[Advaita-l] Adi Sankara's Bhaja Govindam - 7

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Fri Jan 14 13:49:34 EST 2022

(Continued from previous post)
Bhaja Govindam – 3
Part 3: Self love and other loves
V. Ramaswami
We noted in Verse 7 discussed in Part II how our attachment and preoccupations change with time, from playthings in childhood, to members of the opposite sex during youth,
and finally to memories and worries in old age. Not only our attachments, but in fact everything in this world does indeed have an inherently tenuous nature.
Verse 4:
नलिनीदलगतजलमतितरलं तद्वद्जीवितमतिशयचपलम् |
विद्धिव्याध्याभिमानग्रस्तं लोकं शोकहतं च समस्तम् ||
nalinīdalagatajalamatitaralaṃ tadvadjīvitamatiśayacapalam |
viddhivyādhyābhimānagrastaṃ lokaṃ śokahataṃ ca samastam ||
Water [drop] on a lotus leaf (nalinīdalagatajalam नलिनीदलगतजलम्) is very unstable (atitaralam अतितरलम् ). Similarly (tadvat तद्वद् ), life too is extremely tenuous (jeevitam atisaya chapalam 
जीवितमतिशयचपलम्). Understand (viddhi विद्धि ) [that] the entire world, i.e. lives of people, (samastam lokam समस्तं लोकम् ) is swallowed by ailments and attachments (vyādhi abhimāna grastam 
व्याधि अभिमानग्रस्तम् ) and is also full of sorrows (śokahataṃ ca शोकहतं च ).
The instability of the water drop on the lotus leaf is such that it may be blown away in a blink of an eyelid. So, indeed is our life. Recall from Verse 11 the line 
“harati nimEshaat kaala: sarvam हरति निमेषात् कालः सर्वम् ” (death destroys it all in a blink). Many acts of self-improvement for liberation from various bonds get constantly 
postponed by most of us to our old age or retirement. But are we sure that we will be given time later? Or that we will be in good health? As stressed in the first verse 
of this composition, our life is so tenuous that it is imperative we begin our spiritual journey now.
The term “abhimāna (अभिमान)” has two meanings. One is attachment while another is pride. Both get in the way of spiritual enlightenment. Like diseases of the body, these diseases
of the mind are also debilitating. Hence one needs to shed them realizing fully the tenuous nature of things these are built on.
Part II was devoted almost entirely to our attachment to wealth and acquiring possessions. Besides these, there are some other attachments we need to be concerned about,
the first and foremost being attachment to one’s own body. Indeed, most identify themselves with the impermanent complex comprising of their body, mind and senses, without realizing
that these are not the real Self. To the true Self – the ātma आत्मा- the body, mind and senses are all but objects of its awareness, and therefore the Self cannot be identified
with the objects it – the mind – as a subject, is aware of. Thus, the real Self is the inner consciousness. Should we then identify people with their respective bodies or be enamored by bodies?
Verse 6
यावत्पवनो निवसति देहे, तावत् पृच्छति कुशलं गेहे |
गतवति वायौ देहापाये, भार्या बिभ्यति तस्मिन्काये ||
yāvatpavano nivasati dehe, tāvat pṛcchati kuśalaṃ gehe |
gatavati vāyau dehāpāye, bhāryā bibhyati tasminkāye ||
As long as (yaavat यावत् ) the life breath (pavanah पवनः ) resides in the body (dehe nivasati देहे निवसति ), until then (tāvat तावत्) people in the family (gehe गेहे ) ask about one’s welfare
(kuśalaṃ pṛcchati कुशलं पृच्छति ), i.e. are affectionate and care. When the breath has left (vāyau gatavati [sati] वायौ गतवति [सति] ) and the body decays (deha apāyE देह अपाये ), [even] the wife
(bhāryā भार्या [अपि]) takes fear (bibhyati बिभ्यति ) in that body (tasmin kāye तस्मिन् काये ).
The body is important only to the extent that it is an instrument for achieving certain of our goals. Too much pre-occupation with it is not warranted. However handsome and
well-built a body may be, it is appreciated only as long as it has life in it. “Once life is gone, the body is laid out, painted with mud, placed on blocks of wood, and set fire to.
Then the relatives and others leave, and the only things that accompany the departed are noble (dhārmic धार्मिक्) acts.” (Mrtam sareeram utsrjjya kaashtalOshtasamam kshitau,
Vimukaa baandhavah yaanti dharmah tam anugachati – मृतं शरीरं उत्सृज्य काष्टलोष्टसमं क्षितौ, विमुका बान्धवा यान्ति धर्मः तं अनुगच्छति ). Pattinathaar asks in Tamil: the relatives leave you at the door,
the wife comes up to the street, the son comes to the cremation ground, but who does accompany one to the very end ?
(வீடு வரை உறவு வீதிவரை மனைவி, காடு வரை பிள்ளை கடைசிவரை யாரோ? veedu varai uravu, veedi varai manaivi, kaadu varai pillai, kadaisi varai yaaro?).
The only thing we carry with us are those fruits of our actions in the present and past births which we have not yet fully reaped in the present birth (karmaphala कर्मफल 
[See Upadesa Pancakam – III for a lucid discussion of the concept of karma कर्म and karmaphala कर्मफल ].
We know that the body shall eventually perish. What about the atma आत्मा, the inner consciousness, the one that gives it life? This verse should direct us to inquire upon such questions.
Along with that inquiry will come many other dependent questions such as whether there is something eternal, and if so what it is, and how we relate to it. It is indeed these pursuits
that constitute spirituality and religion, to which the very first verse of Bhaja Govndam called us without any further waiting.
Men and women not only bear an attachment to their own bodies, but they are also attracted to those of others, and particularly to those of the opposite gender. It is said that all beings
including humans are driven by the need to quench their hunger, their need for sleep, security from fear, and satisfaction of sensual desires (aahaara nidraa abhaya maithunam cha,
saamaanyam Etat pasubhir naraanaam आहारनिद्रा अभयमैथुनं च, सामान्यमेतत् पशुभिर्नराणां). But what separates the humans from animals is a sense of righteousness (dharma धर्म ), and those without it are
but equal to animals (dharmO hi tEshaam adhikO visesha:, dharmEna hInA pasubhir samaanah धर्मो हि तेषां अधिको विशेषः, धर्मेण हीना पशुभिर्समानः). Among others, dharma requires that people regulate their
sensual desires within the confines of marriage (grahastaasrama गृहस्ताश्रम) and do not indulge in other associations. How unfortunate that some stray away from that dharma धर्म only to
suffer terrible consequences.
(Continued in next post)

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