Bhaja Govindam was written by Jagadguru Adi
Bhaja govindaM is one of the minor compositions of
the spiritual giant, Adi Shankaracharya . 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 implores 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 ? The person thus awakened gets set on a path to
the inner road back to the God principle.
The background of Bhaja GovindaM is worth examining
. During his stay in Kashi, he noticed a very old man studying
the rules of sanskrit by Panini . Shankara was touched with pity
at 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 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
mudgaara, 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 emphasise that, he concludes that all knowledge other than
the Self-Knowledge is useless, Shankara makes the person realize
how foolish he/she is in the conduct and behavior by these
verses, and shows the purpose of our worldly existence, which is
to seek Govinda and attain Him.
Bhaja govindaM is divided into dvaadasha manjarikaa
stotram and chaturdasha manjarika stotram . At the end of
composing the first stanza, it is said that Shankara burst forth
with the next 11 stanzas of bhaja govindam. Thus stanzas 1-12 are
called dvaadash manjarika stotram . Inspired by the extempore
recital by Shankara, each of his 14 disciples composed a verse
and the 14 verse compendium is called chaturdasha manjarika
stotram . Shankara added the finishing touches by adding five of
his own stanzas at the last bringing the total to 31. The last
two verses in this version is not found in all editions.
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 1-12a) 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's words seem to be quite piercing and
seem to lack the softness and tenderness often found in his other
texts, thus addressing directly. 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 worldiness, and by removing this tumor of ignorance, we can
attain everlasting bliss with the grace of Govinda.
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
mUDha jahiihi dhanaagamatR^ishhNaaM
kuru sadbuddhiM manasi vitR^ishhNaam.h .
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.
dR^ishhTvaa maagaamohaavesham.h .
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 . Fail not to remember
this again and again in your mind.
lokaM shokahataM cha samastam.h .. 4..
The life of a person 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 pR^ichchhati gehe .. 5..
So long as a man is fit and able to support his
family, see what 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.
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 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 samsaara, the world. Of whom are you ? From where have you
come ? Brother, ponder over these truths.
nissaN^gatve nirmohatvam.h .
nishchalatattve jiivanmuktiH .. 9..
From satsanga, company of good people, comes
non-attachment, from non-attachment comes freedom from delusion,
which leads to self-settledness . From self-settledness comes
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 samsaara, the world, 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 by time . Free
yourself from the illusion of the world of Maya and attain the
dinayaaminyau saayaM praataH
shishiravasantau punaraayaataH .
kaalaH kriiDati gachchhatyaayuH
tadapi na muJNchatyaashaavaayuH .. 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 .
shriimachchhankarabhagavachchharaNaiH .. 12a ..
This bouquet of twelve verses was imparted to a
grammarian by the all-knowing Shankara, adored as the
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 of samsaara, get
into the boat of satsanga, company of good people, quickly.
Stanza attributed to Padmapada.
jaTilo muNDii luJNchhitakeshaH
pashyannapi chana 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 orange, 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
aN^gaM galitaM palitaM muNDaM
dashanavihiinaM jataM tuNDam.h .
vR^iddho yaati gR^ihiitvaa daNDaM
tadapi na muJNchatyaashaapiNDam.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 .
tadapi na muJNchatyaashaapaashaH .. 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, 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 vairgya, could any fail to be content ?
Stanza attributed to nityaananda.
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
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 but once muraari . He
then will have no altercation with Yama . Stanza attributed to
punarapi jananaM punarapi maraNaM
punarapi jananii jaThare shayanam.h .
iha saMsaare bahudustaare
kR^ipayaa.apaare paahi muraare .. 21..
Born again, death again, again to stay in the
mother's womb ! It is indeed hard to cross this boundless
ocean of samsaara . Oh Murari ! Redeem me through Thy mercy.
Stanza attributed to nityanaatha.
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 vices and
virtues, onward he wanders . One who lives in communion with god
enjoys bliss, pure and uncontaminated, like a child and as an
intoxicated. Stanza attributed to nityanaatha.
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, have samabhaava, equanimity,
always. Stanza attributed to medhaatithira.
shatrau mitre putre bandhau
maa kuru yatnaM vigrahasandhau .
sarvatrotsR^ija bhedaaGYaanam.h .. 25..
Waste not 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 bhaarativamsha.
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
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
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.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.
nityaanitya vivekavichaaram.h .
kurvavadhaanaM mahadavadhaanam.h .. 30..
Regulate the praaNa-s, life forces, 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
gurucharaNaambuja nirbhara bhakataH
saMsaaraadachiraadbhava muktaH .
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 .
bodhita aasichchhodhitakaraNaH .. 32..
Thus 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.