In the next few weeks I will tell you two stories, Aruni and Uttanka. These stories are taken from Mahabharata that illustrate the special relationship that ought to exist between the teacher (guru) and disciple (shishya). In these stories, the faith of the student in his teacher is matched by the teacher’s perception of his pupil’s abilities.
Aruni of Panchala was a dedicated student of the ancient sage Dhoumya. In the days of yore, a student had to stay with the teacher and help in the teacher’s daily chores in order to receive the knowledge he sought.
It was a day of cold winter. Aruni was carrying the firewood he had collected for the sage’s household. As he was passing by a field, which belonged to the sage, he noticed a breach in the embankment that was holding water in his teacher’s field. He realized that the water would seep away and the field’s crops would die with no water.
“What should I do? If I stop to build the embankment I will be delayed and there is no firewood at the hermitage to keep the place warm. I better rush to the hermitage with the firewood and then come back to take care of the breach.”
Meanwhile the sage and his disciples had assembled for the day’s lesson. Aruni was missing.
Soon Aruni rushed in, dropped the firewood in the courtyard, and informed the teacher about the breach of the embankment. Then he quickly rushed out.
Sage Dhoumya felt proud of his disciple, “It is hard to get such a responsible disciple.”
Aruni ran all the way back to the troubled spot and tried to stop the leakage of water by putting some logs and mud. However, this did not stop the leak. The heavy pressure of water washed away the dam Aruni made. He felt helpless. It seemed impossible for him to stop the leakage without help. He thought for a while and then made a plan.
It was getting dark and the teacher became worried. He called his disciples and set out looking for Aruni. As he called out for Aruni, he heard a faint voice, “Here I am master!”
The teacher and his disciples rushed to the spot and saw Aruni lying on the breach, in order to hold the water in the field. The disciples quickly pulled Aruni out from the freezing water. He was repeatedly muttering, “The water is flowing out, the crops will die —.”
“Don’t worry Aruni! We will take care of the breach,” said the disciples.
“Never mind my son! You are more precious than the crop,” said the teacher.
Aruni was covered in a blanket and brought home. Sage Dhoumya himself tended to Aruni. The sage then blessed his disciple with pride, “You shall, forever, be renowned for your unmatched devotion and obedience to your guru.