Religion is not in the rules of grammar, it is in singing the song of the divine. And it is not in your song of the divine; when even the song is lost, only you are left. When all words disappear, only an emptiness surrounds you. You don’t even speak because there is no need to speak to existence; it knows without your speaking. Your speaking is not going to add anything more to this knowing, and anyway, what can you say? Whatever you say will be nothing but your crying, and if unhappiness is to be conveyed then it is better to convey it through crying, because only your tears will be able to express what your words cannot.
How can you express your gratitude in words? Words are too small and gratitude is too vast, it cannot be contained in words, it can be expressed only by dancing. If there is nothing to be said, then it is better to remain quiet so that the divine may speak and you may listen.
Bhajan, devotional singing, kirtan, divine songs and dance – these are the means of expressing the feelings. Shankara is hinting that without saying anything you yourself should become a song, a divine song. These verses are very simple, these sutras are direct, and they are written by a genius like Shankara. In the whole of Shankara’s literature there is nothing more precious than Bhaj Govindam. Shankara is basically a philosopher. Whatever he has written is very complex; it is all words, scriptures, logic, analysis and thinking. But Shankara knows that godliness cannot be attained through logic, analysis and thinking; the way to attain is to dance and sing – through feeling and not through thinking.
The path of Shankara’s realization is through the heart and not through the head. That is why, although Shankara has written commentaries on the Brahmasutra, the Upanishads and the Gita, you will find his innermost feelings expressed in these small verses; here he has opened his heart. Here Shankara doesn’t speak like a scholar or a thinker, here he expresses himself like a devotee.
Oh fool! Sing the song of the divine, sing the song of the divine, because at the time of death the memorization of grammar will not save you.
Oh fool! Sing the song of the divine. What is the foolishness? Shankara is not calling you names by addressing you as “fool.” In fact it is a very loving expression. Oh fool! Sing the song of the divine, sing the song of the divine, sing the song of the divine.
What is the meaning of foolishness? Try to understand it. Foolishness doesn’t mean ignorance. To be a fool means to think yourself to be knowledgeable when you are ignorant. It is the scholars who are the fools and not the ignorant ones. Why call the ignorant, fools? The ignorant is just ignorant; he doesn’t know, that is all. It has happened many times that the ignorant one has come to know and the knowledgeable one has not reached anywhere, because the one who doesn’t know has no ego, he is humble. Since he doesn’t know, he doesn’t make any claim to know. But the scholar who doesn’t know, thinks that he knows. Because he has learned words and scriptures and he can repeat the rules of grammar, he gets lost in all these things.
There is a Sufi story.