Why is Arjuna considered the ideal student?
When a teacher sees a lot of students, actually he or she can recognize those students who stand out in certain qualities. And he or she will do whatever is in their capability to enhance those qualities, not just for their own benefit, but for the benefit of the whole world. Dronacharya clearly saw phenomenal qualities in Arjuna. In fact Dronacharya favoured Arjuna over Ashwatthama, his own son, because of Arjuna’s qualities.
A Guru always sees more than just the skill of his student. He looks deeper into many aspects of his attitude and character. The quality of Arjuna was that he would do anything for his Guru. His Guru bhakti was very great. There are many episodes to illustrate why Arjuna is such an ideal student.Once on a time, everybody discusses with each other,” This Arjuna! He alone gets special treatment from our Guru. How can that be?” Guru Dronacharya knows what is happening in the ashrama. He makes a plan to actually show his other students why Arjuna is much superior to them. They go for their regular ablutions to the river and Guru Drona creates a situation in which a crocodile actually catches hold of his leg and starts pulling him in. Guru Drona,with his awesome skill could easily take care of the crocodile. But he lets out a cry. The moment he lets out a cry, the crocodile is dead! The crocodile is shot dead before anybody could even realize what was happening. They are all having fun and frolicking in the river. But all of Arjuna’s attention is on his Guru, Drona. In one moment he had strung his bow, fitted arrows, shot and killed the crocodile, before anybody could as much as exclaim, “Ah!”. That was his Guru bhakti! After this incident, people realized why their Guru favoured Arjuna over all of them. This is how a mother is with her child. Whatever be the activity she is engaged in, her eye is always on her beloved child. Likewise when there is bhakti, it does not matter whether it is night or day, whether one is engaged in this work or that, one constantly thinks only of one’s object of devotion, and that is prema, exceptional prema!
Arjuna was well-known for his vikrama. Krama means effort. He was capable of putting in parakrama, superhuman effort! But he was known for vikrama, effortless effort. Certain people put in a lot of effort and it shows. Certain other people put in massive effort and it does not show, they carry it lightly. Arjuna was like that. One of the episodes displays awesome quality of Arjuna. Guru Dronacharya had actually advised the cook to not serve his students food at night. But one day it so happens that while Arjuna is eating, the lights go off. In a trice, Arjuna vanishes from the place to start practicing! The eight days around amavasya (new moon) are dark. So during this time, Arjuna could not practise during the nights. Otherwise he was so systematic that the day’s lessons would be practiced immediately and mastered. And he would move forward.
As he ate in the dark, he realized that there was automatic coordination between his hands and mouth. He did not require vision to put his hand into his mouth. This was an amazing discovery for him. He immediately takes up his bow and arrow to practise in the dark. He learns how to orient himself towards the target, through his senses and other signs. And from then on, the entire month, he would practise day and night! Day and night- just practice. Otherwise he could not have gained such mastery, as he displays throughout the Mahabharata.
Arjuna’s powers of concentration are very well-known. He did not see anything else but the target. In fact, that is a very important lesson for us. Generally what happens to all of us is we get confused because we don’t see the target. Once Guru Drona takes his students for the day’s lesson and asks them to prepare to shoot the eyes of a wooden bird kept on a tall tree. Guru Drona then asks each of his students what they see. Everybody sees the tree,the leaves the branches, the sky and also the eyes of the wooden bird. But Arjuna sees nothing but the eye of the bird.
Nowadays being able to see everything is considered good, while actually it is not good. At this present moment, one should see nothing except what one needs to do; one should eliminate everything else, but that. This is called selective vision. At the present moment, if we see anything else other than what needs to be done in the present moment, we cannot act with swiftness, with clarity and with decisiveness. Once we have decided upon a course of action, we should see only that, at that point in time. That is all. Otherwise the mind will get confused. We may have a grand plan, but we must work it out to what needs to be done this moment, and act on it decisively. It should be decisive action. It should not be contemplation. Arjuna had that quality. He would see only that which was required at that point in time. As one goes higher up the ladder, as one becomes the leader of a big organization, one will see that there are so many conflicting requirements, that if one is not decisive in action, one’s mind will becomes crowded with various conflicts and start to vascillate. One will be indecisive at best, and one cannot be called a leader.
Guru Dronacharya was an exceptionally capable master. He was not a normal human being. He was an amsha avatara (partial incarnation) of Rishi Brihaspati, who is the Guru of the devas. Arjuna was hardworking, obedient, and had all the qualities of an ideal student. Arjuna displayed such tremendous qualities, exceptional hard work and at the same time he could carry his hard work, simply, lightly, without showing any strains of putting in effort. That is the difference between a purebred horse and a mule! Hence he was Guru Dronacharya’s obvious favourite.