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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