Bhaja Govindam- Verse 16 with story and essence


Verse 16

Agre Vahnih Prsthe Bhanuh

Ratrau Cubukasamarpitajanuh


Tadapi Na Muncatyasapasah

Bhaja Govindam Bhaja Govindam

In front of the fire, at the back of the sun, late at night he sits with his knees held to his chin; he receives alms in his own scooped palm and lives under the shelter of some tree, and yet the noose of desire spares him not. O Foolish mind; Seek Govinda !

Story based on Verse 16

Vithoba found Namdev had not yet realised the Supreme Truth and wanted to teach him. When Jnaneswar and Namdev returned from their pilgrimage, Gora Kumbhar gave a feast to all the saints in his place and among them were Jnaneswar and Namdev. At the feast Jnaneswar, in collusion with Gora, told Gora publicly, “You are a potter, daily engaged in making pots and testing them to see which are properly baked and which are not. These pots before you (i.e., the saints) are the pots of Brahma. See which of these are sound and which not.”

Thereupon Gora said, “Yes, Swami, I shall do so,” and took up the stick with which he used to tap his pots to test their soundness. Holding it aloft in his hand he went to each of his guests and tapped each on the head as he usually did to his pots. Each guest humbly submitted to such tapping. But when Gora approached Namdev, the latter indignantly called out, “You potter, what do you mean by coming to tap me with that stick?” Gora thereupon told Jnaneswar, “Swami, all the other pots have been properly baked. This one (i.e. Namdev) alone is not yet properly baked.” All the assembled guests burst into laughter.


Namdev felt greatly humiliated and ran up to Vitthala (the deity he worshipped) with whom he was on the most intimate terms, playing with him, eating with him, sleeping with him and so on. Namdev complained of this humiliation which had happened to him, the closest friend and companion of Vitthala. Vitthala (who of course knew all this) pretended to sympathise with him, asked for all the details of the happenings at Gora’s house and after hearing everything said, “Why should you not have kept quiet and submitted to the tapping, as all the others did? That is why all this trouble has come.” Thereupon Namdev cried all the more and said, “You also want to join the others and humiliate me. Why should I have submitted like the others? Am I not your closest friend, your child?” Vitthala said, “You have not yet properly understood the truth, and you won’t understand if I tell you. But go to the saint who is in a ruined temple in such and such a forest. He will be able to give you enlightenment.”

Namdev accordingly went there and found an old, unassuming man sleeping in a corner of the temple with his feet on a Sivalingam. Namdev could hardly believe this was the man from whom he – the companion of Vitthala – was to gain enlightenment. However, as there was none else there, Namdev went near the man and clapped his hands. The old man woke up with a start and seeing Namdev, said, “Oh – you are Namdev whom Vitthala has sent here. Come!” Namdev was dumbfounded and began to think, “This must be a great man.” Still he thought it was revolting that any man however great, should be resting his feet on a lingam. He asked the old man, “You seem to be a great personage. But is it proper for you to have your feet on a lingam?” The old man replied, “Oh, are my feet on a lingam? Where is it? Please remove my feet elsewhere.” Namdev removed the feet and put them in various places. Wherever they were put, there was a Sivalingam. Finally, he took them on his lap and he himself became a Sivalingam! Then he realised the truth and the old gentleman said, “Now you can go back.”

In the story above; “It is to be noted that only when he surrendered himself, and touched the feet of his guru, enlightenment came. After this final enlightenment Namdev returned to his house and for some days did not go to Vitthala at the temple, though it had been his habit not only to visit Vitthala every day, but to spend most of his time with Vitthala at the temple. So, after a few days, Vitthala went to Namdev’s house and like a guileless soul, enquired how it was that Namdev had forgotten him and never visited him. Namdev replied, ‘No more of your fooling me. I know now. Where is the place where you are not! To be with you, should I go to the temple? Do I exist apart from you?’ Then Vitthala said, ‘So you now understand the truth. That is why you had to be sent for this final lesson’.”

The external rituals of going on a pilgrimage, doing charity, reading scriptures equip one with discipline, faith, patience etc which are essential for purification of mind but the real essential practice is true wisdom for which one has to know the self. One who knows the self is not bound by false. The ignorant are clouded by the ego. The ego is a substitute self and not the real self. EGO is Edging God Out. As we are not aware of our true state, there is presence of ego. The absence of true Self creates the presence of the false self.

However good we are externally; if we still have ego within which clouds us; we will keep on having more desires. The Master says; one must work on this and come out of the false Self to the true Self so, O foolish mind; seek Govinda.

For Students

This story on Guru can help students understand the role a Guru plays in the life of a student

Correct understanding of the rituals, sacred texts etc is essential. When students are taught values, culture, rituals etc; the guru or teacher should lead through example. Prayers should be offered to the Divine for showing gratitude and not merely asking God to fulfil one’s desires. Silent sitting is important to develop concentration, develop quietness of mind. The significance of rituals like lighting lamp should be explained by the teacher as dispelling darkness through light and removing negativity through positive thoughts. They should be taught to Love God and not fear Him. This way the Guru starts sowing the seeds of good values in the students which will later help them in their spiritual path as and when they are ready for it. So a right teacher or Guru goes a long way in guiding the student in the right path.


Story- Spiritual stories as told by Ramana Maharishi

Essence adapted from Bhaja Govindam by Swami Sukhbodananda


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