Arjun was invincible. Under the tutelage of Guru Drona he had mastered archery and the divine astras. He wielded the Gandiva, the celestial bow, crafted by Brahma that clapped like thunder when fired. To woo Draupadi, he was able to shoot the eye of a fish swivelling above him, while only looking at its reflection in a pool of water on the floor. But, was he the greatest archer in the world?
When Eklavya was young, he had approached Drona and asked him to be his guru, but Drona had refused because, unlike Arjun, Eklavya was no prince. Eklavya was disappointed, but not discouraged. He gathered some mud that Drona had stepped on, and moulded a statue of Drona in his village. Accepting this inanimate statue as his guru, and praying for his blessings, Eklavya began to learn archery on his own. After years of self-training, he became such an exceptional archer that he once silenced a barking dog by shooting at and stuffing its mouth full of arrows, all without injuring it.
When Drona learned of this feat, he praised Eklavya for his resolve and talent, and Eklavya bowed to him with gratitude and deference. But Drona’s awe was quickly overshadowed by fear: What if Eklavya had surpassed Arjun, his favourite student? So, Drona asked Eklavya for his guru dakshina, the payment from a student to a guru for his guidance. Eklavya was keen to offer payment to the guru who meant the world to him. Eklavya complied to guru Drona’s demand, which subsequently neutralized his threat against Arjun’s championship. Eklavya did not have any regrets about his action nor did he harbour any bitterness towards his guru. Eklavya’s story is remembered as a shining example of an extreme case of guru bhakti.
Let us try to relate a particular parallel from Eklavya’s story in which he was physically separated from his guru. Similarly, countless BAPS devotees in India and abroad are physically separated from guruhari Mahant Swami Maharaj. Fortunately, despite the physical separation from a guru, it is still possible for a disciple to build a spiritual bridge with him. In the Swamini Vato, Gunatitanand Swami provides a three-step instruction for constructing this bridge: “Remembering this Sadhu in the mind destroys the sins of the mind; listening to his talks destroys the sins of the ears; and engaging in his darshan destroys the sins of the eyes. Understand his glory in this way” (1.30).
Before every shot, Eklavya remembered his guru. If it found its mark, he thanked his guru for inspiration, and if it missed, he prayed to his guru for perseverance. Eklavya never had his guru to personally guide him, but by repeatedly remembering him, he became an archer as skilful as the privileged Arjun. We all remember Swamishri on the weekends when we go to the mandir, or every morning when we do our puja, but remembering him as often as possible, even during routine activities like driving, will clear our heads, relax our emotions, and destroy “the sins of the mind”. This can be facilitated, for example, by developing the habit of praying to Swamishri before routine activities, or by using his image as a wallpaper for our smartphones and computers. Thus, the first step of building a bridge to Swamishri is simply to remember Swamishri throughout our day.
The second and third steps of building a bridge to Swamishri may seem impossible: admittedly, listening to Swamishri in person and engaging in his darshan is challenging, since he can be in vicharan anywhere in the world under the meticulous care of sadhus and doctors. Thankfully, audio recordings, photos and videos of him are easily accessible on the internet, e.g. the BAPS website. This luxury, which did not exist during Eklavya’s or Gunatitanand Swami’s time, is quite effective at destroying “the sins of the ears” and “the sins of the eyes.” Of course, it cannot replicate the wonderment and bliss we feel when we are actually with Swamishri – the feeling of brahmanandam – but it can certainly help us relive our memories with him, and strengthen our bond with him.
Eklavya realized the importance of having a great guru, even if his presence was only felt through a small murti, and he built such strong bonds with his guru that he ultimately gave up his entire livelihood at his guru’s command. Using these three practical ways, we can also build a bond just as strong with our guru: by remembering him throughout our day, listening to his recorded talks, and engaging in his photo or video darshan. With these concrete solutions, we can, much like Eklavya, bond with our guru despite being physically apart from him, and eventually become one with him and attain his divine virtues in our life.