Composed by the great saint Bhagavadpada Sri Adi Shankaracharya, Bhaja Govindam is one of the most lucid yet insightful works of Vedanta. Some of the other magnificent works on Vedanta by Adi Shankaracharya are the Vivekachudamani and Atmabodha. He combined his scientific knowledge of the subject with deep devotion to produce brilliant compositions.
Shankara’s works are classified into 3 main categories:
1. Bhashya: Commentaries on the scriptures such as the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and the Brahmasutras
2. Stotras: Devotional compositions like the Dakshinamoorthy stotras
3. Prakarana Granthas: Introductory manuals for spiritual studies
The Bhaja Govindam belongs to the class of stotras. However, as the verses contain deep Vedantic thought it is often included as a prakarana, introductory text. Although small, it is a prominent composition of Shankara’s that teaches the fundamentals of Vedanta. Its style is simple and its melody makes it appealing to people of all ages. Each one of its 31 verses is a pearl of wisdom that is relevant to our lives.
Another name for this text is Moha Mudgara. The word moha, in Sanskrit, means ‘delusion’ while mudgara means ‘hammer’. Together, Moha Mudgara means the remover or destroyer of delusion. It is called so because it deals a body blow to the excessive value we place on this samsara that is the world.
It was on one of those days when Shankara and his disciples were travelling that they passed through Benaras, a holy city of India. Along the way, Shankara overheard an old pundit, scholar, memorising Panini’s grammar rules. He observed how the pundit memorised the grammar rules but missed the message of what he was studying and this inspired a masterful oration by Shankara that we call the Bhaja Govindam or Moha Mudgara.
The Bhaja Govindam comprises 31 verses. The opening stanza is taken to be the chorus that is chanted at the end of every other verse. Tradition has it that the 12 verses following the chorus were spoken by the great master himself. These 12 verses form the first part of the Bhaja Govindam and are called the Dvadashamanjarika Stotram, a bouquet of 12 stanza-flowers. Just as a bouquet of fresh flowers can be appreciated even by looking at them from afar, the Bhaja Govindam too can be appreciated merely by listening to the melodious chanting of the verses. Those who come near the flower experience the fragrance emanating from the flower. Similarly, those who understand the meaning of the verses gain useful instructions on life. However, the ones that truly enjoy the flowers are the bees that enter deep into the flower to draw out their nectar. Similarly, those who truly enjoy the Bhaja Govindam are those who absorb its message. Those who analyse
and reflect upon the matter in the verses. Those who live the philosophy and use it to rise spiritually.
So inspiring was Shankara’s oration that each of his 14 disciples travelling with him added a verse each. These 14 verses form the Chaturdasha Manjarika Stotram. After listening to his students, Shankara blesses the true seekers of all times in the last 4 verses.
Thus together, the chorus, Dvadashamanjarika Stotram, Chaturdasha Manjarika Stotram and Shankara’s blessings form the 31 verses of the Bhaja Govindam.
a) Verse 1: Chorus
b) Verses 2 – 13: Dvadashamanjarika Stotram
c) Verses 14 – 27: Chaturdasha Manjarika Stotram d) Verses 27 – 31: Shankara’s Blessing
The Bhaja Govindam deals with our twin motivations in life; kanchana, acquisition of wealth, and kamini, enjoyment of it. By the first, we accumulate wealth for dukha nivrutti, security against sorrow. And by the second motivation, we indulge in sukha prapti, the enjoyment of the accumulated wealth. Shankara, in the Bhaja Govindam, brings the futility of worldly pursuit to our attention and says no matter how much we seek whatever we seek outside, the truth is, it will always be within.
Happiness lies in the absence of cravings and not in attainment of worldly objects. The emotions and thoughts of insecurity, resentment, fear, depression, irritation and dejection are all caused by our subconscious and unconscious impressions and sentiments. These can be overcome by reducing unwanted thinking. Mind knows only three things namely, to sleep, to think or to act. In this, thinking to be curtailed. By keeping our mind always in wanting, future and craving we fail to enjoy and relish the present moments already filled with Joy by Almighty. As long as you have this craving for happiness in future through probable attainments to come in the future time and space you will not be Happy in the present moment (Now) ever as even after attainments new cravings will start to keep you unhappy then.
Scriptures say that Lack of Attitude of Gratitude for what we already have by the Grace of God is the cause of incompleteness and feeling of missing something always. Surrender to God through exclusive devotion accepting the present moment without lamenting, you will see miracles happening for you by GF’s Grace.
The spirit of the Bhaja Govindam
As we begin our study of the Bhaja Govindam, it is important we understand the spirit of Shankara’s message. There may be times during the study when we feel his admonishments of human nature are a bit harsh. But it is imperative that we feel the love that comes through his words. Like a parent to a child. He does not mean to belittle us but is merely trying to shake us out of our slumber. Urging us to get over our obsession with the trivialities and get on to our real business in life, to begin our search for that Divine Self within. To remind us that we are not human beings going through a spiritual experience but that very Spirit going through a human experience. So together, we must work towards lifting ourselves out of our delusion
Bhaja Govindam with Meaning: I
BHAJAGOVINDAM BHAJAGOVINDAM GOVINDAM BHAJAMUUDHAMATE SAMPRAAPTE SANNIHITE KAALE
NAHI NAHI RAKSHATI DUKRIJNKARANE
Praise the Lord Govinda! Praise the Lord Govinda ! May Govinda be Praised,
O You mindless fool !
This incessant repeating of grammatical rules (meaning also routine worldly living) Will not protect you when the appointed or prearranged time of death approaches
MUDHA JAHIIHI DHANAAGAMATRISHHNAAM KURU SADBUDDHIM MANASI VITRISHHNAAM YALLABHASE NIJAKARMOPAATTAM
VITTAM TENA VINODAYA CHITTAM
O mindless fool, discard your greed for amassing wealth
And turn thy mind to the real, bereft of passion
Accept your past karmic actions, as your destiny
With whatever wealth you get based on your destiny, train your mind to be content.
NAARIISTANABHARA NAABHIIDESHAM DRISHHTVAA MAAGAAMOHAAVESHAM ETANMAAMSAAVASAADI VIKAARAM MANASI VICHINTAYA VAARAM VAARAM
Do not get deluded with lustful desires
For the cut of the navel or the curve of the breast
As all bodies are formed by fat and flesh, which will perish Remind yourself of this fact again and again
NNALINIIDALAGATA JALAMATITARALAM TADVAJJIIVITAMATISHAYACHAPALAM VIDDHI VYAADHYABHIMAANAGRASTAM LOKAM SHOKAHATAM CHA SAMASTAM
Life is ever changing, short-lived and indeterminate As a dancing water droplet on a lotus leaf
Know, this world is prey to disease and snobbery With full of endless sorrow and grief
YAAVADVITTOPAARJANA SAKTAH STAAVANNIJA PARIVAARO RAKTAH PASHCHAAJJIIVATI JARJARA DEHE VAARTAAM KOAPI NA PRICHCHHATI GEHE
While you are active to earn and support your family’s welfare
You get their love and caring good wishes
But when with you attain old age and illness and when, your body fades and weakened
your kin do not have for you, even a word to spare
YAAVATPAVANO NIVASATI DEHE TAAVATPRICHCHHATI KUSHALAM GEHE GATAVATI VAAYAU DEHAAPAAYE BHAARYAA BIBHYATI TASMINKAAYE
While you live actively, and contacts flourish
Attentive kin, inquire to your good health and well being
But, when the soul departs, and death bell rings
The sight of your dead body (corpse), will frighten and repel even your wife
BAALASTAAVATKRIIDAASAKTAH TARUNASTAAVATTARUNIISAKTAH VRIDDHASTAAVACHCHINTAASAKTAH PARE BRAHMANI KOAPI NA SAKTAH
Childhood days are wasted in the playground
Youth days are lost in the attachment to a woman
The old are in their own pasts entangled
Unfortunately, there is none left to seek or realize the Brahman
KAATE KAANTAA KASTE PUTRAH SAMSAARO.AYAMATIIVA VICHITRAH
KASYA TVAM KAH KUTA AAYAATAH TATTVAM CHINTAYA TADIHA BHRAATAH
Let us find the answers for Life’s real mysteries
Who is your wife, your son, from where did they arrive ? Investigate into these questions as your salvation’s anchors Through these endless cycles of birth and death, to originate
SATSANGATVE NISSNGATVAM NISSANGATVE NIRMOHATVAM NIRMOHATVE NISHCHALATATTVAM NISHCALATATTVE JIIVANMUKTIH
Through the association (Sat Sangha) of good people
one attains enlightened detachment
From this detachment comes freedom from delusion
From this freedom comes one pointed mind for peace
From this peace comes Jivan Mukti, the liberation of the soul
VAYASIGATE KAH KAAMAVIKAARAH SHUSHHKE NIIRE KAH KAASAARAH KSHIINEVITTE KAH PARIVAARAH GYAATE TATTVE KAH SAMSAARAH
When youth leaves, what good is lust?
What is the use of lake when there is no water?
Where are families or relatives, when wealth vanishes? Where are Samsara’s loops when the Truth is realized?
MAA KURU DHANA JANA YAUVANA GARVAM HARATI NIMESHHAATKAALAH SARVAM MAAYAAMAYAMIDAMAKHILAM HITVAA BRAHMAPADAM TVAM PRAVISHA VIDITVAA
Do not be proud of your wealth or youth or glorious friendship
These could all come to an end abruptly
Cut the illusory bonds with Maya which has entrapped you
And attain that eternal timeless Brahman, which is the only permanent one
DINAYAAMINYAU SAAYAM PRAATAH
SHISHIRAVASANTAU PUNARAAYAATAH KAALAH KRIIDATI GACHCHHATYAAYUH TADAPI NA MUJNCATYAASHAAVAAYUH
Day and night, dawn and dusk, winter and spring, again and again come and depart
They come and go, even as time and life, ebb away The surging of desire always holds sway, never leaves
KAATE KAANTAA DHANA GATACHINTAA VAATULA KIM TAVA NAASTI NIYANTAA TRIJAGATI SAJJANASAM GATIRAIKAA BHAVATI BHAVAARNAVATARANE NAUKAA
O ,Foolish one,why this constant avariciousness for wealth ?
Is there no one to guide you and show the way ?
In these three worlds, only one thing can save you, from Samsara’s greed Climb on to the boat of Satsangha(good company), with cautious speed
JATILO MUNDII LUJNCHHITAKESHAH KAASHHAAYAAMBARABAHUKRITAVESHHAH PASHYANNAPI CANA PASHYATI MUUDHAH UDARANIMITTAM BAHUKRITAVESHHAH
One ascetic with matted locks, one with shaven head,
one with hairs pulled out one by one, another walking in his tawny robes these are fools who, though seeing, do not see.
Indeed, these different disguises or apparels are only for their belly’s sake
ANGAM GALITAM PALITAM MUNDAM DASHANAVIHIINAM JATAM TUNDAM VRIDDHO YAATI GRIHIITVAA DANDAM TADAPI NA MUJNCATYAASHAAPINDAM
With age’s onset, bald heads, toothless gums and crutches spawn Despite these exhausting signs of time
The old man’s hopes, remain forever strong
Desperately clinging to a fruitless and ever hopeful dawn
AGRE VAHNIH PRISHHTHEBHAANUH RAATRAU CHUBUKASAMARPITAJAANUH
KARATALABHIKSHASTARUTALAVAASAH TADAPI NA MUJNCATYAASHAAPAASHAH
Listen to! there lies a man warmed by a fire in front and by the sun behind At night he curls up warmly to avoid the cold
Eats his beggar’s food from the his bowl of his hand
And sleeps beneath the spreading tree
Yet, he remains a wretched puppet of his consuming desires
KURUTE GANGAASAAGARAGAMANAM VRATAPARIPAALANAMATHAVAA DAANAM GYAANAVIHINAH SARVAMATENA
MUKTIM NA BHAJATI JANMASHATENA
One may wash one’s sins immersing in Ganga’s waters One can fast and donate riches to the needy
But devoid of Gyana or Wisdom of the truth
None else can give the soul it’s liberation
Despite the recurrence of a hundred births
SURA MANDIRA TARU MUULA NIVAASAH SHAYYAA BHUUTALA MAJINAM VAASAH SARVA PARIGRAHA BHOGA TYAAGAH KASYA SUKHAM NA KAROTI VIRAAGAH
Give up life of ease and reside in temples, or under trees
Wear deerskin and bed down with mother earth, in peace
Give up attachments, and with life’s comforts, denied
With this disinterestedness (Vairagya), who would not be fulfilled?
YOGARATO VAABHOGARATOVAA SANGARATO VAA SANGAVIIHINAH YASYA BRAHMANI RAMATE CHITTAM NANDATI NANDATI NANDATYEVA
One can delight in Yoga, the comforting union of body and mind Or,in Bhoga,in search of great pleasure or in self-indulgence crave for attachment or to detachment, or surrender
But, be aware, that everlasting bliss, can only be realized
In the joyous meditation,of the Brahman alone.
BHAGAVAD GIITAA KIJNCHIDADHIITAA GANGAA JALALAVA KANIKAAPIITAA SAKRIDAPI YENA MURAARI SAMARCHAA KRIYATE TASYA YAMENA NA CHARCHAA
If one,reads but a little, from the sacred Bhagawat Gita
Drinks only a drop from the holy Ganga
Worships the Lord(Murari) with devotion he then
Will not have confrontation, with deathly Yama during the time of death
PUNARAPI JANANAM PUNARAPI MARANAM PUNARAPI JANANII JATHARE SHAYANAM IHA SAMSAARE BAHUDUSTAARE KR^IPAYAA.APAARE PAAHI MURAARE
The repeated cries of birth and death again, and yet again And the constant reappearing in the mother’s womb
Chart, the thorny voyages across Samsara’s endless ocean
O merciful Lord(Murari) save me, from this cycle of creation and destiny
RATHYAA CHARPATA VIRACHITA KANTHAH PUNYAAPUNYA VIVARJITA PANTHAH
YOGII YOGANIYOJITA CHITTO
The yogi who walks on the roadside with a shawl (with many rags) Who walks the path of equal vision beyond merit and demerit Surrounded by divine bliss, pure and unpolluted, in his mind
As a child with innocence spreads happiness.
KASTVAM KO.AHAM KUTA AAYAATAH KAA ME JANANII KO ME TAATAH
ITI PARIBHAAVAYA SARVAMASAARAM VISHVAM TYAKTVAA SVAPNA VICHAARAM .
Who art you?, who am I? where do I come from?
Who is my mother and my father?
Ponder these mysteries, seeing all without form
Giving up this world, as an idle and essence less dream
TVAYI MAYI CHAANYATRAIKO VISHHNUH VYARTHAM KUPYASI MAYYASAHISHHNUH BHAVA SAMACHITTAH SARVATRA TVAM VAAJNCHHASYACHIRAADYADI VISHHNUTVAM
The Godhead, Vishnu, in you, in me, and in everything, he dwells All Your impatience and anger are meaningless
The yearning to merge with Vishnu, in great measure compels Acceptance of equanimity, Sama Bhaava, in logic compels
SHATRAU MITRE PUTRE BANDHAU
MAA KURU YATNAM VIGRAHASANDHAU SARVASMINNAPI PASHYAATMAANAM SARVATROTSRIJA BHEDAAGYAANAM
Fighting a foe or loving a friend, a child or kin
And expecting love or hate in return
Are emotions that are wasted by you, in turn
See yourself in everyone and everyone in you
Reject all feelings of duality, which are false or misleading
KAAMAM KRODHAM LOBHAM MOHAM TYAKTVAA ATMAANAM BHAAVAYA KO AHAM AATMAGYAANA VIHIINAA MUUDHAAH
TE PACHYANTE NARAKANIGUUDHAAH
Lust,anger,greed and obsession are emotions to be cast out
Your real nature should be calmly contemplated
They are fools those who have no Self-knowledge and identifying them with their body and mind (Ego),
and they subsequently, as a captive in hell, are tortured.
GEYAM GIITAA NAAMA SAHASRAM DHYEYAM SHRIIPATI RUUPAMAJASRAM NEYAM SAJJANA SANGE CHITTAM DEYAM DIINAJANAAYA CHA VITTAM
Blessedly and consistently recite from the Gita
And meditate on the Lord(Vishnu),from your inner heart Extoll and praise his glories through his thousand names
And join in communion with the noble and the righteous, to adore Spreading your wealth on the poor, the destitute and the oppressed
SUKHATAH KRIYATE RAAMAABHOGAH PASHCHAADDHANTA SHARIIRE ROGAH YADYAPI LOKE MARANAM SHARANAM TADAPI NA MUJNCHATI PAAPAACHARANAM
Yielding to lust for its sheer pleasure
Making the body a prey to disease
In spite of this path leading to his ultimate destructive end Man does not abandon his sinful behaviour
ARTHAMANARTHAM BHAAVAYA NITYAM NAASTITATAH SUKHALESHAH SATYAM PUTRAADAPI DHANA BHAAJAAM BHIITIH SARVATRAISHHAA VIHIAA RIITIH
Wealth never promotes the common harmony nor does it bring joy
Ever reflect this, as the truth that is universal
A Rich man will receive trouble from his own son as he will fear his own son’s greed. This the truth about wealth, for everyone’s attention
PRAANAAYAAMAM PRATYAAHAARAM NITYAANITYA VIVEKAVICHAARAM JAAPYASAMETA SAMAADHIVIDHAANAM KURVAVADHAANAM MAHADAVADHAANAM
Regulate the life’s energies (Pranas), unaffected by external causes Understanding the difference between the real and the ephemeral Chanting the Lord’s name to pacify the mind’s stresses
Performing these tasks with extreme care and mindfulness
GURUCHARANAAMBUJA NIRBHARA BHAKATAH SAMSAARAADACHIRAADBHAVA MUKTAH SENDRIYAMAANASA NIYAMAADEVAM DRAKSHYASI NIJA HRIDAYASTHAM DEVAM
O Devotee, lying at the lotus feet of a knowing Master (Guru)
May you be free, from the cyclic traps of birth and death (Samsara) May you, with the controlling of senses and the mind
Come to experience the Lord, that is ever shining in your heart cave,
Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya!