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English Translation of Bhaja Govindam by Adi Shankara

Composed by Adi Shankaracharya, Bhaja Govindam, or Bhajagovindam, is a popular devotional song in Hinduism. The 31 stanza composition in Sanskrit is not just a devotional song. Each word in Bhaja Govindam is pregnant with meaning and the composition is a sort of short synopsis of the teachings of Sanatana Dharma.

This English translation of Bhaja Govindam was found in a magazine published in Autumn 2003 by the Sivananda Ashram. The magazine also contained an article on the song by Dr M.N. Nandakumara. Sadly, I was not able to locate the name of the translator.

Adi Shankaracharya’s Bhaja Govindam

1 Seek Govinda, Seek Govinda,
Seek Govinda, O Fool!
When the appointed times comes (death),
grammar rules surely will not save you.

2 O Fool! Give up the thirst to possess wealth.
Create in your mind, devoid of passions,
thoughts of the Reality.
With whatever you get, entertain your mind, be content.

3 Seeing the full bosom of young maidens and their navel,
do not fall a prey to maddening delusion.
This is but a modification of flesh and fat.
Think well thus in your mind again and again.

4 The water drop playing on a lotus petal has an extremely uncertain existence;
so also is life ever unstable.
Understand, the very world is consumed by disease and conceit,
and is riddled with pangs.

5 As long as there is the ability to earn and save,
so long are all your dependants attached to you.
Later on, when you come tolive with an old, infirm body,
no one at home cares to speak even a word with you!!

6 As long as there dwells breath in the body,
so long they enquire of your welfare at home.
Once the breath leaves, the body decays,
even the wife fears that very same body.

7 So long as one is in one’s boyhood, one is attached to play,
so long as one is in youth, one is attached to one’s own young woman;
so long as one is in old age, one is attached to anxiety,
yet no one, alas to the Supreme Brahman, is ever seen attached.

8 Who is your wife? Who is your son?
Supremely wonderful indeed is this samsara.
Of whom are you? From where have you come?
O brother, think of that Truth here.

9 Through the company of the good, there arises non-attachment;
through non-attachment there arises freedom from delusion;
when there is freedom from delusion, there is the Immutable Reality;
on experiencing the Immutable Reality, there comes the state of ‘liberated-in-life’.

10 When youthfulness has passed, where is lust and its play?
When water is evaporated, where is the lake?
When the wealth is reduced, where is the retinue?
When the Truth is realised, where is samsara?

11 Take no pride in your possession, in the people at your command, in the youthfulness that you have.
Time loots away all these in a moment.
Leaving aside all these, after knowing their illusory nature,
realize the state of Brahman and enter into it.

12 Day and night, dawn and dusk, winter and spring,
again and again come and depart.
Time sports and life ebbs away.
And yet, one leaves not the gusts of desires.

13 O Distracted One! Why worry about wife, wealth?
Is there not for you the One who ordains?
In the three worlds it is the association-with-good-people alone
that can serve as a boat to cross the sea of change, birth and death.

14 One ascetic with matted locks, one with shaven head,
one with hairs pulled out one by one, another parading in his ochre robes
– these are fools who, though seeing, do not see.
Indeed, these different disguises or apparels are only for their belly’s sake.

15 The body has become worn out. The head has turned grey.
The mouth has become toothless.
The old man moves about leaning on his staff.
Even then he leaves not the bundle of his desires.

16 In front the fire, at the back the sun, late at night he sits with hisknees held to his chin;
he receives alms in his own scooped palm and
lives under the shelter of some tree,
and yet the noose of desires spares him not!

17 One may, in pilgrimage, go to where the Ganges meets the ocean, called the Gangasagar,
or observe vows, or distribute gifts away in charity.
If he is devoid of first-hand-experience-of-the-Truth,
according to all schools of thought, he gains no release, even in a hundred lives

18 Sheltering in temples, under some trees,
sleeping on the naked ground, wearing a deerskin,
and thus renouncing all idea-of-possession and thirst-to-enjoy,
to whom will not dispassion bring happiness?

19 Let one revel in Yoga or let him revel in Bhoga.
Let one seek enjoyment in company or
let him revel in solitude away from the crowd.
He whose mind revels in Brahman,
he enjoys, verily, he alone enjoys.

20 To one who has studied the Bhagavad Gita even a little,
who has sipped at least a drop of Ganges-water,
who has worshipped at least one Lord Muraari,
to him there is no quarrel with Yama, the Lord of Death.

21 Again birth, again death, and again lying in mother’s womb –
this samsara process is very hard to cross over.
Save me O destroyer of Mura (Lord Krishna),
through Thy infinite kindness.

22 The Yogin who wears but a godadi (shawl made of rags),
who walks the path that is beyond merit and demerit,
whose mind is joined in perfect Yoga with its goal,
he revels (in God-consciousness) – and lives thereafter – as a child or as a madman.

23 Who are you? Who am I? From where did I come?
Who is my mother? Who is my father?
Thus enquire, leaving aside the entire world-of-experience,
essenceless and a mere dreamland, born of imagination.

24 In you, in me and in all other places too there is but one All-Pervading Reality.
Being impatient, you are unnecessarily getting angry with me.
If you want to attain soon the Vishnu-status,
be equal-minded in all circumstances.

25 Strive not, waste not your energy to fight against or to make
friends with your enemy, friend, son or relative.
Seeking the Self everywhere,
lift the sense-of-difference born out of ‘ignorance’.

26 Leaving desire, anger, greed and delusion,
the seeker sees in the Self ‘He Am I’.
They are fools those who have not Self-knowledge,
and they consequently, as a captive in hell, are tortured.

27 The Bhagavad Gita and Sahasranama are to be chanted;
always the form of the Lord of Lakshmi is to be meditated upon;
the mind is to be led towards the company of the good;
wealth is to be shared with the needy.

28. Very readily one indulges in carnal pleasures;
later on, alas, come diseases of the body.
Even though in the world the ultimate end is death,
even then man leaves not his sinful behaviour.

29 ‘Wealth is calamitous’, thus reflect constantly:
the truth is that there is no happiness at all to be got from it.
To the rich, there is fear even from his own son.
This is the way with wealth everywhere.

30 The control of all activities,
the sense-withdrawal, the reflection, along with japa
and the practice of reaching the total-inner- silence
– these, perform with care, with great care.

31 O Devotee of the lotus-feet of the teacher!
May you become liberated soon from the samsara through the discipline of the
sense-organs and the mind. You will come to experience the
Lord that dwells in your own heart.

Four Mutts Established by Adi Shankaracharya