. How long is it going to take for them to become one thousand?
But Satyakam took the cows, went as deep as possible into the forest, beyond human contact, beyond human context. For a few days it was difficult but slowly slowly, the cows were his only company. And they are very silent people. He played on the flute, he danced alone in the forest, he rested under the trees.
For a few years he continued to count the cows. Then by and by he dropped it, because it seemed impossible that they would become one thousand. And moreover he was forgetting how to count; language was disappearing. Words disappeared; counting could not be saved. And the story is so immensely beautiful….
The cows became worried when they became one thousand — because they wanted to go back home, and this man had forgotten how to count! Finally the cows decided: “We have to speak; otherwise this lonely forest is going to become our grave.”
So one day the cows caught hold of him and told him: “Listen, Satyakam, we are now one thousand and it is time to go back home.”
He said: “I am very grateful to you. If you had not told me…. I had even forgotten about home or about returning. Each moment was so tremendously beautiful…so many blessings. In the silence, flowers went on showering. I had forgotten everything. I had no idea why I had come here, who I am. Everything had become an end in itself — playing the flute was enough, resting under the trees was enough, seeing the beautiful cows sitting silently all around was so beautiful. But if you insist, we should return.”
The disciples of the great master saw him coming with one thousand cows.
They reported to the master: “We had never believed that he would come back. He is coming, and we have counted exactly one thousand cows. He is coming!”
And when he came, he stood there…just in the crowd of cows.
The master said to the other disciples: “You counted wrong. There are one thousand and one cows; you forgot to count Satyakam! He has moved beyond your world, he has entered into the innocent, the silent, the mysterious. He is not saying anything, he is just standing there as the cows are standing there.”
The master said: “Satyakam, you come out. Now you have to go to your other master who sent you here. He is an old man and he must be waiting. Your mother must be waiting.”
And when Satyakam came to Uddalak, his first teacher — who had not allowed him to touch his feet because he had lost his innocence, he was no more a brahmin, he had fallen, he had become just a knowledgeable parrot…. As Uddalak saw him from the window again, he ran out the back door — because now Satyakam cannot be allowed to touch his feet; now Uddalak would have to touch his feet. Because Uddalak is still a scholar, and Satyakam is coming not as a scholar but as one who is awakened.
Uddalak escaped from the house: “I cannot face him. I am ashamed of myself. Just tell him,” he told his wife, “that Uddalak is dead and he can go now to his mother. Tell him I died remembering him.” These were people made of different mettle.
Satyakam went back home.
The mother had become very old, but she had waited and waited and waited. And she said: “You have proved, Satyakam, that truth is always victorious. And you have proved that a brahmin is not born, a brahmin is a quality to be achieved. Everybody by his birth is a sudra — because everybody’s birth is the same. One has to prove by purifying himself, by crystallizing himself, by becoming centered and enlightened, that he is a brahmin. Just to be born into the family of a brahmin does not make you a brahmin.”
If you meditate on the story, you will see: the very essence of meditation is to be so silent that there is no stirring of thoughts in you, that words don’t come between you and reality, that the whole net of words falls down, that you are left alone. This aloneness, this purity, this unclouded sky of your being is meditation.
And meditation is the golden key to all the mysteries of life.