1. My boatman (Ambiga) - please take me across the waters of the river safely to the other side. I am totally at your mercy and trust you completely. This is an allegorical reference to the life journey across the difficult and treacherous waters of the Samsara and the position of the Supreme Being in this journey. Note the expression of complete trust, helplessness as well as complete dependence that this simile indicates.
2. The boat being used is Thumbida or full (indicating that we are carrying our past karmas as great burden. The boat has 9 leaking places (9 chidra) - corresponding to the physical body . The boatman has to see the best way to move the boat - with its loads and its leakages - similarly the Supreme Being has to take noteof our karma burden and the functioning of our senses and limbs (Jnana and Karma Indriyas) which if uncontrolled tend to destory the body itself.
3. The river we are crossing is full of fast currents and if not traversed properly may make the boat go totally beyond control. If the boat gets caught in a whirlpool. there is no salvation. The boatman has to take us across the river dexterously avoiding all the dangers. Similarly, in our life's journey, the Supreme Being has to save us from getting into such situations where we lose control totally and drown - there are plenty of them. Sri Dasaru are clearly implying that our own determination unaided by divine will will not save us from calamity, even if we think that we know the dangers and try to avoid them. How ever strong we think we are, there will always be a situation which can go beyond us. It also reminds us of the stories we hear from Puranas of Ajamila, Vishwamithra, Nahusha and others who slipped and fell from grace when they were exposed to certain situations.
4. There are 6 waves, which seem to threaten to overwhelm the boat completely. No body except the skilled boatman can avoid them completely and save himself and us. The 6 waves are the six famous Arishadvarga - the enemies of the aspirant for Thathvajnana - Kama (desire), Krodha (anger), Lobha (greed), Moha (infatuation), Mada (intoxication - with power, beauty, strength etc.), Mathsarya (jealousy). No one can completely avoid getting caught up by them. Only the grace of God can save us from them. If one knows how waves are negotiated by boats, they would understand the beauty of the simile. The boatman keeps the boat HEADON to ride the waves - with its prow always facing them. Similarly in life, we have to face up to the temptations offered by the senses and the consequent mental aberrations with our intellect always being aware that we have to negotiate these passing situations without losing our head. As we can also imagine, the skill of the boatman lies also in anticipating the waves - crest, and ebb etc to keep the boat on an even keel and to avoid the worst of them by steering the boat in sheltered passage - here we need the help of the almighty God, in whom we have full trust.
5. Now, in the last stanza, Sri Puranadara dasaru is giving the prescrition of our crossing the turbulent waters. We will use the oar of the Truth to propel the boat. Uninterrupted Bhakthi towards the Supreme Being is the path. With these the Supreme Being will conduct us to our destination - Mukthi mantapa. One is reminded of the beautiful definition of Bhakthi given by Sri Teekacharya - Niranthara Prema pravaha - continous flow of love towards the divine, which is greater than any other emotional feelings that we have towards others. In the case of the boat analogy, it is the complete trust and placing one self in the hands of the skilled boatman. The statement that the oar in the analogy corresponds to Truth is also siginificant. All mental aberrations such as the Arishadvarga are products of ignorance about the true nature of things. We invest certain qualities like permanence, perfection, purity, and greatness in things and persons who do not really possess them. Proper reflection will convince us that such qualities can exist only in the Supreme Being Himself and if some semblance of such features appears else where, it is only temporarily given by Him. Once the true values of things and persons and the real source of our happiness is known - there is obviously no chance of being misled or tempted by the supreficial appearances. It should also be noted that the entire faith structure will be irrelevant if one accepts the concept of Advaita, where all the entities like the river, its currents, boat, boatman, waves, whirlpools, devotion etc. would all be unreal. Only a true Thathvavada believer would be able to accept the truth of this song.