Bhaja Govindam – 5

Part V – The Bliss of the Renounced

V. Ramaswami

After discussing in Part II and Part III the transient nature of the world and in Part IV the piteous plight of the multitude who do not recognize that transience, we are now ready to consider a set of verses describing the bliss brought on by dispassion and renunciation.  While such bliss is fully realized by the true ascetic, a significant amount of that is within the reach of others as well. We begin with a verse that summarizes the piteous plight of man and the way out of it.

Verse 13

का ते कान्ता धनगतचिन्ता, वातुल किं तव नास्ति नियन्ता ।

त्रिजगति सज्जनसं गतिरेका, भवति भवार्णवतरणे नौका ॥

kā tē kāntā dhanagatacintā, vātula kĩ tava nāsti niyantā |

trijagati sajjanasaṁ gatirēkā, bhavati bhavārṇavataraṇē naukā ||

Who (का, ) (is) your wife (ते कान्ता, te kāntā) (or what is) this worry about wealth (धनगतचिन्ता, dhanagatichintā)? Why is there nothing (किं न अस्ति kim na asti) to regulate (नियन्ता niyantā) you (तव tava) who is (vascillating) like the wind (वातुल vātula) ? To cross this cycle of life and death (भव अर्णव तरणेbhava arnava taraṇē) in all these three worlds (त्रिजगति trijagati) association with good men (सज्जनसम्गति: sajjanasangatih) becomes (भवति bhavati) the only boat (एका नौका).

We saw in Part II the evanescent nature of one’s wealth from which one can after all get separated by death in a moment without even a notice. In Part III we saw that all our relationships, including the one with one’s spouse, is but temporary, for we know not what we two were before we were born or what we two will be after our death. In such a case, why are we so attached to our family and so fond of the acquisition and hoarding of wealth?

Vāta means air and vātula means one whose mind is under the influence of the wind, i.e., constantly moving like the wind. chinta here means worry. In the context of the order (niyantā) one should understand that worry and over attachment are the consequences of ignoring the fact that everything in the world is indeed ordered by the Ordainer, and one needs to have faith in that divine order.

As the ācharya elaborates in another work of his called dṛg-dṛśya-vivēka, what is seen is not all there is to things, and the mind is not all that matters. There is great peace in acknowledging a pervasive divine order and the fact that we are only an instrument thereof (निमित्त्तमात्रं भव nimitta maatram bhava – Bhagavat Gita).

The ācharya not only chides us like one would a child for our indulgences, but also suggests the only remedy to get over these misdirected priorities as association with good and wise people. It is through such association that one develops the necessary dispassion (vairagya) to discharge one’s duties even as a householder, without either the relationships or the means to sustain them creating a confining bond. To the sanyāsin also, satsanga is eqully important in that the company of wise men in the form of other true sanyāsins is one that reinforces one’s renouncement of worldly ties helping one’s mind to be fixed on the ultimate Reality.

As noted by Swami Viditātmānanda in his commentary, the entrapments of this world are like a limitless ocean (अर्णव ārṇva) that leave us in the tortuous state of neither floating nor drowning but in the shape of one who frequently comes up for air only to drown again.  Thus, to the vast multitude who have not fully renounced and repeatedly get drowned in attachments, the metaphor of the boat in this verse that keeps one above water is indeed quite fitting.

Verse 26

कामंक्रोधंलोभंमोहं, त्यक्त्वाऽऽत्मानं पश्यति सोऽहम् ।

आत्मज्ञान विहीना मूढा: , ते पच्यन्ते नरकनिगूढा: ॥

kāmaṁ krōdhaṁ lōbhaṁ mōhaṁ, tyaktvā”tmānaṁ paśyati sō’ham

ātmajñāna vihīnā mūḍhā: , tē pacyantē narakanigūḍhā:

Having given up (त्यक्त्वा tyaktvā) one’s lust (कामम् kāmam), anger (क्रोधम् krodham), greed (लोभम् lobham), and delusion (मोहम् moham), [the seeker] sees (पश्यति pashyati) oneself (आत्मानम् ātmānam) [as] ‘He alone am I (स: अहम् [इति])’. [However,] those fools (ते मूढा: moodah) without an understanding of the Self (आत्मज्ञान विहीना atmajñāna vihinah) are cooked (पच्यन्तेcooked) [as] prisoners of hell (नरकनिगूढा: naraka nigūḍhāh).

The greatest bliss of the renounced seeker is the understanding of the Self as none other than a manifestation of the eternal Brahman.   With that understanding such a seeker realizes one’s inherent fullness (pūrnam idam) and is freed from many of the human failings like lust, anger, greed, and delusion [of seeing the world we live in as real.]

Unlike those who develop a high level of dispassion, as life throws its inevitable challenges the rest are “cooked” within and often go through an emotional roller coaster and create a vicious cycle of suffering and improper reactions. The hell alluded to here as imprisoning them is not some physical locale elsewhere but rather the internal state of suffering and inadequacy, a condition that the truly renounced individuals do not suffer from. The dispassionate are able to accept whatever comes with equanimity as part of a larger order (प्रसादबुद्धि: prasāda buddhi) and react to it constructively carrying on one’s duties as though they were a prayer too (ईश्वरार्पण-बुद्धि:iswarārpaṇa buddhi).

Verse 18

सुरमन्दिरतरुमूलनिवास:, शय्याभूतलमजिनं वास: ।

सर्वपरिग्रह भोगत्याग:, कस्य सुखं न करोति विराग: ॥

suramandiratarumūlanivāsa:, śayyābhūtalamajinaṁ vāsa:

sarvaparigraha bhōgatyāga:, kasya sukhaṁ na karōti virāga:

 

Living under a tree in the temple (सुरमन्दिरतरुमूलनिवास: suramandiratarumūlanivāsa:), dressed in an animal [deer] skin (अजिनं वास: ajinam vāsa: ), sleeping on bare earth (भूतलंशय्या: bhootalam shayyā: ), and renouncing all possessions and enjoyments (सर्वपरिग्रह भोगत्याग : sarvaparigraha bhogatyāga: ) [the renounced lives]. To whom (कस्य kasya ) will dispassion (विराग: virāga: ) [of this sort] not bring happiness (सुखम् न करोति sukham na karoti) ?

Happiness is purely an internal state of mind, the real nature of the Self according to our scriptures, and not gained by external possessions and circumstances. Indeed, the desire for possessing anything (प्रवृत्तिpravṛtti) arises from some sort of a sense of inadequacy of not having something, while the urge to get rid of something (निवृत्तिnivṛtti) is the result of some discomfort or inadequacy from the item which is desired to be removed. A person who realizes the completeness of the Self has no needs, either to possess or dispossess. If that be the case, is there anyone who will not realize one’s happiness through dispassion?

The life of an ascetic is in direct contrast to a material life marked by the desire and constant pursuit of various possessions. It is directed totally inwards and does not depend on externalities for happiness. Such a person is happy in and by himself (आत्मन्येव आत्मना तुष्ट:ātmanyeva ātmana tushta: – Bhagavat Gita, 2-55).

Virāga: (विराग:), dispassion, is freedom from rāga or craving.   Along with the shedding of rāga, virāga involves also the shedding of dvesha, all types of dislikes and hatred. The shedding of cravings is quite different from developing an aversion and does not mean that one should not enjoy anything; it is just that one should give up any dependency on externalities for one’s enjoyment. One who understands the complete nature of the Self cannot feel incomplete and have cravings. Similarly, the one who sees the world as being ordered by a higher force can have no dislikes or hatred. He does not just tolerate, he accepts. Vairāgya is not an act, but a constant state of one’s disposition. The source of such a disposition can only be knowledge of the Self (ज्ञान:  jnāna). For the non-ascetic, a life of karma-yoga, namely performing one’s duties with the spirit of both prasāda buddhi and iswarārpana buddhi, is a means to developing a right amount of virāga to avoid becoming a slave to one’s cravings and dislikes.

Verse 22

रथ्याचर्पटविरचितकन्थ: , पुण्यापुण्तविवर्जितपन्थ: ।

योगी योगनियोजितचित्तो, रमते बालोन्मत्तवदेव ॥

rathyācarpaṭaviracitakantha: , puṇyāpuṇtavivarjitapantha:

yōgī yōganiyōjitacittō, ramatē bālōnmattavadēva ।।

Wearing a quilt made of rags found in the street (रथ्याचर्पटविरचितकन्थ:, rathyācarpaṭaviracitakanthah), traversing a path beyond merit and demerit (पुण्यापुण्तविवर्जितपन्थ: puṇyāpuṇtavivarjitapanthah ), and with mind joined by yoga (योगनियोजितचित्तोyōganiyōjitacittah ), the yogi (योगी, yōgī) revels (रमते, ramate) as a child or a madman (बालोन्मत्तवदेव

bālōnmattavadēva).

The wearing of rags implies the lack of any possessions or any obsession with the body. The fact that the rags come from a roadway on which grand chariots are driven shows the lack of any concern for appearances. The wise man also does his duties without a sense of doership and is therefore absolved of all its effects in the form of merit or demerit. His mind is focused on yoga or union with Brahman. Such a yogi is thefore able to revel without any worries or inhibitions like a child or a man who has lost his mind.

Verse 19

योगरतो वा भोगरतो वा, सङगरतो वा सङगविहीन: ।

यस्य ब्रह्मणि रमते चित्तम् , नन्दति नन्दति नन्दत्येव ॥

yōgaratō vā bhōgaratō vā, saṅagaratō vā saṅagavihīna:

yasya brahmaṇi ramatē cittam , nandati nandati nandatyēva

Whether reveling in yoga (योगरतो) or reveling in pleasures (भोगरतो वा), whether reveling in the company of people (सङगरतो) or bereft of any company (सङगविहीन: वा), he whose mind (यस्य चित्तम्) revels in Brahman (ब्रह्मणि रमते), he is indeed happy (नन्दति एव).

There is no presumption of how or where a wise person may live. He may be in the company of many, or may be in utter solitude. He may be active, or be an austere person. What is important is that he revels in Brahman, i.e. revels in the thought that he and everything else is none other than Brahman. Such a person is indeed happy, and happy always. The three fold repetition of the word नन्दति to emphasize the happiness can also be interpreted as implying the happiness felt by such a person in all three states of being awake, asleep, or dreaming.

There are three levels of happiness: rati, santushti, and trpti. Contemplating something desirous, getting the desired thing or effect, and finally the contentment of having received the desired are different grades of happiness represented by these. The one who identifies oneself with Brahman is simultaneously ātmarati, ātmasantushta: and ātmatrpta: says Bhagavat Gita. Not only is he happy, but his happiness is entirely endogenous. Such happiness is pure and quite unlike all other types of happiness which are reflected happiness (प्रतिबिम्ब आनन्द्:) derived from other transient objects and experiences.

This same concept is expounded once again in Drk-Drsya-Viveka where the Acharya has noted

देहाभिमाने गलिते विज्ञाते परमात्मनि।

यत्र यत्र मनो याति तत्र तत्र समाधय: ॥

When the concern for the body has disappeared and the self is known to be Brahman, wherever the mind goes there occurs samādhi effortlessly. It is this state of ultimate happiness that is enjoyed by the total renunciate with mind set in Brahman and Brahman alone. Vedanta affirms that the distinctions among the knower, knowledge and known are irrelevant to the ātma   (ज्ञातृ ज्ञान ज्ञेय भेद: परात्मनि न विद्यते). Swami Omkarananda suggests that similarly the distinctions among enjoyer, enjoyment and the enjoyed are irrelevant to the ātma (भोक्ता भोग भोग्य भेद: परात्मनिनविद्यते). The everlasting bliss of the true renunciate comes from the identification of oneself as ātma and that ātma as no different from Brahman.

Having laid out the transient nature of all things material and worldly and having noted the pain caused by attachments towards them, it is a natural sequel for the ācharya to highlight the glory of a life of renunciation. Such a path of becoming a sanyāsin, a complete renunciate, may not be feasible for all and as we have noted earlier is not advocated either for all to follow.   The large multitude of us who may never become total renunciates should view these verses as affirming the value of developing a high level of dispassion towards material things and various relationships as well as the importance of gaining true knowledge about the Self and its relationship to the eternal. The happiness coming from these is much more lasting than the fleeting pleasures one enjoys through externalities and brings one closer to one’s real self as a manifestation of Brahman.

 In the remainder of our discussions, we will concentrate on the do’s and don’ts advocated by Bhaja Govindam in evolving oneself towards the larger goals identified above.


Sringeri Vidya Bharati Foundation (SVBF) is established as an international extension of the ancient Sri Sharada Peetham, Sringeri, Karnataka State, India. It is incorporated as a non-profit religious and charitable organization in the USA. The Foundation functions under the direct guidance of the Jagadguru Shankaracharya, His Holiness Sri Sri Bharati Tirtha Mahaswamigal of the Sringeri Sharada Peetham.

3 Responses to “Bhaja Govindam – 5”

  1. Gopalan Kannan says:

    I notice that the verses are discussed in a jumbled order. I presume it is intentional and there should be a purpose for that. May I know why?

  2. V. Ramaswami says:

    The verses in their numerical order somehow seem to jump around quite a bit over many diverse themes. Thus, with this whole series, verses with similar or related ideas are kept together to weave a few common themes underlying Bhaja Govindam. Here, verses 13, 26 deal with the plight of those who have not attained vairagya as a preamble to the topic of this chapter and as a sort of continuation of the previous chapter. Verses 18, 22 discuss the outward signs of renouncement often seen in ascetics, while the last one 19 shows their inner bliss through detachment.

  3. T.K.P.Naig says:

    I find this useful.Thank you for posting this on FB.

    I saw it just today.Will it be possible for you to let me have the links for the previous parts of Bhaja Govindam at my id: tkpnaig@yahoo.com ?

    Thanks.

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