Bhaja Govindam was written by Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya.
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 death.
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 Jiivan muktii.
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 timeless Truth.
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 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 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 Totakacharya.
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 vaartikakaara.
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.
yogarato vaabhogaratovaa 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 to anandagiriH. 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 dRiDhabhakta. 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 . sarvasminnapi pashyaatmaanaM 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 sumatir. 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. praaNaayaamaM pratyaahaaraM nityaanitya vivekavichaaram.h . jaapyasameta samaadhividhaanaM 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 care. gurucharaNaambuja nirbhara bhakataH saMsaaraadachiraadbhava muktaH . sendriyamaanasa niyamaadevaM 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 . shriimachchhamkara bhagavachchhishhyai bodhita aasichchhodhitakaraNaH .. 32.. Thus 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.