By Sri Adi
Sankaracharya (and his disciples)
The Acharya is believed to have
composed the Bhajagovindam during his famous pilgrimage to Kashi (Benares).
The fourteen disciples are said to have accompanied him. The story goes
that when he was walking along the streets of Kashi, he was pained to observe an
elderly man trying hard to learn Sanskrit grammar. At his advanced age,
the remaining valuable little time of his life should have been used for
worshipping the God, instead of wasting on learning a language. This prompted
Sri Sankara to burst out this composition, a sort of rebuke to foolish way of
living. The Acharya urges the man to turn towards God and sing His glory instead
of trying to learn a language. A censure is implied when the Acharya calls
the man a fool (Moodhamathe). It may be added here that the tone of
Bhajagovindam is not at all soft, but somewhat striking, in spite of its exotic
poetic beauty and perfection of composition. This is no wonder, because
such a treatment is required to wake up man from his slumber. A milder
approach would delay the matter. The matter is urgent, as the Acharya
explains in the next verse, for, when the hour of death approaches without any
forewarning, the hard-learned verses of grammar are not going to save the poor
soul. Hence the song rightly starts without any preamble:
govindaM bhajamuuDhamate .
saMpraapte sannihite kaale
nahi nahi rakshati DukRiJNkaraNe .. (1)
Worship Govinda, Worship Govinda,
Worship Govinda. Oh fool! Rules of Grammar will not save you at the time of your
mUDha jahiihi dhanaagamatRishhNaaM
kuru sadbuddhiM manasi vitRishhNaam.
vittaM tena vinodaya chittam. .. (2)
Oh fool ! Give up your thirst to
amass wealth, devote your mind to thoughts to the Real. Be content with what
comes through actions already performed in the past.
manasi vichintaya vaaraM vaaram. .. (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.
lokaM shokahataM cha samastam .. (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.
staavannija parivaaro raktaH .
pashchaajjiivati jarjara dehe
vaartaaM ko.api na pRichchhati 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
taavatpRichchhati 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.
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 parabrahmam.
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.
nissaNgatve nirmohatvam.h .
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 .
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.
kathito vaiyaakaraNasyaishhaH .
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
pashyannapi cana pashyati muuDhaH
udaranimittaM bahukRitaveshhaH .. (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.
aNgaM galitaM palitaM muNDaM
dashanavihiinaM jataM tuNDam.
vRiddho yaati gRihiitvaa daNDaM
tadapi na muJNcatyaashaapiNDam.. (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 pRishhThebhaanuH
raatrau chubukasamarpitajaanuH .
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.
vrataparipaalanamathavaa daanam.h .
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
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.
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
bhagavad.h giitaa kiJNchidadhiitaa
gaNgaa jalalava kaNikaapiitaa .
sakRidapi yena muraari samarchaa
kriyate tasya yamena na charchaa .. (20)
Let a man read but a little from
Gitaa, 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
kRipayaa.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
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 .
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.
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
geyaM giitaa naama sahasraM
dhyeyaM shriipati ruupamajasram .
neyaM sajjana saNge chittaM
deyaM diinajanaaya cha vittam. .. (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 give up the sinful path.
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.
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 .
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 .
bodhita aasichchhodhitakaraNaH .. (32)
Thus was a silly grammarian lost
in rules cleansed of his narrow vision and shown the Light by Shankara's
govindaM bhajamuuDhamate .
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.