bg3

Translation

 Do not get infatuated seeing a lady’s bosom or navel. It is a modification of flesh, fat, etc. Reflect in your mind over and over again.

 

Interpretation

In the introductory shiksha to the Bhaja Govindam, we had spoken of the twin motivations of human beings – acquisition and enjoyment. Having addressed ‘acquisition’ in verse two, Shankara deals with the second motivation, kamini or enjoyment, here in verse three. This is the positive aspect of human motivation i.e. courting of joy or sukha prapti.

In this verse, Shankara deals with our infatuation with sense enjoyment and uses the technique of pratipaksha bhavana to overcome this infatuation. Pratipaksha bhavana is one of Shankara’s greatest contributions to Vedantic thought. It is the ability to look at the same object or situation in many different ways.

The example Shankara has taken may not seem appropriate in today’s day and age. However, we must remember that Shankara’s audiences were his young disciples who were men and the mark of a great teacher is to communicate to the audience using examples that are relevant to them. For us, the objective of studying this verse is to use pratipaksha bhavana to rise above our obsession for sense enjoyment.

Most of us have a weakness for one of the five senses. Yet, when the sense objects are broken down into their individual components, we find none of them attractive. Put together, they somehow seem to mesmerize us. Thus the enjoyment really isn’t in the object, it is in our minds. We project our enjoyment on the object when it is really self-created. Thus the happiness isn’t in the object, it is within us. This is maya, illusion. It is difficult to overcome. Hence the appeal to think over it again and again. When we see the mirage of water it is impossible to understand that it is only the play of light rays that has created the fantasy of water. We go by what we see, not realizing that the eyes deceive. Similarly we are led by the senses and the mind that see things that are not present. The glitter and allure of the world lies only in the mind. As long as we are attached to an object, it is impossible to realize the deception. It is important to always look at things from another perspective. And we will see a totally different picture.

The same is true when a person or situation agitates our minds, we need to look at it from another viewpoint and it ceases to disturb. Challenges too can be seen as an opportunity to prove our mettle or as roadblocks to our goals.

Thus Shankara appeals to us to learn the art of pratipaksha bhavana to free ourselves from the unnecessary turmoil and agitation. The way to develop this pratipaksha bhavana is to pose questions to ourselves, analyze our desires and find ways of dealing with them. It is through this process of questioning that we discover new dimensions in our spiritual search.