[Advaita-l] Adi Sankara's Bhaja Govindam - 4
sjayana at yahoo.com
Thu Nov 25 22:19:01 EST 2021
(Continued from previous post)
Bhaja Govindam – 2
PART 2: THE MATERIAL BONDS
We saw in the first verse, reviewed in Part I, the counsel to rest one’s mind on Lord Govinda from an early age. We interpret this more broadly as a call to adopt a
spiritual life early on. The threefold repetition of it in the verse lends itself to more interpretations: we should worship through our mind (thoughts), words (speech),
and body (actions) – मनसा manasaa, वाचा vaacha, and कर्मणा karmanaa; also, we should worship for the proper handling of the three types of afflictions we all suffer, namely,
endogenous ones due to bodily and mental ailments (आध्यामिक aadhyaatmika), exogenous ones caused by others and other externalities (आधि भौतिक aadhi boudhika), and finally those
due to natural and divine causes (आधि दैविक aadhi daivika).
In many verses to follow, Sri Sankara takes head on the pursuit of wealth and other worldly things and pleasures as major detractors from the path of spirituality.
The portrayals in these verses of the negative aspects of worldly ties and pursuits need to be interpreted carefully as an admonition against indiscriminate indulgence
in them for their own sake at the expense of one’s growth into a higher plane. After all, some of these pursuits and bonds are indeed what everyone — except the precocious
sanyaasins (renunciates) and a few others incapacitated in some way — routinely pursue, nay indeed must pursue to some degree, especially in their role as grahastaas (householders)
as even expected duty. In this context, note especially that the author of Bhaja Govindam is the same Aachaarya who starts his commentary to the Bhagavat Gita by stating that
twofold indeed are the dharma adhering to vedas, which form the very basis for the sustenance of the universe: those involving action (acquisition); and those involving
cessation of action (renunciation) -“द्विविधो हि वेदोक्तो धर्मः, प्रवृत्तिलक्षणो निवृत्तिलक्षणश्च, जगतः स्थितिकारणम्।” (DwividhO hi vEdOktO dharma: – pravrithi lakshana: nivrthilakshanascha, jagata: Sthitikaaranam).
Thus, Sri Sankara does not hold worldly pursuits in such disdain as to call everyone to sanyaasa, but only advices to keep one’s pursuits legitimate and in conformity with dharma,
making adequate room for the contemplation of higher goals. Indeed, not only Sri Sankara’s teachings, but most of our entire religious literature does give an equal importance
to all the stations ( आश्रमाः aashramaas) of life, be it as a householder (गृहस्तः grahasta) or as a renunciate (sanyaasi सन्यासिः). For example, the great saint Taayumaanavar said in Tamil:
If one lives a life of noble deeds unconcerned and with the firm conviction that God is indeed the one who spins the world like a top at the end of a string, then life as a
householder and as a renunciate are both exalted —
சாட்டையில் பம்பர ஜாலம் போல் ஆட்டுவான் இறை என்று அறிந்து, நெஞ்சமே தேட்டமொன்றற அருள் செயலில் நிற்றியேல், வீட்டறம் துறவறம் இரண்டும் மேன்மையே
(“Saattayil bambara jaalam pOl aattuvaan irai enru arindu, nenjamE tEttamonrara arul cheyalil nitriyEl, veettaram turavaram irandum mEnmayE”).
Much as it is true that certain of our pursuits are problem prone, becoming a renunciate as an act of escapism is not recommended anywhere. Like most other things in life,
sanyaasa too is a change to be embraced for a positive reason. Indeed, there is no need for one to become despondent or depressed on reading what is to follow, for the intent
is to help one develop an appropriate amount of detachment that is absolutely necessary to enjoy the fruits of one’s actions without being bound by them.
And, as for desires, they are natural in beings. The Lord himself says in Bhagavat Gita (Chapter 9, verse 11) that He manifests as desire in all beings (भूतेषु कामोस्मि भरतर्षभ
bhootEshu kaamOsmi Bharatarshabha) legitimizing thereby one’s desires, as long as they are unopposed to dharma (धर्म अविरुद्ध dharma avirudhdha), as noted in the same verse.
Thus, what is criticized is the act of becoming a slave to one’s desires and letting the desires run amuck. [By the way, it is for these types of subtle and incisive
clarifications that one needs a guru who has done much contemplation (मनन manana) on the deeper import of the terse teachings of the great seers and can cross correlate
the teachings from diverse texts and contexts.]
मूढ जहीहि धनागमतृष्णां
कुरु सद्बुद्धिं मनसि वितृष्णाम् |
वित्तं तेन विनोदय चित्तम् ||
Mooda jaheehi dhanaagama trushnaam
Kuru sadbuddhim manasi vitrshnaam
YallabhasE nija karmOpaattam
Vittam tEna viNodaya chittam
Oh ignorant ! (मूढ mooda!) Win over (जहीहि jaheehi) the thirst for the inflow of wealth (धन आगम तृष्णां dhana aagama trushnaam). In your mind (मनसि manasi) develop (कुरु kuru)
detached noble thoughts (वितृष्णां सद्बुद्धिं vitrshnaam sadbuddhim). Rejoice your mind (विनोदय चित्तं vinOdaya chittam) with that wealth (तेन वित्तं tena vittam) which is obtained
(यत् लभसे yat labhase) with your own efforts or karma (निज कर्म उपात्तं nija karma upaattam).
As a householder, one has to earn money and acquire various possessions to support one’s family and also to meet one’s obligations to society. The great poet Tiruvalluvar
said that those without possessions do not really have a world here — பொருளில்லாற்கு இவ்வுலகு இல்லை (“porulillaarukku ivvulaku illai”). Bhartruhari wrote that those who do not
have the capacity to earn can get subjected to chidings of the mother and the ire of the father and may lose the love of one’s consort — माता निन्दति, पिता कुप्यति, कान्ता च न आलिङ्गते
(“maata nindati, pitaa kupyati, kaantaa cha na aalingatE”).
(Continued in next post)
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