I was a teacher in the university, and each year on Teacher’s Day the university professors used to have an intimate meeting to discuss problems that they were facing. And every year the basic and the most troublesome problem was that the students didn’t respect them. When I joined their meeting for the first time it was my first year in the university. They were all condemning the students, they were condemning modern society, the Western world, because these have taken away all respect. One of the professors – an old man, a very respected professor, he was the dean of the faculty of arts – said, “It is so shameful, particularly in a country where there have been students like Ekalavya.” I will have to tell you the story so you can understand. It is an ancient Indian story.
There was a great master archer, Dronacharya. Princes, rich people, high caste Hindus and warriors used to come to him from faraway places to learn archery.
The Hindu society is divided into four classes. It is the ugliest division that exists in the whole world, and it has existed for five thousand years. A fourth of Hindu society are not treated like human beings; they are called sudras, untouchables. They are not even worthy to be touched. If by accident you touch a sudra, you have to immediately take a shower to clean yourself. Not only the sudra, even the shadow of the sudra is untouchable. If a sudra passes by and his shadow touches you, you have to take a bath.
This young man, Ekalavya, was born a sudra. But he wanted to become an archer, and he started learning archery on his own. He knew perfectly well – his elders told him – “No teacher is going to accept you.”
He said, “Before I go to any teacher, I will learn so much that it will be almost impossible for him to reject me.” And he disciplined himself, and when he thought that now he knew enough, he went to the greatest archer of those days, Dronacharya.
Dronacharya was amazed, seeing that the young man had learned on his own tremendously well. But still, Dronacharya was a brahmin, the highest Hindu caste, and it was impossible to accept Ekalavya as a disciple. He rejected him.
But Ekalavya was made of a different kind of mettle than ordinary human beings are made of. He went into the forest and made a statue of Dronacharya. And just in front of the statue, he continued learning on his own. Soon the word started spreading all over the country that Ekalavya had become a master archer, just by the side of the statue of Dronacharya.
Dronacharya had an ambition, and that ambition was that one prince who was his disciple, Arjuna – and he was a great archer – should become the greatest archer in the history of man. But this Ekalavya was disturbing everything, he was becoming more famous.
Dronacharya went into the forest… And this is the point to be noted – that’s why the dean of the faculty of arts had quoted the name of Ekalavya.
Ekalavya had been rejected by Dronacharya. Any ordinary human being would have felt insulted, humiliated. But on the contrary, he made a statue of Dronacharya – because he has chosen him as his master. It does not matter whether Dronacharya accepts him as his disciple or not – he will have to accept him. What matters is how deep his acceptance is of Dronacharya as his master.