Pages from the history of Bharata Varsha: Arjuna Vs Ekalavya Many people regard Ekalavya’s *guru-bhakti* as that of the ideal disciple. But one special consideration must be observed... Hiranyadhanura, the king of the outcastes (*candalas*), had a son named Ekalavya. Desiring to study the science of projectile weaponry (*astra-vidya*), the outcaste prince presented himself before Dronacarya. However, Dronacarya did not agree to initiate him into the science of archery, for he was aware of Ekalavya’s very low status*.* Nevertheless, Ekalavya vowed to himself that he would learn archery only from Dronacarya, and with that purpose in mind, he went to the forest. There he sculpted an idol of Dronacarya out of earth and began practising *astra-vidya* in the presence of his imagined *guru*. In this way, he gradually became extraordinarily expert in archery. Arjuna was Dronacarya’s dearest disciple, and the *acarya* had promised him that none of his other disciples would ever be able to surpass him. * * * One day, on the order of Dronacarya, the Kauravas and Pandavas ventured out from their capital to the forest to hunt. They soon came across a dog,directly on their path and were extremely astonished to find that seven arrows had been shot into the dog’s mouth simultaneously when he had opened it to bark. They could see that the archer who had let loose those arrows was even more skilled than any of the Pandavas, and set out to find him. After searching for some time, they discovered that the boy who had performed this feat was Ekalavya, the son of Hiranyadhanura, and that he had developed his extraordinary skill by making and worshipping an idol of Dronacarya. The Pandavas returned to their capital and informed Dronacarya of this amazing incident. In a humble mood, Arjuna informed Dronacarya of the fact that the *acarya* had one disciple more skilled in the art of archery than he. The *acarya* listened to these words in shock. At once, he returned to the forest with Arjuna and came upon Ekalavya, who was fully absorbed in practising archery as he let loose dense volleys of arrows, one after the other. When Dronacarya approached, Ekalavya suddenly saw the *acarya* standing directly before him. The young archer immediately worshipped his feet, introduced himself as one of his disciples, and stood submissively with folded hands. Dronacarya addressed Ekalavya, “You must offer me *guru-daksina**.” * *Guru-daksina* is the reciprocation due to the teacher of a particular art for initiating and training the student. If the student fails to provide *guru-daksina*, his learning is not blessed. Ekalavya replied, “Whatever you order, I am prepared to give.” Dronacarya next told Ekalavya to sever his right thumb and give it as *daksina*, and he followed the order of his *gurudeva* with a bright face, without any objection. * * * Despite being rejected by Dronacarya due to being from a low caste, Ekalavya did not lose faith in his *gurudeva*. He made an earthen statue of Dronacarya and learned the science of archery from it, thus demonstrating ideal *guru-bhakti*. Furthermore, the common conception is that Arjuna was jealous that Ekalavya had achieved greater expertise than he had, and that Arjuna was responsible for destroying Ekalavya’s prowess by inducing Dronacarya to keep his word. However, this is not actually true, and it is not the conception of the devotees. Sri Bhagavan is the eternal, Supreme Truth, His *bhakti-niti* – that is, His principle of devotion – is eternal truth, and His devotees are eternal truth. These three – Bhagavan, *bhakti* and the *bhakta* – are the sole, eternal Supreme Truth. For the devotees, everything is well, while for the non-devotees nothing is well. Even the qualities of the non-devotees are disqualifications because their qualities are not engaged in pleasing the transcendental senses of God. Those who consider mundane ethics to be greater than Bhagavan are unable to comprehend the topics of the Absolute Truth. They belong to the school of impersonalism (*nirvisesa-vada*). They do not accept that Bhagavan, *bhakti* and the *bhakta* are non-different, and yet there are real specialities between them. * * * What flaw was there in Ekalavya’s behaviour that is worthy of careful deliberation? Ekalavya wore the mask of *guru-bhakti*, but he was actually acting antagonistically toward his *guru*. When the *acarya* – he whom Ekalavya had accepted as his *gurudeva* – did not want to teach Ekalavya the science of archery, either because he considered Ekalavya to be of a low caste, or for the purpose of testing him,or for any other reason, it was Ekalavya’s duty to take that order on his head. However, that idea did not even enter his mind. Instead, his main concern was to become *bada*, or very big and great. According to custom, if the student does not accept a *guru* from an external perspective, he will not be accepted as properly trained, nor will he ever be acclaimed as great. It was for this reason that Ekalavya created an earthen statue of Dronacarya and imagined being in his presence. In this act, his sole purpose was to become great by expertly learning the science of archery. In essence, the root cause and purpose of his *sadhana* was nothing but the gratification of his senses*.* Sacrificing himself to the desire of his *guru* was in no way his exclusive aim. Some argue that, in the end, Ekalavya made no objection to the strict instruction of his *guru*, and in fact, executed his order with joy. However, by reflecting upon this matter with gravity and a little subtlety, we can see that even in this instance, rather than actually valuing transcendental devotion to his *guru*, Ekalavya considered mundane ethics to be of utmost importance. The ethic he upheld when he severed his thumb was that one must unfailingly give whatever object one’s *gurudeva* requests as *daksina*. Actually, Ekalavya did not make his offering with any real devotion, or *bhakti.Bhakti’s* tendency is to be natural and honest. If Ekalavya had natural and causeless *bhakti *for Hari, *guru, *and Vaisnavas in his heart, then neither his *guru*, Dronacarya; nor the topmost Vaisnava, Arjuna; nor Bhagavan Sri Krsna Himself would have been disturbed by his behaviour. But his *gurudeva* did not accept Ekalavya’s endeavour to attain expertise in the science of archery or to become great. The core of Ekalavya’s heart suffered from the disease of desiring and endeavouring to become even greater than Arjuna, who is the greatest of Vaisnavas. *The desire to be greater than the Vaisnava is not bhakti, it is abhakti.* It is simply a display of mundane bravado. According to worldly considerations, the ambition to become great may be considered a good thing. But the endeavour to stay subordinate to the Vaisnavas and to remain under their guidance is indeed called *bhakti*. Rather than directly receiving knowledge through the *srauta-parampara** or from a mahanta-guru *(grandmaster) through the process of aural reception, Ekalavya wanted to become great through his own bravado, and it was this that Arjuna informed Dronacarya of. If Arjuna had not mercifully done so,impersonalism (*nirvisesa-vada) *would have triumphed. An atheistic doctrine would have been established that it is possible for people to achieve perfection without ever approaching a *mahanta-guru* for transcendental knowledge or instructions on *bhakti* and even after going against the wishes of such a *guru* and simply practising near an imaginary or clay statue of him. It is clear that Arjuna was not at all envious of Ekalavya; rather he showed causeless compassion to him and the whole world. _____________ * The descent of perfect sound vibration through the succession of perfected masters. If Ekalavya had had sincere *bhaki* for his *guru*, then Krsna would never have been able to destroy him, for He always protects His *bhakta* or the *bhakta* of His *bhakta*. However, Ekalavya was killed by Sri Krsna’s own hands. This was the ultimate fate of Ekalavya. Sri Caitanyadeva has explained, “An external display of austerities cannot be called *bhakti*. The demons also perform austerities of such severity that even the demigods cannot rival them” (*Sri Caitanya-bhagavata*, *Madhya-khanda*, 23.46). Ekalavya wanted to be greater than the Vaisnava,even though this was directly opposed to the desire of his *guru*. Because he was slain by Sri Krsna’s own hand, he attained an impersonal destination. Only demons are killed by Sri Krsna, while devotees are protected by Him. Hiranyakasipu and Prahlada are the respective evidence of this. We must not wear the mask of *guru-bhakti* with the objective of becoming greater than the Vaisnavas. We must not become impersonalists (*nirvisesa-vadis*). This is the teaching that *suddha-bhaktas *can glean from the example of Ekalavya’s life. There is not even one iota of *guru-bhakti* in the most extraordinarily skilful execution of *karma*, but subordination to the Vaisnava is truly *bhakti*. By Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada in *Upakhyane Upadesa*.