The Bird’s Eye

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Source: Arjuna: Essence of a Hero

arjuna bird

One bright, sunny morning, a large group of young boys gathered by the woodland with their bows and arrows. But these were not just ordinary boys. These were the five Pandavas and hundred Kauravas! The five Pandava brothers and hundred Kaurava brothers were cousins, and a fierce rivalry between them began when they were only children. These young princes would eventually grow into men of incredible power. The five Pandavas were even sons of gods!

On this day Drona, their mentor and military expert, organized a competition to test their concentration. Across a stream, Drona set up a small wooden bird in a tree. Upon returning to the boys he told them, “Hello children. Today I want to see who among you can strike the eye of that wooden bird across the river.”

The bird appeared tiny from where they were standing, but the boys were confident that they could pass their teacher’s test. Had they not already felled great beasts on their hunts before? How could this small bird pose such a challenge? Anxiously, each one of the young princes waited for Drona to call their names.

Yudhisthira, the oldest among the Pandavas, was called upon first. Taking position by his teacher, he crouched slightly and drew his bowstring taut.

“Can you see the bird properly? Tell me everything you can see, Yudhisthira,” said Drona.

Wanting to be thorough, Yudhisthira began to list off everything that met his eyes. “I see the wooden bird, the branch, and the tree. I can see the leaves moving and even more birds sitting on the same tree. I can see the stream, the grass, other trees, the sky…”

Like this, Yudhisthira named off everything he could think of. When he finished, he waited for his master’s final command to shoot. Drona spoke again, “Put down your bow and take a seat Yudhisthira, you will not hit the eye of the bird.”

Confused, Yudhisthira silently walked back to his brothers without question. The next boy was called forward and asked the same question by Drona. He gave a similar answer, naming everything he could see. Once again, the the boy was told to put away his bow. This same pattern continued with every boy that followed, until finally Drona reached Arjuna. Drona suppressed a knowing smile as the young prince took his place, notched his bow, and drew his string. Arjuna was one of Drona’s favorites.

“Tell me what you can see, Arjuna,” repeated Drona.

“I can see only the eye of the bird,” replied Arjuna without breaking eye contact with his target.

“Can you not see the trees and the sky? Or perhaps the branch the bird is sitting on?” his mentor asked.

“No sir, all I can see is the eye and nothing else,” he said, holding his bow steady and maintaining his unwavering gaze.

Drona was pleased with this response. He cast a glance at the crowd of boys, who were held in silence but slowly began nodding as the lesson began to become clear to them. Drona was happy that one of his favorite pupils was able to pass his test. Now he only had to give the order.

“Shoot!”

With a loud twang, the arrow sprang from the bow straight into the bird’s eye. A perfect shot. The bird fell with a small thud as all the boys looked on in amazement at Arjuna.

After a long pause, Drona patted Arjuna on the back and said, “Now you see, young princes, the power of concentration…”