Bhaja Govindam – Verse 1

Everyone is afraid of death and one might say that they are not afraid, but when death comes, there is fear and it is a fact. The fear of death is the insecurity, anxiety. The root cause is any anxiety, insecure, fear is a symptom of the disease. That’s why the very desire I want to live long is there in all of us. It is because of the fear of death. This opening verse tell us that nothing can protect us from fear unless we have vision of the truth. Can other forms of wealth give you protection e.g. artha, Kama and dharma? This is being mentioned here and Adi Sankara is asking us to pray to Govinda and may you attain govinda.

भजगोविन्दं भजगोविन्दं

गोविन्दं भजमूढमते ।

संप्राप्ते सन्निहिते काले

नहि नहि रक्षति डुकृञ्करणे

  1. Bhaja – may you pray, worship, know, attain by knowing your own swarupam or self.
  2. Govindam – that govinda who is the supreme knowledge (Go-vindaha). “Go” means knowledge and “Vindaha” means may you attain. So Govindah means “May you attain knowledge ” (We need to add govindam Bhaja for repetition as it is of utmost importance to know this)
  3. Mooda mathe – signifies the individual who is deluded and ignorant. This person has the dehatma buddhi and yet not ready to know the ultimate truth.
  4. Sam-prapte – when it comes. Praptam means that which you are destined to get. Death is certain for every person born.
  5. San-nihite – means nears you. Or the death in terms of time approaches you very closely.
  6. Kaale – when the time approaches. As long as there is emotional dependence, there is fear. We know Lord Muruga said ‘Yaam irukka bhayamen’? The real meaning is how long will there be fear? What is this fear? Fear is a state of mind and it surfaces time and again. It happens due to our attachment to emotions with respect to things, people around us. So freedom emotional dependence is key to get rid of fear. Real moksha is freedom from emotional dependence. Therefore, govindam Bhaja. Understand yourself, may you know the truth of yourself, understand the concept of the lord, this universe.
  7. Nahi Nahi rakshati – Na rakshati means these pursuits do not protect you.
  8. Dukrin karane – means performance of action. Whatever you do in life variety of artha, desire, dharma etc. whatever you have earned now is the outcome of hard work, physical and mental activity, charitable activities, by doing dharma and you have all forms of wealth. You are known for your name. Even then artha, karma and dharma will not help you or protect at all other than the knowledge of the self. They are important to pursue and you should do karma in conformity with dharma. But that will not free you from the emotional dependence.

The same concept is explained by Adi Sankara in Subramania bhujangam

प्रशान्तेन्द्रिये नष्टसंज्ञे विचेष्टे

कफोद्गारिवक्त्रे भयोत्कम्पिगात्रे ।

प्रयाणोन्मुखे मय्यनाथे तदानीं

द्रुतं मे दयालो भवाग्रे गुह त्वम् ॥२०॥

Prashaante [a-I] ndriye Nasstta-Samjnye Vicesstte

Kapho [a-U] dgaari-Vaktre Bhayot-Kampi-Gaatre |

Prayaanno [a-U] nmukhe Mayy-Anaathe Tadaaniim

Drutam Me Dayaalo Bhava-Agre Guha Tvam ||20||

Meaning:

(Salutations to Sri Subramanya) During my Old Age, when my Senses will become Calm, when I will lose Consciousness and lie Motionless.

  • When my Face will emit Phlegm and my whole Body will tremble with Fear,
  • When I will lie Waiting for Death, O my Lord, during that time, for me, this Helpless creature,
  • Come to me quickly and be before me, O Guha, the Compassionate Lord.
  • Prashanta indriye- when I get very old and all my sense powers and sense organs are failing
  • Nashte Samjnye –when I old even my memory will be gone and I am not conscious any more
  • Vicheshte – I will be completely devoid of activity. Mentally I want to do, but my body cannot support it.
  • Kapotgaro udgare vatre – my throat also is bad, and ejections happen (flem) and I cannot even speak.
  • Bhaya utkam bi gaatre – I am shivering with fear
  • Prayana unmuke – I am awaiting my last journey or I am awaiting death.
  • Mayi anathe – even though all people are around me, but they can’t relate to me or no one can free me from death. I cannot relate to them as my body, mind also gone.
  • Tadaanim – at that time
  • Drutam – Quickly’
  • Me Dayalo –
  • Agre bhave – please reveal the swarupam to me. Please reveal myself to me.
  • Guha Twam Oh! Guha – manah is guhai or mind. One who remains hidden in the cave of mind is the reality. Hence the word guha is referred.

In chapter 9 of the gita, the opening verse says that

इदं तु ते गुह्यतमं प्रवक्ष्याम्यनसूयवे ।

ज्ञानं विज्ञानसहितं यज्ज्ञात्वा मोक्ष्यसे‌உशुभात्

Here he says, oh Arjuna, I am going to reveal that secret knowing which you will be free from the inauspicious. Guhyatam here means secret. Guha is a cave and often it is deep and hidden from normal view. Likewise this atma of ours is also hidden like a Guha. This is what is said by the devotee who prays to Lord Subramania in the prayer Subramania bhujangam and implores him to come before him. When we say come before him, it does not mean that Lord Karthikeya comes before him with his soolam and gives darshanam. It means the devotee is requesting the power to see his own self as the lord at the time of death.

In the isavasaya Upanishad also this prayer is implored by the devotee where the person asks or implores the lord within him to make him remember the good deeds, the knowledge gained and when this body is turned into ashes let my body be merged with the imperishable Brahman. I.e. let me as a jiva unite with the paramatma and moksha is attained.

Vayur anilam amritam

Athedam bhasmantam sariram

Om krato smara kritam smara

Krato smara kritam smara

Here Vayu means the air, anilam-the fire and amritam –the imperishable, atha-now, idam-this; bhasmantam-after being burnt to ashes; sariram-this body; Om-Oh lord, Krto-enjoyer of all sacrifices, smara-please remember, kritam-all that is done by me; krato-you as the supreme beneficiary; smara-please remember;

Let this temporary body be burnt to ashes, and let the air of life be merged with the totality of air. Now, O my Lord, please remember all my sacrifices, and because you are the ultimate beneficiary, please remember all that I have done for you.

Concept of Sanatha, Anatha and Natha

The Bhaja govindam is a verse that tells us that we are bound by our afflictions and our ignorance. This concept is good to understand as often we see that when someone passes away, we feel very dejected. Even our dejection is transmitted to the person who is on the death bed and he or she gets more worried about death.

There is nobody is anatha or orphan here. Anatha means orphan in literary sense. But the Vedanta gives us 3 different view of how we should see this. I.e. Sanatha, anatha and Natha.

  1. Sanatha-one who has something to depend upon or which keeps a person busy. From Sanatha one becomes anatha. By worship and praying from childhood and that will help you who is the Bhagavan. (Thunai ullavargal)
  2. Anatha – the person whose mind is active, but the body is not active or it is getting old. There is a time when every person becomes anatha. The one who does not have the company or one who is not able to keep occupied or nothing can keep the mind to hold the attention. Such a person is called spiritually anatha. Such a person when the company or people are not there, they feel lonely. You miss the company and you are helpless. Missing the company is misery. (Thunai atravargal)
  3. Natha – the person who is not dependent emotionally on anyone. Such a person is happy just being himself and does not need another person to make him happy or give company. He is by himself. Also called a gyani in the gita. (Thunai vendadhavargal)

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