Ganesha is the first deity to which all devout Hindus pray. The Spiritual Beings of Hinduism can be looked at in several ways. First, these richly carved images may be viewed as simply great works of art which in itself elevates one's consciousness into the more refined areas of the mind. Second, these profound spiritual images may be looked to as symbolic representations of spiritual qualities to which one aspires. And, thirdly, they may be focused on as representative images of Spiritual Beings to be contacted.
Just as all religions have their unique characteristics and individuals within them, all spiritual/religious traditions have their respective Spiritual Beings that reside on the subtle spirit plane. Through specific devotions and meditation,these spiritual realities can be and are contacted by millions of people within their respective spiritual/religious traditions. On the eternal spiritual journey, the wise aspirant recognizes the benefit of a support group in both the physical and spiritual realms. With these thoughts in mind, let us turn our attention to the "Hindus best friend" Ganesha.
In understanding the symbolism of this MahaDeva ("Great Shinning One"), we appreciate the wisdom in first beseeching this primal Deity. Perhaps the first observation is the apparent paradox of an "elephant-headed Deity" on a human body. To the "first-timer," this figure is, admittedly, a bit humorous, to say the least. But humor is a profound lesson in itself and one that accompanies this jovial MahaDeva. What a great "ice-breaker" for the all-too serious student of theology! However, there is a profound lesson in understanding one's animal and human nature and realizing the "interconnectedness" of all things. ~ Elephants are most wonderful creatures. They love the earth. They love their families. They also work well with humans. Elephants are powerful and gentle and vegetarian :)–all basic and beneficial qualities to emulate. This is good Karma (Yoga)–a solid foundation.
The elephant's trunk is a most amazing evolutionary creation. The trunk is, simultaneously, strong, flexible and sensitive (with the tip, they can pick up a thin coin). Incorporating these three qualities into all aspects of one's life, makes for a successful and "sweet" experience. Ganesha's trunk often points to the Lodhu or sweet treats of which Ganesha is so fond. Someone went to an auction, and the auctioneer held up a Ganesha statue. The auctioneer said: "I don't know what this is, but I have to be honest and tell you that it has one broken tusk!" Of course, it is supposed to be that way. The broken tusk represents both humility and self-less service. The story is told of Ganesha taking dictation for Sage Vyasa as he helped write the Mahabharata. Ganesha's stylus broke, and he immediately broke his tusk (a most prized possession) and using this for a "pen" continued his self-less task.
Ganesha's large ears remind one to always listen and to be on the alert for receiving spiritual teachings. The continual fanning motion of the ears (that elephants use to cool themselves) is representative of the cooling breeze of spiritual vibrations as they waft over the devoted. The rhythmic motion of the elephant as it gracefully sways from side-to-side (perhaps listening to some inner tune) is also understood by the devotee caught in a swoon of spiritual ecstasy.
In one hand, Ganesha holds the goad or mace for removing obstacles. As Vigneshvara, Ganesha is considered the remover of obstacles. In other words, not only in focusing on the spirit are many of life's obstacles cleared but also in understanding the specific symbolism and being of Ganesha does one remove the impediments that block spiritual progress. In Ganesha's other hand, he holds the rope which is symbolic of both holding Spiritual-Reality close and being drawn close to Spiritual-Reality.
Ganesha's big belly reminds us to seek fullness or contentment. Often Ganesha sits with one foot up and one foot down. This is the profound symbolism of a balanced and practical spiritual life. One keeps one "foot" in the world performing one's necessary duties and obligations while keeping the other "foot" tucked up into Spiritual-Awareness. And, Ganesha's little friend the mouse (Mushika Vahana) teaches us both the lesson of humility (Mushika pauses and prays before eating the sweet) as well as grace and confidence. Just as the little mouse knows the inner workings of the house moving often without detection, the mature devote realizes that the Divine is always working and moving through all things.
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