The boatman's way of teaching

There was a boatman who was very, very kind. Every day he used to ferry passengers across the river in his boat. Everybody liked him and they all enjoyed the time they spent on his boat crossing from one shore to the other.

One day a young man came up to the boatman and said, “I would like to be your apprentice. I wish to learn from you the skills needed to be a boatman. You are so kindhearted. Will you please teach me?”

The boatman said, “I am more than happy to teach you. Now, if you sincerely want to learn how to be a boatman, the first thing you will need is patience. So many passengers cross the river every day. Some will smoke, some will talk about undivine things, some will have animals or baskets of vegetables. There are many things that can go wrong, so you have to be very careful. You have to have patience.”

The young man listened to everything the boatman said and watched as the boatman began to get his boat ready for the day. Two or three minutes later the boatman said, “If you really want to help me, you will need patience. So many people smoke, so many people say undivine things, so many have huge bundles or goats with them. You have to be very, very careful at every moment. Today you can just watch me. Later I will definitely be able to teach you.”

After a few more minutes the boatman started the same lecture all over again. “You have to be so careful! People may smoke or say undivine things. They may be carrying heavy loads. You will need so much patience.”

Finally the young man said, “I have heard all this, old man! Three times you have told me exactly the same thing. Do you think I am deaf? Do you think I am an idiot? For God’s sake, when are you going to get on with the business of teaching me how to operate the boat?”

The kindhearted boatman looked at the young man sadly and said, “Look, I have only repeated my advice three times, and you have already lost your patience. With this level of patience, do you think that you will make a good boatman? I am sorry, I do not want you to work for me.”

The young man fell at the feet of the boatman and said, “Forgive me, please forgive me! You are right! You are right! Will you not give me a second chance?”

The boatman said, “No, I cannot take you back today. In a few weeks you can come back. When you return I will tell you exactly the same thing, but perhaps by that time you will have learned some patience. God knows how many times you will have to listen to my lecture, but if you succeed, then I shall take you as my apprentice.”

The young man agreed to the boatman’s conditions. He said, “The next time I come, please examine me again. I will try my best to pass your examination.”

A few weeks passed and one morning the young man appeared at the bank of the river again. The boatman was so happy to see him. This time the old man was inspired to give his lecture at least twenty times. Each time the young man listened patiently and said, “I am so happy and grateful that you are advising me. I really want to become an excellent boatman like you.”

At the end of the day the old man said, “Now you have passed your examination. I shall keep you as my apprentice. You may come back tomorrow, and then I shall begin teaching you how to operate the boat.”