Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Bhaja Govindam -verse 1 continued-part 7

        The  term ' bhaja'  we  have  seen  means  worship  and  it is  not  a  mechanical  chanting  of  any  name  of the  Lord. . We  have  seen  there  are  nine  different  ways  in which  a  bhakta  can  worship  the  Lord  ,to  express  his  love  and  devotion  to  Him. . So  bhajan  is  an expression  of  the  devotee's  true  surrender in love  and  devotion  to  one's  own  ishta  devata. 

        The  term  ' Govinda  ' in this  verse  appears  twice  in the  Vishnusahasranama.  Govinda  is  the  highest  Reality. . The  acharya  says  'seek  Govinda'  three  times because  the  human  mind  revels in the  three  material  layers  of  the  body, mind  and  intellect  and  comes  to  identify with   these  as  the  Real  Self.    Govinda  refers  to  Lord  Vishnu -the Supreme  Reality.  So  he  says  seek  the  identity  with  Him,  the  Supreme  and  do not  waste  your  life  over  subtler  pursuits  of acquisition  and  enjoyment  . Therefore  the  implied  meaning  is  withdraw  the  mind  from  its  preoccupation  with  the  world and  direct  it  to  the  Supreme  Self,  the  Govinda  residing  in the  secret  cave  of   your  heart.  The  term  Govinda  means  the  one  who  finds  or  knows  the earth,  meaning, one  who  has  realised  the  substratum   upon  which  the  whole  drama  of  life is  going  on  ,  secondly, He  is  the  Lord  of  the  cattle  ,here  it  does  not  refer  to  Him  merely  as  the  cowherd  boy  of  Vrindavan  , but  He  is  the  one  behind  all  our  animal  passions. , thirdly,  He  is  the  One  that  blesses  us  humans  with  the  power  of  speech to  communicate  with  each  other, fourthly,  He  is known  through  the  Mahavakyas  which  proclaim  His  glories . Govinda  stands  for  the  Absolute  Reality  , the  Absolute  Truth  ,  He  is  Brahman  of  the  Upanishads 

      So  the  sum  and  substance  of  this  verse  is  that  the  acharya  expresses  an  urgency  in telling  us  not  to  waste  our  lives  over mundane  joys   or  learning  grammar rules but  to  seek  Him   and  His  Grace. 

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Bhaja Govindam -verse 1 continued -part 6

              In  the  Chandyogya  Upanishad  , Narada  muni  approaches  Sanathkumar   asking  for  spiritual  knowledge . The   teacher  wants  to  know  all  that  Narada  muni  knows  about   and  he  starts  enumerating  all  the  secular  knowledge , he  has  gathered , including   Grammar. . The  Guru  says  they  are  all  nothing  but  mere  names. . The  Infinite ( Bhoomaah )  is  to  be  realised  which  exceeds  all  that  Narad muni  knows . Though  we  should  not  underestimate  the  importance  of  learning  the  Grammar  of  the  Sanskrit  language  ,  yet  to  waste  one's  life time  over  the  pursuit  of  all  such  non-essentials   at  the  cost  of  knowing  what  needs  to  be  known  ,is  that  which  is  condemned  here  by  the  acharya  Sankara. 

         Another  grave  mistake  we  all  make  is  ,we  think  that   somehow  at  the  time  of  death  ,we  will   manage to remember  the  Lord. and  reach  Him. . It  is  said  in the  Geeta  that  one  who  remembers  me  at  the  'antakale  ',  reaches  the  Lord. . But  it  is  a fact  that  unless  we  have  a  constant  remembrance  of  the  Lord   at  all  times ,through  out  our  lives ,  it  will  not  be  possible  to  remember  the  Lord  right  at  the  time  of  death. . So  we  have  to  go  through  our  entire  life  remembering  Him  ,so  that   the  thought  of  the  Lord  comes  to  our  mind  spontaneously  when  Lord  Yama   is  there  in front  of  us wielding  His  rope  .

      In  this  verse  , the  acharya    says  'bhaja ' ,  which  means  chant  the  name  of  the  Lord . Chanting  is  not a  routine  and  mechanical  action  done   with  the  mind  wandering  all around . Here  'bhaja  ' means  seeking  our  identity  with  the  Lord . True  bhajan  is   total  surrender in  love  and  devotion  at  the  feet  of  the  Lord.  Hence  scriptures  speak  of  9  ways  of  glorifying  the  Lord  in order  to  express  our  love  and  devotion  to  Him . They  are  : sravanam, keertanam,  smaranam  , padasevanam  ,  archanam  , vandanam,  daasyam, ,sakhyam , and  atma nivedanam .
 Verse  1  explanation  will  continue  in the  next  pages. 


Monday, 10 July 2017

Bhaja Govindam -verse -1 -part 5

          The  Bhaja  Govindam  indicates  the  goal  of  human  life and  the  path  to  be  taken  to  reach  this  goal.  It  also  shows  the  wretchedness  of  his  present  way  of  life. and  the loss  of values  in his  life and  what  waits  him  if  he  continues  to  pursue  the path  of  ego  and  live  a  desire  oriented  life.  The  poem  is  addressed  to  a spiritual  seeker  who  has  started  walking  this  path  , but  does  not  know  it  clearly   and  hence  a  sense  of  commitment  is  not  there  in  him  to  the  correct  means  he  has  to  follow  and  so  he  wastes  his  life  in running  after  mundane  pleasures. . So  in the  Bhaja  Govindam  ,the  acharya  shows  an  urgency  in  his words  seeing  how  a man  wastes  all  his  life  over  unimportant  and  mundane  activities and  the  acharya  urges  man  to  take  up  the  spiritual  path  with  seriousness  and  finally  reach  the  ultimate  state  of  liberation.  . Hence  in the  verses,  we see   the  acharya  does  not  show  any  mercy  or  softness  towards  such  people. 

        In  the  first  verse,  the  acharya  says  ' bhaja  govindam ',  seek  Govinda, seek  Govinda  ,oh  fool  , when  the  appointed  time  comes ,  when  Yamraj  is  there  at  your doorstep  to  snatch  away  your  life ,  grammar  rules surely  will  not  help  save  you.  This  verse  is  chanted  as  a  chorus  , hence  repeated   at  the  end  of  every  verse. . Here  Grammar  refers  to  all  the  secular  knowledge  and  all  our  possessions. ,  which  will  not  anyway  help  one  whose  life  is  going  to  be  snatched  away  from  this  temporary  abode  ,  this  physical  body.  This  verse  shows  us  the  importance  of  chanting  the  Lord's  name  at  all  times .
The  explanations  on this  verse  will  continue  in the  next  pages. 

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Bhaja Govindam - An Introduction -part 4

         Some  of the  important  works  of  acharya  Sankara ,other  than  his  bhashyams  on  the  ten  Upanishads , the  Bhagavad Geeta  , the  Brahma  sutra  and  his  own  composition  the  Vivekachodamani, are his   devotional  compositions   like  the  Bhaja  Govindam  ,  Soundarya  Lahari,  Kanakadara  stotram,  Sivananda Lahari, Minakshi stotram ,   the Dakshinamurthy stotram  and  so  on.    Bhaja Govindam  is  one  of  the  extremely   important  works  of  the  acharya . It  is  said  that  for  an  intelligent  person, a  study  of  this  poem  can  remove  his  delusion (  moha ) , so  the  poem  is  called  Mohamudgara. 

       The  story  goes  thus  regarding  the  circumstances  that  went  on to  inspire  Adi  Sankara  to  compose  the  Bhaja Govindam , as  he   was  going  along  with  his  fourteen  disciples to  Kashi   he  overheard an  old  pundit  was  trying  to  repeat  the  sanskrit grammar  rules. . The  acharya  realised  that  the  old  man  was  wasting  his  time  over  an intellectual  accomplishment without  realising  the  Truth. The  acharya  burst  forth  into  these  verses called  Mohamudgara , now  popularly  known  as  Bhaja  Govindam. . So  he  starts  his  Bhaja Govindam with  the  lines  that  grammar  rules will  never  help anyone  at  the  time  of  death. . So  he  commands  people  to put  in all  their  efforts towards  realising  the  Truth,  that  deathless  state  of  purity  and  perfection. 

        The  acharya  is  believed  to  have  composed  12  more  verses ,which  are  a  bouquet  of  flowers  and  which   go  under the  name   dwadasa manjarika  stotram. . Each  of  the  14  disciples  were  inspired  to  compose  one  verse  each , and  they  all  go  under  the  name chaturdasa  manjarika  stotram .. Then  Sankara  blesses  all  true  seekers of all  times in  the  last  four  verses  . So  the  Bhaja  govindam  comprises  of  31  verses  though  in some  editions  the  number  varies.  

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Bhaja Govindam- the philosophy of Sankara -part 3

             We are  seeing  the  Advaita  philosophy  ,which holds  the  Atma  ,the  chaitanyam  as   the  cause  and  anatma, the  material  universe  as  the  effect. . The  effect  does not  have  an  independent  existence  of  its  own  , it  depends  on the  cause  for  its  existence,  like  ornaments  do  not exist  independent   of  gold . So  the  effect  is  cause  with only  different  names  and  forms. . The  whole  universe  is  only  just  names  and  forms  on  the  only  substance  called  Brahman / Atma . This  the  acharya  tried  to  explain  with  the  famous  snake-rope  illusion. .  The  rope   when  seen  in poor  light  is  mistaken  for  a  snake   and  creates  fear  in the  mind  of  the  one  who  sees  it  as a  snake,  In  reality  , there  is  no snake  ,when  he  sees  the  rope  in  proper  light, he  sees  it  as  a snake  only.   The  snake  was  superimposed  on  the  rope  due  to  ignorance and  when  the  right  knowledge  of  the  rope  dawns  on him  , he  sees  not  the  snake  but  the  rope  only. 

           Similarly ,  due to   the  ignorance  of  the  Self,  we  have  superimposed  the  universe  on Brahman  . When  the  ignorance  is  removed  by  knowledge  , then  the   jnani does  not  give  reality  to this  universe . . He  sees  Brahman  in its  place.  Brahman  becomes  the  adhishtanam  for  all  the   different  names  and  forms.  He  thus  established  the  Advaita  philosophy  of  'brahma  satyam  ,jagan  mithya,  and  jiva  brahma  Aikyam.  We  have  seen  the  details  of  this  in previous  pages. . It  should  be  remembered  by  all  ,that  whatever  he  tried  to  establish  through  his  reasoning  and  logic  were  not  his  own  original  thoughts. He  did  not  propound  any  new  theory  but  revived  the  teachings  of  his  own  guru  Govinda  bhagavadpada  , and  his  guru  Gaudapada charya. 

      About  the  acharya   ,Pujya  Gurudev . Swami  Chinmayananda  says, " Sankara  is  not  an  individual  . He  is  an  institution. . No  single  person could  ever  have  achieved   what  he  had  achieved  in his  short  span  of  life . No  master  or  prophet had  ever  achieved  so  much  for  so  many  in so  short  a  life  of  32  years .Very  often  this  tempts  us  to consider  the  acharya as  an  avatara "  He  is  generally  believed  to  be  an  avatara  of Lord  Shiva .

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Bhaja Govindam- the philosophy of Sankara - part 2

       The  essential  teaching of  Aadi Sankara  was  stated  by  himself  as  "  brahma  satyam,  jagan mithya , jivo brahmaiva na para ". Brahman  , the  Absolute , alone  is  real,  this  world  is  unreal  and  jiva, the  individual  sou is  no  different  from Brahman. . Brahman  / Atma  indicates  the  Absolute Reality ,which  is  non-dual  ,  advaitam. . The  supreme  Brahman  is  nirvikara,  nirguna,  nirvisesha   and  eka  and satyam. . Brahman  is  the  witnessing  subject  and  can  never  be  the  object  of  our  knowledge.  Brahman  is  Sat-Cit- Ananda  principle. 

    The  acharya  emphasised  that  the  only  way  to  realise  that  Brahman  is  through  jnanam  alone. . To  be a qualified   person  for  entering  the  path  of   gnanam  , he  prescribed  the  fourfold  qualification  called  sadana  chatustaya  sampatti.  He  considered  Bhakti  as  a step  to secure  the  grace  of  the  Lord to  finally  reach  the  state  of  oneness  with  the  Lord  /  Brahman.  He  also  gave  importance to   karma  ,to selfless  actions  done  with  a  detached  mind  for  gaining  purity  of  mind.   Brahman  is beyond  the  reach  of the  senses,  mind  and  intellect , hence  the  Brihadaranyaka  Upanishad  declares  ,'neti, neti, ,  not  this,  not  this  '.  It  is  the  essence  of  the  knower, the  seer,  the  transcendental  Truth,  the  Turiyam  , the  silent  witness  .  The  acharya  accepted  the  concept  of saguna  and  nirguna  Brahman  . The  same  nirguna  Brahman  appears  as  the  saguna  Brahman  for  the  worship  of  the  devotees.  Nirguna  Brahman  is  the  highest  Truth  seen  from  the  Paramarthika  standpoint,  while  saguna  Brahman  is  seen  as  Truth  from  the  vyavaharika  stand point. 

Monday, 26 June 2017

Bhaja Govindam -About the author -part 1

      A new  series  of  essays  on  the  life  of  Aadi  Sankaracharya  and  his  famous  composition  the Bhaja  Govindam  , I  hope  to  write  from  now  on. I invoke  the  blessings  of  the  acharya  to  help  me  on this  journey .
         Bhagavadpada  Acharya  Sankara  was  a  great  thinker  and  he  was indeed  the  noblest  of the Advaita  philosophers. . He  appeared  at a  time when  the  Hindu philosophy needed  him to  rejuvenate the  Hindu  religion  and  philosophy. ,for  the  Hindu  society  had  broken  up and  had  become  disunited  after  the  Buddha's  sunyavada  teachings. . It  was  at  this  time  that  the  acharya  tried  to  bring  about  a  revival  in our  Hindu  culture and  philosophy   by  giving  us  the philosophy  of  non-dual  nature of  Brahman  of  the  Upanishads  .

       He  was  born to  Sivaguru and  Aryamba  ,more  than one thousand  two  hundred  years  ago  in Kaladi, kerala.  At  the  age  of  thirty two, he  had finished  his  work and  folded  up  his his  avatara.   Within  his  short  span  of  life , he  wrote  commentaries ( bhashyam ) on ten  Upanishads , the  Bhagavad Geeta,  the  Brahma sutra, he  composed  the  Vivekachoodamani  and  many  other  texts , religious  stotras consisting  of hymns  and  meditative  verses. He  established  four  Maths  in four  corners  of the  country. He  had  four  important  disciples namely:  Padmapada,  Sureshwara , Hastamalaka  and  Totaka.  One  wonders  whether  they  were  the  four  purusharthas  in  human  form ,or  the  four  Vedas,  or  the  four  faces  of  Brahma, the  creator !

      The  sum and  substance  of  the  essence  of  Sankara's  philosophy  ,   was  stated  by  himself  as  "  brahma  satyam,  jagan mithya  , jivo  brahmaiva  na para " . Brahman  the  Absolute   alone  is  real  , this  world  is  unreal  and  the  jiva or  the  individual  soul  is  not  different  from Brahman.