Friday, February 09, 2007

The Boatman and the Philosopher - A Story

One day long ago a certain learned Hindu philosopher who was, theoretically at least, well versed in the four great Hindu Bibles (the Vedas), made arrangements with a boatman to take him across the holy Ganges River in a rowboat.

The proud philosopher, idly wondering how best to pass the time during the crossing, thought of showing off his knowledge to the boatman, so he asked: " Mr. Boatman, have you studied the first Hindu Bible?"

"No Sir, I don't know anything about the first Hindu Bible," the man replied. At this the philosopher looked very wise and pityingly remarked, "Mr. Boatman, I am sorry to say that without some knowledge of the first Hindu Bible, twenty-five percent of your life is as good as lost." The Boatman took his insult quietly and kept on rowing his boat.

They had gone some distance across the Ganges when the arrogant philosopher made further inquiry: "Mr. Boatman, I must ask if you have studied the second Hindu Bible?" The boatman betrayed his annoyance as he replied: "Sir, I tell you definitely that I know nothing about the second Hindu Bible." With cool amusement the philosopher then declared: "I am sorry to tell you then that fifty percent of your life is as good as lost." Still holding his tongue in spite of this further affront, the boatman angrily kept to his work at the oars.

The small craft was nearing the middle of the river, and the wind had become a little strong, when for the third time the Hindu philosopher's eye glinted with superiority. "Mr. Boatman, tell me, have your studied the third Hindu Bible?" The boatman was now in no mood to be trifled with. "I told you before," he said testily, "I don't know anything about the Hindu Bibles." The philosopher then declared in pompous tones. "Mr. Boatman, it is my duty to announce to you that seventy-five percent of your life is as good as lost." The boatman mumbled angrily to himself, and wished with all his heart that this impossible philosopher had found someone else to row him across the river.

Ten minutes had passed in silence, when a sudden storm ripped the veils of the clouds and sprang like a demon over the water of the river, lashing it into furiously excited waves. The boat began to rock like a floating leaf in the tumultuous waves. The pundit shivered and trembled, but the boatman, with a smile of assurance on his face, said: "Mr. philosopher, you have pelted me with questions; now may I ask you one?"

Receiving an affirmative reply, the boatman went on: "Well, Mr. Philosopher, the knower of the four Hindu Bibles, you established that seventy-five percent of my life is lost. Tell me-- do you know how to swim?" To this the scholar tremblingly replied:"No, dear boatman, I cannot swim." With smiling indifference the boatman replied, " I am sorry then to have to declare to you that one hundred percent of you life is soon going to be lost." As if to fulfill his prophecy, a furious gust upset the boat, and the Hindu philosopher was drowned; but the boatman, swimming with powerful strokes, overcame the waves and safely reached the shore.

----Self Realization Fellowship

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