Weeding Your Mind

By Swami Sahajananda

Whenever a task absorbs your full attention, extraneous thoughts are quieted.  You naturally experience this effect of one-pointed focus in many areas of life.  Through these mundane activities, you can experience wonderful glimpses of Self, your Divine Essence.

You may have found it in practicing a musical instrument, cooking a new recipe, trying out any new skill or reading an engrossing book.  I apply one-pointed focus in weeding the gardens of the Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram where I live.  Lush, green and fragrant, the gardens are planted with native species.  To cultivate an optimal environment for these intentional plants, I remove the unintentional plants (weeds).  Identifying what stays and what goes is a practice in awareness.

This focus requires diligence, discernment and patience.  At the same time, such attention to weeding also uproots thoughts from my mind.  A clear, vast, space beyond my mind opens, just like a newly weeded area.  My mind feels lighter, clearer and more expansive.  Quieting my mind allows for that which is beyond my mind — my Self — to shine through.

The other day, my mind quieted when I was weeding — at first.  The Ashram grounds reflected the abundance of summertime in Southeastern Pennsylvania.  This profusion of plants and trees enveloped my senses.  But then I became aware of arising thoughts and being irritated by the weeds.  Why are you here?  Maybe you are not a weed?  Who am I to judge?  How can you grow so fast?  You are so hard to uproot!  And on and on.

Fortunately, I was able to catch my thoughts before they totally took over.  By Grace, I remembered Gurudevi Nirmalananda’s teaching on focus:

“You can harness this capacity of your mind to a different purpose, focusing inward for the exploration of your own spiritual essence.”

I started repeating the mantra given to me by Gurudevi.  The mantra refreshed my focus and then turned it around, taking me deeper within.  As I opened inward, I offered my seva of weeding to Gurudevi.  Offering this seva to the Guru in care of her home, I was filled with joy.  Weeding became a Grace-filled practice.  Full of gratitude, I was doing the seva with dedication and intention.  I became aware that I am Divine.  I felt my being enveloped with the Grace of the knowing of the Self.

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While yoga offers many pathways to access the Self, the most direct is mantra repetition.  This powerful technique brings you quickly and reliably to the Self again and again.  This experience doesn’t have to happen with eyes closed in a quiet room.  Through the practice of mantra repetition (japa), this experience can happen anywhere.

Applying your mind to mantra, you get more than a glimpse of the effulgence of Self.  The scope of the mantra’s power is astonishing.  Mantra is the living force of God.  Repeating mantra, you offer your mind sacred words.  Repeating mantra silently inside, you use your mind intentionally to open the way to your Own Self.  Your mind engages in an activity that brings you to spiritual upliftment.

Passed down from Guru to Guru, through century upon century, this mantra is infused with their Grace.  The blessings of each sage in this lineage empower the mantra.  Each time you repeat it, you bring yourself closer to knowing your own Divinity.  You don’t have to stop your worldly activities to engage in mantra repetition.  You can add it to whatever you are doing.  You can even add it to whatever you are thinking.  In minutes, you will find that your mind has shifted and quieted.  Thoughts dissipate as you repeat the mantra alongside them.

Our Svaroopa® Vidya Meditation mantra names your own Self.  Recognize the power of your mind and choose to focus your thoughts on your own Divine Essence.  Repeat mantra whenever you remember.  The more you do, the easier it will be to remember to do it.  Fill your mind with the mantra’s Divine words to find your Own Self as Consciousness Its-Self.

Krishna Avatar Part 22

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

The Pandavas had proved their excellence and superiority to the Kauravas once again by fulfilling Guru Drona’s wish.  The display of various martial skills and their distinctive noble qualities gained wide popularity, not only with the elders of the family but among the people of Hastinapura as well. 

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The good citizens of Hastinapura wanted Pandu’s eldest son Yudhishthira to be declared as Crown Prince.  His fine qualities of patience, benevolence, honesty and selflessness made him loved by all.  Since he was the eldest of all the princes, Bhishma advised Dhritarashtra to declare Yudhishthira as successor, and to crown him as, the prince first in line to the throne. 

This upset Dhritarashtra who was hoping for his son Duryodhana to be his successor.  But most of all, Duryodhana was deeply hurt by all this.  His dream of becoming Crown Prince was shattered.  Unable to tolerate it, burning with jealousy, he again began to plot against the Pandavas in order to safeguard the throne for himself.  Even though all his earlier conspiracies had failed miserably, he was not ready to give up his efforts.  So he laid out a plot with his brothers, his uncle Shakuni and his best friend Karna. 

He went straight to his father and met with him privately, saying, “Father, the people of Hastinapura have lost their minds.  They are not even respecting you or grandsire Bhishma.  They want to make Yudhishthira the successor.  Once Yudhishthira is crowned, that will be end of you and all of us Kauravas.  None of us will ever be kings, not even our children.” 

This made Dhritarashtra pause and think.  Still, he tried to convince Duryodhana, describing Yudhishthira as being like his own brother Pandu, who was very kind and loving.  Pandu would never have done anything unjust to the Kauravas, or to anyone for that matter.  Dhritarashtra also warned Duryodhana, saying that Pandu was loved by all, which was also the case with Yudhishthira.  It would be very hard to convince the people otherwise.  Fighting against all of them would never bring the victory Duryodhana was expecting. 

Duryodhana reminded his father that Grandsire Bhishma would be always loyal to the throne of Hastinapura, due to his great vow.  Thereby Bhishma would always support Dhritarashtra, as long as he was the king.  Dhritarashtra finally fell for his son’s plot against the Pandavas.  Dhritarashtra had a soft spot for his brother’s children, but his love for his own children often overshadowed that.  Because of this weakness, the love of his son Duryodhana, he often knowingly chose the wrong path. 

Duryodhana
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The annual festival held in Varanavata was a great opportunity to accomplish the plot.  Duryodhana asked his father to send the Pandavas, along with their mother Kunti, to participate in the annual festival.  His request seemed strange at first, but Duryodhana emphasized the importance of sending Yudhishthira in the capacity of the Crown Prince, in accordance with the custom.  He told his father that, while the Pandavas were away, he would try to convince those who supported the Pandavas and turn them into his allies.  If needed be, by bribing them, as the last resort.  Yet, Dhritarashtra was not giving in.  It took more convincing from all the accomplices of Duryodhana, before Dhritarashtra agreed to cooperate with the plot.

However, Duryodhana hatched a more dreadful plot with his brothers, his uncle Shakuni and his best friend Karna.  He approached Purochana, one of his ministers, for help.  Under the strict supervision of Purochana, a beautiful palace was built at Varanavata.  Its walls were made of lacquer, a highly flammable substance, while its roof was thatched so that it could catch fire at the slightest contact with a single spark of fire.  The plan was to burn the Pandavas while they were sleeping at night, so that nobody would suspect foul play.  Thus the death of the Pandavas would pass off as an accident. 

Hearing about Varanavata and the famous festival, the Pandavas were thrilled about visiting there.  With their mother Kunti, they left for Varanavata after being blessed by the elders and give well-wishes by the others.  The people of Hastinapura followed them as far as they could go and then returned home.

Even though Purochana managed to get the palace built, only by bribing the builders, the news of terrible plot somehow leaked out.  It reached Vidura’s ears.  Knowing about Duryodhana’s plot, Vidura had wisely taken into confidence a builder involved in the construction.  With his help, a secret tunnel was constructed as an escape path that led from the palace to an opening on the riverside.  The builder managed to finish the task of digging the tunnel so secretly that even Purochana did not know about the underground escapeway. 

Vidura
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Vidura alerted the Pandavas well in advance, even before they started off on their journey.  As he was unable to meet the Pandavas privately, Vidura tactfully, in the presence of the Kauravas, warned the Pandavas about the imminent danger in an indirect way.  On his going away blessings to Yudhishthira and the others, He said some cryptic words, “A weapon not made of steel or any other material element can be more than sharp to kill an enemy.  He who knows this is never killed.  The substance that devastates a forest and helps with the cold cannot hurt a rat, which shelters itself in a hole or a porcupine which burrows in the earth.  The wise man knows his bearings by looking at the stars.”

Vidura’s tactical way of passing the message worked.   Yudhishthira understood its meaning, knowing the means to escape the danger, which was imminent.  This message made Kunti and her sons sad, that Duryodhana had started his plots to kill them again.  All their happiness about going to Varanavata’s famous festival disappeared. 

When Pandavas reached Varanavata, they acted as if they knew nothing about the plot.  They attended the fair regularly, while spending most of the daytime hunting in the forest.  This was to get familiar with the surroundings.  At nightfall, they returned to the palace.  They slept in the tunnel itself and not inside the palace.  They did it in such a way that nobody knew they were not inside the palace at night.  They kept close watch on the activities of Purochana. 

Purochana was fully confident of the success of Duryodhana’s evil plan.  Duryodhana was equally sure that the Pandavas would not be able to escape, and thus would never return back to Hastinapura. 

On the last day of the fair, the Pandavas and Kunti performed a special puja and yaj~na, and gave away alms to the poor.  That was the night Purochana had been waiting for, to set the fire to kill the Pandavas.  It was a moonless dark night.  Anticipating the plot, the Pandavas were alert and fully armed.

With a view to having an upper hand, Bheema got up at midnight.  He set fire to the palace at different locations.  He wanted to kill Duryodhana’s accomplices and weaken his enemy’s strength.  Bheema escaped through the tunnel, along with his brothers and mother Kunti.  In no time the palace was engulfed in horrible flames and reduced to ashes. 

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Unfortunately, a poor woman about the age of Kunti had attended the feeding ceremony that morning, along with her five adult sons.  She stayed in the palace that night, as she didn’t have any other place to stay, so she and her sons, along with Purochana himself, were killed in the fire.  Purochana had gotten caught in the fire when Bheema beat him to setting the palace on fire.

The Pandavas escaped through the underground tunnel and reached the riverbank of Ganga.  Vidura had arranged for a boat for them, so when they came to the riverbank they found a boatman waiting for them, ready to ferry them across the river.  They boarded the boat and safely landed on the other bank of the Ganga. 

When the news about the catastrophe reached Hastinapura, the kingdom was hit by shock waves.  Both Dhritarashtra and Duryodhana were pleased, relieved and extremely delighted in their hearts, outwardly they pretended to be very sorrowful and in grief.  They were sure that the path to the throne was now clear for Duryodhana.  Bhishma and other like-minded royal dignitaries were shocked at the sad happening.  Their sorrow was indescribable indeed.

Duryodhana rushed to Varanavata.  There he found burned bodies of a woman and five men.  The death of Purochana surprised him, as it was he who was to set fire to the house.  Duryodhana wondered why Purochana couldn’t save himself.  Unfortunately, the burnt woman was the homeless woman with her five sons, who had sought refuge in the palace.  After his survey, Duryodhana declared a state of mourning in the kingdom, returning to Hastinapura. 

Outwardly Dhritarashtra and the Kauravas acted grief-struck, but in their hearts they were feeling ecstatic.  They thought that the road was now clear, that all the hurdles in Duryodhana’s way to the throne had been taken care of.  Grandsire Bhishma and other ministers were in state of shock and their sadness was beyond words.  They were not in the mindset to suspect any foul play.  Only Vidura knew the actual story, but didn’t say anything to anyone, leaving it to the Pandavas to emerge when they wished to.  Though he knew they survived the fire, he didn’t know their whereabouts after they landed on the other side of Ganga.

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On the other side of Ganga, Kunti and the Pandavas landed with a sigh and a deep breath.  They thanked the boatman and disappeared into the jungle.  At that point, they knew that Duryodhana was never going to let them live in harmony.  At Kunti’s request, they decided they would sacrifice the throne for their mother’s peace of mind.

We had started to talk about the Kuru family, including the Pandavas and Kauravas, some time ago.  It was after Krishna and Balarama had rushed to Hastinapura, having heard that their cousins from the Kuru family were in great danger.  This was the incident that brought them to Hastinapura. 

The Inner Boost

By Swami Prajñananda

When I was a little girl, my dad would put me up on his shoulders. I loved to be lifted  up in the air. At the fair one summer, he boosted me up in the night sky.  I soared above the crowds.  I wanted to stay there forever in timeless suspension.  But what goes up must come down.  And so I did.

As I grew, I got too big to be boosted up.  So, I tried to boost myself up.  Oh, how I wanted to soar.  And sometimes I did.  Yet, it seemed that gravity would always have its way as I came back down to “reality” every time.

My world changed though when I found my Guru, Gurudevi Nirmalananda.  I got boosted in a whole new way.  This time the boost was an inner boost.  I discovered that the heights I’d looked for on the outside were just as vast on the inside.  In fact, I realized that I had always sought the inner expanse.

It’s like when you climb a mountain.  You get to the top and look out at the view. You see the vastness on the outside, which then triggers the feeling of the vastness within.  When I received the inner boost, I was given a superpower.  I no longer needed to climb a mountain to access the vastness inside.  How does the Guru do this?  Gurudevi’s Guru, Swami Muktananda, describes this boost:

“Make friends with him who lifts you up to his own height, who releases you from the snare of name and form, and makes you as free as himself. “

-Swami Muktananda, Mukteshwari, p. 181

A true Guru lifts you up to his or her own height.  This height describes not how tall they are but rather their spiritual greatness.  The Masters in this lineage are spiritual giants.  They are completely free within.  And they have the ability to free those who come to them.  

What are they freeing you from?  Muktananda says it is from “the snare of name and form.”  Does that mean you won’t have a name?  And you won’t have a body?  No.  It means while you still have a name and body, you are not limited by them.  

The way that you interact with the world is through name and form. You have names for everything you see.  And if you don’t have a name for it, you can simply look it up on the Internet.  Your mind categorizes everything by giving it a name. This is quite necessary so that you can participate in the world.  Yet your mind uses names to limit you.

On a more neutral level, your mind gives you names to define who you are.  For example, you are a daughter or a son, a mother or a father, a teacher or student, a gardener, a baker, an athlete, a reader.  These words name the things that you do and the relationships that you have. Yet, you are more than any of those names can describe.

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In a more harmful way, your mind names your doubts and fears: I am not smart enough; I am not pretty or handsome enough; I am not charming enough; I am not good enough.  Your mind can name all the things that make you feel small.  Yet you are not small at all.  The names are small, but you are more than the names.  You are the vastness that you discover inside.  You are that vastness and even more.

But what about form?  Muktananda tells you to make friends with one who releases you from the snare of name and form.  You don’t let go of form; rather, you let go of the snare of form.  How does form snare you?  Through the belief that you are your body.  Yes, you have a body and how magnificent it is.  As a human being you can do so much with your body.  And it can be a trap.  When you think that you are your body, you are then limited by what your body can do.  And you know what?  Your body can only do so much.

And then, there is your focus on the other forms of the world. You compare them to yourself.  You question whether you measure up.  You think that you want them, or you want to avoid them.  In this way, you get completely lost in form.

A true Guru releases you from the snare of both name and form.  Gurudevi guides you in finding the more that you are.  A true Guru lifts you up to her own height by giving you inner freedom.  This freedom is the freedom she found within herself.  This freedom is the freedom her Guru gave her.  This freedom is your own freedom.  All you need to do is discover it, inside.  How?  By making friends with the Guru.  You make friends with the Guru by doing the practices she gives you.  Ah, that means you must do more yoga!

Bowing — The Mystical Play

By Swami Satrupananda

Many yoga classes end with bringing your hands together in anjali mudra (prayer pose). You may bow your head to the teacher and say, “Namaste.”  Meditation programs with a Meditation Master might offer an opportunity to bow to them. Yoga is about knowing who you really are. It’s about you. So why do you bow to others?

Let’s step back and look at bowing around the world. I was introduced to bowing in church. Built into the pews were kneelers. Part way through the service, we would kneel, bow our heads and say a prayer. At an international conference, I was exchanging my business card with a gentleman from Japan. He held his business cards with both hands, bowed his head and handed one to me. Recently, I watched a video of the very popular Korean music group BTS. One of the group members spotted his parents in the crowd at a stadium performance. He immediately bowed down, fully prostrated, to his parents in front of thousands of fans. In many Eastern countries, children bow to their parents.

In the East, bowing is interwoven into their everyday life. In the West, we might bow at church.  But in our day-to-day lives, bowing is not as popular. It is perceived as being submissive, inferior, and subservient. This is part of the definition of bowing. Yet bowing also means to lower your head or upper body as a sign of respect. The businessman was showing respect as he presented his business card, not submission. The BTS band member was showing gratitude for his parents, not subservience.

With the popular namaste greeting, bowing is gaining a better reputation in the West. During the pandemic, a news article recommended namaste as a replacement for shaking hands. While bowing may be weaving into our culture, why is bowing part of yoga? It’s the expression of respect and gratitude that is important. In yoga class, your teacher says “namaste” as an expression of respect for you. When you respond with “namaste,” you are expressing your gratitude. And yet it is more than gratitude. In my Yoga Teacher Training, this definition of namaste was shared:

I honor the place in you in which the entire universe dwells. I honor the place in you which is of love, of truth, of light, and of peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me. We are one.

When you say “namaste,” you are cultivating your ability to be in that place. That place in you is where you are the One. That place is the source of love, truth, light, and peace. And from that place in you, you see the same One, being everyone and everything. There is only One here. How do you get to know yourself as the One? By bowing. Namaste literally means “bow to you.” Bowing is an act of honoring.

You are what you honor. If you honor education, you’ll go to school and earn a degree. You become educated. If you honor family, you’ll spend lots of time with them, create family traditions and memories. You’ll be a family man or woman. If you honor a sport, you’ll know all about it. You’ll play it or watch a lot of it on TV. You’ll wear sporting gear or a shirt with your favorite team’s logo. You’ll be a sports person. You are what you honor.

Yoga says to honor the One that you are so that you become that One. My Guru’s Guru described it this way,  “When bow, you become one with that to which you are bowing.”

With the namaste greeting, you are bowing to the other person. Does that you mean that you become the other person? No. You are bowing to the One that is being the other person, while being you. This can get tricky when you are bowing to unenlightened beings. The not-knowing of their own One-ness blocks the light of the One shining through them. In contrast, when you bow to someone who knows their own One-ness and they see that One-ness in you, something different happens.

This has been my experience. Every time I bow to my Guru, Gurudevi Nirmalananda, I have an experience of my own One-ness. One day as I bowed to her, I had an inner vision of our universe. I was the whole universe and the whole universe was inside me. As I continued to surrender in my bow, my being expanded. I am not merely the universe; I am the infinity that includes the universe and beyond. I am the infinite One-ness. All of this from a bow.

When you bow to an Enlightened Being, they know their One-ness. They also see that same One in you. The One is being both the person bowing and the person being bowed to. The One is being the two honoring the One. That is the mystical play of bowing. Every time you bow, you play in that mystical non-dual duality. And when you bow to an Enlightened Being, they enliven that play. So you can know that you are the One bowing and the One being bowed to.

Krishna Avatar Part 21

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Guru Dronacharya was delighted to witness the talent of his pupils.  He had spent many years teaching and training the cousins, the Kaurava and Pandava princes.   As the Guru of the valiant princes of Hastinapura, he was now living a comfortable life.   The entire kingdom of Hastinapura held him in high esteem.   Especially Grandsire Bhishma was very cordial to him.   He was honored and had been provided with all the facilities.

Despite all this, he was not quite happy.   His mind was not at peace.  Some pain was there in him, deep down, which kept bothering him.   In fact, there was a burning desire to avenge someone.   Yes, his bitter past was consuming his present in the form of revenge.

So, who is Guru Drona? What is this revenge that is consuming his heart all about?

Guru Drona was the son of Rishi Bharadvaja.   It is said that, one fine day on a riverside, Rishi Bharadvaja saw an apsara (celestial nymph) named Ghritachi.   The beauty of her filled his heart with desire and his seed fell into a pot.  A baby boy was born from the pot.   Drona’s name means “a boy who was born in a pot.”

Drona spent all his childhood in his father’s Ashram.   There, he met Drupada, the prince of Panchala.   They became the best of friends.   Before returning to his palace, Drupada promised he would cherish their friendship forever and give Drona anything he desires, even half of his kingdom.   Later Drona went to study under great Parashurama.   There he learnt the skills of all of the weapons and gained many powerful celestial weapons too. 

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After learning all those great skills, Drona wanted to live a simple life.   He was not interested in material wealth, so he soon became poor.   He was known as a Brahmin scholar, a renowned master of archery and a great teacher.   He married Kripi, the daughter of Sage Shardwan and sister of Kripacharya.   They had a son named Ashwatthama.   Day by day Drona became very poor and could hardly make ends meet.   He would neither beg nor take any charitable donations.

One day while playing with friends, Drona’s son Ashwatthama saw his friends drinking a bowl of cow’s milk and smacking their lips.  Ashwatthama had never tasted cow’s milk.   He only knew the milk his mother’s breasts produced.  Now Ashwatthama wanted to taste cow’s milk and demanded that he needed it right away.  

Kripi tried to console Ashwatthama in many ways without giving him cow’s milk but failed.   Poor Kripi, helpless and wanting to fulfill her son’s desire, mixed flour with water and gave it to him.  Not knowing the taste of the milk Ashwatthama was thrilled that at last he got to drink cow’s milk.   As Drona was watching this, his heart filled with horror and shame.   He was shaken by this and was so upset. 

He set out of his house determined to earn wealth and glory.   Drona wondered where he could go or in which direction to turn?  He also questioned his destiny.   Suddenly he remembered about his childhood bosom friend & classmate, Drupada, who had now ascended on the throne of Panchala.   He also remembered the promise that Drupada gave him before leaving his father’s Ashram, that he would give anything that Drona desired.  

Drona’s face brightened.   With great expectations, he sped towards Panchala, the capital city that his dear friend ruled.   The journey was troublesome, but the hope he had in his heart made it feel manageable. 

After days of traveling on foot, Drona reached Panchala.   On the way he built up his expectations so high, he expected that his arrival would be a great function.   The news of their king’s bosom friend paying a visit will be the news of the kingdom.  He was thus expecting a huge welcome before being led to the King ceremoniously.  

To his surprise nothing like that happened.  The people of Panchala simply ignored him.  No one cared for him even when he claimed to be the best friend of their king.  They only laughed at his claim, as he was wearing beaten-down rag clothes.  

As Drupada was now a king it was not easy to meet him.   No one would help Drona either.   After several days of efforts, Drona managed to enter the court of king Drupada, his dear friend from school days.  So thrilled to see his dear friend, Drona formally introduced himself and began talking about their good old days. 

The king Drupada looked at him as if he was any other person, showing no signs of friendship.   Drona was shocked and very disappointed, and reminded Drupada of their friendship and all the good days they had together at Drona’s father’s Ashram.   He tried to narrate the stories from the Ashram days, but Drupada said that Drona was merely a classmate.   There was nothing more than that, not such a great friendship between them as Drona had put it.  

Drona reminded Drupada of the promise he’d made while leaving the Ashram but Drupada laughed sarcastically, saying he didn’t remember any of it.   Drona was enraged.   Still controlling his raging anger, he humbly asked Drupada to help him in his hardship.   But Drupada, filled with pride and ego, refused his request and said that he will even give two towns as charity to a Brahmin.   Drona says that he had not come there as a beggar, but as a friend and that he would happily accept anything, even a single cow, as the honor of their friendship.  

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Drupada then insulted Drona by saying, how could a beggar be his friend.   Drupada told his soldiers to expel the beggar out of his court.   This really enraged Drona.   Before leaving the court, he made a declaration that he would come back to the same court and take Drupada’s throne, but without using a single weapon.   Instead, Drona would use his pupils to defeat Drupada.  

Drona’s mind refused to be at peace until the betrayal was avenged.  All he wanted was to take revenge on Drupada.  

Humiliated Drona began to hate the world and decided to renounce the world to become an ascetic.   That is when his fate brought him to the grounds of Hastinapura where he met the Kuru princes.   Now he had become the beloved and revered Guru of the Kaurava and Pandava princes.  

Even with all this glory, Drona’s desire for revenge still consumed his heart.   He could not live in peace.   Yes, the desire to avenge King Drupada was fresh in his mind.   Now it was time to act and Guru Drona decided to accomplish this in the form of guru-dakshina. 

Once the princes were fully trained, it was time for Guru Drona to ask for his guru-dakshina, the right of the teacher to demand a payment from his pupils.   A Guru was entitled to a final payment from his pupil in which he could ask for anything.   A true student was supposed to provide whatever the Guru desired as a sacred obligation.   We have already witnessed this with Ekalavya. 

One fine morning, Dronacharya called all the princes together.   Drona said, “I have imparted to all of you the training in various martial skills and the use of weapons.  Now it’s time for me to ask for my guru-dakshina.”

The princes asked Guru Drona what he would like to have as guru-dakshina.  Guru Drona said, “Before I became your Guru, I was insulted by King Drupada in his court through no fault of mine.   Although he had been my classmate and dearest friend, he humiliated me.  I must teach him a lesson.  I want him to be presented before me as a prisoner.  Can any of you do this for your Guru?”

Arjuna immediately bowed his head to his Guru and with confidence said, “Revered Guru, at your command I will bring any king of this earthly realm to you bound in ropes.  I take this as your command!”  Hearing Arjuna’s words, Duryodhana jumped in, seeking permission from his father King Dhritarashtra to allow him to attack Drupada, to take the pride, as he knew this would weigh in toward becoming the crown prince.  With his father’s blessings, all the Kauravas under the leadership of Duryodhana attacked Drupada.

King Drupada was all ready for the battle, expecting the Hastinapura army and its 105 princes.   He formed his famous Drupada Chakra, a military formation that enemies could not easily escape.  He had his eldest born son, Shikhandi, as his commander-in-chief. 

Shikhandi is none other than Amba, who reincarnated to fulfill her revenge against Grandsire Bhishma.  She was born as a baby girl to King Drupada, the king of Panchala.  She was originally named Shikhandini due her female gender.  It is said that, when she was a young girl, she wore the garland which hung at the palace door of King Drupada.  She had left that garland when she was Amba, before she went into the forest. 

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When King Drupada saw his daughter wearing the garland, he became fearful of becoming Bhishma’s enemy, so he banished Shikhandini from the kingdom.  Shikhandini performed austerities in the forest.  She was transformed into a male named Shikhandi, and returned to Drupada with all the glory of her gender transformation.

King Drupada defeated all the Kauravas and Duryodhana easily, with the help of Shikhandi.  They captured all the princes and made them their prisoners.  While King Drupada was celebrating his victory, one of his soldiers broke the news to him that they had only 100 princes captured, not 105.  Then came the Pandavas, led by Arjuna.  After a fierce fight, they defeated Drupada and freed Duryodhana and the other Kaurava princes.  Arjuna bound Drupada in ropes and brought him to Guru Drona.

At last Guru Drona got his revenge.  He set Drupada free, saying that even though Drupada didn’t honor their friendship, Drona always did.  But Drona retained half of the kingdom that had been promised to him, making his son Ashwatthama its king. 

Humiliated, Drupada sought vengeance but realized that he could not match Drona’s might, not even with Shikhandi.  So, Drupada performed the Putrakameshti Yaj~na, specifically to produce a son who could slay Drona.  Also, admiring Arjuna’s might, Drupada wanted a daughter who could marry Arjuna. 

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After the successful completion of the yaj~na, the twins Dhrishtadyumna and Draupadi emerged from the fire.  Drupada was so delighted to see his children, were born from the fire.

I Live in the Guru’s House

By Swami Samvidaananda Saraswati

I didn’t know I wanted a Guru, let alone to live in her house.  But from a young age I knew I wanted… something.  I was looking for something I couldn’t find in the choices that were presented to me.  I was told that when I grew up I could be a ballerina, teacher, wife, mother, secretary, nurse.

Then I met Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati.  She is a Guru, a spiritual teacher.  She offered an additional option: I could be enlightened.  She taught me about the Self, the Divine essence of my being.  It’s not just of my being, but of your being.  Your essence is the One Divine Essence that is being everything that exists, yet beyond everything that exists.  The One is called Self.  Because when you experience the One, you experience your Self.  There’s only One, and it’s you. 

Swami Nirmalananda (Gurudevi) doesn’t simply teach you about the Self.  She gives you the experience of your Self.  And she promises that one day you will never not know your own Divinity. You won’t merely have a glimpse of your Divine Essence; it will become your living experience.  You will BE the Beingness you are.  You will recognize everyone and everything that exists as another form of the same Divine Beingness.  In this tradition, this is called Self Realization.  It’s also called Enlightenment.

How can Gurudevi make that promise?  An ancient yoga text explains:

Gururupaaya.h — Shiva Sutras 2.6

The Guru is the means and the goal.

The Guru is the way by which you can know your Self and become enlightened.  Only if someone has something, can they give it to you.  If I wanted to give you a cookie, I’d have to have a cookie to give.  Gurudevi is a knower of the Self, so she can give that knowing to you.  She has the ability spark an inner awakening in you, so that you know your own Self.  The inner awakening is an initiation called Shaktipat. 

A Shaktipat Guru is extremely rare.  This initiation is her way of serving mankind; it is her gift to you.  Once your inherent Divinity is revealed to you, you can’t go back to not-knowing.  The pain and despair of feeling small, separate, and alone can no longer bind you.

At first, you can easily fall back into the old, limiting patterns in your mind.  They tell you are small, that you are “less than.”  But when you apply yourself to the practices, especially meditation, you dissolve those limiting patterns.  Meditation by meditation, you have experiences of your Self. 

You experience being happy, whole, fulfilled, peaceful, joyful, blissful.  These become new Self-made patterns in your mind.  Thus your mind will no longer block you.  So you must do the practices.  Once you receive Shaktipat initiation, your enlightenment is guaranteed.  But you play a part in how quickly it will happen.

And so, I live in the Guru’s house.  It’s called an Ashram.  One reason I live here is that it’s an option.  Gurudevi could live alone.  But from her unending generosity and dedication to supporting others’ Self-Realization, she established her Ashram.  She chose a home big enough that she can invite people in.  And she created a daily structure filled with yogic practices: meditation and chanting and seva (selfless service).  This structure ensures you are never too far away from your Self.

I live here because I’m dedicated to doing the practices that will get me enlightened.  I’m dedicated because I’m motivated.  Beneath everything else I’ve done in my life, there was a feeling that something was missing.  And there was: my Self.

I also live at the Guru’s house because I want to give back.  I want to support her and the organization she has created to give this inestimably precious gift to the world. There’s no amount that I can give that can equal the gift of my Self.  But I try.

This doesn’t mean you have to live in an Ashram.  Of course, it’s the purpose of a human life: to become Self-Realized.  It’s your personal destiny.  But you can experience the truth of your own being while you continue to live your life.  You can meditate, you can know the Self, you can be Self-Realized.  And you’ll continue to live the same life, with your same family.  You can do the things you’ve always done.

Except… you’ll be happy.  More than happy, you will know you own Divinity wherever you are in the world.  Whatever you see, you’ll be looking into the mirror of your Divinity all the time.  You get to choose if this is something that you want.  If you do, Gurudevi can help you get it.

Naturally Inclined toward Liberation

By Swami Shrutananda

Your mind specializes in repetitive thoughts focusing on negatives, worries and fears.  Most of your thoughts are not new, innovative, creative, inspiring and uplifting.  In fact, ninety to ninety-five percent of them are reruns!  If that were happening on your TV, you would turn it off.  Why don’t you do that with your mind?  Oh, because you can’t!  Your mind is like the Energizer Bunny.  It just keeps going and going and going. 

The quality of what you are thinking completely imbues your mind.  That becomes who you are.  If you are feeling angry you say, “I am angry.”  Not that you feel angry — but “I am angry.  This is who I am.”  This is called bondage.  Your mind keeps you bound in a limited sense of self.  You share this with others.  “Hello, I am angry.  Who are you?  Oh, you’re sad.  Hello, sad.”

Even creative thoughts keep you bound.  The mind can create uplifting and beautiful things, including fine art, great music, stunning landscapes.  The problem is that you follow your mind wherever it goes.  You never look deeper within to the One who has a mind.  So your experience is “I am my mind,” which is very limited, even when it’s creative.  You have a mind, but you are not your mind.  You are so much more. 

You are vast, all encompassing, the One Reality in all that exists.  You are Absolute Ever-Existent Beingness.  To experience and to know this greater reality, you must transform your mind.  Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras describes:

Tadaa hi viveka-nimnam kaivalya-praagbhaaram chittam.

— Yoga Sutra 4.26

Then the yogi’s mind is inclined towards discerning [the difference between mind and Self] and is heading toward liberation.

When you understand the difference between your mind and your Self, you are headed toward liberation.  In meditation, I had the experience of the vastness of my being.  I saw my mind as an orb, an object.  I wondered, who is aware of my mind?  Contemplating this question, I realized the “who” was my Own Self — the deepest dimension of my being.  I realized that I have my mind and I am much much greater than my mind.

My mind can still ruminate over my likes and dislikes.  It can get caught up in these thoughts.  Yet I am now more aware when I am entangled in my mind.  I understand that my mind is obscuring my state.  Then I can step back into my Self.

I see the difference between my vast inner Beingness and universes created by my mind.  Those universes are puny compared to the inner vastness and depth of my being. 

It is your mind’s repetitive thoughts that keep you bound. To head your mind toward liberation you need to transform your mind.  You will still have a mind, yet you will know the One who has a mind.  

Doing your yoga poses and Ujjayi Pranayama transforms your mind from the outside-inward.  Yet the easiest, most powerful and most effective practices are yoga’s Grace practices.  Working from the inside-outward, they give you the inner experience of Self.  This profound experience transforms your mind.  This is the function of a Shaktipat Guru.  Swami Nirmalananda (Gurudevi) is such a Guru.

Yoga’s Grace practices include receiving Shaktipat and repeating the enlivened mantra.  Plus you spend time with the Guru or you simply keep her in your thoughts.  These practices are powerful conduits of Grace.  They reveal your Own Self to you when you are practicing.

When you repeat mantra for meditation, you invoke Grace, and your meditations are deep and easy.  You explore the inner realms of your being.  These inner experiences of Self transform your mind.  Through this transformation, you come to know the difference between your own Self and your mind.  Now your mind is drawn toward liberation more quickly and more easily. 

You will have the deep and immediate experience of your own Self again and again.  You can come to live in that state of freedom all the time — with your eyes closed and with your eyes open.  This is a beautiful way to live.

Krishna Avatar Part 20

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

Guru Drona continued training the Kuru princes in his forest ashram after the episode with Ekalavya.  Now we return to Vasusena, better known as Karna.  While he was the adopted son of the charioteer Adhiratha and his wife Radha, he was the first born of Kunti, before her marriage.  Yet no one, including Kunti, Karna and his foster parents knew who he really was.  Kunti didn’t know that Karna was the baby she let afloat on the river, and Karna didn’t know that Kunti was his birth mother. 

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Karna was known by this name due to his birth with golden earrings attached to his ears.  All through his youth, Karna was very interested in archery, and was very good at it, probably because of his genetic factor.  The bond between Karna and his foster parents was one of pure love and affection.  Yet they never approved of his interest in archery as it was something a charioteer’s son should not pursue in those days.  Karna got into arguments with his parents because of this, many times.  One day he was sick of his parents suppressing him from what he is good at, archery, so he left home.  He went to many teachers, but all declined to teach him because he was not a kshatriya, meaning that he was not a royal or from the warrior class. 

He was very disappointed but continued to search.  He heard that the Kuru princes were being trained by Guru Drona.  Karna went there and asked Guru Drona to accept him as his student and teach him archery.  After asking who he was, Guru Drona refused to teach him for the same reason.  They got into a quarrel.  Karna questioned Guru Drona how he, not being a kshatriya, had the exception of learning archery.  Drona explained that his Guru, Parashurama, taught these arts only to brahmin sages.  At the end, Karna challenged that he would prove that he was better than Drona’s best pupil, Arjuna.  Before leaving, Karna showed off by demonstrating the archery skills he already acquired on his own.  It proved he had great skill with his bow and arrows. 

Karna decided to get Parashurama as his Guru.  Since Parashurama only taught the art of war to brahmins sages, Karna disguised himself as a brahmin sage.  Arriving at Parashurama’s ashram, Karna asked Parashurama to teach him the art of archery, saying he was refused by all the teachers as he wasn’t a kshatriya.  Parashurama said that he had retired from teaching archery.  Steadfast in his motive to learn the skill he loved so much, Karna spoke kind words and tried to persuade Parashurama to agree.  Due to the passion Karna displayed for archery, and due to the fact that Parashurama hated all the kshatriyas who had gone corrupt, he asked a final question, “Are you a brahmin sage?”  With the greatest of hesitation in his heart, but with the greed for getting the knowledge of archery prevailing over the hesitation, Karna lied to Sage Parashurama, saying he is a brahmin sage.

Parashurama took him under his wing and taught him archery along with all other arts of war.  In time, due to the respectful nature, obedience and the talent Karna displayed, he became very dear to Parashurama.  Karna would do anything and everything for his Guru, never disobeying him.  The years passed and the training was nearly at the end.  Parashurama taught Karna to use the Brahmastra, the mightiest weapon of all.  Karna was happy that his dream of mastering archery was becoming a reality.

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One day, Parashurama requested Karna to bring a pillow for him to sleep outside in the shade.  Karna instead wanted him to use his lap as a pillow.  So Parashurama was resting with his head on Karna’s lap.  While Parashurama was asleep, a huge bug came by and bit Karna’s thigh.  Despite the pain, Karna did not move as he didn’t want to disturb his Guru.  The bug bit deep into Karna’s leg, making blood flow. 

When Parashurama woke up, he saw the blood on the ground and the bug bite on Karna’s leg.  He realized at once that Karna was a kshatriya, as only a warrior could withstand such pain without moving.  Karna came out with the truth, that he was the son of a charioteer, as he didn’t really know that he was a kshatriya at that point.  Though Parashurama was very upset with Karna, his love towards his best disciplined student stopped him from cursing Karna.  But he says, as Karna had lied to learn the skills, he would lose the knowledge at the most needed moment in his life, and that he cannot do anything to change that fate. 

Karna pleaded with Parashurama to show him a way to overcome such a fate.  Parashurama was unable to help Karna but bestowed on him his personal bow called “Vijaya” (victory) and blessed Karna to have everlasting honor.  Having blessed him, Parashurama commanded Karna never to return as he has lost his trust.

Karna left Parashurama’s ashram with a very heavy heart.  Being so disappointed with himself, he wandered around, hardly knowing where he was going.  Suddenly an animal rushed past him.  Without thinking he drew his bow and shot at the movement, killing the animal.  When he went to the dead animal, a man shouted at him, angrily cursing him.  “You have killed my poor innocent cow.  For this sin, you will be killed when you are helpless to defend yourself, as my cow was!”  Hearing this, Karna fell into a much more depressed state.  As the fate seem to be against him, he went to the one person who loved him the most, the only person who could lift him out of his depression, his loving mother Radha.

Meanwhile in Guru Drona’s ashram, the princes had completed their schooling in all the arts of warfare.  Yudhishthira was very good with the spear, Duryodhana and Bhima with the “gadha” (the mace).  Arjuna was the best archer, while Nakula and Sahadeva were wonderful swordsmen.  Bhishma proposed to arrange a show to showcase the princes’ abilities in all that they had learnt.  Guru Drona gladly agreed to this, as he had full faith in his students.  The day of the show was fixed, and the public declaration was made to mark the end of the princes’ training.  The public was invited to watch the talent of the princes.  A special arena was built for the purpose of the royal games.   

It was indeed a grand event to watch.  A large number of people and the dignitaries of the Kaurava court came to witness the event.  Dhritarashtra, Bhishma, Vidura, Gandhari and Kunti were seated in a special section.  Other ministers and high officials were in an adjacent section.  All other citizens were in staired seating all around the venue.  Bhishma was eager to see how much each prince had achieved in the art of warfare.  Separate shows were held in various skills where the princes displayed what they had learnt.

Guru Drona introduced Arjuna with pride as he is his valiant student.  Without disappointing his Guru, Arjuna showed his extraordinary archery skills.  He shot an arrow into the earth and created a fearful leaping fire out of it.  The crowd were scared and screamed upon seeing this.  Then he shot another arrow skyward and caused a heavy downpour which extinguished the fire.  The crowd burst into thundering applause at the archery feats of Arjuna.  In like manner, he showed other skills which spoke very highly of his matchless perfection in archery.  He won the admiration of all.

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The next exciting event was the display of using the mace.  Both Bheema and Duryodhana were very talented in the mace-wielding skills.  They obviously had a feeling of bitter hostility between them.  Duryodhana was jealous of Bheema because he had always proved superior to him whenever they came to clash.  So, while showing their achievements in the art of using the mace they indulged in a real mace duel.  Guru Drona sensed the hostility and signaled his son Ashwatthama to stop the fight.  Ashwatthama lost no time in intervening to bring it to an end.  With great difficulty he succeeded in pulling them apart.

In the meantime, Karna heard the news that the royal games were happening.  He wanted to show his abilities to the crowd, though his foster parents were very much against it.  After a lot of argument, he disobeyed them and rushed to the arena.  Towards the end of the tournament, Karna arrived.  Whenever he heard Arjuna being praised, Karna was beside himself with ill will and anger.  Stepping into the arena uninvited, Karna thundered out a challenge, “Guru Dronacharya! You have praised Arjuna so highly and described him as matchless.  I also want to show my archery skill for the public’s comparison.” All at the arena was surprise to see this young man, who shone with the brightness of the Sun God.  Dronacharya wholeheartedly welcomed Karna to participate.  Karna continued, saying, “I don’t want child’s play, I want a real combat with Arjuna to prove my superiority!” 

Duryodhana’s heart was filled with joy to witness what was happening.  The crowd in the arena also got excited hearing Karna’s invitation for a duel, which divided them into two groups, one supporting Arjuna and one for Karna.  Kunti the mother of the Pandavas heard the commotion and looked at Karna.  She immediately recognized Karna the son she left afloat in the river.  It was very easy as she was quick to recognize the set of golden earrings and the sacred armor attached to his body.  She fainted, unable to bear the sorrow of her older son inviting the other for a duel, due to ill fate. 

At this point, the royal Guru Kripacharya intervened and asked Karna to declare his lineage, who his parents were and to which royal family he belonged.  At first speechless, Karna revealed the truth about having been raised by Adhiratha, the charioteer of Grandsire Bhishma.  Kripacharya rejected Karna’s request, saying the show was for princes and not for sons of charioteers.  Therefore, he was saying that Karna could not participate in it at all. 

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Duryodhana came to Karna’s rescue and said, “Who says that Karna is not a prince?  I declare him the ruler of the Anga Kingdom from this moment.”  Of course, King Dhritarashtra jumped in right away to back his son’s wish, officially making Karna the King of Anga.  Karna was so grateful to Duryodhana that he promised to guard him and his kingdom at any cost. 

Just then, Adhiratha the charioteer came and embraced his son Karna.  This made Bheema laugh at Karna, which caused Karna to feel very hurt.  Duryodhana stood up for Karna once again.  From that moment, Karna became the best friend of Duryodhana forever.  Even though Duryodhana had a plan to use Karna as his weapon against the Pandavas, Karna wholeheartedly accepted his friendship and held Duryodhana in his heart until death.  By the time this whole argument was over, the sun was about to set.  By the rules, the show should be concluded. 

Arjuna stood up and requested Kripacharya to allow him to say something.  With Kripacharya’s permission, Arjuna said, “Listen Karna!  This world is full of warriors and all sorts of talented people.  They are too many to count.  No one should consider himself invincible, nor do I.  But by challenging me for a real battle, you have spoilt the spirit of this sporting event.  You have shown your arrogance rather than your archery skills.  I promise I will break your arrogant pride one day.”  The audience gave out a loud applause for Arjuna words, which made Karna feel belittled.  Arjuna’s fearless and well-guarded statement silenced Karna, who started repenting his tall claim.  With that, Bhishma announced the close of the competition, much to the disappointment of Duryodhana, Karna and all their friends.

Change & the Changeless

By Satguru Swami Nirmalananda

“The one thing constant in life is change,” advises an ancient Greek philosopher. The last year has certainly proven this to everyone in the world! 

Yoga goes one step further, teaching that, in the midst of change, there is an inner principle that remains steady. The constancy of your own presence never leaves you. However, if you define yourself by the outer situations, your sense of self changes with the changes of life. One moment you will be happy, and the next moment you will not. If you measure your sense of self by your net worth, or if you are merely at the mercy of the evening news, you’ll be living on a roller coaster, rising and falling from heaven to an inner hell.

People react differently to change. Some people live for change. Others like to have a choice in the change. Some people resist change; others are relieved when it is thrust upon them. The most adaptable and flexible people are those with an inner sense core of stability. They handle and enjoy whatever life offers. One Sanskrit text describes this by stating, “Realizing the inner Truth, one can live anywhere.”

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Your inner Self is the one changeless principle. When life is swirling around outside of you, your inner Self remains serene and undisturbed.  A Sanskrit verse describes this as niralambaya, needing no support. You do not depend on an outer role or identity to prop up your sense of self. Your actions and words come from the changeless inner principle.

The goal of yoga is for you to live in this state. It is already familiar to you, because you get a taste of it at the end of every Svaroopa® yoga class. This inner assurance eliminates any need to defend or protect yourself. It is never affected by stress or hurry. It is the deep experience of your inner Self in every moment.

Once you’ve found it, it fills into the other parts of your life. This inner support becomes tangible in every moment of your day. The real meaning of life comes from your inner Self. This is what yoga gives you. You taste it in Shavasana (Relaxation Pose). It is there in every yoga pose. You can perfect it in meditation. In this way your practice of yoga becomes the perfect preparation for life — you are able to find the changeless principle even in the midst of life’s changes. Then, every change is a celebration of life itself! Do more yoga.

Krishna Avatar Part 19

By Nirooshitha Sethuram

After the attempt on Bhima’s life, Bhishma had promised Kunti that he would make everything right.  As the first step in keeping his word, he confronted Dhritarashtra.  Dhritarashtra turned a blind eye to it as usual, trying to avoid the situation.  But this time, Bhishma did not let Dhritarashtra off the hook so easily.  With a very stern voice, Bhisma demanded that Dhritarashtra look into the matter and give the rightful punishment to Duryodhana and his brothers. 

Dhritarashtra melted down. pleading with Bhishma that he cannot punish his children under any circumstances.  Understanding that Dhritarashtra was not going to do anything on his own, Bhishma imposed that all the children would learn under Dronacharya at his Ashram.  Bhishma thought that creating distance between Dhritarashtra and his children would give an opportunity for Duryodhana and his brothers to change, especially under the guidance of Dronacharya and without interference from their father.  Unable to wiggle out the mess Duryodhana had created, Dhritarashtra had to agree to Bhishma’s mandate.

Bhishma’s plan was to make the Pandava and Kaurava cousins work together for the greater good of Hastinapura.  After getting Dhritarashtra sorted out, Bhishma knew he also had to create distance between Duryodhana and his uncle Shakuni, if his plan had any chance of success.  So he connected with Shakuni’s father, King Subala.  He advised him to renounce his throne and make his eldest son, Shakuni, the king of Gandhara kingdom. 

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This would insure that Shakuni had his hands full on a daily basis., thus getting him away from the Kauravas.  Shakuni was very upset with them about this plan, for his only aim was to punish the Kuru dynasty for what had been done to his sister Gandhari.

All the one hundred and five children prepared to go to Dronacharya’s Ashram.  Word was sent to Dronacharya that his conditions were agreed upon by Dhritarashtra, and that the children will be arriving on the next auspicious day.  Guru Drona was very happy that his dream of teaching the Kuru dynasty princes was coming true.  He made all the arrangements for the arrival of his students.

Back in Hastinapura, Dhritarashtra was very upset that Duryodhana had put him in a position to make such a decision.  At the same time, Duryodhana was very upset with his father because he hadn’t turned a blind eye as usual.  By the time came for the children to leave, not only Dhritarashtra, but also Gandhari, Kunti and all of Hastinapura was in sorrow.  Bhishma was firm about sending the children to the Ashram, far away from Hastinapura.  Firm orders were issued that no one should contact the children and anyone who did would be severely punished.

The Pandavas and the Kauravas reached Guru Drona’s Ashram.  They were welcomed by Guru Drona and his wife Kripi.  The Ashram was located in a very thick jungle and had minimal luxuries.  Used to luxuries of the palace for their whole life, Duryodhana and his brothers hated the place.  But nothing could be done.  On the other hand, the Pandavas had been brought up in a similar environment previously, therefore didn’t have any problem with it.  All of them met Guru Drona’s son Ashwatthama, who was to study with them according to the agreement. 

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Ashwatthama was Guru Drona’s only son.  He was a boon from Lord Shiva, after Guru Drona’s severe penance to please Lord Shiva.  Ashwatthama was born with a gem on his forehead.  It gave him power over all living beings other than humans and it protected him from hunger, thirst and fatigue.  Hunger had been his childhood curse due to the poverty of his family.   Duryodhana made sure that Ashwatthama became close to the Kauravas, rather than the Pandavas.

The gurukul studies and training started.  The children were very busy and didn’t notice how the time was flying by.  They were unable to think about home.  All of the princes were good learners. After a few months of training. Guru Drona decided to test the ability of his pupils’ archery skills.  He prepared a wooden bird and placed it on a branch of a tree. The Princes were asked to get ready with their bows and arrows. The target was the bird’s eye. Guru Drona asked them to come one by one, asking each the same question, “What do you see?”

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Yudhishthira went first, being the eldest.  He said, “I see the tree, branch and the entire body of the bird.”  Guru Drona wasn’t satisfied with the answer.  All followed after him and gave similar answers.  The Guru was a bit disappointed.  Then came Arjuna, who first touched the feet of his Guru, who blessed him to be successful.  Arjuna set an arrow to his bow and took aim.  Guru Drona repeated the same question. “What do you see?”  Arjuna, with shining eyes, said, “I see nothing but the eye of the bird.”  The Guru signaled him to shoot.  Arjuna shot the arrow and in a flash the arrow pierced the bird’s eye.  Guru Drona was very pleased, praising Arjuna’s one pointedness and hugging him endearingly, blessing him to be the invincible archer.

The Guru’s son Ashwatthama and Arjuna both loved archery, so they often practiced together.  One night while they were eating together, a gush of wind blew their lamp out.  They both continued eating in pitch darkness without spilling a single grain on the floor.  Seeing this, Guru Drona taught them both how to hit a target blindfolded, guided by the sounds without visual help.

Another day, Guru Drona went for a swim in the river while the disciples stayed on the banks. Suddenly he screamed, “Help! Help! A crocodile has got my leg in its jaws!”  The pupils were shocked by this and frozen to their feet not knowing what to do.  Arjuna stayed calm, picked up his bow and shot an arrow, targeting the splashing sounds made by lashing tail of crocodile. The crocodile died, releasing Guru Drona from its hold.  The Guru was saved. 

He was delighted by the way Arjuna handled the situation.  As a reward, he taught another exclusive teaching on Brahmashirsha astra.  While Arjuna’s archery skills amazed everyone, the Kaurava princes felt jealous of him.  They didn’t like the fact their Guru was partial to Arjuna, showing favoritism.

One day a tribal boy named Ekalavya came to see Dronacharya, asking him to be his Guru in the art of archery.  The reaction from the princes, especially from the Kauravas was not good.  They were against having Ekalavya as their classmate because of the difference in their status.  As Guru Drona had already promised Bhishma that he would only teach the Kuru princes, he was helpless and had to refuse Ekalavya.  But Ekalavya was a determined young boy.  He respectfully bowed, picking up a handful of soil from the ground underneath the feet of Guru Drona, putting his hand to his forehead, then departed.

Without going back home, he went into the nearby forest.  He collected a heap of clay and mixed in it the handful of soil he had brought from underneath the feet of Guru Drona.  He created a clay model of Guru Drona.  Every day he would touch the feet of the clay model of Guru Drona and practice archery on his own.  One day Ekalavya was busy practicing shooting when a dog appeared and started barking at him.  He tried to drive the dog away but it refused move.  After it went on for some time, Ekalavya lost his patience and shot arrows at the dog. The arrows expertly stuffed the mouth of the dog shut without seriously wounding it. 

Yelping, the dog yelping ran away. It belonged to one of the princes, so it returned to the Ashram.  The princes were amazed to see its plight.  Guru himself was stunned by the archery skill of the archer who had done that.  They decided to follow the paw marks of the dog, searching for the skillful archer. They reached the place of Ekalavya who was still practicing.  Guru Drona at once recognized the boy.  Ekalavya was delighted to see his Guru visiting him.  Guru Drona asked, “Are you the one who did this to the dog?”  Ekalavya bent down on his knees and said he had to do that as the dog was disturbing him from his practices.  Seeing Ekalavya with such talent, Guru Drona knew at once that he would outstrip his favorite pupil, Arjuna.  His dream of making Arjuna the greatest archer of the world might not happen with such skills of Ekalavya.

So, Guru Drona asked Ekalavya, who was his Guru.  Ekalavya humbly said, “You are my Guru.”  Guru Drona was stunned by this answer and asked how that was possible, as he’d refused to take him as his student.  Ekalavya immediately took him to the clay model.  Pointing at it, he explained, “Even though you couldn’t accept me as your student, I had accepted you as my Guru in my heart.  Whatever the skill I learned today is the gift of your blessing.”

Duryodhana was very happy to see Ekalavya.  Duryodhana wanted to befriend Ekalavya so that Duryodhana would have a weapon to match Arjuna. 

Even though Guru Drona was greatly pleased at Ekalavya’s devotion and persistence he was bewildered by this situation.  As a Guru he couldn’t allow this situation to continue, as learning a skill without the Guru’s guidance must not be completed as it could be a danger to the world. He decided to put an end to it. 

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He asked for Guru-dakshina from Ekalavya.  At the end of education, you give Guru whatever he asks as Gurudakshina.  With delight, Ekalavya asked what Guru would want.  Guru Drona asked for Ekalavya’s right thumb. Without a second thought, Ekalavya obeyed, cut off his thumb and placed it at the Guru’s feet.  In this way, he set an example of devotion and obedience to the Guru.  Ekalavya’s devotion to the Guru yet remains one of the greatest of all time.  He also acquired the mastery of shooting with four fingers and later became the king of the Nishadhas.

All the princes were dumbstruck what had just taken place.  Especially Duryodhana was heartbroken, that the plan he had in mind just got smashed by his Guru.