151. Grammar and Grace

When Sankara was residing at Varanasi (Benares city) on the Ganga with his pupils he used to visit the pundits in their own houses, and draw them into beneficial conversation on themes of philosophy. One day, when he went to a pundit, he found him immersed in complicated rules of grammar. When asked why he had taken up the intensive study of grammar, the pundit replied that it would easily fetch him a few pieces of silver. "If I am designated a pundit, I can go to the home of some big zamindars (landowners), and hope to receive alms and offerings from them, for the upkeep of my large family", he said. Sankara advised him in appropriate terms, and charged him with self-confidence and courage.

Returning to his hermitage, Sankara wrote a verse summarising the advice he gave to the poor struggling brahmin householder:

BHAJA GOVINDAM, BHAJA GOVINDAM
GOVINDAM BHAJA MUDHAMATE
SAMPRAAPTE SANNIHITE KALE
NA HI NA HI RAKSHATI DUKRINKARANE

"Praise God, Praise God, Praise God, you fool.
When death does knock at your door, rules of grammar cannot save you".

(see here all the
31 verses and listen to the refrain sung by Baba)

Sankara exhorted his pupils to disseminate the ideal of this verse, and they too, responded with verses on the same lines, each of the 14 contributing one verse. Sankara added another twelve of his own, as well as four more verses about the transformation that the teaching would confer. Thus, there are 31 verses in all, in the text called "Bhaja Govindam" or "Moha Mudgaram". The latter name means, "the weapon with which delusion can be destroyed". Each one is a step in the ladder which raises man into God.

Sankara addressed these verses to "mudhamate", "the foolish person". Now, who are these fools? He has given the answer in another context: "Nasthiko mudha uchyathe" . Those who deny the âtmâ are fools. Those who assert and believe that "I am not this perishable body; I am not this feeble intellect; I am the undying everlasting all-inclusive âtmâ" are few indeed. The vast majority assert and believe that "I am the moulder of my destiny. I am the captain of my ship. I choose my likes and dislikes. I fulfil my desires through my own efforts." These are the fools.