Dronacharyar stopped a few hundred yards away from a tree and called Ashwathaman by his side. He pointed to the far away tree and asked Ashwathama "Do you see the tree over there". And Ashwathaman says "yes". "Do you see a bird sitting on the branch of that tree", asks the revered teacher. Ashwathaman says " yes! I can see". Upon which Dronacharyar instructs Ashwathama to take his bow & arrow and take aim. He says "don't shoot! just take aim".
Ashwathaman, who is chaffing at the reputation being second best archer in the world to Arjunan, takes out his bow and arrows and marks his target ( which quite far away) and he places his arrow on his bow and pulls the string towards him, ready to shoot. His rivalry with Arjunan is well documented and he wants to be known as the best archer who ever lived. Dronacharya now asks him, " what do you see Ashwathama ?"
Ashwathama replies " I see the bird, its legs, the twigs on the branch in which the bird sits, the small mango behind the bird, the leaves surrounding the bird, a small worm on the branch that approaches the bird." The surrounding crowd is amazed. Bheeman could barely see the bird and nobody else had the eyesight to spot so many small details that Ashwathama so casually spotted. The fire burned inside Ashwathama to outbeat his greatest rival and this fire allowed him to see what other could not. Dronacharyar does not seem impressed and tells him "Shoot! but you shall miss". Ashwathama, son of Dronacharyar, is insulted by the prediction of his own father and fires his arrow. He misses. He was given one shot and he missed. Dronacharyar would never give him another chance. He wouldn't want it either.
So Dronacharyar calls upon Arjunan, who as the books say is standing quietly behind the crowd watching the proceedings. "Arjuna, do you see the tree and the bird in it". Arjunan replies in affirmative. "Take aim then Arjuna, but do not fire your arrow until I say so".
So there stands Arjuna. And as great many writers have described before, he stands in a majestic posture with bow slightly tilted skywards, his powerful body arched as much as the bow. Observers seemed to feel the urge to see once more in order to distinguish between the man and the bow as they seemed to have merged into a single entity. So there stood Arjuna, on windy day like a statue, unmoved as Dronacharyar took the time to ask the question. "So Arjuna! What do you see". Arjunan replied "I see the eye of the bird O' teacher". Dronacharyar smiled and asked once more " Do you see anything else ?". Arjuna took his time and said " No! I don't. I dont even see the feathers. I just see the eye of the bird".
Dronacharyar said " Shoot and you shall not miss". Legends never descibe what happened after Arjuna shot the arrow. It is assumed that once he fires - the target is his. So Arjuna fired and that is the end of the story.
What got me thinking about this story? I always think about this story. There are small stories and big stories that move people. Such stories influence people and remains with them forever. This story among the millions of stories in the great epic Mahabharatha is to emphasize the value of single minded focus and concentration in acheiving success. Opportunities knock but once. From my exerience during such moments you always have to see the eye of the bird, the core of your target before you take aim. It is the sighting that counts, the firing is almost incidental, a mere confirmation of the sighting. I have so many times noticed this as the key difference between success and failure. It is in the sighting.
Now in this computer age steeped in algorithmic approach to life, you may think "once I get the understanding on the importance of sighting. I should be able to crack the problem". But let me tell you friends. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Arjunan was given a difficult test but his story is under typical conditions. Silence, nothing else but the bird to focus on, and nothing but the wind to disturb you.
In life, when you are moving towards the most significant test of life, a test, which if you shall pass will not only make you great but will open the key to your dreams - may not be in such typical condictions. You just get one shot.. Imagine that shot in a James Bond movie. Now I am not comparing or contrasting Bond and Arjunan. I would never think of doing so. I am trying to find an example which a modern day youth can identify with. Bond is dangling on a cliff a rope ( a thin slender rope) is tied to his left leg on one side and a tree on the other side. This is what stops Bond from falling down 10,000 feet. He is upside down, shaking in the air, it is biting cold with a lot of fog, the enemies are firing at him. His target is a mile away and moving. the vision is blurry. Bond then looks into his gun and finds that he just has one bullet left. He just gets one shot. He has to sight the eye of the target in that moment, fire and win.
Ladies and gentlemen! This is the typical modern day test to acheive your goals. This is real life. There will never be an ideal time to run towards an opportunity of a lifetime. There will never be an orchestrated test. This is not to belittle Arjunan's feat ( he may have had other tests which was much harder than my favorite test which I quoted above) but just an explanation of tests the way I see it in the modern world. You just get one shot and if you fail, it's gone forever. You will only be left fighting for lesser trophies. The one shot separates people. During that one shot a person has to shut out all the other ambient noise and zone in on his target. That is the essense of a true warrior. There is and was only one Arjunan in times when many great warriors lived, so it is natural that in todays age only a few will hit and many will miss. But it is the process of sighting gives valuable instructions on the irrevocable nature of life.