Bhaja Govindam propounds bhakti yoga as a means to salvation


Bhaja Govindam, Adi Shankaracharya’s composition, is also known as Moha Mudgara, meaning, a hammer to shatter illusion. In it, Shankaracharya explains Bhakti Yoga as the means to liberation from the cycle of birth and death. He says that we must renounce our pride and ego and surrender to God.
Shankaracharya was born in Kerala during the 8th century, and had written commentaries on the Brahma Sutras, the Upanishads and the Gita. He had preached Advaita Vedanta, that the soul and the supreme soul are one. Shankaracharya gave importance to Anubhava, which is experiencing for oneself that the self is the same as Brahman, the Supreme Soul.
Of the Bhaja Govindam’s 31 verses, Shankaracharya had composed 12 in addition to the first one, which is the refrain. Hence, these verses are called Dvaadasamanjarika Stotra. His 14 disciples are said to have added a verse each, and these are called Chaturdasa Manjarika Stotra. To these, Shankaracharya added another five, making it a 31-verse composition in addition to the refrain.
Bhaja Govindam tells people to ask themselves the questions, ‘Who am I?’, ‘Why am I here in this life?’, ‘What is the Truth?’, with each verse standing on its own and helping in deep contemplation.

Bhaja Govindam, Bhaja Govindam,
Govindam Bhaja Moodha Mate
Samprapthe sannihite kale
Nahi nahi rakshathi dookran karane.

Worship Govinda, Worship Govinda,
Worship Govinda, you fool!
At the time of your death
Rules of grammar will not save you.

Punarapi jananam punarapi maranam,
Punarapi Janani jatare sayanam
Iha samsaare khalu dusthare
Krupayaa pare pahi murare.

Again and again one is born, again and again one dies
Again and again one sleeps in the mother’s womb
Help me cross this limitless sea of life
Which is uncrossable.

Kasthwam ko aham kutha ayatha
Kaa me Janani ko me thatha.
Ithi paribhavaaya sarvamasaaram
Viswam tyakthwa Swapna vichaaram

Who am I? Where did I come from?
Who is my mother? Who is my father?
Think of these, realise that this world,
Is a meaningless mirage,
And leave this dream-like world.

Kaamam krodham lobham moham
Tyakthwaathmanam bhavaya koham
Atma jnana viheena mooda
Sthepachyanthe naraka nigooda

Leave out your passion,
Leave out your anger,
Leave out your love for money,
Leave out your yearning in life,
Think and think, who you are?
Those who find it not, are but fools,
And are always happy in hell.

When Shankaracharya was walking through Kashi, he came across an aged scholar repeating the rules of grammar. Shankara is believed to have composed the Bhaja Govindam when explaining to the scholar that he must turn his mind to God rather than waste time on grammar.
At Kashi, Shankaracharya after taking bath in Ganga was proceeding towards the temple of Lord Viswanath with his disciples when a Chandala (outcaste) came along with his dogs and brushed one of the disciples who shouted “get away, get away – don’t touch us.”
Chandala countered “when the same Supreme Spirit pervades everywhere how could one contaminate the other”? Shankaracharya was struck speechless and acknowledged this truth. Then the outcaste revealed himself as Lord Shiva. This experience led the seer to compose his immortal poem ‘Manisha Panchakam’ which says even a low caste can enlighten the greatest of all teachers and is the essence of Advaita. In nutshell Advaita is :
Brahma sathyam jagan mithya
Jivo Brahmaiva na parah
(Brahman – the Absolute – is alone real and not this world; jiva – individual ‘ego’ or consciousness – in reality is Brahman itself – being part of Him).