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Talk by Rajaji :

Adhi Shankaracharya wrote a number of vedantic works for imparting knowledge of the self and the universal spirit. He also composed a number of hymns to foster Bhakthi in the hearts of men. One of these hymns is the famous Bhaja govindaM. The way of devotion, is not different from the way of knowledge or gnyana. When intelligence matures and lodges securely in the mind, it becomes wisdom. When wisdom is integrated with life and issues out in action, it becomes bhakthi. Knowledge, when it becomes fully mature is bhakthi. If it doesnot get transformed into bhakthi, such knowledge is useless tinsel. To believe that gnyana and bhakthi, knowledge and devotion are different from each other, is ignorance. If Sri Adi Shankara himself who drank the ocean of gnyana as easily as one sip water from the palm of one's hand, sang in his later years, hymns to develop devotion, it is enough to show that gnyana and bhakthi are one and the same. Sri Shankara has packed into the Bhaja govindaM song: the substance of all vedanta, and set the oneness of gnyana and bhakthi to melodious music.


Bhaja govindaM is one of the minor compositions of the spiritual gaint, Adi SHANKARA. It is classified as a Prakarana grantha, a primer to the major works. Though sung as a bhajan, it contains the essence of vedanta and awakens the man to think, "Why am I here in this life ? Why am I amassing wealth, family, but have no peace ? What is the Truth ? What is the purpose of life ?" Man is thus awakened and gets set on a path to the inner road back to God.

The background of Bhaja GovindaM is worth examining. During Shankara's stay in Kashi, he noticed a very old man engaged in the early hours studying the rules of sanskrit by Panini. Shankara was touched with pity seeing the plight of the old man spending his years at a mere intellectual accomplishment while he would be better off praying and spending time to control his mind. Shankara understood that the majority of the world was also engaged in mere intellectual, sense pleasures and not in the divine contemplation. Seeing this, he burst forth with the verses of Bhaja govindaM.

In 31 (some cite 33) verses, he, like no other, explains our fallacies, our wrong outlook for life, and dispells our ignorance and delusions. Thus bhaja govindaM was originally known as Moha Mudgara, the remover of delusions.

Shankara explains, nay chides, us for spending our time in useless trivia like amassing wealth, lusting after (wo)men and requests us to discriminate and cultivate the knowledge to learn the difference between the real and the unreal. To emphasize that all knowledge other than Self-Knowledge is useless, Shankara makes the man realize how foolish he is in his conduct and behavior by these verses, and shows him the purpose of our worldly existence, which is to seek Govinda and attain Him.

Bhaja govindaM is divided into dvaadasa manjarika stotram and chaturdasa manjarika stotram. At the end of composing the first stanza, it is said that Shankara burst forth with the next 12 stanzas of bhaja govindam. Thus stanzas 1-12 are called dvaadas manjarika stotram. Inspired by the extempore recital by Shankara, each of his 14 disciples composed a verse and the 14 verse compendium is called chaturdasa manjarika stotram. Shankara added the finishing touches by adding five of his own stanzas at the last bring the total to 31. This edition shows 33 verses, though the last 2 are not given in all versions.

Bhaja govindaM has been set to musical tones and sung as prayer songs by children. It is divided into dvaadashapaJNjarikaa and charpaTapaJNjarikaa for this purpose. The former is a set of verses (verses 1,2,5,11,18,20,21,23,27,29,31) while the rest of the verses form charpaTapaJNjarikaa.

Anyone who listens to the music of Bhaja govindaM is attracted to it. However, the significance of the text goes much deeper and contains a well defined philosophy of attaining salvation. Shankara words here seem to be quite piercing and seem to lack his softness and tenderness often found in his other texts. The reason is that this was an extempore recital to an old man. His words can be compared to a knife of a doctor. The doctor's knife cruely removes the tumor with much pain, but removing the tumor ultimately restores good health in the patient. So is Shankara's words, which pierce and point out our ignorance. It is a knife into the heart of worldliness, and by removing this tumor of ignorance, we can attain everlasting bliss with the grace of Govinda.

May the acharayaa guide us from ignorance to truth and help us remember the song of Swami Vivekananda at all times :

Meditate, O my mind, on the Lord Hari, The stainless One, Pure spirit through and through. How peerless is the Light that in Him shines ! How soul-bewitching is His wondrous form ! How dear is He to all His devotees ! Ever more beauteous in fresh blossoming love That shames the splendour of a million moons Like lightning gleams the glory of His form Raising erect the hair for very joy Worship his feet in the lotus of your heart with mind serene and eyes made radiant with heavenly love, behold that matchless sight. Caught in the spell of His love's ecstasy, Immerse yourself for evermore, O mind In Him who is pure knowledge and pure bliss.

OM tat sat.

Verses of Bhaja GovindaM in ITRANS format with translation .

 bhajagovindaM bhajagovindaM
 govindaM bhajamuuDhamate .
 saMpraapte sannihite kaale
 nahi nahi rakshati DukR^iJNkaraNe .. 1..

Worship Govinda, Worship Govinda, Worship Govinda. Oh fool ! Rules of Grammar will not save you at the time of your death.

 mUDha jahiihi dhanaagamatR^ishhNaaM
 kuru sadbuddhiM manasi vitR^ishhNaam.h .
 yallabhase nijakarmopaattaM
 vittaM tena vinodaya chittam.h .. 2..

Oh fool ! Give up your thrist to amass wealth, devote your mind to thoughts to the Real. Be content with what comes through actions already performed in the past.

 naariistanabhara naabhiideshaM
 dR^ishhTvaa maagaamohaavesham.h .
 etanmaaMsaavasaadi vikaaraM
 manasi vichintaya vaaraM vaaram.h .. 3..

Do not get drowned in delusion by going wild with passions and lust by seeing a woman's navel and chest. These are nothing but a modification of flesh. Do not fail to remember this again and again in your mind.

 naliniidalagata jalamatitaralaM
 tadvajjiivitamatishayachapalam.h .
 viddhi vyaadhyabhimaanagrastaM
 lokaM shokahataM cha samastam.h .. 4..

The life of a man is as uncertain as rain drops trembling on a lotus leaf. Know that the whole world remains a prey to disease, ego and grief.

 yaavadvittopaarjana saktaH
 staavannija parivaaro raktaH .
 pashchaajjiivati jarjara dehe
 vaartaaM ko.api na pR^ichchhati gehe .. 5..

So long as a man is fit and able to support his family, see the affection all those around him show. But no one at home cares to even have a word with him when his body totters due to old age.

 yaavatpavano nivasati dehe
 taavatpR^ichchhati kushalaM gehe .
 gatavati vaayau dehaapaaye
 bhaaryaa bibhyati tasminkaaye .. 6..

When one is alive, his family members enquire kindly about his welfare. But when the soul departs from the body, even his wife runs away in fear of the corpse.

 baalastaavatkriiDaasaktaH
 taruNastaavattaruNiisaktaH .
 vR^iddhastaavachchintaasaktaH
 pare brahmaNi ko.api na saktaH .. 7..

The childhood is lost by attachment to playfulness. Youth is lost by attachment to woman. Old age passes away by thinking over many past things. But there is hardly anyone who wants to be lost in parabrahman.

 kaate kaantaa kaste putraH
 saMsaaro.ayamatiiva vichitraH .
 kasya tvaM kaH kuta aayaataH
 tattvaM chintaya tadiha bhraataH .. 8..

Who is your wife ? Who is your son ? Strange is this samsara. Of whom are you ? From where have you come ? Brother, ponder over these truths here.

 satsaN^gatve nissN^gatvaM
 nissaN^gatve nirmohatvam.h .
 nirmohatve nishchalatattvaM
 nishcalatattve jiivanmuktiH .. 9..

From Satsangh comes non-attachment, from non-attachment comes freedom from delusion, which leads to self-settledness. From self-settledness comes Jeevan Mukti.

 vayasigate kaH kaamavikaaraH
 shushhke niire kaH kaasaaraH .
 kshiiNevitte kaH parivaaraH
 GYaate tattve kaH saMsaaraH .. 10..

What good is lust when youth has fled ? What use is a lake which has no water ? Where are the relatives when wealth is gone ? Where is samsara when the Truth is known ?

 maa kuru dhana jana yauvana garvaM
 harati nimeshhaatkaalaH sarvam.h .
 maayaamayamidamakhilaM hitvaa
 brahmapadaM tvaM pravisha viditvaa .. 11..

Do not boast of wealth, friends, and youth. Each one of these are destroyed within a minute. Free yourself from the illusion of the world of Maya and attain the timeless Truth.

 dinayaaminyau saayaM praataH
 shishiravasantau punaraayaataH .
 kaalaH kriiDati gachchhatyaayuH
 tadapi na muJNcatyaashaavaayuH .. 12..

Daylight and darkness, dusk and dawn, winter and springtime come and go. Time plays and life ebbs away. But the storm of desire never leaves.

 dvaadashamaJNjarikaabhirasheshhaH
 kathito vaiyaakaraNasyaishhaH .
 upadesho bhuudvidyaanipuNaiH
 shriimachchhankarabhagavachchharaNariH .. 12a..

This bouquet of twelve verses was imparted to a grammarian by the all-knowing Shankara, adored as the bhagavadpada.

 kaate kaantaa dhana gatachintaa
 vaatula kiM tava naasti niyantaa .
 trijagati sajjanasaM gatiraikaa
 bhavati bhavaarNavataraNe naukaa .. 13..

Oh mad man ! Why this engrossment in thoughts of wealth ? Is there no one to guide you ? There is only one thing in three worlds that can save you from the ocean from samsara. Get into that boat of satsangha quickly. Stanza attributed to Padmapada.

 jaTilo muNDii luJNchhitakeshaH
 kaashhaayaambarabahukR^itaveshhaH .
 pashyannapi cana pashyati muuDhaH
 udaranimittaM bahukR^itaveshhaH .. 14..

There are many who go with matted locks, many who have clean shaven heads, many whose hairs have been plucked out; some are clothed in saffron, yet others in various colors --- all just for a livelihood. Seeing truth revealed before them, still the foolish ones see it not. Stanza attributed to Totakacharya.

 aN^gaM galitaM palitaM muNDaM
 dashanavihiinaM jataM tuNDam.h .
 vR^iddho yaati gR^ihiitvaa daNDaM
 tadapi na muJNcatyaashaapiNDam.h .. 15..

Strength has left the old man's body; his head has become bald, his gums toothless and leaning on crutches. Even then the attachment is strong and he clings firmly to fruitless desires. Stanza attributed to Hastamalaka.

 agre vahniH pR^ishhThebhaanuH
 raatrau chubukasamarpitajaanuH .
 karatalabhikshastarutalavaasaH
 tadapi na muJNcatyaashaapaashaH .. 16..

Behold there lies the man who sits warming up his body with the fire in fromt and the sun at the back; at night he curls up the body to keep out of the cold; he eats his beggar's food from the bowl of his hand and sleeps beneath the tree. Still in his heart, he is a wretched puppet at the hands of passions. Stanza attributed to Subodha.

 kurute gaN^gaasaagaragamanaM
 vrataparipaalanamathavaa daanam.h .
 GYaanavihinaH sarvamatena
 muktiM na bhajati janmashatena .. 17..

One may go to gangasagar, observe fasts, and give away riches in charity ! Yet, devoid of jnana, nothing can give mukthi even at the end of a hundred births. Stanza attributed to Sureshwaracharya.

 sura ma.ndira taru muula nivaasaH
 shayyaa bhuutala majinaM vaasaH .
 sarva parigraha bhoga tyaagaH
 kasya sukhaM na karoti viraagaH .. 18..

Take your residence in a temple or below a tree, wear the deerskin for the dress, and sleep with mother earth as your bed. Give up all attachments and renounce all comforts. Blessed with such vairagya, could any fail to be content ? Stanza attributed to Nityananda.

 yogarato vaabhogaratovaa
 saN^garato vaa saN^gaviihinaH .
 yasya brahmaNi ramate chittaM
 nandati nandati nandatyeva .. 19..

One may take delight in yoga or bhoga, may have attachment or detachment. But only he whose mind steadily delights in Brahman enjoys bliss, no one else. Stanza attributed to Anandagiri.

 bhagavad.h giitaa kiJNchidadhiitaa
 gaN^gaa jalalava kaNikaapiitaa .
 sakR^idapi yena muraari samarchaa
 kriyate tasya yamena na charchaa .. 20..

Let a man read but a little from giitaa, drink just a drop of water from the ganges, worship murari (govinda) just once. He then will have no altercation with Yama. Stanza attributed to dR^iDhabhakta.

 punarapi jananaM punarapi maraNaM
 punarapi jananii jaThare shayanam.h .
 iha saMsaare bahudustaare
 kR^ipayaa.apaare paahi muraare .. 21..

Born again, death again, birth again to stay in the mother's womb ! It is indeed hard to cross this boundless ocean of samsara. Oh Murari ! Redeem me through Thy mercy. Stanza attributed to Nityanatha.

 rathyaa charpaTa virachita kanthaH
 puNyaapuNya vivarjita panthaH .
 yogii yoganiyojita chitto
 ramate baalonmattavadeva .. 22..

There is no shortage of clothing for a monk so long as there are rags cast off the road. Freed from vice and virtue, onward he wanders. One who lives in communion with God enjoys bliss, pure and uncontaminated, like a child and as someone intoxicated. Stanza attributed to Nityanatha.

 kastvaM ko.ahaM kuta aayaataH
 kaa me jananii ko me taataH .
 iti paribhaavaya sarvamasaaram.h
 vishvaM tyaktvaa svapna vichaaram.h .. 23..

Who are you ? Who am I ? From where do I come ? Who is my mother, who is my father ? Ponder thus, look at everything as essenceless and give up the world as an idle dream. Stanza attributed to surendra.

 tvayi mayi chaanyatraiko vishhNuH
 vyarthaM kupyasi mayyasahishhNuH .
 bhava samachittaH sarvatra tvaM
 vaaJNchhasyachiraadyadi vishhNutvam.h .. 24..

In me, in you and in everything, none but the same Vishnu dwells. Your anger and impatience is meaningless. If you wish to attain the status of Vishnu soon, have samabhava always. Stanza attributed to medhaatithira.

 shatrau mitre putre bandhau
 maa kuru yatnaM vigrahasandhau .
 sarvasminnapi pashyaatmaanaM
 sarvatrotsR^ija bhedaaGYaanam.h .. 25..

Do not waste your efforts to win the love of or to fight against friend and foe, children and relatives. See yourself in everyone and give up all feelings of duality completely. Stanza attributed to medhaatithira.

 kaamaM krodhaM lobhaM mohaM
 tyaktvaa.atmaanaM bhaavaya ko.aham.h .
 aatmaGYaana vihiinaa muuDhaaH
 te pachyante narakaniguuDhaaH .. 26..

Give up lust, anger, infatuation, and greed. Ponder over your real nature. Fools are they who are blind to the Self. Cast into hell they suffer there endlessly. Stanza attributed to bharativamsha.

 geyaM giitaa naama sahasraM
 dhyeyaM shriipati ruupamajasram.h .
 neyaM sajjana saN^ge chittaM
 deyaM diinajanaaya cha vittam.h .. 27..

Regularly recite from the Gita, meditate on Vishnu thro' Vishnu sahasranama? in your heart, and chant His thousand glories. Take delight to be with the noble and the holy. Distribute your wealth in charity to the poor and the needy. Stanza attributed to sumatira.

 sukhataH kriyate raamaabhogaH
 pashchaaddhanta shariire rogaH .
 yadyapi loke maraNaM sharaNaM
 tadapi na muJNchati paapaacharaNam.h .. 28..

He who yields to lust for pleasure leaves his body a prey to disease. Though death brings an end to everything, man does not gives up the sinful path.

 arthamanarthaM bhaavaya nityaM
 naastitataH sukhaleshaH satyam.h .
 putraadapi dhana bhaajaaM bhiitiH
 sarvatraishhaa vihiaa riitiH .. 29..

Wealth is not welfare, truly there is no joy in it. Reflect thus at all times. A rich man fears even his own son. This is the way of wealth everywhere.

 praaNaayaamaM pratyaahaaraM
 nityaanitya vivekavichaaram.h .
 jaapyasameta samaadhividhaanaM
 kurvavadhaanaM mahadavadhaanam.h .. 30..

Regulate the pranas, remain unaffected by external influences and discriminate between the real and the fleeting. Chant the holy name of God and silence the turbulent mind. Perform these with care, with extreme care.

 gurucharaNaambuja nirbhara bhakataH
 saMsaaraadachiraadbhava muktaH .
 sendriyamaanasa niyamaadevaM
 drakshyasi nija hR^idayasthaM devam.h .. 31..

Oh devotee of the lotus feet of the Guru ! May thou be soon free from Samsara. Through disciplined senses and controlled mind, thou shalt come to experience the Indwelling Lord of your heart !

 muuDhaH kashchana vaiyaakaraNo
 DukR^iJNkaraNaadhyayana dhuriNaH .
 shriimachchhamkara bhagavachchhishhyai
 bodhita aasichchhodhitakaraNaH .. 32..

Thus was a silly grammarian lost in rules cleansed of his narrow vision and shown the Light by Shankara's apostles.

 bhajagovindaM bhajagovindaM
 govindaM bhajamuuDhamate .
 naamasmaraNaadanyamupaayaM
 nahi pashyaamo bhavataraNe .. 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.

Links

  1. at Spirituality, Yoga and Hinduism
  2. with raga
  3. at kamakoti.org
  4. at hindunet.org

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