Sunday, January 16, 2011



Sri Adi Sankaracharya


Why do we suffer in life? We all say – happiness is our goal of life. But, we all suffer all through life.

Bhaja Govindam takes us on a tour of the most basic human weaknesses that delude us and make us suffer all through our life. It gives a detailed account of their temporary and illusory nature. It then gives us very simple,  logical and effective ways of tiding over our delusions and sufferings.

Knowledge, money and sexual lust were the first three weaknesses we examined. They are essential for life within the bounds of righteousness and within certain limits.

They are good, as long as YOU ARE THE MASTER of them and they are you servants. But, when you become their slave, and pursue them madly, you are bound to suffer in life.

Disease is unavoidable for the physical body and mind and is the fourth weakness. Take disease in the spirit of a trustee of the body. Body is not you, nor is the body yours. Your are its trustee resident. Take all care of it, but there is no need to assume it is you and suffer beyond the actual physical pain. Know that pain may be coming, but suffering is optional.

Conceit  consumes and clouds our mind and judgment and is the next weakness.  Love of family members is unstable, fleeting and impermanent, but throws us into a delusion that it is ever lasting.  It is therefore a big weakness. 

Life leaves from our physical body when the life breath leaves. The body which was so much loved by family members, when the life breath moved in it,  is now feared by even the wife and is sent quickly for burial or cremation. But, we nurture so much attachment to this physical body. Too much of love for the body is a great weakness.

These are all our weaknesses. But, what do we do throughout life? We are immersed in play and sport in childhood; we are consumed by lust and passion for opposite sex in the youth; and when old age arrives, our mind is full of all types of anxieties and worries. These are compulsive behaviours built into our system. We find no time for the supreme Brahman at any point of life, though that only is our permanent attachment in life and death.

Who is your wife and who is your son? Wherefrom do they come and how do they go? We don’t even know the reality of who we are and who are our people. This ‘I’ and ‘my’ feeling is illusory and keeps us in great delusion always. This whole life in Samsaara passes as a big riddle all the time. Where is the scope for our liberation from these impermanent and unreal bonds that delude us all the time?

Having raised the question. Sankara proceeds to verse.9, which offers us the olive branch from all these weaknesses.


Satsangatve Nissangatvam
Nissangatve Nirmohatvam
Nirmohatve Nischalatattvam
Nischalatattve Jeevanmuktih
(... Bhaja Gonvidan, Bhaja Govindam, Govindam..)


Ø  When we seek the company of the truth and the good, we become freed from other attachments (to our earlier stated weaknesses).
Ø   Through such non-attachment, we are freed from all of our passions and delusions.
Ø   Freedom from passions and delusions leads us to  the calm and serene state of stable reality.
Ø   When the mind settles in this stable, calm and serene reality, we attain to the state of liberation even when we are alive.

Commentary :

Sathsangathvam can mean two things. Sath stands for truth. Sanga means company of, or attachment with. Sathsang can therefore mean attachment or friendship with truth. Sathsang is also  interpreted as friendship or proximity of good people. Santhsangathvam is not an ordinary, worldly oriented friendship. In a sense, it is the friendship or company of people who are in search of the eternal truth; in the worship of the almighty.

In either sense, it means  you are in the company of people who can lead you towards the absolute truth; towards the eternal truth. In common parlance, Sathsang has come to mean a congregation where we (as  disciples) discuss, review and digest more fully a great Guru’s teachings.

Naturally such Sathsangathvam will lead us away  from untruthful and impermanent attachments and bondages and focus attention on the eternal truth. It leads to Nissangathvam,  the state of non-attachment to mundane and impermanent things. Being in the company of the truthful and good people leads you away from the company of the untruthful and impermanent ones.
What does this Nissangathvam do to us? It leads us further up the ladder to “Nirmohathvam” and make us free from delusions, passions and other all-consuming weaknesses, detailed up to the earlier verses.

Nirmohathvam, or freedom from passions and delusions creates in us Nischala thathvam, a state of serene, calm, stable, unwavering mindset, bent on realizing the eternal truth.

Nischala thathvam, without an iota of doubt, leads us to liberation  or Mukthi, even in this life, even as we are residing in this body. This is called Jeevan Mukthi.

For liberation – you don’t need to go a heaven. You don’t even need to leave your physical body – though, one day, the body leaves you and becomes part of the five cosmic powers. You get liberated when you are free from all of your delusions. 

Swami Paramarthananda emphatically says in one lecture - You get liberated when you are totally freed from FEAR. Not fear of this or that, but basically, from FEAR as such. Fear goes when all delusions go. 

All the Great Gurus I have met so far – are always in perpetual JOY. They are performing Great deeds – yet, do not seem to be in need of any action for themselves. They seem to work –under an uncommon vision. I do not know if all of them are Jeevan Mukthas – but it is obvious that they are almost there.

Adi Sankara has given us a simple and sure starting Point – to free ourselves from unreal bondages, passions and weaknesses. 

Sathsang, the company of the good and the truthful, is the surest starting point for liberation from all delusions and untruths. Do Get into it immediately and quickly. Leave the company of the untruthful and the deluded. Your truthful company leads you on the  right path, by freeing you from attachments, and then from delusions, and then from unstable, wavering mind. Once, the mind settles down in a serene truthful state, liberation is assured.

This one verse is an extraordinary and great verse that, one who understands this, realizes the value of Sathsang and gets into it at the earliest (today; now) , is sure to get liberated from all suffering and all delusions very soon. The path is very clear. There are no doubts on this path. There are no side paths. This is the one royal way to jeevan Mukthi.


Vayasi Gate Kah Kaamavikaarah
Sushke Neere Kah Kaasaarah
Ksheene Vitte Kah Parivaaro
Gnaathe Tattve Kah Samsaarah
(... Bhaja Govindam, Bhaja Govindam, Govindam..)


Ø When youth has passed, where stands the earlier play of lust and passion in you?
Ø When water has evaporated, where is the lake?
Ø When wealth leaves you, where are the relatives?
Ø When the Truth is realized, where is Samsaara?


When a huge, low lying place gets filled with water, it becomes a beautiful lake. But, when the water in it evaporates totally and the bed dries up, there is no more a lake. 

Likewise, when youth evaporates in you, any way all the lust and passion in you (for the opposite sex) also evaporate. But then, they leave in you a distaste and dissatisfaction. Life looks devoid of all charm. The play of Maya and the compulsive behavior it induces in us are once again highlighted here.

Likewise, when your wealth dries up, most of your relatives also desert you. People who used to come and see you so often, no more come and greet you. This also leaves bitterness in life.

But, for one who has come to know the (eternal) truth, where is any suffering?

Samsaara in the parlance of Vedanta (Spirituality) is equated with all delusions and their resultant sufferings. Samsaara is not necessarily equated with mere family bonds. Every thing that produces delusions and sufferings is Samsaara.

So, for the one, who has understood the eternal truth and stands beyond all delusions, where is any suffering?

As said earlier, he is already a jeevan muktha, one who is liberated as he is, in this life itself.

The understanding of the eternal truth however starts with “sathsangathvam”, the company of the good and truthful people, who are either in quest of the eternal truth or are already jeevanmukthas.


Maa Kuru Dhana jana yauvana garvam
Harati Nimeshaat kaalah Sarvam
Maayaa mayam idam akhilam Hitvaa
Brahmapadam Tvam Pravisa Viditvaa
... Bhaja Govindam, Bhaja Govindam, Govindam…)


Ø Do not take great pride in your wealth and possessions; in your family and followers; or in your youthful vigour.
Ø Time (Kaalah) takes away all these in a moment.
Ø All of these are filled with Maya (or illusion).
Ø  After knowing their illusory nature, realize the state of Brahman and do enter into it.

Commentary :
Most men are proud of three worldly possessions. 

WEALTH is the First : Earning, safeguarding and using enormous wealth gives people a false sense of greatness. But, money does not accompany you when your time to go comes. Money does not accompany you even when you are alive. It can go from you any time, and, it any way goes from you, when the time comes for you to go!

FAMILY & FOLLOWERS  is the second: People boast of being leaders. You may be proud to have a big family, large number of followers etc who sing your praise often. But,  time either takes them all away from you or takes you away from them all.

YOUTHFUL VIGOUR  is the third : A little more strength or a little more beauty makes people feel much bigger and greater (than others)in their own eyes and possibly in the eyes of equally unknowing people.

But even as they are feeling bigger, stronger and more beautiful, their strength and beauty are being sapped away by the passage of time.

All these are the play of Maya; they are illusions. They are given to you; and taken away from you by time, in moments. You don’t know when these are sapped away from you. The play of time on you creates big illusions in you.

It is never said – that these are useless or unnecessary for life. They are useful and needed for life. But, Know that they come and they go. They are not permanent. Do not be proud of possessing them. When you do become proud, you are not possessing them; they are possessing you. They have enslaved you.

Realize the illusory and temporary nature of these possessions and people, seek the state of Brahman and enter into that blissful, eternal state. 

In that blissful, eternal state of Brahman, All your suffering and delusions come to a permanent end. They don’t touch you any more.

How fleeting are these delusions and how strong is our attachment to delusions? The answer comes in the next verse (in next post).

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