Adventures in Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy and science of spirit. We are one you and I; are you curious why?..


Here is a place to linger, to let your intellect roam. Aatmaavrajanam is being written as a progressive study and, as such, can be read like a book. Anyone arriving at any time can simply start at the very first post and work their way through at their own pace. Please take time to read the info tabs and ensure you don't miss a post, by subscribing to the blog. Interaction is welcomed. Don't be a spectator - be a participator!

Get On With It

Hari OM
Application - that is what 'Workings-days' are about!

The text under study is BHAJA GOVINDAM, song of despair of time-wasting, by Sri Adi Shankaraachaarya.

If you recall from earlier studies, Sanskrit texts generally have an opening stanza serving as an invocation and another which is referred to as the anubandha chatushtaya, in which we find the vishaaya, adhikari, prayojana and sambandha (check the labels list to refresh on these). Bhaja Govindam, as discussed in last weeks introduction, is rather more urgent and therefore dispenses with such niceties. This first verse is unequivocal. What is more, in the chanting of the entire song, it is repeated after each successive verse in the form of 'chorus', but also as the big stick of memory for the student! "Listen up you, don't waste your time here on earth!"

_aj gaeivNd< _aj gaeivNd<
 gaeivNd< _aj mUFmte,
s<àaPte siÚihte kale
Na ih n hi rúait fuk&|! kr[e.1.
Bhaja Govindam bhaja Govindam
Govindam bhaja muuDhmate,
Sampraapte sannihite kaale
Na-hi na-hi rakshati dukRng karane ||1||
Seek Govinda, seek Govinda
Go seek Govinda, you fool!
When the appointed time comes
Grammar rules surely will not save you!

You see it straight away, that angst and desperation of the sage at finding people hair-splitting on semantics as if life itself depended upon it when, in his view, the true urgency of life is to rise to divinity. It is not that daily affairs and niceties cannot be entertained, but if one has one's mind packed with the concept of spirit, then they in their turn will become divinised and serve the fuller purpose.

"The appointed time" referred to here is death itself. At that point, which all lives reach, what purpose does the minutiae of grammar serve? Has it brought true happiness? Is it a knowledge which properly enhances the spirit? No doubt we benefit from grammar in daily pursuit as it can enhance our ability within the physical world to learn, to teach, to work and to absorb… but to waste time on the nonessentials of existence greater than their value is considered, here, as a sin. Whilst present upon the earth, Man's greatest endeavour is to understand and master the secret of life. In science, this is thought to be looking only at the material, but here we are talking about seeking the Reality even behind the subtlest of matter. That Reality is that which permits us to think and take up the pursuit in the first place and if we are properly aware and prepared, we can research it and build a relationship and, ultimately, come to identify with It. Thus, when we come to meet death, we can do so not with  any sense of annihilation, but as a springboard to rocket ourselves into the Eternal Existence, peaceful and divine.

Gurudev points out that there are some optimists who read the scriptures and quote them as saying that, at the time of departure, as long as one has the Lord's Name upon one's lips, one is saved… this may be written in the scriptures and we may choose to quote as if we understood, but this is mere 'book-knowledge' and it cannot save us from the unrelenting Law, the inevitability, that if we do not have a true understanding and connection with the Divine, we can never attain it.

The term 'bhaja' given here means 'worship' - but not merely in the ritualistic sense (though that is a place to begin). True worship is to surrender ourselves to the pursuit of understanding and connection with That which eludes all other approaches; we must conduct the service, the worship, within our very selves. Whichever denomination of religious identity we opt to practice through, there will be a format for worship when we come together as a congregation. The individuals within that congregation, however, are responsible for nurturing and tending their 'inner altars' so that they can obtain the maximum spiritual benefit from their practice. This is not subject to regulation, doctrine or 'format'; it moves beyond all boundaries society might otherwise try to impose. This 'self liquidation', dropping of the ego-self to reach the Higher Self is broken down in Sanskrit as;
  • Shravanam - deep and attentive listening
  • Kiirtanam - singing the glory of That
  • Smaranam - keeping That ever-present in one's thoughts
  • Paadasevanam - adoring the feet of That as a symbol of being lesser
  • Archanam - use of vedic mantras and hymns and, yes, rituals, where appropriate
  • Vandanam - bowing; the Western equivalent is genuflexion
  • Daasyam - service to the Higher
  • Sakhyam - to invoke the Higher with affection and friendship
  • Aatmanivedanam - offering oneself; surrendering to the Higher Potential.
In each and every step is the implied bhaja; the essence in all worship is service.

Govinda is one of the many names of Vishnu, the preserver, the overseer, that power which maintains what has been created and sees it through to the point of destruction. The Sanskrit breakdown of the name can take the following four meanings (given by Bhashyakaara in his own commentery);
  1. He who finds or knows the Earth - that is to say, That which recognises the play of the world upon the Truth, the substratum of existence
  2. He who is the Lord of the cattle - 'go' means cow; Sri Krishna (Vishnu avatar) was brought up as a cow-herd and thus the name Govinda is often applied to Him; it indicates the Life Force behind all living creatures
  3. He who confers speech - all living creatures have the ability to communicate through sound. The voices may be simple compared to the complexity of human speech, but in all cases, the ability to pass on information and to grow from the knowledge gained as a result is key to life
  1. He who is known through the Vedas - the Supreme is indicated throughout Sanskrit literature, not least in the four great mahaa-vaakyas.

In other words, Govinda represents all possibility of what Life is and one ought to be in search of that wholeness of Knowledge, the expression of Ultimate Existence. To do less than this in life, is to waste the life.

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