Eye of the bird

A teacher should have no favourites, yet, Arjuna was Dronacharya’s. The guru decided to prove to the world, why the third Pandava was the exception to this rule.

July 16, 2019 04:41 pm | Updated 04:41 pm IST

You know how you’re always being asked to concentrate on things: on your lessons, games, writing... This is a story from the Mahabharata about concentration. After the death of King Pandu, his wife Kunti brought the five Pandavas to Hastinapur, where they grew up with their 100 cousins, the Kauravas. Now, their teacher in the arts of warfare was the great Dronacharya. A teacher is not supposed to have favourites, but Drona could not help being partial to Arjuna, the third Pandava.

One night, Dronacharya heard the twanging of the bowstring. Wondering who was shooting arrows in the dark, he went to investigate. Since there was no light, he could only make out a dim figure shooting at a target. When he went closer, he realised it was Arjuna.

“What are you doing here so late at night?” he asked sternly.

A startled Arjuna turned around and saw his teacher frowning blackly. He bowed and politely said, “I am practising my archery.”

“I can see that,” replied Dronacharya, “I want to know why you are doing that so late at night.”

Perseverance pays

“When I was having dinner, the wind blew the lamp out. But that didn’t stop me from eating. I was able to transfer the food from my plate to my mouth without spilling. If I can do that, why can I not shoot in the dark?”

An overjoyed Dronacharya decided to show his other pupils why he favoured Arjuna. One day, he set up a target in the shape of a bird on a tree and invited his students to shoot at it. Before they did so, however, they had to answer his questions.

First, Duryodhana took up his stance. “What can you see?” asked Dronacharya.

The answer was, “I can see the bird, the leaves, the tree...”

Dronacharya ordered him to put the bow down and go back to his place. Next was Yudhishtra, but the answers were the same. Some others added that they could see the teacher, their cousins and people standing around. The princes began muttering among themselves as one by one, they were all sent back to their place without being allowed to shoot. Even Ashwatthama, Dronacharya’s son, could not understand what his father wanted. Finally, Arjuna was the only one left.

Dronacharya asked Arjuna to come up and take his stance. When Arjuna picked up his bow, set the arrow and drew the string, his teacher asked, “What do you see?”

Arjuna replied, “The eye of the bird.”

“Can you see the tree?” asked Dronacharya.

“No, only the eye of the bird,” was the answer. Dronacharya then went through a list: tree, bark, leaves, flowers, fruits, his brothers, cousins, even the teacher himself.

To everything Arjuna’s answer was the same: “No, I can only see the eye of the bird.”

When Dronacharya gave him the order to shoot, Arjuna released the arrow. It sped straight to the target and the bird came tumbling down. Dronacharya embraced the boy and then told the others, “When you want to achieve something, you must focus on it. Close out all other distractions and concentrate only on your target.”

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