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Lord Rama and the Boatman

By Sacinandana Swami

There is a very nice pastime in the Rama-lila. Lord Rama and Sita-devi have just been banished into exile. They are now in the forest and are approaching a very wide river which is called the Sarayu. It is a very wide river maybe one kilometer or so in width. A really big river. They stand on the banks and wonder what to do, how to cross the river. All of a sudden, by the sweet will of the Lord, a boatman comes along with his boat.

- What is your price? – asks Rama.
- Just get onto my boat and we will deal with the payment later – says the boatman.

Sita gets on first, Rama follows after, and then the boatman goes across the river. All the time while he rows, he looks at Rama and tears of love stream from his eyes. Then he rows and rows… and finally they arrive on the other side of the river. Rama looks at Sita and looks at the beautiful pearls around her neck. She has a beautiful pearl necklace. Sita understands Rama’s mind and says:

- In the forest there is no need for pearls, please give him my pearls as payment.

They give this very valuable pearl necklace to the boatman and Rama says:

- This is our payment.

But the boatman responds as follows:

- No, no, no, no, no! Please keep it! Keep it! Did you not know that in this part of your country, Rama, the boatmen have an agreement amongst themselves: one boatman will never accept payment from another boatman.

- Since when have I become a boatman? – asks Rama.

- Oh, you are a boatman! See, I am a tiny boatman. I take passengers on my old boat from one side of the river to the other. But you are a big boatman! You take the conditioned souls on your boat and help them to cross the ocean of samsara; the ocean of birth and death. And please remember that when I come to your ocean, please don’t ask for any payment from me … it is our custom in these parts. Don’t look for my qualifications, because I have none. I am very unqualified… So there is no need for you to ask for any payment, just remember that we are boatmen and this is how we behave!

Rama just smiled and said:

- Let it be so. When you come to the shores of the ocean of birth and death, I will take you onto my boat and no payment will be required…

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