Gautama, the son of the sage Haridruman, was a celebrated rishi of the Vedic age. He was well versed in the Vedic lore and had many students in his tapovana, or forest retreat.
A young boy named Satyakama once expressed a desire to his mother, Jabala, to go to Gautama’s tapovana to study. Though Satyakama was Jabala’s only child, still she readily agreed. She was glad that Satyakama was willing to train for the highest knowledge.
“Mother, please tell me my lineage,” said Satyakama, for he knew that Gautama would be sure to ask him the name of saint from whom his family traced descent.
The mother was in a fix. She didn’t know who Satyakama’s father was. She had never been married. Satyakama was an illegitimate child, and would probably be denied the right to study the Vedas. It was most embrassing for her to disclose this fact to her child.
Jabala thought to herself: “It will give Satyakama quite a shock to learn that he was born to parents not married to each other. Moreover, if and when Satyakama tells this to Gautama, the sage will certainly be scandalized, and the students of the tapovana will also be morally offended. Whoever hears our story will surely hate both my son and me.”
Jabala wavered for a while. Then she resolved to speak the truth, whatever the consequences. She would bequeath truth to her son. She kissed Satyakama on the head and said: “My child, in my youth I was extremely poor and served many men in many countries as a slave girl. Your mother has never been married. I am Jabala. So tell the sage that your name is Jabala Satyakama.”
Satyakama took leave of his mother and trekked to Gautama’s Tapovana.
When Satyakama arrived at the tapovana the sun was about to set and the students were busy arranging the sacrificial fire. In the twilight hour Satyakama prostrated himself before the sage. He was visibly exhausted from his journey.
The students had finished their evening worship, and Satyakama had taken a little rest. When the Sage summoned him, Satyakama said: “Revered Sir, I want to live in this tapovana as a celibate. Kindly accept me as one of your disciples.”
“Most affectionate blessings! What is your lineage, my child ?” asked Gautama.
Satyakama told the sage what his mother had disclosed to him and traced his descent from his mother, saying, “Jabala is my mother; I am Satyakama; so I would be known as Jabala Satyakama.”
It was a startling disclosure. Gautama looked at the boy, an embodiment of purity and placidity.
The sage rose from his seat and embraced the boy warmly. Then he said: ” My child, bring the firewood for the sacrificial fire. I have decided to initiate you into discipleship. You are verily a Brahmin. You have not swerved from the truth. None other than a Brahmin can utter such unalloyed truth.”
It was triumph of Jabala and her son Satyakama. They marched to victory under the banner of truth. Satyakama was admitted to the inner circle of Gautama, and in course of time became an illumined soul.