Category: Bhaja Govindam

Bhaja Govindam 2: verse 1

Bhaja govindaṃ bhaja govindaṃ govindaṃ bhaja mūḍhamate |

Samprāpte sannihite kāle nahi nahi rakṣati ḍukrinkaraṇe || 1

O foolish, ignorant person (mūdha)! Revere and worship Lord Govinda! In that final hour at the time of death, this lesson on grammar that you seek to memorize will not come to your aid in any way!

Shankara Bhagawad-pādāchārya begins his teaching by addressing his disciple as ‘Mūdha-mate’. Commonly this refers to a foolish, stupid and idiotic person. However as per Vedanta, ‘mūdha’ is a person who is drowned in moha (illusion, delusion).

Moha means ‘infatuation’. This infatuation causes the person to believe that he is the physical body comprising of the senses (indriyas). Completely enveloped by this belief, he fails to recognize his true Self (atma). This is moha (illusion).

How can humans who are drowned in illusion be uplifted? What is the way out for them? Before this question is answered, it is essential to thoroughly understand what actually brings this ill/ bad condition in the person.

Our Upanishads authoritatively dictate that spiritual ignorance (avidya) or illusion (māya) are the cause behind this.  Proponents of Vedanta have decisively stated that except the knowledge (vidya) that teaches about the Self (atma) all other forms of knowledge can be classified as avidya (ignorance). When seen from this angle, even the 6 Vedangas (auxiliary disciplines associated with the study and understanding of Vedas), which include grammar (vyakarana), can be termed as ‘avidya’.

That is why, in this hymn, Shankara Bhagawad-pādāchārya rebukes the person who is spending his entire time memorizing grammatical lessons (vyakarana sutras), thereby neglecting to focus on the nature of the Self (atma).  This is a sheer waste of time. At the final hour of death, instead of thoughts about Supreme Lord, these lessons on grammar will come into memory.


If we want to achieve this end goal wherein thoughts of the Supreme Lord reign the mind at that final moment of death it is essential that recollection of divine names be incessantly practiced right from the time the physical body is young, energetic and healthy!

Just because this has been emphatically stated, one cannot completely discard all other forms of knowledge and scriptures terming them useless. All of these scriptures (shastras) should be used as tools to reach the Supreme Lord and with this mindset they can be studied. The goal should only be to understand the essence of the Self (atma tattva).

There was a man who never ever entertained any thought about God throughout his lifetime. At the time of his death all his relatives struggled to ensure that he would recite the Lord’s name in that final breath so that he could accumulate at least some merit (punya). All their efforts were of no use. As a final resort, they brought a scrub (used to wash vessels) and asked him to call out its name. They hoped he would say ‘nāra’ which would amount to at least half of Lord Nārāyaṇa’s name and thus he would accumulate slight punya with this effort. But the man said ‘peechu’ (a synonym) and died. This will be the state of those who do not practise recitation of God’s name right from their young days.

‘Bhaja Govindam’ means ‘understand/ reflect upon the true nature of that Supreme’. To ensure that this fact is driven firmly into the hardened human intellect, these words ‘Bhaja Govindam’ have been repeated thrice in the hymn.

The holy text ‘Srimad Bhagavatam’ states that when Krishna lifted up the Govardhan Mountain and offered protection to the cows, Lord Indra praised him as ‘Govinda’. ‘Govinda’ means ‘Lord of the cows’. In its true essence, ‘Go’ means ‘all living beings having prana (life force) in them’.

How did ‘Bhaja Govindam’ originate? Once Shankara Bhagawad-pādāchārya Swami was returning after bathing in the River Ganga when he happened to pass by a learned teacher who was trying to get his student learn by rote the grammatical lesson ‘ḍukrinkaraṇe’. The little boy was unable to recite this word perfectly and the teacher was unrelenting in his efforts. While this was going on, the pot of water which the teacher was holding fell down. The rolling pot created the sound ‘dukrin- karane, dukrin- karane’. It means that due to this relentless practice, even the water pot had picked up this lesson on grammar.

Seeing this, Shankara Bhagawad-pādāchārya swami was greatly moved. He was saddened that these human beings had completely forgotten to study about the nature of the Self and were instead struggling to fulfill only those activities that were essential for survival. Immediately he composed this hymn – bhaja govindaṃ bhaja govindaṃ govindaṃ bhaja mūḍhamate.

Let us now proceed to the other verses to understand the essence contained within this hymn.

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Bhaja Govindam 1: Introduction

Śri Ganeśāya namaḥ

Śri saraswatye namaḥ

Śri Pādavallabha Nṛsimha Saraswati

Śri Guru Dattatreyaya namaḥ.

After having obtained an in-depth understanding of the various shastras and other great works authored by Sri Adi Shankara Bhagawad-pādāchārya, eminent pundits and philosophers have quoted- ‘Shankara Shankara sākṣāt’ which means that Adi Shankara Bhagawad-pādāchārya swami is none other than the Supreme Lord Shiva!

From today we are going to discuss about the holy text ‘Moha Mudgara’ composed by him. ‘Mudgara’ means ‘that which dispels happiness’. ‘Moha Mudgara’ means ‘that which dispels the happiness being enjoyed by illusion (moha)’.  In other words, it drives away illusion and ignorance (moha).  These hymns are very much popular as ‘Bhaja Govindaṃ’ shlokas.

The doctor called ‘Sadguru’ prescribes the medicine known as spiritual teaching (upadesha) to help the devotee get rid of the disease called ‘samsāra’ (repeated re-births).

People of Kṛta Yuga (first eon) were very supremely knowledgeable persons (jnanis) who possessed deep ripened intellect. Therefore in that period, Datta Swami imparted teaching in the form of Upanishads. He composed complex texts such as ‘Avadhoota Geeta’ during this period.

Times had slightly changed by the time of Treta Yuga (second eon). For this reason Maharishi Vashistha and other great saints drew out the essence from the Upanishads and presented it to people in the form of texts such as ‘Jnana Vāshishtam’.

A significant change could be visible amongst the people by the time of Dwapara Yuga (third eon). A tremendous increase in desires could be noticed in them. 50% of the time was spent in administrative and political activities, 25% in fulfilling their personal needs and desires. Only the remaining 25% was spent towards spiritual activities. It was not just limited to this. Deceitfulness was rampant among people. The thought of engaging in selfless action (nishkāma karma) had been totally wiped away from the individual intellect.

At such a critical juncture, Maharishi Veda Vyasa divided the entire Vedas into different groups and thus made it easy for the people to learn Vedas. Likewise, as people did not have the time to read the Upanishads, he complied the ‘Brahma Sutras’ and the 18 supreme Puranas. Yet he did not obtain the resultant contentment. He then composed the holy text, Srimad Bhāgavatam, in which the entire emphasis is on the pillar called devotion (bhakti).

Everything underwent a change when Kali Yuga (4th eon) made its appearance. Life became chaotic. Human beings began to chase objects that were attractive to the eyes. Holy words such as ‘Vedas’ and ‘Upanishads’ were not to be heard even remotely. At this critical juncture Adi Shankara Bhagawad-pādāchārya swami decided to incarnate.

Adi Shankara Bhagawad-pādāchārya follows a very unique way of imparting his teachings. Through the medium of small hymns (shlokas) he passes on very insightful and profound messages. While giving a mild shock treatment to the person, he also shows him the ‘real true object’.  What appears like a small hymn actually contains utmost, significant and insightful wisdom! While going through the deeper meaning contained in them the ultimate goal of life appear clearly before the eyes!

In this hymn ‘Bhaja Govindam’ he elucidates clearly those dangers from which the person should clearly stay away. He also teaches the ways through which the person can break free from those dangers. He details the ways of this world, the nature of the human beings and those matters/ objects towards which people are normally attracted. The significance of time (kala mahima) is also taught. The duties that the person should mandatorily engage in during his lifetime are taught. He teaches just as a mother would teach her child.

Without any distinction of caste, religion or gender, every individual is entitled to listen/ read this powerful teaching called ‘Bhaja Govindam’. Please listen and put into practice that what is being taught to you.

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