Adi Sankara's Bhaja Govindam - 19

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S Jayanarayanan

Aug 12, 2022, 4:26:11 PMAug 12
to Chaturamnaya List, A. Discussion Group for Advaita Vedanta, Advaitin
(Continued from previous post)
Bhakti Granthas – Bhaja Govinda (last part)
Bhaja Govindam
Part VII: More Practical Vedanta from Bhaja Govindam
V. Ramaswami
In the previous part, we initiated a discussion of the verses that provide a set of active steps one can take to facilitate one’s spiritual journey, and we continue that here.
Finally, we conclude our series with a checklist of such recommended activities. As noted earlier, the ultimate book of practical Vedanta is the Bhagavad Gita, and one may view
Bhajagovindam as a simplified version of that text with a greater emphasis on devotion (bhakthi).
Verse 30
Pranayamam pratyaharam nityaanityavivekavicharam
Jaapyasametasamaadhividhaanam kurvavadhaanam mahadavadhaanam
With care (avadhanam), indeed with great care (mahadavadhanam), perform (kuru) breath control (pranayamam), sense withdrawal (pratyaharam), discriminative inquiry into the permanent
and the impermanent (nitya anitya viveka vicharam), and absorption of the mind accompanied by Japa (jaapya sameta Samadhi vidhanam) .
As noted in many earlier verses, all the pains and pangs of human existence arise from the attachment to the impermanent. A constant inquiry into what is permanent (nitya) and
what is impermanent (anitya) is necessary for spiritual emancipation and even for one’s own peace of mind on a day-to-day basis. Some tools that make one ready and capable for such
an inquiry and understanding are the daily austerities of pranayama, pratyahara and japa mentioned here.
Pranayama is the regulation of one’s breath (pranan yamayati iti pranayamam). As an integral part of yoga, pranayama brings many benefits including physical well- being and
internal peace. At a physical level, the body needs to be nourished and tended to as an abode of atma, and one may view this as emphasizing the importance of maintaining a fit physique.
But in a wider context, pranayama includes the regulation of all senses, and that is necessary for one’s spiritual health.
Pratyahara is the withdrawal of the senses from various material aspects of the world. An equivalent term is control of the senses (indriya nigraham.) Clearly, withdrawal from the
distractions and temptations of the world is necessary for the attainment of detachment (vairagya), without which one is constantly focused on the impermanent and illusory as opposed
to pursuing the permanent and the truth. Thus, the quality called dama by Vedantins is what yogasastra calls pratyahara.
Tiruvalluvar, the venerated Tamil poet, has said:
Uran enum tottiyan Oraindum kaappaan, varan enum vaippukkOr vithu
That is, he who uses his intellect as a goad to control his mind and the five senses is like a seed for the land of salvation itself.
Japa is meditation and its goal is a single-minded focus on the Real, the Permanent and the ultimate Truth. It is also a focus on the Self, one’s inner Atma. That single-minded focus
is what is called Samaadhi. Usually one gets a japa mantra from a guru and performs japa by chanting the mantra within one’s mind. It is a powerful technique to control one’s ever
wandering mind and to give it focus.
Verse 24
Tvayi mayi chaanyatraiko Vishnuvyartham kupyasi mayyasahishnuh
Bhava samachittah sarvatra tvam vaanchasyachiraadhyadi vishnutvam
There is but one all pervading reality (tvayi mayi anyatra ca vishnuh ekah). Unnecessarily (vyartham) you get angry (tvam kupyasi) at me (mayi). If (yadi) you desire (tvam vanchasi)
emancipation (vishnutvam) very soon (achirat), become (bhava) equipoised (samachittah) in all circumstances (sarvatra).
Anger and frustration are the result of a feeling of incompleteness and want. Their source is the ignorance of the supreme truth that one, as a manifestation of the Divine that is complete,
is indeed complete. Vishnu, the Supreme, pervades everything (veveshti iti vishnuh), and this is the basis for the assertion “That thou art (tat tvam asi)” of the Upanishads (Chandogya, 6-14-3).
A true understanding of this principle does not allow for a differentiation as you, I , and other, or as mine, yours, and others’. Therefore, one who wants to attain true liberation should
consciously practice being equipoised in all situations.
Bhagavad Gita (BG, Ch 12, Verses 13-20) in its description of the one meditating on the imperishable and dear to God lists a specific bunch of qualities. Some that are reflected in this
verse are: bearing no grudge against any being (adveshta sarvabhootanam); bearing both happiness and sorrow in equipoise (samadukkha sukha kshami); free from elation, depression, fear,
or agitation (harsha amarsha bhaya udvegairmukthah); one who has a focused mind in God (sthira mathih bhakthimaan mE). In many ways, Bhaja Govindam is a distillation of the great truths
expounded in Bhagavad Gita extensively.
(Continued in next post)

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