BHAJA GOVINDAM - Hymn to Govinda - Krishna, by Sripad Shankaracharya

Bhaja Govindam

A Hymn to Govinda - Krishna

Sripad Shankaracharya

Adi Shankara - Bhaja Govindam
Bhaja Govindaṁ was written by Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya and is one of of his greatest composition.

Shankaracharya is widely known for his teachings on Vedanta. He was born in the village of Kaladi, in South India, about 2500 years ago to his Brahmin parents, Sivaguru and Aryamba. He traveled throughout India during his life, preaching and establishing four important maths, or centers, and accepted numerous disciples. He had also composed a number of verses and hymns of his knowledge and insight. However, the Bhaja Govindam is perhaps his greatest. He is still today one of the greatest influences in the present-day understanding of Vedic philosophy, with numerous schools of thought throughout India still expounding his teachings.

He primarily taught the non-dual, or advaita, form of understanding, teaching that everything is ultimately one. Many of the commentaries on the Vedic texts, such as the Brahma-samhita, the Upanishads, and others, are written with commentaries by those who follow his advaitic principles. Thus, many such texts have the impersonalistic sway to them, leaving out the idea that everything comes from a personal or Supreme Creator. However, before he left this world, he composed the Bhaja Govindam prayers that evokes the mood of devotion to Lord Govinda, Krishna.
Adi Shankara

It is in this prayer that he emphasizes above all else the importance for developing devotion for Govinda/ Krishna, which is the principle means for attaining the Grace of the Supreme, and the freedom from further rounds of reincarnating in material existence. It is this prayer that leaves us no doubt that his final instruction was to give up our egotistical differences and surrender to Lord Krishna. It also encapsulates the sum and substance of all Vedantic thought in whatever other works that he had written.

There is a story attached to the composition of this Hymn. It is said that Shankara was walking along a street in Varanasi one day, accompanied by his disciples. He heard an old scholar studying the grammatical rules of sanskrit by Panini. Shankara was touched with pity at seeing the plight of the old man spending his years at a mere intellectual accomplishment, while he would be better off praying and spending the rest of his time to Govinda, the Supreme Lord. Taking pity on him, he went up and advised him not to waste his time on grammar at his advanced age but to turn his mind to God in worship and adoration. Shankara understood that the majority of the world was also engaged in mere intellectual, sense pleasures and not in the divine contemplation. Seeing this, he burst forth with the verses of Bhaja govindaṁ

In the verses of Bhaja Govindaṁ, Shankara, like no other, explains our fallacies, our wrong outlook for life, and dispells our ignorance and delusions. Thus bhaja govindaṁ was originally known as moha mudgāra, the remover of delusions.

Shankara explains, nay chides, us for spending our time in useless trivia like amassing wealth, lusting after (wo)men and requests us to discriminate and cultivate the knowledge to learn the difference between the real and the unreal, spirit and matter. To emphasise that, he concludes that all knowledge other than the Self-Knowledge is useless. Shankara makes the person realize how foolish he/she is in the conduct and behavior by these verses, and shows the purpose of our worldly existence, which is to seek Govinda and attain Him.
Shankara's words may seem to be quite piercing and direct in this hymn, missing the softness and tenderness often found in his other texts. The reason is that this was an extempore recital to an old man, wasting his time. His words can be compared to a knife of a doctor. The doctor's knife cruely removes the tumor with much pain, but removing the tumor ultimately restores good health in the patient. So is Shankara's direct words, which pierce and point out our ignorance. It is a knife into the heart of worldiness, and by removing this tumor of ignorance, we can attain everlasting bliss by taking shelter of Govinda.

Bhaja govindaṁ has been set to musical tones and sung as prayer songs by children. It is divided into dvādashapaJNjarikā and charpaTapaJNjarikā for this purpose. The former is a set of verses (verses 1-12) while the rest of the verses form charpaTapaJNjarikā.

Though sung as a bhajan, it contains the essence of vedanta and implores the man to think, "Why am I here in this life ? Why am I amassing wealth, family, but have no peace ? What is the Truth ? What is the purpose of life ? The person thus awakened gets set on a path to the inner road of Selfrealisation.

Anyone who listens to the music of Bhaja govindaṁ is attracted to it . However, the significance of the text goes much deeper and contains a well defined philosophy of attaining salvation (Moksha) by taking shelter of Govinda / Krishna.
May the achārayā guide us from ignorance to truth . OM tat sat.

Hymn to Govinda - Krishna, by Sripad Shankaracharya

भजगोविन्दं भजगोविन्दं
गोविन्दं भजमूढमते .
संप्राप्ते सन्निहिते काले
नहि नहि रक्षति डुकृञ्करणे .. १..
bhajagovindaṁ bhajagovindaṁ  
govindaṁ bhajamūḍhamate |
samprāpte sannihite kāle
nahi nahi rakśati ḍukṛñkaraṇe || 1

Worship Govinda, Worship Govinda, Worship Govinda. Oh fool! Rules of Grammar will not save you at the time of your death.

मूढ जहीहि धनागमतृष्णां
कुरु सद्बुद्धिं मनसि वितृष्णाम् .
यल्लभसे निजकर्मोपात्तं
वित्तं तेन विनोदय चित्तम् .. २..
Text 2
mūḍha jahīhi dhanāgamatṛṣṇāṁ
kuru sadbuddhiṁ manasi vitṛṣṇām |
yallabhase nijakarmopāttaṁ
vittaṁ tena vinodaya cittam || 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.

नारीस्तनभर नाभीदेशं
दृष्ट्वा मागामोहावेशम् .
एतन्मांसावसादि विकारं
मनसि विचिन्तय वारं वारम् .. ३..
nārīstanabhara nābhīdeśaṁ
dṛṣṭvā māgāmohāveśam |
etanmāṁsāvasādi vikāraṁ
manasi vicintaya vāraṁ vāram || 3

Do not get drowned in delusion by going wild with passions and lust by seeing a woman's navel and chest. Bodies are flesh, fat and blood. Do not fail to remember this again and again in your mind.

नलिनीदलगत जलमतितरलं
तद्वज्जीवितमतिशयचपलम् .
विद्धि व्याध्यभिमानग्रस्तं
लोकं शोकहतं च समस्तम् .. ४..
Text 4
nalinīdalagata jalamatitaralaṁ
tadvajjīvitamatiśayacapalam |
viddhi vyādhyabhimānagrastaṁ
lokaṁ śokahataṁ ca samastam || 4

Uncertain is the life of man as rain drops on a lotus leaf. Know that the whole world remains a prey to disease, ego and grief.

यावद्वित्तोपार्जन सक्तः
स्तावन्निज परिवारो रक्तः .
पश्चाज्जीवति जर्जर देहे
वार्तां कोऽपि न पृच्छति गेहे .. ५..
Text 5
yāvadvittopārjana saktaḥ
stāvannija parivāro raktaḥ |
paścājjīvati jarjara dehe
vārtāṁ ko'pi na pṛcchati 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.

यावत्पवनो निवसति देहे
तावत्पृच्छति कुशलं गेहे .
गतवति वायौ देहापाये
भार्या बिभ्यति तस्मिन्काये .. ६..
Text 6
yāvatpavano nivasati dehe
tāvatpṛcchati kuśalaṁ gehe |
gatavati vāyau dehāpāye
bhāryā bibhyati tasminkāye || 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.

तरुणस्तावत्तरुणीसक्तः .
परे ब्रह्मणि कोऽपि न सक्तः .. ७..
Text 7
taruṇastāvattaruṇīsaktaḥ |
pare brahmaṇi ko'pi na saktaḥ || 7

Childhood is lost in play. Youth is lost by attachment to woman. Old age passes away by thinking over many past things. Alas! Hardly is there anyone who yearns to be lost in Parabrahman.

काते कान्ता कस्ते पुत्रः
संसारोऽयमतीव विचित्रः .
कस्य त्वं कः कुत आयातः
तत्त्वं चिन्तय तदिह भ्रातः .. ८..
Text 8
kāte kāntā kaste putraḥ
saṁsāro'yamatīva vicitraḥ |
kasya tvaṁ kaḥ kuta āyātaḥ
tattvaṁ cintaya tadiha bhrātaḥ || 8

Who is your wife? Who is your son? Strange is this samsara. Of whom are you? Where have you come from? Brother, ponder over these truths.

सत्सङ्गत्वे निस्स्ङ्गत्वं
निस्सङ्गत्वे निर्मोहत्वम् .
निर्मोहत्वे निश्चलतत्त्वं
निश्चलतत्त्वे जीवन्मुक्तिः .. ९..
Text 9
satsaṇgatve nissṇgatvaṁ
nissaṇgatve nirmohatvam |
nirmohatve niścalatattvaṁ
niścalatattve jīvanmuktiḥ || 9

From Satsanga comes non-attachment, from non-attachment comes freedom from delusion, which leads to self-settledness. From self-settledness comes Jivan Mukti (liberation).

वयसिगते कः कामविकारः
शुष्के नीरे कः कासारः .
क्षीणेवित्ते कः परिवारः
ज्ञाते तत्त्वे कः संसारः .. १०..
Text 10
vayasigate kaḥ kāmavikāraḥ
śuṣke nīre kaḥ kāsāraḥ |
kśīṇevitte kaḥ parivāraḥ
jñāte tattve kaḥ saṁsāraḥ || 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 (the continuaiton of birth and death) when the Truth is known?

मा कुरु धन जन यौवन गर्वं
हरति निमेषात्कालः सर्वम् .
मायामयमिदमखिलं हित्वा
ब्रह्मपदं त्वं प्रविश विदित्वा .. ११..
Text 11
mā kuru dhana jana yauvana garvaṁ
harati nimeṣātkālaḥ sarvam |
māyāmayamidamakhilaṁ hitvā
brahmapadaṁ tvaṁ praviśa viditvā || 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 timeless Truth.

दिनयामिन्यौ सायं प्रातः
शिशिरवसन्तौ पुनरायातः .
कालः क्रीडति गच्छत्यायुः
तदपि न मुञ्चत्याशावायुः .. १२..
Text 12
dinayāminyau sāyaṁ prātaḥ
śiśiravasantau punarāyātaḥ |
kālaḥ krīḍati gacchatyāyuḥ
tadapi na muñcatyāśāvāyuḥ || 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.

कथितो वैयाकरणस्यैषः .
उपदेशो भूद्विद्यानिपुणैः
श्रीमच्छन्करभगवच्छरणैः .. १३..
Text 13
kathito vaiyākaraṇasyaiṣaḥ |
upadeśo bhūdvidyānipuṇaiḥ
śrīmacchankarabhagavaccharaṇariḥ || 13

This bouquet of twelve verses was imparted to a grammarian by the all-knowing Shankara, adored as the bhagavadpada.

काते कान्ता धन गतचिन्ता
वातुल किं तव नास्ति नियन्ता .
त्रिजगति सज्जनसं गतिरैका
भवति भवार्णवतरणे नौका .. १४..
Text 14
kāte kāntā dhana gatacintā
vātula kiṁ tava nāsti niyantā |
trijagati sajjanasaṁ gatiraikā
bhavati bhavārṇavataraṇe naukā || 14

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 of samsara. Get into that boat of satsangha (knowledge of the Truth) quickly.

जटिलो मुण्डी लुञ्छितकेशः
काषायाम्बरबहुकृतवेषः .
पश्यन्नपि चन पश्यति मूढः
उदरनिमित्तं बहुकृतवेषः .. १५..
Text 15
jaṭilo muṇḍī luñchitakeśaḥ
kāṣāyāmbarabahukṛtaveṣaḥ |
paśyannapi cana paśyati mūḍhaḥ
udaranimittaṁ bahukṛtaveṣaḥ || 15

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.

अङ्गं गलितं पलितं मुण्डं
दशनविहीनं जतं तुण्डम् .
वृद्धो याति गृहीत्वा दण्डं
तदपि न मुञ्चत्याशापिण्डम् .. १६..
Text 16
aṇgaṁ galitaṁ palitaṁ muṇḍaṁ
daśanavihīnaṁ jataṁ tuṇḍam |
vṛiddho yāti gṛihītvā daṇḍaṁ
tadapi na muñcatyāśāpiṇḍam || 16

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 hope.

अग्रे वह्निः पृष्ठेभानुः
रात्रौ चुबुकसमर्पितजानुः .
तदपि न मुञ्चत्याशापाशः .. १७..
Text 17
agre vahniḥ pṛṣṭhebhānuḥ
rātrau cubukasamarpitajānuḥ |
tadapi na muñcatyāśāpāśaḥ || 17

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.

कुरुते गङ्गासागरगमनं
व्रतपरिपालनमथवा दानम् .
ज्ञानविहिनः सर्वमतेन
मुक्तिं न भजति जन्मशतेन .. १८..
Text 18
kurute gaṅgāsāgaragamanaṁ
vrataparipālanamathavā dānam |
jñānavihinaḥ sarvamatena
muktiṁ na bhajati janmaśatena || 18

One may go to the Ganga, observe fasts, and give away riches in charity! Yet, devoid of jnana, nothing can give mukthi even at the end of a hundred births.

सुर मंदिर तरु मूल निवासः
शय्या भूतल मजिनं वासः .
सर्व परिग्रह भोग त्यागः
कस्य सुखं न करोति विरागः .. १९..
Text 19
sura mandira taru mūla nivāsaḥ
śayyā bhūtala majinaṁ vāsaḥ |
sarva parigraha bhoga tyāgaḥ
kasya sukhaṁ na karoti virāgaḥ || 19

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?

योगरतो वाभोगरतोवा
सङ्गरतो वा सङ्गवीहिनः .
यस्य ब्रह्मणि रमते चित्तं
नन्दति नन्दति नन्दत्येव .. २०..
Text 20
yogarato vābhogaratovā
saṇgarato vā saṇgavīhinaḥ |
yasya brahmaṇi ramate cittaṁ
nandati nandati nandatyeva || 20

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.

भगवद् गीता किञ्चिदधीता
गङ्गा जललव कणिकापीता .
सकृदपि येन मुरारि समर्चा
क्रियते तस्य यमेन न चर्चा .. २१..
Text 21
bhagavad gītā kiñcidadhītā
gaṇgā jalalava kaṇikāpītā |
sakṛdapi yena murāri samarcā
kriyate tasya yamena na carcā || 21

Let a man read but a little from the Bhagavad-Gita, drink just a drop of water from the Ganga, worship Murari (Krishna) just once. He then will have no altercation with Yama (the lord of death).

पुनरपि जननं पुनरपि मरणं
पुनरपि जननी जठरे शयनम् .
इह संसारे बहुदुस्तारे
कृपयाऽपारे पाहि मुरारे .. २२..
Text 22
punarapi jananaṁ punarapi maraṇaṁ
punarapi jananī jaṭhare śayanam |
iha saṁsāre bahudustāre
kṛpayā'pāre pāhi murāre ||22

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.

रथ्या चर्पट विरचित कन्थः
पुण्यापुण्य विवर्जित पन्थः .
योगी योगनियोजित चित्तो
रमते बालोन्मत्तवदेव .. २३..
Text 23
rathyā carpaṭa viracita kanthaḥ
puṇyāpuṇya vivarjita panthaḥ |
yogī yoganiyojita citto
ramate bālonmattavadeva || 23

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.

कस्त्वं कोऽहं कुत आयातः
का मे जननी को मे तातः .
इति परिभावय सर्वमसारम्
विश्वं त्यक्त्वा स्वप्न विचारम् .. २४..
Text 24
kastvaṁ ko'haṁ kuta āyātaḥ
kā me jananī ko me tātaḥ |
iti paribhāvaya sarvamasāram
viśvaṁ tyaktvā svapna vicāram || 24

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 essence-less and give up the world as an idle dream.

त्वयि मयि चान्यत्रैको विष्णुः
व्यर्थं कुप्यसि मय्यसहिष्णुः .
भव समचित्तः सर्वत्र त्वं
वाञ्छस्यचिराद्यदि विष्णुत्वम् .. २५..
Text 25
tvayi mayi cānyatraiko viṣṇuḥ
vyarthaṁ kupyasi mayyasahiṣṇuḥ |
bhava samacittaḥ sarvatra tvaṁ
vāñchasyacirādyadi viṣṇutvam || 25

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 quality of Vishnu soon, have Sama Bhaava always.

शत्रौ मित्रे पुत्रे बन्धौ
मा कुरु यत्नं विग्रहसन्धौ .
सर्वस्मिन्नपि पश्यात्मानं
सर्वत्रोत्सृज भेदाज्ञानम् .. २६..
Text 26
śatrau mitre putre bandhau
mā kuru yatnaṁ vigrahasandhau |
sarvasminnapi paśyātmānaṁ
sarvatrotsṛja bhedājñānam || 26

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.

कामं क्रोधं लोभं मोहं
त्यक्त्वाऽत्मानं भावय कोऽहम् .
आत्मज्ञान विहीना मूढाः
ते पच्यन्ते नरकनिगूढाः .. २७..
Text 27
kāmaṁ krodhaṁ lobhaṁ mohaṁ
tyaktvā'tmānaṁ bhāvaya ko'ham |
ātmajñāna vihīnā mūḍhāḥ
te pacyante narakanigūḍhāḥ || 27

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.

गेयं गीता नाम सहस्रं
ध्येयं श्रीपति रूपमजस्रम् .
नेयं सज्जन सङ्गे चित्तं
देयं दीनजनाय च वित्तम् .. २८..
Text 28
geyaṁ gītā nāma sahasraṁ
dhyeyaṁ śrīpati rūpamajasram |
neyaṁ sajjana saṇge cittaṁ
deyaṁ dīnajanāya ca vittam || 28

Regularly recite from the Bhagavad-Gita, meditate on Vishnu 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.

सुखतः क्रियते रामाभोगः
पश्चाद्धन्त शरीरे रोगः .
यद्यपि लोके मरणं शरणं
तदपि न मुञ्चति पापाचरणम् .. २९..
Text 29

sukhataḥ kriyate rāmābhogaḥ
paścāddhanta śarīre rogaḥ |
yadyapi loke maraṇaṁ śaraṇaṁ
tadapi na muñcati pāpācaraṇam || 29

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.

अर्थमनर्थं भावय नित्यं
नास्तिततः सुखलेशः सत्यम् .
पुत्रादपि धन भाजां भीतिः
सर्वत्रैषा विहिआ रीतिः .. ३०..
Text 30
arthamanarthaṁ bhāvaya nityaṁ
nāstitataḥ sukhaleśaḥ satyam |
putrādapi dhana bhājāṁ bhītiḥ
sarvatraiṣā vihiā rītiḥ || 30

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.

प्राणायामं प्रत्याहारं
नित्यानित्य विवेकविचारम् .
जाप्यसमेत समाधिविधानं
कुर्ववधानं महदवधानम् .. ३१..
Text 31
prāṇāyāmaṁ pratyāhāraṁ
nityānitya vivekavicāram |
jāpyasameta samādhividhānaṁ
kurvavadhānaṁ mahadavadhānam || 31

Regulate the pranas (life airs within), 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.

गुरुचरणाम्बुज निर्भर भकतः
संसारादचिराद्भव मुक्तः .
सेन्द्रियमानस नियमादेवं
द्रक्ष्यसि निज हृदयस्थं देवम् .. ३२..
Text 32
gurucaraṇāmbuja nirbhara bhakataḥ
saṁsārādacirādbhava muktaḥ |
sendriyamānasa niyamādevaṁ
drakśyasi nija hṛdayasthaṁ devam || 32

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!

मूढः कश्चन वैयाकरणो
डुकृञ्करणाध्ययन धुरिणः .
श्रीमच्छम्कर भगवच्छिष्यै
बोधित आसिच्छोधितकरणः .. ३३..
Text 33
mūḍhaḥ kaścana vaiyākaraṇo
ḍukṛñkaraṇādhyayana dhuriṇaḥ |
śrīmacchamkara bhagavacchiṣyai
bodhita āsicchodhitakaraṇaḥ || 33

Thus was a silly grammarian lost in rules cleansed of his narrow vision and shown the Light by Shankara's apostles.

भजगोविन्दं भजगोविन्दं
गोविन्दं भजमूढमते .
नहि पश्यामो भवतरणे .. ३४..
Text 34
bhajagovindaṁ bhajagovindaṁ
govindaṁ bhajamūḍhamate |
nahi paśyāmo bhavataraṇe || 34

Worship Govinda, worship Govinda, worship Govinda, Oh fool! Other than chanting the Lord's names, there is no other way to cross the life's ocean.

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