(Understandings from Swami Mitrananda’s talk to Yuva Veers of Youth Empowerment Program 6thbatch)
Once when Shankaracharya was travelling along with his disciples in Kashi, he saw a very old man sitting and learning one of the rules of Panini’s grammar (called Dugrin Karane). At that age, instead of meditating upon the Lord and seeking the Lord, the person was learning grammar rules. In fact, we can see people like that, and it was quite common at that time, who learn things not for himself but to proclaim to the others that he too knows the subject. On seeing this, Shankara couldn’t control himself and thundered the verses of Bhaja Govindam which conveys highest philosophical truths and gives answers to questions like What is the purpose of life? Why should we learn Self-Knowledge? How to attain spiritual enlightenment?, etc.
Bhaja Govindam Bhaja Govindam, Govindam Bhaja Moodhamate
Samprapte sannihite kale nahi nahi rakshati dugrinkarane || 1 ||
Meaning: Seek Govind, Seek Govind, Seek Govind, Oh Fool!
When life comes to an end, never never can material knowledge help you out.
‘Govind’ in this context refers to the ‘Truth’ (Para Vidya) and Dugrinkarane refers to material knowledge (Apara Vidya). In the days of Gurukula, a student was taught both Para Vidya (Knowledge of the Self) and Apara Vidya. Apara Vidya is important for making a living in this world and Para Vidya is what helps a person face challenges in life.
Today, all the Universities are teaching only Apara Vidya (how to earn a living). But when we are not taught how to face challenges like loss of a family member or betrayal of a business partner or if everything is lost in a natural disaster. When such calamities occur in life, a person is totally shattered. He doesn’t know what to do? Many people are never able to come out of the shock even after years. There are many people whom the society considers to be very successful because they have made good money, earned fame, have all the comforts in the society. But are all these people really happy? We hear about film actors, sports personalities, scientists, doctors who commit suicide because they fail to face a challenge in life. Of what use, then, has our education been to them? Charlie Chaplin, an actor who could make the audience laugh by his mere presence, had a very miserable personal life. He was a very unhappy man. To the world, he was successful but to himself, he was a big failure in life. The great tennis champion Andre Agassi writes in his autobiography that he hated tennis throughout his life. It was due to his father’s pressure on him in school that he started playing tennis. But even after becoming the world champion, he didn’t like the sport. His body had to go to severe strain because of this. To the world, he was a successful personality. History of sports might carry his name for many years. But to him, he had an unhappy life and an unhappy career. What a tragedy!
To handle such adverse situations in life, Para Vidya is very essential. The scriptures do not only talk about God or different types of worshipping, but it deals with such questions like ‘What is death’, ‘How can we maintain our poise and happiness at all times’. It teaches us how to face life without collapsing at any tragedy. Otherwise, when our lives come towards the end, what would be left with us is feelings of regret, remorse, fear, etc.