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 death.
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
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
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 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.
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)
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
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 Nityanatha.
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 bharativamsha.
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 apostles.
govindaM bhajamuuDhamate .
nahi pashyaamo bhavataraNe .. (33)
worship Govinda, worship Govinda, Oh fool ! Other than chanting the
Lord's names, there is no other way to cross the life's ocean.