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This is a story from the Indian epic Mahabharat telling the story of the Great War between Pandavas and Kauravas.  Arjuna, one of the five Pandava brothers, is the hero of Mahabharat.  Lord Krishna delivered the message of Gita to Arjuna just before the Great War when seeing his own cousin brothers (Kauravas), guru, elders, and other relatives, he said that killing all these was not worth fighting and winning.


            Arjuna was the favorite disciple of his guru Dronacharya.  Dronacharya had promised Arjuna that out of all of his disciples none will excel Arjuna.


            One day, Eklavya, son of the chieftain of the forest clan came to Dronacharya to learn the art of archery.  Dronacharya refused to teach him on the ground that Eklavya was not fit to be trained with the princes.   Eklavya returned to the forest.  He made an idol of Dronacharya out of the mud and considering it his teacher began to practice archery.  In time he became a fine archer.


            One day, Dronacharya and his disciples went to the same forest.  Their dog went ahead and reached where Eklavya was practicing.  His barking disturbed Eklavya and he adroitly shot seven arrows in the mouth of the dog so that he could not bark further but not hurt as well.  The dog ran back to its masters.  Seeing the condition of the dog they immediately understood that it was the doing of a master archer.  Arjuna asked his guru that how come there was a better archer in the world when Dronacharya was the best guru.


            They went to the place where Eklavya was practicing.  They could not recognize him.  But he recognized them and bowed to Dronacharya addressing him as guru.  He then told them what he had done and that Dronacharya was his guru.  Arjuna whispered to his guru how come one of his disciple had excelled him when Dronacharya had promised him that out of his disciples none would excel Arjuna.


            Let us pause for a moment here and find out how Eklavya became the best archer in the world of his time.


            Hard work and persistence.  He loved archery and wanted to do nothing else than learn and master the art and science of archery.  It was his sole aim.  He worked hard at it for many years and persisted with his efforts.  He had the initial setback that he could not have a guru.  Still he persisted.  It is rightly said that genius is 10% of inspiration (meaning born talent) and 90% of perspiration.  Nothing beats hard work and persistence.  This is one of the greatest secrets of success.


            In Indian mythology and epics there are numerous stories where the heroes go to the forest and pray to God for years to acquire some goal and at the end of the hard penance, God grants them the boon of their desire.  I interpret all these stories as hard work and persistence.


            The Eklavya story has a sad end.  In those days, on completion of the study, usually students used to ask, or guru demanded, for any thing or service which they could offer the guru.  Most of the time it was symbolic also.  But in this story, keeping his promise to Arjuna in view (perhaps there were other political reasons as well as Dronacharya was the guru of princes), he asked for his gift form Eklavya.  Eklavya told him to ask him anything which he would give him as a disciple gladly.  Dronacharya asked him his right hand thumb which he gave gladly but was later not able to practice archery as deftly as before.


            It is hard for me to say that Eklavya should not have given his thumb as the morals of that time of like that.  However, to adapt this to modern time, I would like to say that after achieving our goal we should also be careful that we dont lose our hard earned position.  There are numerous instances in history where great men and women made silly mistakes and lost all there position name and fame, and, even life.



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