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Bhaja Govindam

This is one of the smallest works of Shankara Acharya, with just 31 verses. The first 12 verses were composed by Shankara himself; the next 15 by his 14 disciples. Then Shankara finished it with 4 more verses of his own. Bhaja Govindam, widely accepted as the essence of the Vedanta is often called "Moha Mudgara" (remover of delusions).


Shankara Acharya, better known as "Adi Shankara", was an 8th century AD Hindu philosopher and Vedic scholar. Consolidating the principles of Advaita Vedanta (non-dualism), his substantial works stand out from the other Vedanta texts. As a staunch proponent of non-dualism, he went on spiritual expeditions with his disciples, all over the Indian mainland. In his short life, he founded four Mathas (monasteries), established the 'Dashanami' monastic order and unified the Shanmata tradition of worship. Born in Kerala, this spiritual giant left his body in present-day Uttarakhand, ending his 32-year long adventurous ascetic life - a Karmayogi.


The backdrop in which this jewel of Bhaja Govindam was born, is very insightful. As a part of his spiritual expeditions, he once met an old man at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh (Bharat). The man was religiously studying Sanskrit grammar, from the works of Panini. Disheartened at the agony of the old man, Shankara advises him not to run behind material accomplishments. Berating our ignorance, he scoffs at the trifles that our lives are.


All 31 verses are said to be extempore recitals. I'll try to put forth their messages in my own words:

1. Mere intellectual achievements won't come to your help when death arrives.

2. Get rid of your desires for wealth. Cultivate good thoughts. Stay contented.

3. Don't lust for women.

4. Life is unstable.

5. Once you get old, everyone loses interest in you.

6. After death, all bodies decay.

7. No one contemplates on the meaning of life.

8. Who are you - do ponder upon it.

9. Foster good relationships.

10. All sorrows end when one realizes the ultimate truth.

11. Don't take pride in your youth and wealth - time takes away everything.

12. Desire sorrows man.


To these 12 verses, his 14 disciples [Padmapada, Thodaka Acharya, Hastaamalakan, Subodhan, Sureshwara Acharya, Nityananda, Aanandagiri, Drudabhakta, Nithyanadhan, Nithyanadhan, Surendran, Medhaatidhi, Medhaatidhi, Bhaarati Vamsan, Sumati] added their verses (in that order). It is generally accepted that the number of disciples was 14, but attributions have been given for 15 verses, two disciples - Nithyanadhan and Medhaatidhi - having two verses each to their credit. Whether it was that one of them wrote 2 verses or were they different people with same names, is not known. Anyways, the last 4 verses are again by Adi Shankara, thus concluding his counsels.


Despite it's size and "simplicity", Bhaja Govindam has a noteworthy place in the spheres of Advaita Vedanta.

YSA 11.16.21 Bhaja Govindam with Hersh Khetarpal

YSA 11.16.21 Bhaja Govindam with Hersh Khetarpal

11.16.21 v29- v31 arthamanarthaM bhaavaya nityaM naastitataH sukhaleshaH satyam. 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. jaapyasameta samaadhividhaanaM kurvavadhaanaM mahadavadhaanam .. (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. .. (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 DukRiJNkaraNaadhyayana 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.
YSA 11.02.21 Bhaja Govindam with Hersh Khetarpal

YSA 11.02.21 Bhaja Govindam with Hersh Khetarpal

v22 -v25 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 sarvatrotsRija 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.
YSA 10.19.21 Bhaja Govindam with Hersh Khetarpal

YSA 10.19.21 Bhaja Govindam with Hersh Khetarpal

v16 -v20 agre vahniH pRishhThebhaanuH raatrau chubukasamarpitajaanuH . karatalabhikshastarutalavaasaH tadapi na muJNcatyaashaapaashaH .. (16) Behold there lies the man who sits warming up his body with the fire in front 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 gaNgaasaagaragamanaM vrataparipaalanamathavaa daanam.h . GYaanavihinaH sarvamatena muktiM na bhajati janmashatena .. (17) One may go to gangasagar(ganes), 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 saNgaviihinaH . 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 gaNgaa jalalava kaNikaapiitaa . sakRidapi yena muraari samarchaa kriyate tasya yamena na charchaa .. (20)
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