Bhaja Govindam
by Sri Shankara
tr. by Balakrishna Kumthekar
Back Home.

    1: Seek Govinda! Seek Govinda! Seek Govinda! Oh ignoramus, at the time of death the rules of grammer, which you are trying to cram and master, will not be able to rescue you at all.
    2: Oh, Fool! give up your insatiable desire for earthly possessions; be sensible and develop serenity and contentment. Be satisfied and happy with whatever you may earn by the sweat of your brow and whatever has destiny marked for your lot.
    3: Enticed by the physical glamour of a woman, do not lose your senses; the body is nothing but a conglomeration of flesh, do not forget this any time.
    4: The water droplet on the lotus leaf is tremulous and unsteady. So too is life which is as uncertain. Know the body to be in the claws of disease, which may swallow it at any moment. Life is ultimately nothing but worry, misery and grief.
    5: As long as you are fit to make an earning, so long will your kith and kin be solicitous about you, but no sooner your limbs become infirm and your earnings cease, none will care for you, not even your own home-folk.
    6: As long as there is life in your body, your people may have concern for you, but once the life-breath ebbs out of your body, even your own wife will run away from you.
    7: Childhood skips off on sport and play. Youth flies off in pursuits of love-making. As one grows older he is drowned in worry about the security and future of his wife and children. One's whole life gets spent in some kind of worry or other. And at no stage does man find time to lift his thoughts to God.
    8: Who indeed is your beloved and who indeed is your son? Strange indeed are these family bonds; who belongs to you and to whom you belong? whence did you come, Oh brother! Reflect on the truth of it all.
    9: The company of the good weans one away from false atttachments; when attachment is lost, delusion ends; when delusion ends, the mind becomes unwavering and steady. An unwavering and steady mind is merited for Jeevan Mukti ( liberation even in this life).
    10: When youth is gone, where is lust and its play? Where is the lake when its waters have dried up? Where are the kinsfolk when riches are gone ? When Truth is realised, where is the snare of Samsara?
    11: The pleasures and riches of worldly life are deceptive appearances. Understanding that they are all but a passing-show, be detached and dispassionate, cultivate renunciation and seek Brahman.
    12: Day and night, dawn and dusk, winter and spring, all these are flitting across the stage of the world. While time thus is frolicking and befooling us, our life span is also running out; yet we do not , even a little, give up the clinging to our desires, nor do we let the desires loosen their grip on us.
    13: Crazy man ! Why do you worry so much about your wife and property? why don't you seek out the Truth ? Know that in these three worlds it is only the association with the good and holy that can help you in crossing safely the ocean of life.
    14: The ascetic with matted locks, the man with the shaven head or one with hair pulled out, or the man parading in the ochre robes -- they all have eyes but yet do not see. All these are but deceptions for cheating the world, for filling their bellies. ( Renunciation does not lie in external appearance, but in inward thought, attitude and feeling).
    15: The body has become decrepit, the hair on the head has turned completely gray; the mouth has become totally toothless; the back is bent down and the old man cannot take even a step witout the aid of his stick; yet he does not loosen even a bit, his hold on the bundle of desires.
    16: Homeless he is; his back is bent down with age. His body has lost its heat and he has to warm himself before a fire or in the sun. Tree is his only shelter; he lives by begging and by the crumbs thrown into his palms by others; in the night he sleeps by holding his chin on his knee ( because the back is bent and he cannot stretch himself and lie down). Yet, he does not let and allow the grip of desires on him loosen even a bit.
    17: One may have bathed in the holy Ganges or even in the Ganga Sagar; he may have performed many charities and observed many vows; yet unless one has glimpsed the Truth ( God), he will not gain release even after a hundred lives. (note: this is the warning of all the religions)
    18: Who can disturb the peace and happiness of a man if he has the true spirit of renunciation and has controlled his desires, even if he be the poorest, sleeping only in the temple halls and choultries or under trees or on the bare ground and just with a deer skin to cover.
    19: Whether one is immersed in yoga or is revelling in bhoga ( i.e, outward enjoyment), whether he is enjoying himself in social company or has retired into solitude, true happiness certainly cannot be his; but who alone is revelling inwardly in Brahman, (wherever he be), he alone will be truly happy and will verily enjoy.
    20: Even a little study and understanding of the Bhagawad Gita, or sipping of even a tiny drop of the waters of the holy Ganges or even a little worship of Murari -- these will surely save one from confrontation with death !
    21: Undergoing the pangs of birth again and again, passing through the throes of death again and again, lying in the mother's womb over and over again, this process of samsara is hard to cross over. Save me from it, Oh merciful Lord !
    22: Clad in stray rags, treading the path beyond good and evil, caring for neither earning merit by taking to good deeds nor stooping to do any evil, and lost in meditation the yogi revels in the Supreme always, lost to all outward norms and decorum -- his behaviour may look prankish like that of a child or may be even queer like that of a lunatic.
    23: Who are you ? Who am I ? From Where did I come ? Who is my mother, who is my father ? -- enquire thus and you will, then realise that the entire world of experience, all the worries and problems are but a dream, a mere hallucination, born of imagination and delusion. With such a realisation, you will be freed from the delusions of the world.
    24: In you, in me and everywhere, there is but the one Vishnu, Mistakenly viewing me with a sense of difference, you are ill-disposed towards me. Try to see in all beings only the Vishnu who is your own self. Give up your false and egoistic sense of separateness from other beings. Cultivate a sense of kinship, unity and oneness with all.
    25: Do not look at anybody in terms of friend or foe, brother or cousin; do not fritter away your mental energies in thoughts of friendship or enemity. Seeking the Self everywhere, be amiable and equal-minded towards all, treating all alike.
    26: Free yourself from lust, anger, greed and delusion. Contemplate on 'who you are'. Enquire within yourself, who am I ? The fools who fail to apprehend the Self are caught in hell-fire even here and now itself and suffer torture.
    27: Recite the Gita; chant the thousand Names of the lord (Vishnu Sahasranama), meditate ceaselessly on the Consort and Lord of Lakshmi, lead the mind towards association with the good. Give away your wealth in charity to those in need and who are poor.
    28: As readily as one takes to indulging in carnal pleasures, with the same readiness alas! he is taken over by disease too. Even seeing death as the inevitable and only end of all, man does not refrain from sinful ways.
    29: It is wealth only that causes all harm and brings about one's ruin. Bear this truth in mind always. Know that the pursuit of wealth does not lead one to happiness at all. The rich fear and are even afraid of their own sons. This is the outcome of riches anywhere and ever.
    30: Regulated breathing and sense control, discrimination between the Enduring and the fleeting, the eternal and the transient, Japa and meditation, and submerging of the bodily and mental consciousness in the Consciousness of the Spirit, merging oneself into the total Inner Silence -- one must practice these with unrelenting fervour.
    31: Surrender yourself to the Lotus Feet of the Teacher; with your senses and mind disciplined, and freed from the shackles of Samsara you will behold the Lord who is seated in your heart.
1 1