Category: Bhaja Govindam

Bhaja Govindam 22: Only Lord’s compassion can rescue from samsara (Verse 21)

Punarapi jananaṃ punarapi maraṇaṃ punarapi jananī jaṭhare śayanam |

Iha saṃsāre bahu dustāre kṛpayāpāre pāhi murāre || 21 ||

Meaning- O Murari! You are supremely compassionate. Please rescue me from this endless cycle of births and deaths (samsāra) wherein I am leaving one body only to land in the womb of another mother.

The karmas (fruitive actions) of a living being trap it in an endless cycle of births and deaths. Likes-dislikes (rāga- dvesha) are the root for the performance of karmas. Likes-dislikes originate out of infatuations and attachments (moha). This in turn stems from absence of discriminatory intelligence (avivekam). Avivekam arises due to spiritual ignorance (ajnana). From this we can conclude that spiritual ignorance is the primary root for this endless cycle of births and deaths.

The living being enters the womb of the mother. While in mother’s womb it suffers piteously and also causes limitless suffering to the mother. After entering this world it performs various fruitive actions (karma) and when it ultimately leaves this body, it re-enters the womb of another mother. This endless cycle is called samsara.

Swami Vidyaranya in his composition ‘Pancadasi‘, has stated – the being that is thrust within this cycle of endless births and deaths is like that worm which is being swept from one whirlpool to another due to the speedily flowing river currents. He is like the instrument in a weaver’s loom that is eternally being shoved from one end to the other. His illusions and imaginations cause him to travel from one death to another. This cycle of births and deaths has no beginning and no end and hence continues perpetually. Even then, it is possible to acquire liberation. It is God’s compassion which rescues the suffering being and helps him cross this samsara.

Shankara Bhagawad-pādācharya in His ‘Shivānanda lahari‘ states, – ‘this samsāra is devoid of any essence. In such a lifeless samsara which distances me from Your seva, I am a foolish person who is roaming blindly and aimlessly. O God Pashupati, you are my sole refuge. There is no power greater than You in this universe who can offer me refuge. Kindly uplift me’.

Murari‘ being referred to in this Bhaja Govindam and ‘Pashupati’ referred to in ‘Shivānanda Lahari’ are one and the same force. We should understand that Shiva and Keshava (Vishnu) are one and the same energy called God. Name and form are all creations. We adopt a particular name/ form to suit our requirements/ tastes in worship.

Very often Shankara-Bhagavadpāda refers to samsara using words such as samsāra sāgara (ocean of samsāra), samsāra vruksha (endless tree called samsāra) and samsāra chakra (wheel called samsāra). The idea is not to frighten the reader but to let him realize how endless this cycle is! When listening to such Vedanta subjects, many people get worried that they are sinners. This is not the intent. These will act like warning bells at the time when the person is about to commit sins.

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Bhaja Govindam 21: Pious people do not reach hell (Verse 20)

Bhagavadgītā kiñcidadhītā gaṅgā jalalava kaṇikā pītā |

Sakṛdapi yena murārī samarcā kriyate tasya yamena na carcā || 20 ||

Meaning – The person who has read at least a bit of the Bhagavad Gita, who has sipped at least a drop of water once from the River Ganga, who has at least once worshipped Lord Hari (Murari) and obtained satisfaction from such worship, will not have to face any altercation with Yama, the Lord of death. It implies that such a person will not reach hell (naraka).

To lead a good life is the natural desire of every being. From our elders we gain the knowledge that, to lead such a life, there are certain specified procedures to be followed.  This stanza lays the emphasis on the unflinching devotion (drdha bhakti) that is needed. By leading a pure life, the living being can conquer death itself! He will become Mrutyunjaya i.e. he will be totally absolved from the fear of death.

In this stanza, three points are being stressed upon- 1) Reading the Bhagavad Gita 2) Drinking water of Ganga and 3) Offering devotional worship to Krishna.

Retaining Arjuna as a tool, Lord Srikrishna preached His divine message to the world in the form of Bhagavad Gita. In the words of Sri Shankara Bhagawad-pādācharya, the Bhagavad Gita contains the essence of all the teachings contained in the Vedas. The Upanishads are the cows. Paramatma Sri Krishna himself milks these cows. Arjuna is the calf.  The milk is the great nectar called Bhagavad Gita. As such Bhagavad Gita is referred to as an Upanishad in itself. The wise drink this milk called Bhagavad Gita. Padma Purana emphatically states that picking any one shloka from the Bhagavad Gita and reciting it with full faith and dedication will in itself pave the way towards liberation.


The significance and sanctity of River Ganga is well known. It originates in the Himalayas and carries with it innumerable medicinal properties. This divine river actually descends from Heaven on to the head of Shiva, then flows on earth and finally reaches the lower planetary systems known as Patala.  Our Puranas state that as a result of Emperor Bhagiratha’s intense penance, the divine River Ganga, which was flowing in heaven, descended to earth to bless his forefathers. She flowed over the ashes of the sons of King Sagara and thus blessed them with liberation. ‘Vishnu paadodbhava Ganga’– Ganga originates from the feet of Lord Vishnu. Such is the sacredness of this river. For this reason, even today, the practice of immersing the ashes of the deceased into the Ganga is prevalent.

It is said that in this Kali Yuga, the person who dies in Kashi will be blessed with liberation- the reason being the presence of both Kashi Vishveshwara and River Ganga at that place. Even calling out to her ‘Ganga, Ganga’ from a great distance, bestows great merit (punya).

The third point is the worship of God. Worship gradually washes away the person’s ego and purifies the mind. It lights the lamp of knowledge in the person and thus becomes a cause towards attaining liberation. When any one of the 9 forms of devotion is selected and prayers are earnestly offered to God through that, then attaining liberation becomes even simpler. In His hymn composed upon Lord Lakshmi Nrusimha (Lakshmi Nrusimha stotram), Sri Shankaracharya stresses upon the greatness of devotion.

If someone decides to move contrary to this, then you can imagine what his fate would be. It is said that upon death when the being, who had lived all life without any devotion towards the Supreme Lord, reaches hell (naraka) and is undergoing intense pain and suffering, it hears the voice of Lord of death (Yama)- ‘O being, while you were on earth, why did you not think of Lord Srihari (Vishnu), who dispels all troubles/ ills? Had you worshipped Him with faith, even once in your lifetime, you would not have to undergo so much suffering’. This is the compassion of Lord Yama. At least at that point of time, he reminds the being about worshipping the Supreme.

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Bhaja Govindam 20: Qualities of Yogi immersed in supreme bliss (Verse 19)

Yogarato vā bhogarato vā sangarato vā sangavihīnaḥ |

Yasya brahmaṇi ramate cittaṃ nandati nandati nandatyeva || 19 ||

Meaning– One may take delight either in Yoga or in comforts of this world (bhoga); he may enjoy living amidst people (sanga) or enjoy living alone (nissanga), yet the truth is that only he, whose mind is totally enveloped in the company of the Supreme Brahma, can enjoy true bliss!

This stanza extols the person who has attained the vision of Brahma (Brahma Sākshātkāra). Obtaining the ‘vision of Brahma’ means to live in a state of advaita (non- dualism). In this state, the person perceives the Self everywhere. Having achieved victory over the six inner enemies (arishadvargas), he will be over and above the state of dualism and will see himself as existing within in all objects/ entities of this creation. Without any distinction, he will see the entire universe consisting of animate and inanimate objects as existing within his Self.

To such a person, being in a state of Yoga or enjoying material comforts (bhoga) are indistinguishably same. Being amidst the company of many or being all-alone is one and the same to him. Living abroad, living in the Himalayas or being seated in an aircraft, all mean the same to him. He will be in the same mental state at all times. Differences of place and time do not have any affect on him. This is because he is very well aware that only Brahma is true and eternal (satya) and that all these worldly objects are illusory, transitory and impermanent. He will be unaffected by illusion.

Kathopanishad states that the Self is unique. It is devoid of the 5 subtle sensory perceptions of taste, smell, touch, sound and form. It cannot get depleted; is without beginning and end, and is over and above even the ultimate and most subtle principle of creation called Mahat. It is unchangeable, permanent and stable.

The one who has understood this knowledge will be free from the jaws of death. In other words, he will exit from this repeated cycle of re-births. In other words, he has obtained the ‘vision of Brahma’. He will be eternally immersed in the supreme unending bliss. He will be over and above distinctions such as dharma-adharma. In his state of absolute purity, the good and bad no longer touch him.

In reality he can cause purity to all those around him wherever he is, nevertheless the risk of being defiled due to the impurity of others does not even slightly arise. In Datta Darshanam, Lord Datta taught all this to Pingalanaga. He is just like the beetle which is untouched by muddy mire even after dipping into it.

At all times and in all conditions, he is ruled by feelings of equal-mindedness. Just by his presence, everything around him turns pure. He will be over and above the feelings of arrogance, honour, humiliation. He will be unaffected by both praise and abuse.

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Bhaja Govindam 19: Detachment alone gives real happiness (Verse 18)

Suramandira taru mūla nivāsaḥ śayyā bhūtalam-ajinaṃ vāsaḥ |

Sarva parigraha bhogatyāgaḥ kasya sukhaṃ na karoti virāgaḥ || 18 ||

Meaning of the hymn– Reside in some temple or beneath a tree. Let the earth be your mattress. Let the deerskin be your robes. Who will not be happy upon giving up all the comforts? It is detachment (Vairagya) that showers happiness (sukha) upon everyone.

Achieving freedom from mental modifications (mano vikaram) is itself freedom! This is being taught in this stanza.

To escape from the clutches of desires and attachments is no ordinary task. The one who has exited from its clutches will be free from external pomp/ show of any kind. He will be free from all forms of desires, greed and wanting. The life of such a person will be straightforward and steady.

Contrary to this, even a trivial attachment towards desires causes the person to be entrapped within them and brings immense hardships upon him. Just allow the tongue to taste some dish and it will demand to eat loads of it. Due to this over-eating ultimately, the stomach will have to suffer.

An increase in desires only brings pain and sorrow. Entertaining thoughts such as- ‘Oh, how can I live without this? How can I live in the absence of that?’ imply an increase in bondages.

Worldly materialistic comforts should gradually be given up. Attachment towards them should be completely cut off. This is dispassion (vairagya). There are some tricks to achieve this state of vairagya. Reducing inclination towards the materialistic worldly objects, transforming the love that exists within the heart into love towards the Supreme, completely giving up attachment towards relatives, learning to find faults (dosha) in all the worldly materialistic comforts, reading good & holy books and maintaining satsang with Sadguru are the ways to obtain dispassion (vairagya).

To the person who has obtained absolute dispassion, sleeping on the bare floor will be akin to sleeping on a bed of flowers.  Happily and comfortably he will sleep under the shade of a tree. He does not need ironed clothes to wear as he happily wraps himself in deerskin. There will no inclination in his mind to enjoy any desire. Neither will the feelings ‘that is nice. This particular item is not good’ exist in his mind.

To be frank, only detachment (vairagya) bestows real comforts! That is why in the Subhashitam- bhoge roga bhayam, kule cyuti bhayam– the fear (bhayam) hidden within every comfort has been highlighted. For example, in seeking to enjoy every type of enjoyment (bhoga) there is the fear of disease (roga bhayam) ; to those born in high clan always fear that a stigma could attach to their family; in obtaining wealth there is a fear of the king (who checks); honour fears humiliation; a person in power fears his enemy; beauty fears old age;  in reading a lot of scriptures (shastras) is the fear that someone may come for a debate; virtues (guna) fear vices and body fears death. In this manner, in this world, every object/ enjoyment comes with some sort of fear hidden within it. Only detachment (vairagya) can give fearlessness. This is nirbhayam.

Dispassion means not having any desires. Not increasing the desires is the real comfort. This is the real meaning of the word sukha (comfort). Many wrongly assume that comfort (sukha) means to sleep in an air conditioned room, enjoying a great sumptuous meal etc. Not allowing the tongue to enjoy the taste of what it is eating; not allowing the body to feel the heat and cold are the true comforts. This is dispassion.

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Bhaja Govindam 18: Spiritual Knowledge is the pre-requisite for liberation (Verse 17)

Kurute gaṅgā sāgara gamanaṃ vrata paripālanam-athavā dānam |

Jñāna vihīnaḥ sarvamatena bhajati na muktiṃ janma śatena || 17 ||

Meaning – A person may go to the banks of River Ganga or any ocean; he may observe all the disciplines that are to be adhered there; he may give away huge riches in charity; yet he cannot get liberation (mukti) even after many births because Jnana (Spiritual Knowledge) is the essential pre-requisite for liberation.

Jnana being referred to in this stanza is the most essential Sadhana for attaining liberation (moksha). It is the centre-most focal point behind Shankara Bhagawad-pādāchārya’s teachings.

Only one knowledge pertains to the natural state of the inner being. Such knowledge dispels all ignorance that exists about this Self. To drive away this darkness called spiritual ignorance there is nothing other than utpatti.

A person may visit Kashi and bathe in the waters of River Ganga. He may go to Rameshwaram and bathe in the ocean there. He may perform innumerable religious rituals and pujas. He could construct limitless choultries, temples and ponds as a service to society. All of these purify the mind and enable achievement of total concentration (ekagrata). However these cannot show the way that leads towards the supreme goal of human birth i.e. attaining liberation.

Attaining Jnana amounts to attaining liberation (moksha). ‘Jnanam vinā muktir na bhavati’– the person who does not obtain Supreme Knowledge (Jnana) cannot secure liberation even after countless births. Obtaining supreme knowledge is the path for attaining liberation.

Why does the path of karma not bestow liberation? This is because karma (action) cannot directly attack spiritual ignorance (ajnana). Good actions such as meritorious charitable deeds, pujas, reading holy texts etc. are extremely important as they purify the mind and enable the person to achieve total concentration (ekagrata). A pure mind makes it easy to grasp the supreme knowledge.

Spiritual ignorance (ajnana) can meet its end only in the hands of Supreme Knowledge (Jnana). In the darkness a rope is mistaken for a snake; a fool is mistaken for a thief. These are caused due to bhranti (misconception). It is due to this bhranti that from the existing object, knowledge of another object emerges.

In His commentary on Gita, Shankaracharya Swami has authoritatively declared that obtaining Jnana is the only way to obtain liberation. He has also said that this is the final opinion of all the Upanishads and Gita.

Many people may question here- ‘Isn’t it true that total devotion (bhakti) can grant liberation? Performing yagnas and yaagas and undertaking naadopasana also lead to liberation, don’t they?’ The answer here is that to attain that liberation from which there is no return, Jnana is the only path to be followed. All the other paths grant liberation (mukti) which is not permanent.

How can there be impermanent liberation? Here it is essential to understand that there is a difference between ‘swarga mukti’ and ‘jeevan mukti’. ‘Swarga’ means ‘heaven’. ‘Swarga mukti’ means attaining the state of heaven. The being will be in heaven in accordance with the balance of punya (merit) that is stored in his account. The moment this balance depletes totally, the being has to return back to earth. All the other paths grant this temporary liberation. There are many puranic stories that incorporate this kind of mukti. The story of Nahusha is an example of this.

Jeevan mukti’ means total permanent liberation from which there is no return and which can be achieved only by attaining the supreme knowledge.

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