In a magnificent city called Hastinapur there lived a glorious family with princes of extraordinary strength and great promise. Five of the boys were called the Pandavas and were sons of the great King Pandu. The other one hundred brothers were their cousins, the Kurus, sons of King Dhritarashtra.
All the boys went to the royal gurukula* and trained under the renowned teacher Dronacharya who was rigorous in his schooling. He left no stone unturned in training his pupils to become great warriors.
One morning, Dronacharya asked the princes to assemble for a lesson in archery. He had arranged for a model bird to be hung from a tree. It rocked from side to side among the branches.
“Do you see the artificial bird?” he asked his students who were gathered in a crowd several feet away from the tree.
“Yes sir,” the princes said in unison.
“The aim is to target the bird’s eye with your arrow. You will each get one chance.”
Yudhishthira, the eldest Pandava went first. He raised his bow and drew back the bowstring. But before he could release the arrow, Dronacharya interrupted, “Wait, what do you see?”
“I see the tree, leaves, the sky and the bird,” the prince replied.
“Back to your place, you have learned nothing,” Dronacharya said.
Another prince stepped forward. It was Duryodhana, the chief Kuru son. He held his bow confidently and made aim for the bird. Before he could release his arrow, Dronacharya asked the same question he had asked Yudhishthira.
“Sir, I can see the branches, leaves and the bird’s wings,” said Duryodhana, convinced he was doing it right.
“Go back to the group,” said the displeased teacher.
Duryodhana rejoined the princes who took their turn one after the other. However, after giving similar descriptions, they were sent back without releasing their arrows. Dronacharya became increasing disheartened. He turned to Arjuna, the last pupil left to have a go, and invited him to take his position.
“What do you see?” asked the teacher.
“The bird’s eye,” said Arjuna.
Surprised, Dronacharya asked, “Surely you see other things – the tree, the sky, me?”
“No sir, I see only the bird’s eye.”
“Then release the arrow,” commanded the happy teacher.
The arrow flew with great speed and accuracy straight into the bird’s eye. The model fell to the ground with a thud. Dronacharya smiled with pleasure at Arjuna.
“Arjuna has learned the most important lesson in archery; you must see only your target, nothing else. Focus on your goal without distraction. Mark my words, Arjuna will become the greatest archer the world has ever seen.”
Indeed, Dronacharya’s blessings became true.
*Gurukula is Sanskrit for school.