Bhaja Govindam – Adi Shankaracharya Verse – 21

HariH Aum Gurubhyo NamaH |

Bhaja Govindam Verse – 21

पुनरपि जननं पुनरपि मरणं,पुनरपि जननी जठरे शयनम्।
इह संसारे बहुदुस्तारे,कृपयाऽपारे पाहि मुरारे ॥२१॥
punarapi jananam punarapi maranam punarapi janani jathare sayanam,
iha samsare bahudusare krpaya’pare pahi murare – 21

  • Explanation of Pujya Swami Viditatmananda Ji

Being born again, dying again, and again lying in the mother’s womb; this samsara is extremely difficult to cross over. Save me, O destroyer of Mura, through your infinite compassion.

This first line, punarapi jananam punarapi maraam, describes the process of samsara. PunaH is again, jananam is birth. Punarapi jananam means being born again, punarapi maraa_ means dying again. Punarapi janani ja_hare sayanam, sleeping again in the womb of the mother. Sayanam is lying.

Samsara is nothing but a repeated process of birth and death. Why does this cycle go on? It is because what I am pursuing or seeking is not fulfilled in the journey of this lifetime. Naturally, then, when I die, there are unfulfilled desires in my heart, and those unfulfilled desires make me take another birth in a suitable environment so that I can fulfill my desires.

If, again, the desires are not fulfilled, the journey is not concluded in that embodiment and I give it up only to acquire yet another new embodiment. This is the reason we talk of the process of repeated births and deaths. It is because a man is born incomplete and he dies incomplete as well. The journey goes on till a total fulfilment is gained.

The description of this cyclic process also represents the pain and suffering that we constantly go through in life because birth and death are also extremely painful. In between, of course, there is old age; there is disease, and all kinds of other afflictions. Thus, there is constant pain.

As Pujya Swami Dayanandaji points out, the nature of life is ‘duhkham-duhkham-sukham-duhkhamdu hkham’; a little pleasure preceeded by a lot of pain and followed by a lot of pain. If there were not even that little pleasure, we would not survive.

We are preoccupied and sometimes don’t realize how our life is constantly filled with struggle, pain, and sorrow. Everybody thinks that their life is sorrowful, but the truth is that they have not observed others’ lives. God has made no exception. There is a reason why there is pain and suffering in this life. It is so that some day we will have an incentive to get out of this business. If it were not so, we would remain stuck in this life. There is a story in the Yogavasista, which illustrates this. A man was being chased by a tiger and was running for his life. He found a well and not knowing where to go, plunged into it. Fortunately for him, some roots of a tree had grown through the wall in the middle of the well. He grabbed hold of the roots and managed not to fall into the water. As he hung there, he looked up and saw the tiger. He looked down, and below him was a snake in the water, waiting for him. Then he saw that there were two rats among the roots. The rats were gnawing away at the very root from which he was hanging. At that time, there was a honeycomb on a tree above the well, from which honey was dripping slowly.

The story goes, that this fellow who was hanging for dear life, stretched out to catch a falling drop of honey in his mouth. Thus, even in the midst of tremendous fear, this little drop of honey caused him to go on. Such pessimistic pictures are given only in order to make us understand certain realities of life.

Therefore, the acarya is saying, what a pity it is, lying again in the womb of the mother, being born again and dying again. There is only pain, all along. When will this end?

Iha samsare bahudusare apare. Samsara, as we said earlier, is a sequence of birth and death. It is compared to an ocean. It is dustara, extremely difficult to cross. Tru means to cross. Param means shore. Apara is that which has no shore. This sa_sara is described as being an ocean, which has no shore and is extremely difficult to cross. Not only are there waves that buffet and assault, but also aquatic creatures, which attack. Thus, we struggle in this life. There is no end to this kind of samsara.

This verse represents the prayer of the devotee, k paya’pare pahi murare. Murari is Lord Krshna or Lord Narayaa, the ari, enemy, of the demon Mura. Mura stands for the ego. The only one who can destroy that demon is Lord Krshna
The prayer is, hey Murari, Oh Lord, oh enemy of the ego, pahi, please protect me. I am drowning in this ocean of samsara, totally helpless, and being attacked from all directions by various forces. I see no end to it and do not know how to cross it.

Therefore, hey Murari, oh lord, please save me, k paya, by your grace, by your kindness. Please shower your compassion, your grace upon me, and raise me out of sa_sara. This is a very important part of one’s spiritual pursuit that is recognized at some point in time, due to one’s own inabilities or helplessness.

Very often, we find that we are helpless against our own inner difficulties, our own inner urges, passions, or reactions. We find that these enemies have entered our heart, which at the moment is ruled by the demons.

Who are the demons? They are subsequently mentioned to be kama, lust, krodha, anger, lobha, miserliness, moha, delusion, mada, pride or arrogance, and matsarya, jealousy. Thus, the demons of lust, anger, jealousy, pride, arrogance, resentment etc. are ruling my heart and there is no room for God. The devatas that inhabit my heart have disappeared.

We read in the puranas, stories of constant struggles between the devas and the asuras in which the asuras often win the battle and the devas are driven away from the heavens. The poor devas then go to the Lord seeking his intervention. The Lord comes to their help, the asuras are driven back and the devas regain the kingdom of heavens. My heart is comparable to the heavens, and should be really be inhabited by the devas, but what do I find?

It is conquered by these demons instead, and unfortunately, I cannot do anything about it. I just can’t help it. All these reactions and passions take hold of me, and I find myself helpless. When there is helplessness, there is prayer. It is said that when there is prayer, the Lord definitely comes and saves you.

There are many examples of these prayers in our puranas. One famous story is the gaja-graha story. Gaja is elephant, graha means crocodile. It is the story of the great elephant devotee Gajendra.

Gajendra was once sporting in the waters of a lake when a huge crocodile came along and caught hold of one of his legs and started pulling him down into the water. The elephant was powerful and started to pull away towards the shore, but the crocodile had a strong hold and continued to drag him down. The struggle went on until the elephant started losing his power. He was slowly becoming weaker, and the crocodile was becoming stronger. The elephant began to drown and as the water started rising, he realized that he could not save himself in this struggle.

It was at this time that he called out to the Lord. Hey Govinda! Hey Gopala! Please come along and save me. It is said that even as he uttered the word Govinda, Lord Krshna appeared on his vehicle, Garuda. He killed the crocodile with his sankha and chakra, and saved Gajendra. This story, called gaja-graha, is the story of our life.

A battle is constantly going on in our own heart, between our noble tendencies and our demonic tendencies. As long as we think that we are strong enough, we keep on fighting or struggling in our life. When we find that we are indeed helpless, we seek the help of the Lord.

Here, the devotee says, I am helpless, Oh Lord, in this battle of samsara. I find that I cannot conquer my own inner passions or my own inner enemies. I have become a slave to my own passions. They have now become very powerful.

Prayer is therefore, a very important aspect of spiritual pursuit and, for that matter, any pursuit. As we become more sensitive, we realize the importance of prayer. Generally, we do not even know that these demons are there within ourselves. We think that anger is a good thing to have, and that it is good to have passion. That is why we have invited all these things in our life and they have now become very powerful.

When I study Vedanta I gain an understanding of the values of life, and then realize that these are the wrong things to have, that these are obstacles. These are the demons that actually deprive me of my own dignity, of my own knowledge and happiness. Now, when I want to get rid of them, I find that I am helpless. That is when I pray to the Lord and seek his help.

Seeking the help of the Lord and getting the strength is very important because we find ourselves weak and falling. Even though I have made a resolve not to come under the influence of anger, lust, and so forth, I still find that I come under their spell again and again. I can’t resist those temptations.

For example, I do not want to eat any sweets, but the candies in the bowl are very tempting, and I pick one up and put it in my mouth. Even while putting it in my mouth, I know that I am doing something wrong, but I cannot resist the strong temptation. We constantly find that we cannot resist such strong temptations and the only one who can help is God.

Therefore pray to the lord, iha samsare bahudusare krpaya’pare pahi murare. Oh, enemy of the demon Mura, please save me from this ocean of samsara.

HariH Om __/\__
Courtesy : Sri Subramaniyam Balaji
Credit : Swami Viditatmananda Saraswathi Ji


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