Shriram was able to sense the straight, fearless yet unselfish mind of the boatman behind his rude behavior while Lakshman and Sita were unable to understand it. They started to listen carefully while the boatman was explaining his point in his apparently rude language.
“I know your secret very well. People say that there is a magic even in the dust of your feet as it has a power to turn a stone into beautiful lady (example is Aahilya). My boat is made up of wood that is much lighter than a stone and once you touch it with your feet, then the boat of a poor man like me will turn into sage’s wife.
Ram was enjoying his speech. He said, “Don’t worry, it will not turn into sage’s wife.” The boatman said, “even then there is a problem because if that lady is not sage’s wife, then I will have to take her home and then it would be difficult to explain to my wife. No way, your majesty, you must accept my condition if you want to cross the river in my boat. I am managing my household running a business with the help of this boat. My father did not teach me any other means of earning money. If I lose my boat, then how can I manage my household?
“Ok, then what do you want me to do?”
“You must wash your feet before getting into my boat so that dust of your feet will not touch my boat and, I will wash your feet, because if you do not wash it properly and even if a small particle remains, that could cause a problem.”
While Ram is laughing, Lakshman is angry and Sita is confused but the boatman is calm, sitting peacefully and awaiting the reply from them all. Looking at angry Lakshman, he says, “even if he strikes me with an arrow, I don’t care. But without washing feet, I would not allow you to enter my boat. I am not asking for any monetary return.”
Shriram is not able to stop himself from laughing. He can see a divine quality named “arjav” - meaning straightforwardness - in his behavior, that is not visible to Lakshman and Sita, although they both calm down with a thought that at least this boatman is aware of the power of Shriram’s feet. Shriam is thoroughly enjoying the internal feelings of the boatman. Boatman is very smart although his external behavior may appear very innocent. Only God can understand the internal feeling of true devotion apparently looking like a stupid behavior.
He surely liked this different language of pure devotion as he might have been bored with the usual daily prayers done by sages and monks. This feeling of friendly association (“sakhya”) is unique. This poor boatman is not at all piteous but he is very rich in his feelings. Otherwise, it was not possible for Shiram to allow anyone else to worship him by cleaning his feet. Through his emotions, boatman was having an internal dialogue with Ram.
He was saying, “your majesty, always we are in hurry to see you while you are not in hurry and keep us waiting asking us to perform more spiritual reading, chanting and meditation etc. But today I am not in hurry because no one would like that you leave early from here. Now you have to experience how it feels to be kept waiting for some time”.
“You put lots of conditions for a living being to reach the final state of union with God by crossing the ocean of worldly attachments and we are forced to accept them willingly or unwillingly. Now, for crossing this river, you have to accept my condition, and then you will understand our pain.
You are in need to cross the river, but I have to help those waiting here for long time. You might say that none is visible here but my ancestors are waiting here to get across (cross the obstacles and unite with God). Once I wash your feet and drink that sacred water, then my ancestors will be uplifted and then will be your turn to cross the river.
When I saw you coming towards me, I did not get up and bow in front of you because that indicates surrendering myself and then I would have to follow whatever you say. But if I have to force my conditions on you, then I can not bow before you, although I will do so at the time of departing from you after taking you across the river.”
Being able to sense all these emotional dialogues, Ram was laughing with joy of this associational affection (sakhyabhakti) but Lakshman and Sita were unaware about it. Boatman said openly, “If you do not want to accept my condition, then I will show you a shallow path from where you can walk down in the water in order to cross the river. The level of water would be just touching up to my waist.”
Shriram said, “The calculations of village people are altogether different, we can not predict how much would be the depth of water when they say water level is nearly up to waist. When we ask them about distance of the next village, they say it is not far, just a length of a hand but we have to walk until evening to reach there. Considering this Shriram says, “I will drown in the water leveled up to your waist” while in mind he says, “the water consists of your devotion and I will not feel like coming out of that water. It would become difficult for me, so I prefer not to opt for it”. While laughing, he says openly, “Do what ever you need to do to prevent your boat from turning into a lady. As you want to wash my feet, please bring the water as soon as possible and wash the feet. Please take us across early, as we are already late.”
Boatman says in mind, “When we tell you to take us across, at that time how do you behave? Try to recollect it” and he goes to bring the water from river.
Sita and Lakshman say, “He is denying your requests and still you are happy to follow what he says, this is very strange.” Ram said, “I requested both of you also not to come with me in forest but you said, “No, no, we shall come”. You only have started this practice of not listening to me and the boatman is following the same. It is the same love he has when he is saying “no” to me.
The boatman brought the water from river and as per his understanding he cleaned feet of Shriram and then drank the holy water with thorough devotion along with his family. With this satisfaction, his ancestors reached heaven. Gods showered flowers over the boatman. After watching this, Sita and Lakshman were able to understand the feelings of boatman to some extent. The reason for saying “some extent” will be explained in the next chapter and we have to wait for “some time” for the same.
|| Shriram ||