The aim of our spiritual quest is to awaken our soul from the deep spell of hypnosis of life. The soul is bound by many cords but the thickest among these is that which is formed by our habits. Habits are of many kinds – intellectual, emotional, and of the body. The patterns of behaviour and thinking that have formed in our brains are all habits, which keep us asleep. We live our lives not the way we want to but at the diktats of our habits. The irony is that we not only fail to realize this phenomenon but on being questioned, we justify it saying that we can change at any time we wish to. This is the imagination or maya we live under.
Habits are formed through acharana – repetition of certain behaviour tracks till they become patterns in our sub-conscious. We can call this process as conditioning. Dronacharya is the teacher of both, the Pandavas and the Kauravas. A teacher is the one who creates the educated or cultivated self in us. Let us study the symbology and see what this represents within us. The word Dronacharya comes from the Sanskrit root ‘Dru’ meaning molten or that which is in a molten state. A child is born with many possibilities which at the time of birth are still in a molten state. Through upbringing, education, and repetition (a process of acharana), a few of these possibilities get expressed. The unexpressed lie dormant in the unconscious mind of a person. Hence, we often comment that a person is born with a very rich destiny but in one’s lifetime, is able to convert only a small part of it into one’s fortune. This conversion (of that which is molten) into behaviour is done by the acharya or teacher.
There are two kinds of habits – bad and good, though none of them have anything to do with morality. Bad habits increase the sleep or hypnosis of life. Good habits create conditions for us to wake up from the sleep of life. Dronacharya is the mechanism that enables formation of habits. That is why he is the guru of both the good and bad, respectively the Pandavas and the Kauravas. For us, a habit is an action or a thought-form performed automatically and hence, an unconscious streak. This is the very reason why when it has to side, it sides with the negative forces.
The story of the birth of Dronacharya is very interesting. The rishi Bharadwaj was filled with lust and desire when he saw the fairy Ghritachi bathing in the Ganga. His semen ejaculated and this was stored in a pot from which Dronacharya was born. Dronacharya was born as an accident of lust. There is a lesson here, in that when we have children, are they accidents of our sexual desires or do we consciously make an effort to invite them. His being born from a pot is the symbol of conditioning – something cultivated, and not natural. Dronacharya being born from desire is a symbol of habits being born from deep desires within us. Later, Dronacharya marries Kripi, the sister of Kripacharya, the guru of the princes of Hastinapura. Kripa means pity and the sister of pity is self-pity. Self-pity is born out of a deep desire to get something from someone by creating pity in the giver’s mind. This habit becomes second nature to us.
Dronacharya’s son is Ashwathama, ‘swa’ means tomorrow, ‘aswa’ means not tomorrow and ‘sthama’ means that which is steady or constant. What in us is there today but changes and is not the same tomorrow, yet is still steady and constant – desire. Today we desire a car, tomorrow a house, and day after something else. Objects of desire keep changing but desire is always constant. For all disciples on the spiritual path, this father-son relationship of habit-desire is the most difficult to break free of. Our deepest habit is that every moment we keep on desiring. If my children are going out, as they leave the door, there is an intense desire inside that nothing should befall then on the way. If I am writing this article, there is a desire inside that people appreciate it. The desire that the outcome of our every action should be happy is the deepest habit. Once we break free of this habit, we wake up to the hypnosis of life or are enlightened.
Dronacharya was killed by deceit. This is very important as this tells us that this habit-desire mechanism within us can only be broken free of in a very sly manner. This idea has to come from the inner-consciousness or Sri Krishna. It is co-ordinated by Yudhisthira or the intellectual energy within us. Dronacharya is told that Ashwathama has died. Hearing this, he lays down his weapons and sits in meditation on the battlefield. He is killed by Drishtadyumna, who was born through a yagna of fire, a symbol of consciousness, and only one born from fire can kill this deeply grained habit mechanism.
We must make an effort to observe this habit-desire mechanism and after sustained practice, be free of it.