The Eye of the Bird

Duryodhana was going to attend his classes and he hated it. He did not hate the classes themselves, he just hated learning these arts along with the blasted Pandavas. He could not believe it. The five brothers who had come to the kingdom looking like poor beggars were now learning the way of the warrior along with him and is brothers….He felt it beneath his dignity to learn the use of the arms with his poor cousins….They definitely did not deserve to learn anything much less as his equal…as the disciple of Dronacharya. Thinking of Dronacharya made Duruyodhana all the more angry. His guru….had a favourite student….Just thinking about it made Duryodhana’s blood boil.
He could not understand what Dronacharya liked about Arjuna. He was just like the rest of them and still the teacher treated him like he was someone from heaven. Duryodhana thought contemptuously.
The very next day, Duryodhana talked with his brothers while making sure Dronacharya heard him…. ‘This Dronacharya!’ He hissed in atypical stage whisper. ‘He just pretends that Arjuna is better than all of us….Arjuna is nothing more than us…It is all Dronacharya’s ruse….Left to himself Arjuna is nothing!’ Duruyodhana said making sure Dronacharya had heard him.
Dronacharya had heard him, but he said nothing. He just smiled sadly at the jealous young prince. He realized that Duryodhana was so blinded by his jealousy that he could not sense the basic truth. Arjuna was a class apart. None of the princes he had taught so far could come even close to what Arjuna was… Dronacharya sighed. He knew of a way to make Duryodhana understand that….
The next day when the princes got ready with their bow and arrow to practice archery, Dronacharya took them to the far side of the clearing. There was a tall tree and he asked them to stop a hundred yards away.
‘Children!’ He smiled at all of them. ‘There in that tree, there is a bird! Today’s class is to hit the bird with a single arrow!’ His students looked at each other with surprise. Did their teacher really expect them to hit a bird a hundred yards away which was hidden between the trees and that too with a single arrow? What kind of a test was this?
Before the general murmur got any further, Dronacharya clapped his hands. ‘Children! I will call out all of you! Come forward and stand beside me! Answer my questions, then if I say fire, shoot your arrow!’
The children obediently stood as they looked at the teacher. ‘Yudhishtara!’ Dronacharya called. As Yudhishtara was the eldest he was called first. ‘Take your weapon and aim the bird!’ Yudhishtara pulled back the arrow…He took a deep breath as he strained and found the bird in the tree. Yudhishtara however did not let go. He remembered his teacher’s orders.
‘Do you see the bird?’ Drona asked. Yudhishtara nodded. ‘Yes sir! I do!
Drona nodded. ‘Good! What else do you see?’
‘Yudhishtara looked surprised at the question. ‘Why sir? I can see everything! The bird, the tree, the leaves…You and my brothers too!’

See also  Vishvamitra

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Dronacharya smiled sadly and shook his head. ‘Put your weapon down son! You cannot bring the bird down with one arrow!’
Yudhishtara obediently put his weapon down and walked back to his place looking a little crestfallen. Duryodhana smirked at him when he heard his teacher. ‘Duryodhana! Come forward!’
Elated at being given an opportunity to get the better of the Pandavas, Duryodhana went forward with his bow and arrow.
He focused on the bird easily and was about to pull back the arrow when Dronacharya called out. ‘What do you see son?
‘I see the bird, the tree and you sir!’ Duryodhana said still aiming at the bird. Dronacharya shook his head imperceptibly. ‘Don’t waste your arrow! Put down your weapon.’
Frowning Duryodhana went back to his place.
Dronacharya called all the princes one by one and sent back all of them without firing a single arrow. The only one who remained were Ashwattama and Arjuna.
Ashwattama came forward as he took aim of the bird. ‘Tell me what you see son!’ Dronacharya asked a little fondly. After all Ashwattama was his own son.
‘Father, I see the bird…nothing else!’
A hush fell among the princes as they heard the reply of Ashwattama. Dronacharya probed him further. ‘What else do you see about the bird?’
‘It is wooden, father!’
‘And its eye?’ Dronacharya asked raising his eyebrow in appreciation.
Ashwattama frowned looking at the bird. ‘I cannot see its eye properly father!’
Reluctantly Dronacharya told his son. ‘Put down your weapon Ashwattama!’
Ashwattam looked surprised but he lowered his weapon looking jealously at the last student left.
‘Come forward!’ Drona said looking at Arjuna. Arjuna came forward with a quiet confidence. He was standing lightly and totally relaxed.
Drona pointed at the tree. ‘What do you see Arjuna?
‘The wooden bird with its open eye sir!’ Arjuna said as he pointed his arrow at the bird. Drona’s eyes opened wide as he asked. ‘What else do you see?’
Arjuna shrugged imperceptibly. ‘Its head is round! Other than that nothing!’
Drona blinked inspite of himself. ‘Its legs, its wings …don’t you see it?’
Arjuna said confidently. ‘No sir! I don’t!’
Drona shook his head in wonder. ‘Fire!’ No sooner had the words been uttered the princes watched as a wooden bird fell on the ground a hundred yards away with an arrow in its eye!
Dronacharya turned to Ashwattama sadly. ‘You could have hit the bird,then again you could not have…It was a matter of chance. That is why I asked you not to fire at it!’ Ashwattama looked crestfallen as he heard the words of his father….
He turned to the other princes. ‘That is how you learn anything….’ He said patting Arjuna and looking at him with pride. ‘This is how you do anything…with the target in mind! While trying to do something, never waver from what your end goal and do not lose sight of it….If you have eyes for your goal and nothing else, you have as good as won what you are after!’

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