Shri Adi Shankracharya is one of the greatest gurus from India who established Advaita Vedanta – the non-dualistic philosophy in the 7 and 8th century. It is believed that, Shri Adi Shankara was an avatar of Lord Shiva. The story goes that, at one point of time, Sanatana Dharma (Vedic Culture) took a downfall due to various religious sub-sects, namely, Dvaita, Advaita and Vishishtadvaita. Lord Shiva took an incarnation as Adi Shankara at this time, who became the major proponent of Advaita philosophy and renounced all other Sanatana Dharmic sub-sects as to unite all of them.
Dvaita philosophy (dualism) considers one as a separate entity from God. Whereas in Advaita philosophy (non-dualism), one refers the Self / Soul as Atman and the Whole as Brahman – the universal consciousness. This philosophy propounds that the world is an illusion and that the Soul and the God are one. Vishistadwaita (qualified non-dualism), emphasis that the individual soul is part and parcel of the super soul, but they are not exactly the same.
Though Adi Shankara left his physical body at the age of 32, he travelled extensively through out India denouncing various false practices. He wrote many books, out all of that, Bhaja Govindam stands out. This small poem (sloka) which is classified as a प्रकरण ग्रन्थ (prakarana grantha – a primer to major work) has vast meaning. The poem contains the essence of Vedanta and is telling us to, ‘Wake up, seek the Lord. Stop seeking out for primitive things in life. Stop seeking for unessential and superficial things in life…”
The Bhaja Govindam emerged when Adi Shankaracharya was on a journey by foot with his disciples and chanced upon a very old man, for mere intellectual accomplishments, studying the rules of ancient Sanskrit grammar – व्याकरण (vyakarana). Sanskrit grammar is a very difficult subject to learn. This old man who is in the twilight of his life was spending all of his time trying to learn the grammar rules. Noticing that this old man was still learning the very basic grammar, Adi Shankaracharya took pity on him and said, ‘At this ripe old age, learning vyakarana / grammar rules, is not worthwhile. Thus, but please get up, don’t be foolish. Don’t waste your life this way!’ and then sings the Bhaja Govindam.
Though sung as a Bhajan, the tone of Bhaja Govindam could be somewhat striking, however, it is out of his sheer love that Adi Shankara calls the old man, “Muudamathe” (Oh! Fool!). Adi Shankara understands the urgency in awakening the man from his slumber and that a milder approach would not have sufficed.
Bhaja Govindam – Pray to Govinda!
govindaM bhajamuuDhamate .
saMpraapte sannihite kaale
nahi nahi rakshati DukRiJNkaraNe…
mUDha jahiihi dhanaagamatRishhNaaM
kuru sadbuddhiM manasi vitRishhNaam.
vittaM tena vinodaya chittam…
manasi vichintaya vaaraM vaaram…
lokaM shokahataM cha samastam…
staavannija parivaaro raktaH .
pashchaajjiivati jarjara dehe
vaartaaM ko.api na pRichchhati gehe…
yaavatpavano nivasati dehe
taavatpRichchhati kushalaM gehe .
gatavati vaayau dehaapaaye
bhaaryaa bibhyati tasminkaaye…
pare brahmaNi ko.api na saktaH…
kaate kaantaa kaste putraH
saMsaaro.ayamatiiva vichitraH .
kasya tvaM kaH kuta aayaataH
tattvaM chintaya tadiha bhraataH…
nissaNgatve nirmohatvam.h .
vayasigate kaH kaamavikaaraH
shushhke niire kaH kaasaaraH .
kshiiNevitte kaH parivaaraH
GYaate tattve kaH saMsaaraH…
maa kuru dhana jana yauvana garvaM
harati nimeshhaatkaalaH sarvam.h .
brahmapadaM tvaM pravisha viditvaa…
dinayaaminyau saayaM praataH
shishiravasantau punaraayaataH .
kaalaH kriiDati gachchhatyaayuH
tadapi na muJNcatyaashaavaayuH…
kathito vaiyaakaraNasyaishhaH .
kaate kaantaa dhana gatachintaa
vaatula kiM tava naasti niyantaa .
trijagati sajjanasaM gatiraikaa
bhavati bhavaarNavataraNe naukaa…
jaTilo muNDii luJNchhitakeshaH
pashyannapi cana pashyati muuDhaH
aNgaM galitaM palitaM muNDaM
dashanavihiinaM jataM tuNDam.
vRiddho yaati gRihiitvaa daNDaM
tadapi na muJNcatyaashaapiNDam…
agre vahniH pRishhThebhaanuH
raatrau chubukasamarpitajaanuH .
tadapi na muJNcatyaashaapaashaH…
vrataparipaalanamathavaa daanamh .
muktiM na bhajati janmashatena…
sura ma.ndira taru muula nivaasaH
shayyaa bhuutala majinaM vaasaH .
sarva parigraha bhoga tyaagaH
kasya sukhaM na karoti viraagaH…
saN^garato vaa saNgaviihinaH .
yasya brahmaNi ramate chittaM
nandati nandati nandatyeva…
bhagavad.h giitaa kiJNchidadhiitaa
gaNgaa jalalava kaNikaapiitaa .
sakRidapi yena muraari samarchaa
kriyate tasya yamena na charchaa…
punarapi jananaM punarapi maraNaM
punarapi jananii jaThare shayanamh .
iha saMsaare bahudustaare
kRipayaa.apaare paahi muraare…
rathyaa charpaTa virachita kanthaH
puNyaapuNya vivarjita panthaH
yogii yoganiyojita chitto
kastvaM ko.ahaM kuta aayaataH
kaa me jananii ko me taataH
iti paribhaavaya sarvamasaaramh
vishvaM tyaktvaa svapna vichaaramh…
tvayi mayi chaanyatraiko vishhNuH
vyarthaM kupyasi mayyasahishhNuH
bhava samachittaH sarvatra tvaM
shatrau mitre putre bandhau
maa kuru yatnaM vigrahasandhau
kaamaM krodhaM lobhaM mohaM
tyaktvaa.atmaanaM bhaavaya ko.ahamh
aatmaGYaana vihiinaa muuDhaaH
te pachyante narakaniguuDhaaH…
kaamaM krodhaM lobhaM mohaM
tyaktvaa.atmaanaM bhaavaya ko.aham.h
aatmaGYaana vihiinaa muuDhaaH
te pachyante narakaniguuDhaaH
sukhataH kriyate raamaabhogaH
pashchaaddhanta shariire rogaH
yadyapi loke maraNaM sharaNaM
tadapi na muJNchati paapaacharaNam
arthamanarthaM bhaavaya nityaM
naastitataH sukhaleshaH satyam.
putraadapi dhana bhaajaaM bhiitiH
sarvatraishhaa vihiaa riitiH…
gurucharaNaambuja nirbhara bhakataH
saMsaaraadachiraadbhava muktaH .
drakshyasi nija hR^idayasthaM devam
muuDhaH kashchana vaiyaakaraNo
DukRiJNkaraNaadhyayana dhuriNaH .
govindaM bhajamuuDhamate .
nahi pashyaamo bhavataraNe…
Listen to Bhaja Govindam
Singer: K. J. Yesudas
Bhaja Govindam: Meaning in English
(source: srikrishnaradha.com & sivananda.org)
Seek Govind, Seek Govind, Seek Govind, O Fool! When the appointed times comes (death), grammar rules surely will not save you.
02 O Fool! Give up the thirst to possess wealth. Create in your mind, devoid of passions, thoughts of the Reality. With whatever you get, entertain your mind, be content.
03 Seeing the full bosom of young maidens and their navel, do not fall a prey to maddening delusion. This is but a modification of flesh and fat. Think well thus in your mind again and again.
04 The water drop playing on a lotus petal has an extremely uncertain existence; so also is life ever unstable. Understand, the very world is consumed by disease and conceit, and is riddled with pangs.
As long as there is the ability to earn and save, so long are all your dependants attached to you. Later on, when you come to live with an old, infirm body, no one at home cares to speak even a word with you!!
06 As long as there dwells breath in the body, so long they enquire of your welfare at home. Once the breath leaves, the body decays, even the wife fears that very same body.
07 So long as one is in one’s boyhood, one is attached to play, so long as one is in youth, one is attached to one’s own young woman; so long as one is in old age, one is attached to anxiety, yet no one, alas to the Supreme Brahman, is ever seen attached.
08 Who is your wife? Who is your son? Supremely wonderful indeed is this samsara. Of whom are you? From where have you come? O brother, think of that Truth here.
09 Through the company of the good, there arises non-attachment; through non-attachment there arises freedom from delusion; when there is freedom from delusion, there is the Immutable Reality; on experiencing the Immutable Reality, there comes the state of ‘liberated-in-life’.
When youthfulness has passed, where is lust and its play? When water is evaporated, where is the lake? When the wealth is reduced, where is the retinue? When the Truth is realised, where is samsara?
11 Take no pride in your possession, in the people at your command, in the youthfulness that you have. Time loots away all these in a moment. Leaving aside all these, after knowing their illusory nature, realise the state of Brahman and enter into it.
12 Day and night, dawn and dusk, winter and spring, again and again come and depart. Time sports and life ebbs away. And yet, one leaves not the gusts of desires.
13 O Distracted One! Why worry about wife, wealth? Is there not for you the One who ordains? In the three worlds it is the association-with-good-people alone that can serve as a boat to cross the sea of change, birth and death.
14 One ascetic with matted locks, one with shaven head, one with hairs pulled out one by one, another parading in his ochre robes – these are fools who, though seeing, do not see. Indeed, these different disguises or apparels are only for their belly’s sake.
The body has become worn out. The head has turned grey. The mouth has become toothless. The old man moves about leaning on his staff. Even then he leaves not the bundle of his desires.
16 In front the fire, at the back the sun, late at night he sits with his knees held to his chin; he receives alms in his own scooped palm and lives under the shelter of some tree, and yet the noose of desires spares him not!
17 One may, in pilgrimage, go to where the Ganges meets the ocean, called the Gangaasaagar, or observe vows, or distribute gifts away in charity. If he is devoid of first hand experience of the Truth, according to all schools of thought, he gains no release, even in a hundred lives.
18 Sheltering in temples, under some trees, sleeping on the naked ground, wearing a deerskin, and thus renouncing all idea-ofpossession and thirst-to-enjoy, to whom will not dispassion bring happiness?
19 Let one revel in Yoga or let him revel in Bhoga. Let one seek enjoyment in company or let him revel in solitude away from the crowd. He whose mind revels in Brahman, he enjoys, verily, he alone enjoys.
To one who has studied the Bhagavad Gita even a little, who has sipped at least a drop of Ganges-water, who has worshipped at least one Lord Muraari, to him there is no quarrel with Yama, the Lord of Death.
21 Again birth, again death, and again lying in mother’s womb – this samsara process is very hard to cross over. Save me O destroyer of Mura, (Lord Krishna) through Thy infinite kindness.
22 The Yogin who wears but a godadi (shawl made of rags), who walks the path that is beyond merit and demerit, whose mind is joined in perfect Yoga with its goal, he revels (in Godconsciousness) – and lives thereafter – as a child or as a madman.
23 Who are you? Who am I? From where did I come? Who is my mother? Who is my father? Thus enquire, leaving aside the entire world-of-experience, essenceless and a mere dreamland, born of imagination.
24 In you, in me and in all other places too there is but one AllPervading Reality. Being impatient, you are unnecessarily getting angry with me. If you want to attain soon the Vishnu-status, be equal-minded in all circumstances.
Strive not, waste not your energy to fight against or to make friends with your enemy, friend, son or relative. Seeking the Self everywhere, lift the sense-of-difference born out of ‘ignorance’.
26 Leaving desire, anger, greed and delusion, the seeker sees in the Self ‘He Am I’. They are fools those who have not Self-knowledge, and they consequently, as a captive in hell, are tortured.
27 The Bhagavad Gita and Sahasranama are to be chanted; always the form of the Lord of Lakshmi is to be meditated upon; the mind is to be led towards the company of the good; wealth is to be shared with the needy.
28 Very readily one indulges in carnal pleasures; later on, alas, come diseases of the body. Even though in the world the ultimate end is death, even then man leaves not his sinful behaviour.
29 ‘Wealth is calamitous’, thus reflect constantly: the truth is that there is no happiness at all to be got from it. To the rich, there is fear even from his own son. This is the way with wealth everywhere.
The control of all activities, the sense-withdrawal, the reflection, along with japa and the practice of reaching the total-innersilence – these, perform with care, with great care.
31 O Devotee of the lotus-feet of the teacher! May you become liberated soon from the samsara through the discipline of the sense-organs and the mind. You will come to experience the Lord that dwells in your own heart.
32 Thus was a silly grammarian lost in rules cleansed of his narrow vision and shown the Light by Shankara’s apostles.
33 Worship Govinda, worship Govinda, worship Govinda, Oh fool ! Other than chanting the Lord’s names, there is no other way to cross the life’s ocean.
- Bhaja Govindam: Charpat Panjarika Stotram By Adi ShankaraAdi Shankaracharya’s
- Bhaja Govindam By Swami Sukhabodhananda