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Bhaja Govindham of Shankaracharya Swamiji's Discourse
Explanation by Harish Premjee

 
The famous Bhaja Govindam song written by Shri Aadi Sankaracharya is one of my very favorites and I love to listen to the complete divine song. The depth of the meaning of the song carries in itself and the voice of M.S.Subbulakshmi "The Queen of Song" coupled together keeps me delighted and enlightened. Whenever our Sai at the end of the discourse sings a verse or two it sends vibrations to my body and soul hearing this song sung by our Govinda Himself. In the Summer Course 1973, the complete text was explained by Sai Baba and from that tender age imbibed in my heart.

Bhaja govindam is one of the minor compositions of the spiritual giant, Adi Shankara. 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. Man is thus drawn out of miry by-lanes of life in which he is stuck in and put onto the royal road of spirituality and self-realization.

It is said that once in Banaras when he, together with his fourteen disciples, was going along on his daily rounds, he overheard a very old Pundit cramming Panini's grammar rules. Sankara was touched with pity at the ignorance and folly of the man to be wasting away the most precious 'dusk hours' of his life for a mere intellectual accomplishment instead of spending them in contemplation on the Lord, praying for spiritual enlightenment and for release from the bondage of Samsara. He knew that this was not the state of that particular old man only, but was the general state of most of the men.

Sankara intimated that men waste and while away their lives in many (or most) futile ways, groveling in the mire of earthly attachments forgetting God who is the only goal in life. In compassion for man's plight, he burst forth into these stanzas, famous as Moha Mudgara, now popularly known by the refrain of the song, which is Bhaja Govindam.

"Oh, Mudha! Oh, ignoramus! Grammar rules (in fact all your secular learning) will not come to your rescue when death knocks to snatch you away. Instead of wasting away the precious span of your life in a futile manner, turn to and seek Govinda, who alone can save you from the Jaws of Life and death".

In thirty-one simple, sweet and lucid Slokas, giving homely analogies and illustrations for our easy understanding, Sankara tells us about the fallacy and futility of our life; and sloka by sloka he removes veil after veil, dispelling our ignorance, illusions and delusions (moha) and showing us where the remedy for all our misery lies. The poem is, therefore also called "Moha Mudgara." He touches all aspects of our life, how these blind and bind us, plunging us deeper and deeper into the abyss of ignorance and misery. He wants each one of us to cultivate a discerning and discriminating eye (viveka) to distinguish the permanent from the transitory, the real from the unreal, to practice dispassion (vairagya) for worldly attractions and distractions, to cultivate devotion for realizing Govinda, the abiding Absolute Truth and thus getting released from the misery and bondage of this phenomenal existence

*BHAJA GOVINDAM OF ADI SHANKARA*

BHAJA GOVINDAM, BHAJA GOVINDAM
GOVINDAM BHAJA MUDHAMATE
SAMPRAAPTE SANNIHITE KALE
NA HI NA HI RAKSHATI DUKRINKARANE

Worship Govinda! Worship Govinda! Worship Govinda! Oh ignorant man, When the time to go is near, the rules of grammar, which you are trying to cram and master, will not protect you.

Verse 1:
DINAM-API RAJANI SAAYAM PRAATAH
SHISHIRA-VASANTOW PUNARAAYAATAH
KAALAH KREEDATI GACHCHATYAAYUH
TADAPI NA MUNCHATHYAASAAVAAYUH

Day and night, evening and morning, winter and spring, come again and again! Tim rolls on; life is spent; yet the wind of desire does not leave him.

Verse 2:
AGRE VAHNIH PRISHTE BHAANUH
RAATHROW CHIUBUKA-SAMARPITA-JAANUH
KARA-TALABHIKASHAS TARU-TALAVAASAH
TADAPI NA MUNCHATYAASHAAPAASAH

With a fire in front of him or the sun behind, huddled with his chin on his knees at night, he begs for food with only his bare hands. He lives under trees, yet the noose of desire does not leave him.

Verse 3:
YAAVAD-VITTOPAARJANA - SAKTHAH
TAAVANNIJA-PARIVAARO -RAKTHAH
PASCHAAD DHEEVATI JARJARA-DEHE
VAARTHAM PRICHCHATHI KOPI NA GEHE

As long as he is able to earn money, his relatives remain attached to him. Later, when he dodders with his decrepit body, not even the people in his own house ask for news of him.

Verse 4:
JATILO- MUNDI LUNCHITA-KESHAH
KAASHAAYAAMBARA- BAHU-KRITA-VESHAH
PASYANNAPI CHA NA PASYATI MOODHA
HIUDARA-NIMITAM BAHU-KRITA-VESHAH

With matted locks, a shaven head, or plucked hair, clad in many ways with ochre-dyed clothes, such fools can see but they do not see (the Truth). They are dressed in these different ways only for the sake of their stomachs.

Verse 5:
BHAGAVADGEETA KINCHIDADHEETAA
GANGAA-JALA-LAVA-KANIKAA PEETAA
SAKRIDAPI YASYA MURARI-SAMARCHAA
TASYA YAMAH KIM KURUTE CARCAM

If one has studied the Bhagawad Gita, even a little, or drunk the tiniest drop of the waters of the holy Ganges or only once worshipped Murari, what can Yama (the lord of death) say about him?

Verse 6:
ANGAM GALITAM PALITAM MUNDAM
DASANAVIHEENAM JAATAM TUNDAM
VRIDHDHO YAATI GRIHEETWA DANDAM
TADAPI NA MUNCHATYAASHAAPINDAM

When the body has drained, hair turned white, and a toothless mouth, the old man walks supporting himself on a stick, yet the meat of desire does not leave him.

Verse 7:
BAALAS-TAAVAT- KREEDAA- SAKTHAH
THARUNAS-TAAVAT- THARUNEE- RAKTHAH
VRIDDHAS-TAAVAT- CHINTHA-MAGNAH
TASMIN BRAHIMANI KOPI NA LAGNAH

In childhood, one is engaged in play; in Youth, one is attached to a young woman; in old age, one is burdened with anxiety; but no one is ever concerned with Brahman.

Verse 8:
PUNARAPI JANANAM PUNARAPI MARANAM
PUNARAPI JANANEE- JATARE SAYANAM
IHA SAMSAARE BAHU-DUSTAARE
KRIPAYAA(A)PAARE PAAHI MURARE

Born again, dying again, sleeping once again in a mother's belly - here in this endless ocean of samsara (the world), which is difficult to cross, protect me by your grace, O Murari.

Verse 9:
PUNARAPI RAJANI PUNARAPI DIVASAH
PUNARAPI PAKSAH PUNARAPI MASAH
PUNARAPYAYANAM PUNIRAPI VARSAM
TADAPI NA MUNCATYASAMARSAM.

Another night, another day, another two weeks, another month, another half a year, and another year (all pass by), yet the passion of desire does not leave you.

Verse 10:
VAYASI GATE KAH KAMA-VIKARAH
SHUSHKE NEERE, KAH KAASAARAH
NASTE DRAVYE KAH KASARAAH PARIVARO
GYNATE TATWE KAH SAMASARAH

When youth is gone, where is passion? Where the water dries up, can there be a lake? Where wealth is lost, where are one's relatives? When the Truth is known, where is this world?

Verse 11:
NAAREE -STHANA-BHARA NABHEEDESAM
MITHYA- MAYA- MOHAVESAM
YETAN- MAAMSA-VASAADI- VIKAARAM
MANASI VICARAYA VAARAM- VAARAM

A woman burdened with breasts and (the act of) entering below the navel are frenzied delusions brought on by deceitful Maya. Reflect in your mind again and again that these are only modifications of flesh, fat, and so on.

Verse 12:
KASTWAM KOHAM KUTA AAYAATAH
KAA ME JANANEE KO ME TAATAH
ITI PARIBHAVAYA SARVAM ASAARAM
VISWAM TYAKTWAA SWAPNA-VICHAARAM

Who are you? Who am I? From Where have I come from? Who is my mother, who is my father? In this way, think of everything as meaningless and renounce the world, knowing it to be just a dream.

Verse 13:
GEYAM GEETAA-NAAMA-SAHASRAM
DHYEYAM- SHREEPATI-ROOPAM AJASRAM
NEYAM SAJJANA-SANGE CHITTAM
DEYAM DEENA-JANAAYA CHA VITTAM

Recite the Gita; and the (Vishnu Sahasranama), meditate unceasingly on the form of the Lord of Shri Vishnu, direct your mind to the company of saintly beings, and give money to needy people.

Verse 14:
YAAVAJJIVO NIVASATI DEHE
KUSHALAM TAAVAT PRICHCHATI GEHE
GATAVATI VAAYO DEHAAPAAYE
BHAARYA BIBHYATI TASMIN KAAYE

The people in his house ask his well being as long as there is life in the body, but when the breath has left his dead body, even his wife is afraid of his corpse.

Verse 15:
SUKHATAH KRIYATE RAAMAABHOGAH
PASCHADDHANTA SHAREERE ROGAH
YADYAPI LOKE MARANAM SARANAM
TADAPI NA MUNJCHATI PAAPAACHARANAM

One who enjoys a beautiful woman with pleasure, but look - afterward one's body becomes diseased. Although death is the only refuge in this world, still one does not give up sinful conduct.

Verse 16:
RATHYAA-CHARPATA- VIRACHITA-KANTHAH
PUNYAAPUNYA -VIVARJITA-PANTHAH
NAHAM NA TVAM NAYAM LOKAS
TADAPI KIM- ARTHAM KRIYATE SOKAH

With his clothes made of cast-off rags from along the road, a monk follows the path that is beyond merit and demerit. Neither you nor I nor this world exist, so why should he grieve?

Verse 17:
KURUTE GANGAA-SAAGARA-GAMANAM
VRATA-PARIPAALANAMATHAVAA DAANAM
JNANA-VIHEENAH SARVAMATENA
MUKTIM NA BHAJATI JANMA-SATENA

One may go where the holy Ganges flows into the sea, observe vows, or give money in charity, yet by themselves these cannot release one without knowledge - even in a hundred lives.

Verse 18.
MOODHA JAHEEHI DHANAAGAMATRISHNAAM
KURU SADBUDHIM MANASI VITRISHNAAM
YALLABHASE NIJAKARMOPAATHAM
VITHAM TENA VINODAYA CHITHAM

(Refrain from Verse 1 to be sung after every verse...BHAJA GOVINDAM, BHAJA GOVINDAM..........)

Oh, Fool! Give up your insatiable desire for earthly possessions; be sensible and develop serenity and contentment. Be satisfied and happy with whatever you may earn by the sweat of your brow and whatever has destiny marked for your lot.

Verse19:
NALINEEDALAGATHA JALAMATITHARALAM
TADWAJJEEVITAMATHISHAYA CHAPALAM
VIDDHI VYADHYABHIMAANAGRASTAM
LOKAM SHOKAHATAM CHA SAMASTHAM

The water droplet on the lotus leaf is tremulous and unsteady. So too is life, which is as uncertain. Know the body to be in the claws of disease, which may swallow it at any moment. Life is ultimately nothing but worry, misery and grief.

Verse20:
KAA TE KAANTAA KASTE PUTHRAH
SAMSAROYAMATEEVA VICHITRAH
KASYA TWAM KAH KUTHA AAYAATAH
TATWAM CHINTHAYA TADIHA BHARATAH

Who indeed is your beloved and who indeed is your son? Strange indeed are these family bonds; who belong to you and to whom you belong? Whence did you come, Oh brother! Reflect on the truth of it all.

Verse21:
SATSANGATWE NISSANGATWAM
NISSANGATWE NIRMOHATWAM
NIRMOHATWE NISCHALATATWAM
NISCHALATATWE JEEVANMUKTHIH

The company of the good weans one away from false attachments; when attachment is lost, delusion ends; when delusion ends, the mind becomes unwavering and steady. An unwavering and steady mind is merited for Jeevan Mukti (liberation even in this life).

Verse 22:
MAA KURU DHANAJANAYOUVANAGARVAM
HARATI NIMESHAATKAALAH SARWAM
MAAYAAMAYAMIDAMAKHILAM HITHWA
BRAHMAPADAM TWAM PRAVISHA VIDITWA

The pleasures and riches of worldly life are deceptive appearances. Understanding that they are all but a passing-show, be detached and dispassionate, cultivate renunciation and seek Brahman.

Verse 23:
KAA TE KAANTAA DHANAGATACHINTAA
VAATULA KIM TAVA NAASTI NIYANTAA
TRIJAGATI SAJJANASANGATIREKAA
BHAVATI BHAVAARNAVATARANE NOUKAA

Crazy man! Why do you worry so much about your wife and property? Why don't you seek out the Truth? Know that in these three worlds it is only the association with the good and holy that can help you in crossing safely the ocean of life.

Verse 24:
SURAMANDIRA TARUMOOLA NIVAASAH
SAIYAA BHOOTALAMAJINAM VAASAH
SARVAPARIGRAHA BHOGATYAAGAH
KASYA SUKHAM NA KAROTI VIRAAGAH

Who can disturb the peace and happiness of a man if he has the true spirit of renunciation and has controlled his desires, even if he be the poorest, sleeping only in the temple halls and choultries or under trees or on the bare ground and just with a deer skin to cover.

Verse 25:
YOGARATO VAA BHOGARATO VAA
SANGARATO VAA SANGAVIHEENAH
YASYA BRAHMANI RAMATE CHITHAM
NANDATI NANDATI NANDATYEVA

Whether one is immersed in yoga or is reveling in bhoga (i.e., outward enjoyment), whether he is enjoying himself in social company or has retired into solitude, true happiness certainly cannot be his; but who alone is reveling inwardly in Brahman, (wherever he be), he alone will be truly happy and will verily enjoy.

Verse 26:
TWAYI MAYI CHAANYATRAIKO VISHNUH
VYARTHAM KUPYASI MAYYASAHISHNUH
BHAVA SAMACHITTAH SARVATRA TWAM
VANCHHASYASHIRAADYADI VISHNUTWA

In you, in me and everywhere, there is but the one Vishnu. Mistakenly viewing me with a sense of difference, you are ill disposed towards me. Try to see in all beings only the Vishnu who is your own self. Give up your false and egoistic sense of separateness from other beings. Cultivate a sense of kinship, unity and oneness with all.

Verse 27:
SATROU MITRE PUTRE BANDHOU
MAA KURU YATNAM VIGRAHASANDHOU
SARVASMINNAPI PASYAATMAANAM
SARVATROTSRIJA BHEDAAJNYANA

Do not look at anybody in terms of friend or foe, brother or cousin; do not fritter away your mental energies in thoughts of friendship or enmity. Seeking the Self everywhere be amiable and equal-minded towards all, treating all alike.

Verse 28:
KAAMAM KRODHAM LOBHAM MOHAM
TYAKTWAA TMAANAM PASHYATI SOHAM
AATMAJNANA VIHEENAA MUDAAH
TE PASYANTE NARAKANIGOODAAH

Free yourself from lust, anger, greed and delusion. Contemplate on 'who you are'. Enquire within yourself, who am I? The fools who fail to apprehend the Self are caught in hell-fire even here and now itself and suffer torture.

Verse 29:
ARTHAMANARTHAM BHAAVAYA NITHYAM
NAASTI TATAH SUKHALESAH SATHYAM
PUTHRAADAPI DHANABHAAJAAM BHEETIH
SARVATRAISHA VIHITA REETIH

It is wealth only that causes all harm and brings about one's ruin. Bear this truth in mind always. Know that the pursuit of wealth does not lead one to happiness at all. The rich fear and are even afraid of their own sons. This is the outcome of riches anywhere and ever.

Verse 30:
PRAANAAYAAMAM PRATYAAHAARAM
NITYAANITYA VIVEKAVICHAARAM
JAAPYASAMETA SAMAADHIVIDHAANAM
KURVAVADHAANAM MAHADAVADHAANAM

Regulated breathing and sense control, discrimination between the Enduring and the fleeting, the Eternal and the transient, Japa and meditation, and submerging of the bodily and mental consciousness in the Consciousness of the Spirit, merging oneself into the total Inner Silence -- one must practice these with unrelenting fervor.

Verse 31:
GURUCHARANAAMBUJA NIRBHARABHAKTHAH
SAMSAARAADACHIRAADHAVA MUKTHAH
SENDRIYA MAANASA NIYAMAADEVAM
DRAKSHYASI NIJAHRIDAYASTHAM DEVAM

Surrender yourself to the Lotus Feet of the Guru; with your senses and mind disciplined, and freed from the shackles of Samsara you will behold the Lord who is seated in your heart.

"SEEK GOVINDA, SEEK GOD, BHAJA GOVINDAM", IN THIS REFRAIN COMPRISING OF TWO WORDS, SRI SANKARA, HAS SUMMED UP IN A NUTSHELL AS IT WERE, THE ENTIRE PREACHING OF VEDANTA AND RELIGION FOR THE REDEMPTION OF MANKIND. IT GIVES US THE KEY FOR ENTERING INTO THE REALM OF BLISS, THE ABODE OF GOVINDA AND FOR TERMINATING THE MISERY OF LIFE WE ARE IN AT PRESENT.

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