Bhaja Govindam 11: Burning desire for Self-knowledge should be inculcated (Verse 10)

Vayasi gate kaḥ kāmavikāraḥ śuṣke nīre kaḥ kāsāraḥ |

Kṣīṇe vitte kaḥ parivāraḥ jñāte tattve kaḥ saṃsāraḥ || 10 ||

Meaning -Where do lust and other desires vanish after youthfulness vanishes? Does the lake exist after completely drying up? Where do family and relatives disappear after wealth disappears? Where does the cycle of repeated re-births (samsāra) disappear after the Supreme Knowledge is known?

In order to ensure that the Self-knowledge (atma tattva) reaches one and all, Shankara Bhagawad-pādāchārya uses 3 simple but different examples to drive home the point. The most common examples that every person can relate to are desires (kāma), family and relatives (parivāram) and waterbeds such as ponds/ lakes (kāsāra) and hence these have been chosen as examples.

We have discussed earlier that every human being goes through the 4 primary stages viz., infancy, childhood, youth and old age. Each stage brings certain mental and physical modifications. During old age, a person loses the sharpness that existed during youth. Body shrinks and does not co-operate. The passion for desires that was experienced during youth will now be absent. He will be incapacitated and helpless. As he is free from passion, he will preach the rules of dharma effectively!

A pond that is full of water attracts people who approach it for fulfilling their needs. If the water in this pond were to dry up, then who would approach it thereafter? Will the pond exist?

In a similar manner, as long as the house is abounding in wealth, relatives enjoy all the comforts it can grant. Once the money is exhausted all the members desert that household. Do birds continue to nest on the tree which has dried up completely? Likewise family members abandon a house in which wealth has dried up. At that moment, what will be the mental state of that person who has lived his entire life under the illusion that this family and this money were permanent companions?

If a person truly desires to go over and above such mental state, he should necessarily understand the Self-knowledge (atma tattva). Until this is obtained, he will be bound by these worldly bondages and be tormented by them.

This entire world will dissolve the moment he experiences Absolute Truth! Obtaining Supreme Knowledge (brahma jnana) means experiencing the truth- ‘I am Paramātma’. This is the state of liberation when alive (jeevanmukti). At that point, apart from the Self (atma) he cannot perceive anything else in this world.  That is why this is the most supreme transcendental knowledge.

‘jñāte tattve’ implies that the person should have a burning desire to acquire this knowledge. It is imperative for the person to obtain this knowledge directly from his Guru. Thereafter he should contemplate over this. After this, through meditation he should strive to experientially realize this. To reach this, it is imperative to possess a pure clean mind. Mind plays a critical role towards achieving this. Only the mind pushes the person towards Self- realization. The all-pervading Supreme Parabrahma can be understood only through the analysis of the ‘tattva’.

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