Saturday, August 22, 2020

The Inner story of Sri Ganesha

Today is Ganesh Chaturthi,

The story goes that Goddess Parvati creates a young boy out of her being, and asks him to stand guard as she takes a bath. The boy follows the command implicitly. When Lord Shiva comes he is prevented by the boy from meeting Goddess Parvati. Lord Shiva reasons, but the boy is unwilling to listen. A terrible fight ensues, at the end of which the boys head is cut off. Goddess Parvati emerges and upon learning of the situation, clarifies the truth. Thereupon, Lord Shiva revitalizes the boy and replaces his head with an elephant head, and thus we have Lord Ganesha, who now understands the truth, and they live happily ever after!

This story of Ganesha is well know, but not well understood. Majority of devotees accept the story form as is; the ignorant make fun of it; the wise, who understand the deeper significance of what the story represents, are the ones who make optimal use of it. Rishis, who composed or rather codified the purans, humanized this story which is full of spiritual significance, to enable humanity to understand it.  On this day while we celebrate this festival, let us understand the inner significance of the occasion to make optimal use of it.

Goddess Parvati, who is Shakti - whose energy is the source of all creation, creates the boy who represents an individual soul - the ego. Her taking a bath and making him stand guard is symbolic of empowering the ego energy of protecting and sustaining her leisure time, her leela. Lord Shiva represents the ultimate truth, the boundless supreme reality. Shiva and Shakti belong together. When Lord Shiva arrives, the boy - Ego, does not recognize him and prevents him from disturbing Shakti from her leisure time. This means that when the higher truth dawns on man, his ego prevents him from disturbing the process of illusion that the individual is engaged in.

This has to be seen from a yogic perspective. Goddess Parvati represents Shakti in form of the sacred Kundalini force residing in the muladhara chakra of a man, that enables the individual to live. According to the yogic science Lord Ganesha is the Lord of the muladhara chakra. Lord Shiva is the highest spiritual truth that dawns on man, that comes home to Shakti, since they belong together. The boy, representing the individual ego in a state of delusion, does his duty from place of ignorance. The fight between Truth and ignorance ensues, represents the spiritual battle that each sadhaka undergoes until Lord Shiva using his trident and slays the Ego /head of the individual. When Shiva and Shakti meet, truth emerges, and Lord Shiva replaces the head of the boy with an elephants head.

The elephants large head is again symbolic of vaster understanding. The boy is now Sri Ganesha, embodiment of wisdom, who acknowledges the reality of Shiva Shakti, as his own source, his father and mother. Since Lord Ganesha resides in the muladhara chakra from where the spiritual journey begins, He is the first to be worshipped, and in that sense he is also a Guru - one who shows light. Lord Ganesha’s awakening happens in the highest spiritual sense, at a cosmic level. Through this process of awakening He becomes aware of all truths that can help any person also awaken. Hence He is blessed to be a vighna vinashaka, remover of obstacles. But does he remove only spiritual obstacles as against the thousands of prayers that humans send him each day to alleviate them from worldly burdens? The desires of the world are also spiritual desires except in a crude and sleeping form. Lord Ganesha removes these obstacles not so that a human can life a happy life in the world for eternity but rather so that having a desire fulfilled man can see that worldly desires cannot give lasting joys as presumed and this encourages man to finally undertake his spiritual journey, the key purpose of his life. 

Today we celebrate the Ganesh Chaturthi, ignorant of the Ganesha principle. Many focus on outer show, flouting all rules regarding rupa principles of Ganesha, the materials to be used in making the murti, and complete disregard for water and noise pollution that always accompany this sacred festival. We have come a long way off from the times when devotees would lovingly create small murtis from the clay at the river bank and at the end of the festival depot the clay back into the river. 

So what does Ganesha chaturthi symbolise in simple terms? Just as on a dark cloudy day the sun may suddenly shine through parted clouds and illuminate the whole earth; similarly on this sacred occasion energy of Ganesha becomes available to humanity a thousand fold from normal times. A human, pursuing ultimate success in his evolution, can “attune” with this energy  of Sri Ganesha by sincere inner Sadhana and seek aid in removal of obstacles and blessings at all levels of existence.

Om Eka-dantaya Vidmahe,

Vakratundaya Dheemahi,

Tanoh Dantih Prachodayat.

I am now aware of the single tusked One

And meditate upon the Lord with the curved tusk 

May the Tusked One illuminate me.

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