The boatman winced the moment he spotted the haughty priest approach the riverfront. Like him, the passengers on the boat hoped they won’t have to ride with the priest. Alas! It wasn’t to be as the priest stepped on the boat.
As the boat left the riverbank, the priest asked the passengers, ‘Has anyone read the holy books ofone’s religion?’ They shook their heads. The priest sniggered: ‘One-fourth of your life is wasted.’ The priest againaddressed them: ‘I’m sure you’ve read other similar books, even if by accident.’ When the passengers stared at the priest incredulously, the priest scoffed, ‘There goes half your life.’ The passengers and the boatman ignored the haughty priest. However, the latter refused to relent. The boat was in the middle of the river when he asked, ‘Surely someone here has heard a discourse from an enlightened priest? Don’t tell meyou haven’t done even that.’ When the passengers exchanged glances without a reply, the priest pitied them: ‘No scripture, no holy book, not even a sermon from a holy man. Three-fourths of your life is gone.’
Soon, the dark, menacing clouds started hovering in the sky andthe waves began to lash. Everyone sat rooted as the river became turbulent. It became extremely difficult for the boatman to handle the boat as it rocked violently. Realising what was happening, a few passengers jumped into the river. To them, swimming was a preferred option, better thanstaying on a boat that was sure to be capsized. Before long, the boat was devoid of passengers, save for the boatman and the priest. The boatman asked the priest if he knew swimming. When the frightened priest shook his head, the boatman said, ‘Forget three-fourths of life. It seems your entire life is gone.’
The last words the priest heard were of pure wisdom. Just as he jumped into the river, the boatman told the priest, ‘What you’ve acquired isn’t the only knowledge. To row a boat and swim is knowledge too.’ This is an oft-repeated story whosemessage resonates even now. In this infinite life, we have no idea where knowledge lies. Actually, it’s everywhere. Taking a cue from the story, may we not brim with pride at our limited understanding. Instead, let’s try to gather knowledge from every possible source.
Rajessh M. Iyer is a storyteller who explores human relationships through meaningful anecdotes, parables, and stories; he shares his work on www.rajesshmiyer.com.