Bhaja Govindam Introduction and Verse 1 with story and essence


Composed by the great saint Sri Adi Shankaracharya, Bhaja Govindam is one of the most lucid yet insightful works of Vedanta.

It was on one of those days when Shankara and his disciples were travelling that they passed through Benaras, a holy city of India. Along the way, Shankara overheard an old pundit, scholar, memorising Panini’s grammar rules. He observed how the pundit memorised the grammar rules but missed the message of what he was studying and this inspired a masterful oration by Shankara that we call the Bhaja Govindam.

Verse 1

Bhajagovindam bhajagovindam
Govindam bhajamuudhamate
Sampraapte sannihite kaale
Nahi nahi rakshati dukrijnkarane

Worship Govinda; Oh foolish mind. The learnings of grammar will not help you in your last moments of life.

Story based on Verse 1

Akbar and the Sufi Saint


A great Sufi fakir once wanted some help from Emperor Akbar. He proceeded to the palace to meet Akbar. When he reached the palace; the king was in his prayer, the fakir waited patiently for the king to finish his prayers. Akbar was praying with raised hands towards the sky and asking God for more wealth and power.

Seeing this; the fakir turned away. Just then Akbar finished his prayer. He stood up and saw the fakir going out of the room. He rushed, fell to his feet and asked the purpose of his visit.

The fakir said, “I came seeking something from you but when I saw you seeking something from the Lord, I wondered what can one beggar give another one. I am a beggar, a fakir; but you are a greater beggar. I just beg for food and mundane things, but you beg for bigger things like wealth and glory. I would rather ask God directly what I need than asking to you.”

Akbar understood and realised how poor and insecure he was; though he was an Emperor



Adi Shankara questions us; what is it that we are begging for? Our begging can also be foolish. He says- fool-mudhamate; because in the very devotion if one cannot discover fulfillment, then the devotion is means to an end. Is our devotion an extension like barter system with the Lord? Adi Shankara wants us to create devotion, void of any expectation. Love directed towards Truth is bhakti. A true devotee knows and has the experience that devotion devoid of foolish desires is security in itself. All external objects do not protect us; only true devotion protects us. Yes, being in this world; one has to accomplish his material needs as well; but along with it true devotion is very important for one to know the difference between need and greed which causes insecurity and unhappiness throughout one’s life as well as at one’s last moments.

For students

Education should be for life and not mere living. What is the difference? There is indeed a lot of difference. The formal or secular education can make one an intellectual, wise and full of knowledge; but is that mere information or knowledge enough? It can help one live in this material world but what about the inner world within us? So students; along with this worldly knowledge attain the spiritual knowledge as well. This will help you to develop inner strength, realise your true strength and potential which will not only help you in this worldly life but also guide you in every step of your life ultimately making you realise who you really are?

Adapted from Bhaja Govindam by Swami Sukhbodananda



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