Story of Drona and Dhrupad

What in us is together in childhood but separates as we grow older and moves in opposite directions? A child does not know the difference between what pleases him and what is good for him. Wherever there is external excitement, he runs behind it not knowing whether it is right or wrong, advantageous or disadvantageous to his growth and development. In the Bhagwad Gita, Sri Krishna uses two words – ‘Shreya’ and ‘Preya’. Preya is that which pleases and Shreya is that which leads to a higher level of understanding and maturity. Sri Krishna is not interested in pleasing Arjuna, but in doing that which is right for him.

These two paths are beautifully depicted in the story of Drona and Dhrupad. Previously, we had seen that Drona was born out of excitement. His father, Rishi Bharadwaj, saw an apsara and his semen fell into a pot from which Drona was born. We have also seen that Drona represents the habit mechanism, which through repetition becomes behaviour. Our habits always follow the path of least resistance, i.e. towards external excitement and pleasure.

Prushad, the king of Panchala and Drona’s father, was a great friend of Rishi Bharadwaj, Drona’s father. Dhrupad and Drona grew up together in Rishi Agnivesh’s ashram. There they became very good friends, where Dhrupad promised Drona that when he became king of Panchala, he would share with Drona his kingdom, along with all its wealth, glamour, and comforts. After they left the ashram, Drona learned the art of archery from Parshuram, married Kripi and had a son called Ashwathama. On the other hand, Prushad died and Dhrupad came to the throne of Panchala.

Drona was very happy at having a child but at the same time he was living in deep poverty. When Ashwathama saw other children drinking cow’s milk, he also expressed his desire for the same. Drona went from kingdom to kingdom to obtain a milk-producing cow as diksha (alms) but he could not get one. His wife started mixing water with flour and fed Ashwathama with it under the guise of giving him milk. Drinking this, Ashwathama would dance thinking he too had his fill of cow’s milk, whereas other children ridiculed him for only having drank water mixed with flour. This hurt Drona and he decided to go, along with his wife and child, to Dhrupad to ask for a cow.

When they reached Panchala, Drona addressed Dhrupad, reminding him of their friendship and Dhrupad’s promises. Instead of welcoming Drona, Dhrupad ridiculed him saying that there could be no friendship between the poor and the wealthy and as all things decay with the passage of time, so had their friendship. Drona was furious at this and when he left Dhrupad’s kingdom, he vowed to look for disciples who, after their training in the art of warfare, would take revenge on Dhrupad for him.

It was at this time that he came to Hastinapura and the Kaurava and the Pandava princes started training under him. He told them that he would teach them the mastery of weapons to fulfil an aim of his, which they must deliver. Out of all the princes, only Arjuna vowed to fulfil his wish. After many years of training, when the princes were ready, he asked for them to bind King Dhrupad as a prisoner and bring him to Drona as Guru Dakshina. Initially, the Kauravas attacked but Dhrupad, with his mighty army, vanquished them completely. Then the Pandavas attacked and Arjuna fell Dhrupad from his elephant and captured him, taking him to Drona as Guru Dakshina. When Dhrupad was brought as a prisoner to Drona, Drona addressed him saying “You insulted me, but I will honour our friendship by giving you back half of your kingdom.” He added, “The kingdom to the south of the Ganga is yours and to the North, mine.”

We have seen that a child does not know the difference between excitement and sensitivity. The child’s attention gets seduced by whatever excites him. As his understanding grows, he can discriminate between right and wrong. In childhood, excitement and sensitivity were friends but as they grow up, they follow separate paths, depicted by Drona and Dhrupad and the way their lives shape up from after their days together in the ashram. At the time of adolescence, the sex centre becomes active and the body’s energies (the five Pandavas) follow the path of excitement (Drona) and have victory over the power of sensitivity (Dhrupad). The sex centre being in the south, Drona gives that part of the kingdom back to Dhrupad, so that the power of sensitivity can never rise again.

Dhrupad comes from the word ‘dhru’ meaning fast and ‘pad’ meaning feet, the one who walks with fast feet. A student on the spiritual path who wants to shift from excitement to sensitivity has to work really hard because it takes a trivial matter to excite the sex centre. After losing half his kingdom, Dhrupad practices deep austerities – tapa, i.e. he does a big yagna, and from these sacrificial fires was born a son, Drishtadyumna, who kills Drona in the Great War. Also, from these fires was born a daughter, Draupadi, who marries the five Pandavas - the very princes who had vanquished Dhrupad. This represents the Pandavas completing a cycle and maturing towards sensitivity and away from excitement.

We have seen that Drona was born out of excitement but Dhrupad created the fire of sensitivity. We spend our whole lives following excitement looking for something new to tingle our tastes every day. On the spiritual path, we create the fire of tapa within us, not by doing anything new, but by doing the same things every day, albeit with a renewed deeper sensitivity. If this fire is properly created within us, then from these fires is born a special power of discernment (or viveka), which helps us free ourselves of habits. Our psychic nature is bound by many habits – from simple gestures and body movements, to emotional attachments, to the thoughts we form. To be free of habits, a special inner light or intelligence is needed which comes only through deep austerities.

As we go deeper into sensitivity, the sex energy within us instead of flowing out starts rising up the five chakras, represented by the marriage of Draupadi to the five Pandavas. If this can happen in our lives, the very creative energy that has gone in the making of this universe returns to its source, fulfilling the purpose of birth and death.