I transcribed this story from Karma, an Hindu-American Spiritual Magazine. This is a good English version of the story I once listened to as a kid. I hope you learn from it and enjoy it as much as I did.
Limits of the Mind
Ekalavya was a little boy, born in a poor family, many many years ago. His people lived a little away from Hastinapura, the capital of the Kuru kings. They used to clean other people's dirt for a profession.
And for this reason they were shunned by society. Ekalavya and other kids of his group knew they too had to follow their parents' professions.
Their parents often told them, "You are not meant to go to school. What use is school for carrying garbage which is your only job?"
"Don't go near those people; they are high born, we are low born."
Ekalavya didn't understand.
"Why, but why?" he asked his mother. She replied "God set these limits."
"God! Why would God want nice things for them and dirty things for us? Hasn't God made all of us?" Ekalavya asked.
She signed, "Darling I don't know, but there are bounds we cannot cross, this is God's rule."
Ekalavya became quiet. From that day the only important thing for him was to understand the meaning of "limit". You know, kids (and grown ups) are sometimes cruel. One day Ekalavya and his friends trapped a little ant and were watching it trying to escape. The ant tried and tried till it found a little opening at the edge of the trap and escaped.
Other children moved to trap it again but Ekalavya stopped them shouting, "The brave ant has broken the bounds. Limits are not meant to be broken. I am free, free". One day, Ekalvya saw beautiful chariots come into the forest near his village. He saw boys of his age get out of the chariot one by one. What lovely clothes they wore! Last, an old man with snowy white hair and spotless white clothes came out looking stern and calm. The boys seemed a little scared of the old man but with one dusky handsome boy, the old man's behavior was different, he smiled and patted the boy on the head. Ekalavya heard his father's voice, "Come away boy, there is work to do. Those are the Kuru princes, with their teacher Drona. The boy he just patted is his favorite, Arjuna. They have come to practice 'archery'. Don't go near them."
"Father, all I want is a pat from the grand old man." so saying, Ekalavya ran towards the old man Drona.
By then the boys had started shooting with bows and arrows. What amazing things Arjuna did! He could shoot at a target with his eyes shut. He cod shoot at a target with his left hand as well as his right. And the teacher Drona? His arrows made fire, chased things in circles, brought rain and lightning. It was magical. Arjuna's eyes never left his teacher. It was like he wanted to absorb every bit of Drona. And you could see that Drona too was very proud of Arjuna.
The practice ended. Ekalavya went up to Drona and with folded hands said, "Great sir, please teach me".
"I don't teach the low-born," was the cold reply as Drona turned away.
"Master, your arrows don't seem to mind any limits, they bring rain and fire, they brig night and day. How then can you be bound by stupid thoughts of high and low birth?" With this, Ekalavya walked away from the glaring Drona.
The next day, Ekalavya carved a statue of Drona on a tree trunk with a knife. He made himself a bow and arrows. Each day, he would bow before the statue, practice shooting and imagine a pat on his back on his back from Drona.
Some months passed. The grand princes and their master came to the forest again. As Arjuna reached to take aim of a particularly difficult target, an arrow reached Arjuna's target before he could even aim. Shocked, the boys and their teacher looked around. They saw Ekalavya, who went up to touch Drona's feet. "Who is your teacher?" Drona asked. Ekalavya quietly led him to the statue. Drona looked at it for some time and said, "If I am your Guru, give me my fee, my guru dakshina".
"Ask, sir", bowed Ekalavya. "I want your right thumb," replied the stone hearted Drona. Without the right thumb to support it, how can any archer ever hold a bow? As Arjuna and the other princes watched in shock, Ekalavya wordlessly cut off his right thumb and laid it at Drona's feet.
Limits of the Mind