Bhaja Govindam
Shankara Bhagavatpadha

About 2500 years ago was born, in a village called Kalady, a boy for a scholarly and vaidik Brahmin couple, Sivaguru and Aryamba, and this boy was to become, in later years, the greatest philosopher the word has ever seen. he was Shankara, known as Adi Shankara, the world over and was the first Shankaracharya of the Kamakothi Peetham, at Kancheepuram.

He lived for barely 32 years, and attained Siddhi at Kanchi. During His short sojourn, He travelled through the entire Bharatha, on foot, preaching His philosophy of Advaita and taking many disciples from the four corners of the country, chief among them being four.

He restructured all the 72 forms of desultory religious practices into acceptable norms and laid stress on the six ways of worship based on Vedas. He discussed with many a scholar during His long journeys in the country and was the cause for many philosophical treatises establishing the concept of Advaita, with commentaries on Brahma Sutras, Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Ten Principal Upanishads and a few other works and poems in praise of various dieties of Hindu mythology.

Shri Shankara composed a number of hymns to foster the sense of devotion in the hearts of men and this is His greatest service. Bhaja Govindam is one among His many works and in this short garland of poens in praise of Lord (Krishna) Govinda, He dwells upon the ephemeral nature oflife upon the greatness of Guru, Bhakti, etc. Some immature critics of Indian Philosophy believe and say that the way of devotion is different fromt he way of knowledge. The learned employ this distinction to emphasise a particular theses on which they discourse in different contexts. We should not get confused by this and fail to understand the truth. When intelligence matures and lodges securely in the heart, it becomes wisdom. When that wisdom is integrated with life and issues out in action, it becomes devotion. Knowledge which has become mature is spoken of as devotion. If it does not get transformed into devotion, such knowledge is useless and tinsel. To hold and to say that Jnaana and Bhakti knowledge and devotion, are as different from each other as gold is from baser metal is to expose one's ignorance. Unless the senses are controlled, knowledge will not obtain a fort-hold in the heart. Wisdom will not come into being. How is one to trestrain the native impulsion of the senses? The heart cannot be chastened if desires and attachments are not eschewed. Its attachment is to be completely extinguished and if the mind should be released from it, the mind must be turned towards God. It must be realised that except through devotion to God, there is no other effective way to restrain the senses. Sri Shankara has packed into the "Bhaja Govindam" song the substance of all the vedantic works that he wrote and he has set the truth of the union of devotion and knowledge to melodius music which delights the ear and our soul.

There is a story attached to the composition of the present Hymn. Acharya Shankara, it is said, was walking along a street in Varanasi, one day, accompanied by his disciples. He heard the sound of grammatical rules being recited by an old scholar. Taking pity on the scholar, he went up to him and advised him not to waste his time on grammar at his age but to turn his mind to God in worship and adoration. The Hymn to Govinda was composed on this occasion. Besides the refrain of the song beinning with the words "Bhaja Govindam" , Shankara is stated to have sung twelve verses, hence the hymn bears the title "Dvadasamanjarika-Stotra" (A hymn which is a bunch of twelve verse-blossoms). The fourteen disciples who were with the Master, then, are believed to have added one verse each. These fourteen verses are together called "Chaturdasa-manjarika-Stotra" (A hymn which is a bunch of fourteen verse-blossoms).

The 68th Shankaracharya of the Hoy Kamakoti Peetham, Pujyasri Chandrasekharendra Sraswathi Mahaswamigal, who, like the great Adi Shankara, travelled on foot the good part of India, and who was also adept in many languages and customs of india and its illustrious tradition, has given a commentary on "Bhajagovindam" of Shankar.
Adore the Lord, adore the Lord, adore the Lord, Oh fool!
When the apointed time (for departure) comes, the repetition of grammatical rules will not, indeed, save you.



Oh fool! Leave off the desire for accumulation of wealth; create in the mind thoughts about Reality, devoid of passion.
What you get i.e., what you have achieved through your past deeds - with that, satisfy your mind.



Seeing the seductive female form, do not fall prey to frenzied delusion.
That (female form) is (but) a modification of flesh and fat. Think well thus in your mind again and again.



The water on the lotus-leaf is very unsteady; so also is life extremely unstable.
Know that the entire world is devoured by disease and conceit, and smitten with sorrow.



As long as you have the ability to earn money, so long will your dependents be attached to you.
After that, when you live with an infirm body, no one would even speak to you a word.



As long as there is breath in the body, so long people in the household ask about one's welfare.
Once the breath leaves, on the destruction of the body, the dependents dread that very same body.



When a boy, one is attached to sport; when a youth, one is attached to a young woman; when old, one is attached to anxiety;
To the Supreme Brahman, no one, alas, is attached!



Who is your wife? Who is your son? Exceedingly wonderful, indeed, is this empirical process!
Of whom are you? Who are you? Whence have you come? Oh brother, think of that truth here.



Through the company of the good, there arises non-attachment; through non-attachment there arises freedom from delusion;
Through delusionlesness, there arises steadfastness; through steadfastness, there arises liberation in life.



When youth is spent, what lustful play is there? When the water has evaporated, what lake is there?
When the money is gone, what dependents are there? When the Truth is known, what empirical process is there?



Do not be proud of wealth, kindred and youth; Time takes away all these in a moment.
Leaving aside this entire (World) which is of the nature of an illusion, and knowing the state of Brahman, enter into it.



Day and night, dusk and dawn, winter and spring come repeatedly;
Time sports, life is fleeting; yet one does not leave the winds of desire.



Why worry about wife, wealth, etc., Oh crazy one; is there not for you the One who ordains?
In these three worlds, it is only the association with good people that can serve as the boat that can carry one across the sea of birth (metempsychosis).



The ascetic withmatted locks, the one with his head shaven, the one with hairs pulled out one by one, the one who disguises himself variously with the ochre - colored robes -such a one is a fool, who, though seeing, does not see. Indeed, this varied disguise is for the sake of the belly.



The body has become decrepit; the head has turned greay; the mouth has been rendered toothless;
Grasping a stick, the old man moves about. Even then, the mass of desires does not go!



In front, there is fire; at the back, there is the sun; in the night, (the ascetic sits) with the knees stuck to the chin; he receives alms in his palms, and lives under the trees; yet the bondage of desire does not leave him.



One goes on pilgrimage to the place where the Ganga joins the sea; or observes the religious vows with care; or offers gifts.
But if he be devoid of knowledge, he does not gain release - according to all schools of thought- even in a hundred lives.



Living in temples or at the foot of trees, sleeping on the ground wearing deer-skin, renouncing all possessions and their enjoyment - to whom will not dispassion bring happiness?



Let one practise concentration; or let one indulge in sense-enjoyment. Let one find pleasure in company; or in soltitude.
He alone is happy, happy, verily happy, whose mind revels in Brahman.



For him, who has studied the Bhagavadgita even a little, who has drunk a drop of the Ganga water, and who has performed the worship of the Destroyer of the demon Mura (viz. Shri Krishna) at least once, there is no tiff with Yama (the Lord of Death).



Repeated birth, repeated death, and repeated lying in the mother's womb- this transmigratory process is extensive and difficult to cross;
Save me, Oh Destroyer of Mura, through your grace!



He who wears a dress made of rags that lie about in the streets, he who walks the path that is beyond merit and demerit the Yogin whose mind is given up to Yoga revels (in Brahman) just as a child or as a mad-man.



Who are you? Who am I? Whence have I come? Who is my mother? Who, my father?
Thus enquire, leaving aside the entire world which is comparable to a dream, and is essenceless.



In you, in me, and elsewhere too, there is but one Visnu (God). Vainly do you get angry with me, being impatient.
See the Self in all things, and leave off everywhere ignorance which is cause of difference.



Make no effort to be either at war with, or in league with, enemy, friend, son, or relative.
If you want to attain the status of Visnu (Godhood) soon, be equal - minded towards all things.



Leaving off egocentric desire, anger, greed and delusion, make self - inquiry:
Who am I? They are fools who are without Self-knowledge: as captives in Hell, they are tortured.



The Bhagavadgita and the Sahasranama should be sung; the form of the Lord of Lakshmi should be always meditated on;
The mind should be led to the company of the good; and wealth should be distributed amongst the indulgent.



One easily takes to carnal enjoyment; afterwards, lo, there is disease of the body.
Although, in the world, death is the refuge, even then one does not relinquish sinful ways.



Wealth is no good: Thus reflect always. There is not the least happiness therefrom:
This is the truth. For the wealthy, there is fear even from the son; everywhere this is the regular mode.



The regulation of breath, the withdrawal of the senses (from their respective objects), the inquiry consisting in the discrimination between the eternal and the non-eternal, the method of mind-control associated with the muttering of mantras- perform these with great care.



Being devoted completely to the lotus-feet of the Master, become released soon from the transmigratory process.
Thus, through the discipline of sense and mind-control, you will behold the Deity that resides in your heart.



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