For his dearest disciple the Master will do everything13

When Prince Arjuna discovered that the untouchable, Ekalavya, who lived in the forest, was more skilled in archery than he was, he was very disturbed. He left the forest and ran home, furious. He went straight to Dronacharya and said to him, “You have deceived me.”

“Remain calm and quiet, my son,” said Dronacharya. “Why are you shouting and screaming?”

“You have deceived me! I have just seen someone who knows archery far better than I do. You told me that I was the best archer and now, look, you have deceived me, you have fooled me!”

Dronacharya affirmed, “No, I can never deceive you; I can never fool you.”

“But you have done it,” declared Arjuna. “In the forest there is a young man by the name of Ekalavya. He has made a statue of you which he worships. From the statue he has derived such a unique capacity. With his arrows he can stop the barking of a dog, which I can’t do. And then, something else! He is able to shoot arrows through the mouth of a dog without making the dog bleed. Look at his capacity! I don’t have that capacity. You told me I was the best! Now what can I do? I feel miserable, miserable.”

Then Drona said, “Come with me, my son.” And he took Arjuna into the forest to where Ekalavya lived. Drona went up to Ekalavya and said, “You have such capacity in archery. Who taught you? I have heard from Arjuna that you have stopped the barking of a dog.”

“Yes,” replied Ekalavya. “I was meditating most soulfully on you and the dog was bothering me. Therefore, I got annoyed with the dog and punished it so that it could not bark. But, in all sincerity, I did not know that the dog would not bleed. I was also surprised when I saw that there was no blood. So, this is all your grace, Dronacharya. I give all credit to you.”

Drona said, “I am so proud of you, my boy. Now tell me, if it is true that I have done everything for you, then will you not give me a sacerdotal fee? You know that when you learn from a teacher, the teacher gives everything to the student. So it is customary for the student to give the teacher a reward.”

“Yes, yes, I will give, I will give,” Ekalavya replied earnestly. “Anything you want you may have. I am so grateful to you, so grateful to you.”

“Are you sure that you will give me anything I want?”

“Yes, without any difficulty whatsoever. Unreservedly and unconditionally I shall give.”

“Then give me, my son, your right thumb,” said Dronacharya.

“My right thumb!” cried Ekalavya. “If I give you my right thumb, then what am I going to do? Will I remain an archer anymore? No, I must keep my promise. You take my right thumb. You be happy. I am so grateful to you. You gave me the capacity to become an excellent archer and I will be so proud that I am able to fulfil your desire. So please, please, take my right thumb. I am giving you my right thumb.”

With these words he cut off his right thumb and gave it to Dronacharya. Then he said, “As an archer I could have been known the world over. Everybody would have come to know of me. But now I will be known as a devotee of yours. I am sure that to be a devotee is infinitely more meaningful and fruitful in my life than to be an archer.”

Arjuna felt miserable that this took place because of him. He said to Ekalavya, “Please forgive me, I am the culprit, I am the culprit.”

But Drona interrupted him, “No, you are not the culprit. I want to tell you one thing, I want to tell both of you. Arjuna, my son, today I wanted to show you that you have always been my dearest disciple — dearer to me than my own soul. In order to prove to the world that I can do everything to please my dearest disciple, I transformed you into an archer without equal in this land. But here also I wish to say that, in the inner worlds, Ekalavya will forever remain immortal because of his supreme sacrifice. No other human being could have made this kind of sacrifice.”

GIM 93. 23 January 1979