Sunday, April 18, 2010


Demystifying Shri Ganesha



Date: June 30th 2005

Some of us Hindus celebrated Ganesh Jayanti or Shri Ganesha's birthday on the 12th of February 2005. One wonders what the difference is between Ganesha Jayanti and Ganesha Chaturthi (Bhadrapad Shukla Chaturthi), or the Sankashta Harana Chaturthi which comes once every month. Shri Ganesha is worshipped with sixteen different offerings. It is, of course, a mythological event of a "birth" with a mythological date. Ten days of Ganesh Chaturthi are thus set aside every year to remember Him reverently, glorify Him, and worship Him besides the two conjectural birthdays mentioned above.

According to our ancient Indian philosophy Shri Ganesha is the first "shabda" (AUM) or vibrations manifested when the manifest Universe begins. Hence, He is associated with the "beginning." Some people have loosely described him as the "Lord of Beginning." The word "shabda" is usually wrongly translated as the "word" or "sound." These "vibrations," that are ubiquitous in the Universe, are not mythological entities but verifiable someday perhaps with modern scientific sensing techniques that can be extended far beyond the human senses. However, the attribution of a quality of supreme knowledge and primordial design of the multidimensional universe as "information" in invisible form entailed in this entity of "vibrations" is still difficult for the human mind, trained in modern science (which sees the intellect as a faculty of the mind, which is in turn the function of the human brain and, therefore, a by-product of the physico-chemical processes in the nerve cells or biological entities, etc.) to comprehend. The presence of the Universal Intelligence as preceding the emergence of life in the universe is difficult for the scientifically trained mind to comprehend and fathom. It is like the drop of ocean water attempting to comprehend the magnificence of the entire body of ocean waters on the earth and realize that the drop is made of the same substance. It is quite possible that the human intelligence which is no doubt quite amazing in its capabilities is only a miniscule drop in the ocean of the Universal Intelligence though sharing some of its elementary qualities in minutiae. In a circular argument human intelligence which is the product of the human brain that is a supreme example of what the supreme Universal intelligence could design and produce if one could attribute intentionality to the Universal Intelligence. Therefore, the Vedic culture appropriately recognizes this problem and assigns this form of knowledge a different category known as "para" (roughly equated with "meta") "vidya" (roughly translated as knowledge or the intellectual or meditative processes entailed in acquiring knowledge or "jnaana")(Such knowledge is theoretically not entirely based on the information processing at the cognitive level or through the left cerebral hemisphere of the human brain. The faculty responsible for this and other human knowledge is termed "Dhee." Please see "Dhee:The Essence of Hinduness" on : for Part I and for Part II

Therefore, the sincere students who truly want to understand these esoteric concepts of Vedic philosophy or "vedic science" need to have the intellectual honesty to accept the limitations of the human brain and mind in conceptualizing the essence of the true nature of the Universe with their "acquired" crystallized intelligence or cognitive pragmatism which is generally used to analyze and comprehend other usual and familiar subjects in the human affairs. The modern physics and psychology, or even psychoanalytic thinking, even if these are correctly applied, (they are often misapplied, as for example, by the infamous Paul Courtright and Wendy Doniger, as well as a bunch of Emory and Chicago University cadre) are not amenable to fathom the depths of the (ultimately scientific) "truths" that are beyond the dimensions of the time-space-mass-energy-mind-dimension-complex. Simply put, the current cultural and scientific software, available to the human brains, with all due respect to the advances of the so-called Western science, is not equipped to comprehend this "greatest shabda" which is the beginning of the Universe with all of its order, beauty, magnificence, creativity, as well as the chaos, disorder, destruction and dissolution, all programmed into this incomprehensible "shabdabrahma" which was identified with the sound "OM," which in turn may have the closest resonance with the original shabdabrahma, which does not require the presence of air to vibrate and exist, as it predates the origin of air.

This "shabdabrahma" is termed "pranava" or "om-kara." "Pranava," because it is not only the primordial ("beeja"-seed- or aadibeeja) universe, but it is also the entity from which all life energy, "Prana" (bioelectric energy) emerges. The ancient Tantric philosophers were ingenious in using symbols that had the power to reach the deepest layers of the human mind and they were also expert iconographers with enormous creativity that would capture the fancy of multitude of generations that had a sincere desire to be curious about the nature of the Universe. They also understood the meditative techniques that could be used successfully to gain insight into the "para-vidya" and hence they transformed "OM" first into a symbol and then anthropomorphized it into an image for personal and group worship (and of course, meditation). They built this image into a mythological human form with a head that had resemblance to the elephant head. This created the mystique of the form of Shri Ganesha which baffled many Indian and Western scholars who had no access to the original Tantric esoteric or arcane knowledge.

As they have done it with their concrete and limited minds, sometimes with deliberate ulterior motive to demean, and take a pejorative view of the Hindu culture, or sometimes out of mere ignorance, they have turned Shri Hanumana into the "Monkey God" and Shri Ganesha into the "Elephant God" of the "Hindus." The reason to place quotation marks around the word Hindus is that the word "Hindu" did not exist when the concept of "OM" and "Shri Ganesha and Ganapati" emerged in ancient India. Many uninformed Hindus have learned about their culture and their religion from these erroneous English or European translations that are essentially demeaning or ignorant representations of their Hindu culture, religion, and their Hindu objects of worship which are naturally merely viewed as "curiosities" by the Westerners who did not have any respect for the profound philosophy or the insights into the cosmogony that the ancient Indian Vedic culture had elaborated over the ages, leave alone any reverence.

'Om-kara' personified is Shri Ganesha. It is also known as 'Pranava' or a precursor of 'Praan Shakti', at the beginning of the creation. It emerged from Sadashiva, (sada) "always" only pure consciousness (shiva), who is always in meditation (limitless potential energy of creation that is supposed to be forever in meditation, undisturbed by it all while creating and dissolving) and his consort Shakti or Parvati (the energy of creation) which is the origin of all that is manifest as matter, time-space and energy complex to the humans. The manifest Universe emerges from the combination of Shiva and Shakti through the "birth" of Shabdabrahama "OM" represented by Shri Ganesha.

In Dnyanaeshwary, which is the Marathi representation of (commentary on) Shri Bhagwat Gita written by Santa Dnyanaeshwara, while saluting Shri Ganesha at the beginning of the first chapter, Dyanaeshwara describes Him in Marathi language thus:

"A-kaara Charan yugala/ Uu-kara udara visha(a)la/ Ma-kaara
mahamandala/ mastakakaren/ He tinhi ekavatale/
Tithen Shabdabrahma kavalalen/ Ten miyan Shree Gurukrupa
Namilen/ Aadibeeja/"

Santa Dnyanaeshwara says describing the form (roopa) of Shri Ganesha: "The vowel or the sound of 'a' are your two legs. Vowel or sound of 'u' is your huge abdomen. Letter or consonant of 'm' is the enormous shape of your head. These three sounds merged together and limitless energy of the greatest shabda emerged. It is concentrated in the shape of your face. I witnessed it with the help of the great blessings from my Guru (spiritual teacher)- Santa Nivruttinatha. That is the original seed of creation." (This, of course, is an approximate translation as all translations in English for such quotations normally are.) Without the basic knowledge of the "beejaksharas" and concept of "Aadi" as the beginning in the non-linear concept of cyclic time, etc., the translation in itself sounds very concrete for the uninitiated.

In Vedic philosophy the "time" is a function of the manifest universe and therefore, a secondary quality of the universe and is a concept that becomes amenable for cognition only after the beginning is initiated by Shakti-Prakriti-Kali.(Interesting that Prakriti which is necessary for time to become an entity or a dimention is called Kaali and time is "kaala.") One cannot "go back in time" and catch the moment of "creation." Time does not exist without space, matter, and energy, and presence of time pre-supposes some motion of one entity relative to another. When the Universe "jagat" becomes manifest something that is born or emerging, "ja," immediately, as it were, almost simultaneously acquires motion, "gat," and therefore, the entire universe qualifies for the term "jagat." To understand the true nature of the Universal Consciousness, the Human Consciousness has to go beyond or cut through the "Moola-Prakriti" by meditating on the primordial Universal Shabdabrahman "OM." This process is known in Yoga as "pratiprasava." It literally means retracing steps of the process of emergence of human consciousness. (Retracing the ontogenesis of Human Consciousness back in opposite direction to "Sad-Chid-Aananda,"--- the human awareness or "chitta" being a mere reflection or a derivative of the "Chid" nature of the Brahman.) Opposite of "jagat" or "jaga" is "gaja" a word that curiously stands for the "elephant." The Tantric mystics had a message beyond the simple coincidence that the symbol "OM" turned 90 degrees clockwise assumed the likeness (or the shape) of the elephant's head with a twisted curved trunk -"vakratunda." Meditating on "OM" can lead to the identification with the Universal or Cosmic Consciousness.

Such identification can occur only in the Fourth state of Consciousness or "Turiya." This state of consciousness is experienced as the most enjoyable bliss (and therefore, "Modaka"- that which gives bliss and joy- is the name given to the sweet pastry which is offered and is in the hand of Shri Ganesha.)

The secret message of the Tantrik Ganesha image and its birth on the fourth day of the Lunar calendar every month is that the Vedic culture values the emergence of this "fourth" state of consciousness in which as if the Ganesha is potentially born in any human mind. The Hindus and the followers of the Vedic or Hindu culture (Jains, Buddhists,and Sikhs) revere Ganesha as the Ultimate Absolute or the Shabdabrahma and the Hindus worship Him on the Chaturthi of every Shukla paksha or the fourth day of the waxing moon every month. The fourth day of the waxing Moon in the Lunar calendar symbolically represents "Turiya" and is a reminder of the fourth state of consciousness.

Thus can be explained the mythology of the birth of Shri Ganesha on the "chaturthi" and the mythology of the date of his birth. There is no pain or suffering once the Cosmic consciousness is attained. Since the cosmic consciousness figuratively "rules over" all the order and chaos in the universe, it is also capable of relieving all discomfort, remove all obstacles, and establish harmony and bring all processes to complete fruition. Such interpretation will throw light on the concept of the loosely translated words as "vighnaharta" and "vighnakarta" as the remover of obstacles who can also pose obstacles. The appelation Vinaayaka is a distortion of the word Vighna-Nayaka or controller of Vighnas or obstacles. There is no "trickery" here. This Universe comes with its "baggage" of order and chaos. There is no human value system to be projected on the Cosmic Consciousness which is beyond all three Gunas. These three gunas are Satva (negative entropy, order, purity, harmony and beauty, etc.), Rajas (dynamism, motion, ambition, competence, etc.) and Tamas, (darkness, disorder, chaos, ignorance, entropy, dissolution, and destruction,etc.). These are the all three qualities(Gunas)of Prakriti(Nature).

Sankata Hara Chaturthi is an opportunity presented every month for contemplation on the above clarified concepts that are very profound and when meditated upon may likely yield immense benefits for internal peace for those who understand Shri Ganesha and what he stands for. For those with limited minds like that of Paul Courtright, Shri Ganesha is only an "elephant headed God" with a proboscis which in contrast to its true strength in the animal world is chosen by Paul Coutright to be viewed as a "limp" organ. Paul Courtright has taken the liberty to project his own vulgar fantasies on this "elephant's head and proboscis" to depict his utter ignorance of the arcane and esoteric noble knowledge conveyed by the symbol "OM" and its anthromorphic representation in Shri Ganesha.

Let us illustrate how the two vowels and one consonant merge into Shri Ganesha's shape (see accompanying image: Graphic OM). Please see the image beside this
article on .

Now adorn this figure with clothes and ornaments and Aayudhas meaning weapons each one of which also has its symbolic meaning in the "para vidya" which incidentally does not yield usually to psychoanalytic interpretation though no one can stop anyone from interpreting any symbol with any psychoanalytic jargon. This article will not go into elaborating the meanings of all the Aayudhas or the Mushaka vahana of Shri Ganesha (the meaning of the mouse on which He rides) and reserve those explanations for a future article.

Thus "Lord" Shri Ganesha is Shabda Brahma, i.e., the cosmic vibratory energy on the continuum of electromagnetic waves intuitively perceived by human meditating mind as waves of sound and not necessarily auditorily "heard," although some yogis will get engrossed in the "naada" of OM after constantly meditating on the sound of OM. He is also the Aadibeeja or the original seed of energy which is the egg of Creation where there is a perpetual action of creation along with dissolution and every conceivable action in between.

Shri Ganesha has limitless attributes because He is "Tat" or that total manifest and non-manifest Brahman, e.g., "Twam Sarvam Khalu Idam Brahmaasi, Twam Sakshaat (d) Aatmaasi Nityam". Various shlokas or stuties attempt to describe him and admit to his limitlessness that is hard to fathom. It is, therefore, somewhat meaningless for us, who cannot fully comprehend Shri Ganesha,to believe that he existed and exists in a human form and he took birth on a particular day and actually had a brother, mother, and a father, etc., and believe in all the mythological stories that have been accretions around his legends as anything more than an attempt to simplify the most profound philosophy for the simple-minded. These stories are concrete and thus can be fascinating for child-like minds and sometimes quite confusing and bewildering. All cultures have such stories that are enchanting because they are a combination of the childlike primary process thinking mixed with adultlike secondary process thinking illustrating the abstract with concrete conepts simplified for the simple-minded. Most people love to hear the entertaining stories from the Epics or the Puranas that are more fascinating than the deep philosophy of the East or the West, from the Vedas, Vedantas, or philosophical treatises. In the Indian culture the stories illustrating the deepest philosophical truths are called the "Divya Kathas" (enlightening stories) but the concrete minded have great difficulty in making a leap from the symbols to the level of the abstract principles (tatvas) illustrated. Also, the poetic figurative representations are viewed as literal by some poor souls. Not unlike some stand-up comedians some pranksters place them in unexpected context to create humor or bizarre pejorative parodies or caricatures. In this context it may be intriguing to note that Vyasa dictated the Mahabharata to Shri Ganesha who actually transcribed the dictation. The epic of Mahabharata may thus be the divya katha to illustrate in an enchanting manner the story of the spiritual struggles of the human race "written" by no one else than the deity of knowledge and wisdom.

The questions that were raised at the beginning in the first paragraph as to the difference between the Ganesha Chaturthi on Bhadrapada Shukla Chaturthi and the Ganesha Jayanti become moot issues for those who view Shri Ganesha for Who He really IS.

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