I’ve recently discovered and ancient Indian epic “Mahabharata” (written somewhere in 8th century BC) — and such a delight of storytelling. Below is one of my favorite stories about the archer and the bird.

Drone proved an excellent teacher. One day he called his pupils to him to test their power of concentration. Gathering them around him, he pointed out a target. It was a bird on the branch of a tree. “Bring down the head of the bird for me!” commanded Drona. He told Yudhishthira to come forward alone because he was the eldest. Yudhishthira drew his bow. But at that moment Drona held up his hand: “Wait!” he said, “Tell me first, what do you see?” “I see the bird.” answered Yudhishthira, “and the branch on which it sits and the leaves of the tree.”

“Go on.” Drona commanded. “Is there anything else? Tell me.”

Yudhishthira answered, “I see the tree and sky and you, my teacher, and I see my brothers.”

Drona said to him: “Stand aside. You have still much to learn.”

After Yudhishthira came Duryodhana. He answered Drona’s question just as Yudhishthira has done, saying that he saw the bird and the branch, the leaves and the tree, the sky and, before him, his teacher and beyond, his brothers. Then Drona set him aside also, and asked for Bhima. Bhima fared no better. At that Drona was full of sorrow that his pupils had not been as good as he wished. At last he called Arjuna to him and repeated his questions.

“Do you see the bird?”

“I do,” Arjuna answered.

“And what else besides?”

“I see only the bird,” Arjuna answered. “Nothing else.”

“Do you not see the tree and the sky and the earth, myself, your teacher, and beyond, do you not see your brothers?”

“I see only the bird.” Arjuna repeated.

Arjuna’s answer pleased Drona, for this was what he was hoping to hear from his students. He asked, “What part of the bird do you see, Arjuna?”

Arjuna answered: “Only the eye!” Drone walked up to Arjuna, and patted him on his back. “Lower your bow, Arjuna!” he exclaimed. “You have proved yourself a true archer. For, above everything, an archer must be undivided in his attention: when an archer concentrates, and his eyes see nothing but his target, his arrow will reach it unerringly.”


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