Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, the Guru of Swami Vivekananda often used little tales and stories to impart his teachings to his devotees. Earlier I have narrated another tale, ‘Gopal and the cow-herd’ narrated by Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa which you can read here.
Another tale of his that I am going to narrate illustrates that mere bookish knowledge is not enough to survive in this world.
Once there was a very learned man (Pandit) in a village. He had learnt a lot of things like grammar, Upanishads, six philosophies of Sanskrit (Shad-Darshana), Astronomy etc. and was very proud of his knowledge. Whenever he got a chance, he never failed to show off his knowledge.
One day he had to cross the river to go to another village. It was monsoon time and the river was huge and very deep. Therefore it was necessary for the Pandit to travel by a boat. He got into a boat with five others and when the boat started to move, he struck a conversation with his neighbour.
“Where are you from, young man?” asked the Pandit.
“From the village across the river, sir” said the man.
“What do you do for a living?” the Pandit asked.
“I am a carpenter, sir. I make things from wood” said the man.
“Up to what level have you studied?”
“To a certain extent, sir” replied the man.
“Have you studied the Upanishads?” asked the Pandit.
“No. I have not even heard of that” said the man.
With a scornful smile the Pandit said “Well, if you have not, a quarter of your life has been wasted. Have you at least heard of Vyakarana (grammar)?”
The man shook his head. “No Panditji. I have never heard of that either”
“What? You do not know Vyakarana? Hmm. Then half of your life is gone” said the Pandit in a sarcastic tone. “Okay, tell me if you at least know that there is something called Shad-Darshana, the six philosophies”.
The man blinked and after few moments shook his head to indicate that he did not know what the Pandit was speaking about.
“Heh heh! You don’t know about this also? Then three fourths of your life is gone. Ha!” said the Pandit laughing mockingly.
Just then, a storm started to blow and the boat was twisting left and right, jumping up and down. All the passengers lost their balance and were struggling to sit on the seats. The boat-man tried to veer the boat to safety but the storm was much stronger and his efforts were in vain.
“All of you please be ready to swim to safety if the boat capsizes” announced the boat-man and all the passengers tied up their dhotis ready to jump into the river as the Pandit was watching in panic.
The carpenter, who the Pandit was mocking at earlier, looked at the Pandit and asked, “Panditji, do you know swimming?”
“N..No…No” said the Pandit in a voice filled with panic.
The carpenter said “Oh! So sad! If you don’t know swimming your whole life is gone!”
It was then that the Pandit realised that bookish knowledge is not everything in life.
Alas! It was too late by then.