‘Ga’ denotes Buddhi (intellect), ‘Na’ symbolises for Vijnana (knowledge) and ‘pati’ means leader. This makes Ganapati the master of wisdom and intellect. Isn’t it an irony then that, today we perform Ganesh puja without actually understanding His form or its significance. Why is he half man half animal and yet considered divine? Why is he so big and yet riding on a meek mouse? Big stomach, broken tusks, modak (sweet) in his hand and a snake around his belly; His form has indeed been amusement to some, a target of criticism for some and certainly a mystery to many .
The physical attributes of Ganesha are replete with spiritual symbolisms. Ancient seers of the Vedic times, in their deep wisdom, chose to embody their learning in symbols and forms, to define the formless through the form. Words change over time while symbols outlast time itself. Words leave nothing for the seeker to find while forms can be understood by people of all ages, universally, depending on the stage of their spiritual progress.
Here is our humble attempt to present to you our understanding of the divine energy; Ganesha, in the hope that we all carry this wisdom with us as we celebrate this festival. The worship of Ganesha is not the worship of an idol but a prayer to the Universal energy to imbibe in us the positive qualities He represents.
“Viyate Nayake Iti Vinayaka” – Vinayaka is he who is a master unto Himself. He is the true leader.
1. THE BIG HEAD OF AN ELEPHANT – THINK BIG
The big head of an elephant kept on a human body suggests how we should ideally function; wisdom and intellect – Elephants have the largest brain of all land animals and are accepted amongst the world’s most intelligent species. Along with the intelligence an elephant has also been known for its wisdom. A leader likewise, must possess wide understanding but also have a discriminating intellect.
Power and compassion – An elephant is affectionate, loyal, kind, (eating no meat) gentle and yet powerful beyond comparison, destroying forests and armies.
Relentless determination – When Faced with obstacles, they neither sidestep them nor are deterred by them. They simply remove them and forge ahead. It suggests us to be strong enough to face life’s challenges while retaining the sensitivities to explore our inner world.
2. SMALL EYES – SEE THE BIGGER PICTURE
While an elephant has small eyes and poor vision it also has the natural ability to see things bigger than they actually are. This is a suggestion to us to not pay so much attention to the visual world as it can often misinterpret realities and even when we do to see the whole picture.
3. LARGE EARS – LISTEN MORE
The ears of the elephant are used to funnel in sound waves from the environment, contributing to its keen sense of hearing. Likewise we need to listen a lot, to many people, winnow out the unnecessary and then assimilate our own ideas.
4.THE FLEXIBLE TRUNK – BE ADAPTABLE
An elephant’s trunk is one of the most versatile instrument known; performing gross and subtle actions both. It is strong enough to push 600 kg logs while also sensitive enough to be able to pick up a small coin off the ground. He can use its trunk to caress and play and also destroy. It teaches that a true leader must have both intellectual discrimination (vivek), adaptability and strength
5. WIDE MOUTH – CELEBRATE LIFE
Natural desire to enjoy life in the physical world.
6. BROKEN TUSK – BE FREE FROM ORDERLINESS
Two tusks symbolise opposites – good and bad, emotion and logic etc. Ganesh with his one broken or removed tusk denotes a rise from dualities. It teaches us to think beyond the parameters of black and white and instead transcend over them for it is only when we cease to conform and be bound to the play of opposites will we be free to appreciate universal oneness.
7. BIG STOMACH – BE BIG HEARTED
A true leader must be able ‘to stomach’; absorb and digest all the trials and tribulations of the world and the capacity to remain composed through the good and the bad. It also suggests to ‘have a stomach’ to keep in confidence all the confiding of people.
8. THE FOUR HANDS – THINK ON ALL LEVELS
His four arms indicate that He is present in all directions. They stand for the four forms of the subtle or inner mind; Mana (mind), Buddhi (intellect), Chitta (memory/consciosness) and Ahamkara (ego) and the objects how to control these;-
- The axe bearing hand – dissolution of the ego; the anushka (elephant goad) represents the destruction of the ego and desires while prodding us on towards righteousness and truth
- The noose bearing hand – control of the mind; the pasha (noose) symbolises the rope of spiritual wisdom, the force that will remove us from the material world and its attachments. The rope ties down the wild elephant-like mind which runs from here to there. It controls and tames it.
- The lotus bearing hand – awakening of the consciousness; the padma denotes the divine state of being, that every aspirant seeks for consciously and unconsciously. Just as thelotus blooms unaffected even in dirty waters, similarly, we must strive, to enjoy life and yet be above it all by identifying with our inner realised Self.
- The blessing hand – abhaya mudra blesses the seeker on his pursuit of intellect and offers refuge and protection
9. MODAKA SWEET– SEEK THE REWARD OF PENANCE
The sweet Modaka, derives its name from ‘moda’ which means bliss and ‘ka’ means a small part or cavity. Its shape resembles a coconut, a hard exterior with an inner cavity. The hard exterior denotes the difficulties one must overcome to reach the inner bliss. The tip of the modak is narrow similar to spiritual knowledge at start. However when one seeks deeper and the kundalini (spiritual energy) reaches the ‘kha’ cavity, the spiritual experience of bliss is obtained (the sweet filling in the modak). It’s pure white exterior symbolizes spiritual knowledge and being held in Sri Ganesha’s hand signifies the reward or sweet fruits of sadhana, spiritual pursuit.
10. MASHAKA MOUSE – RIDE THE DESIRES BUT KEEP THEM IN CONTROL
From the Sanskrit- “mus” – meaning “to steal”, the Musuka has been likened to the rats in our lives (problems, irritations, issues), the insatiable thieves who gnaw into our sense of well being and steal our peace. It represents;
* base desires (Vaasana) that can distract us and sitting at Ganesha’s feet shows that they must to be overcome
* symbol of darkness (since nocturnal) and Ganesha represents knowledge which brings light
* ego that can nibble all that is good and noble in a person, Ganesha, riding atop him denotes conquest over egoism to attain wisdom.
* finally, as rats generally succeed in gnawing their way through every obstruction, as His vehicle, he symbolises Ganesha’s ability to destroy every obstacle.
11. TRAY OF LADOOS WITH THE MOUSE LOOKING ON
A mouse gazing at the sweets placed by Ganesha’s foot, but not consuming them indicates ego that has been controlled and that can remain unaffected by material temptations. The sweets represent wealth, power and prosperity and their place at His foot denote that if you do live a life of high ideals & principals, these material benefits will always be available for you. The lesson is not to be attached to them.
12. ONE LEG FOLDED AND ONE RESTING ON GROUND – AIM FOR THE SKY WHILE REMAINIING ROOTED
The foot on the ground tells us that while we must remain in the world we must continuously seek to align with our inner self (the pointing upwards folded foot). We must strive for unwavering focus on our higher aims of existence. Our spiritual goals.
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