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


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.