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Lord Ganesh - The Spiritual Significance

It was a short while ago when I was doing a talk about the spiritual significance of each aspect of Devotional singing / Bhajans when I was questioned by a group of loving Western devotees who asked me about the presence of the statue of Lord Ganesh in the Altar. He felt that our beloved Swami’s teachings were Universal and not religious biased and hence the presence of Lord Ganesh’s statue gave the impression that the devotional singing session was conducted in front of a Hindu orientated Altar rather than a Universal or Multi-Faith Sai Altar.

With the guidance of our beloved Swami and the wisdom bestowed by Him, I explained to the total satisfaction of the devotee the significance of the presence of Lord Ganesh’s statue and the spiritual message Lord Ganesh represented. At the end - the devotee was quite satisfied that Lord Ganesh represented a universal message and was able to accept it happily. I now most humbly wish to share this with the rest of my Sai family.

Very often the popular message - that if you pray to Lord Ganesh - He will remove all obstacles in life - is greatly misunderstood or misinterpreted. Have you seen or followed an elephant in a jungle walking through the shrubs and trees? The elephant is so large, heavy and powerful, the jungle vegetation virtually crumbles under his feet and its body weight simply moves the trees and shrubs apart. In the event if you were walking behind this elephant – you now have a clear and unobtrusive pathway in the jungle to walk through without any hindrance.

So in real life what does this mean? The jungle is our world where we live with all sorts of challenges, hindrances and obstacles and the elephant signifies the higher Wisdom that gives the strength and confidence to mankind to meet these challenges and overcome the obstacles. This means that Lord Ganesh signifies the wisdom bestowed by the divine on mankind who will use this Wisdom to walk through the jungle of life in this world overcoming obstacles by boldly facing challenges.

What further does this elephant form of Lord Ganesh signify and what other messages does this form give us?

The large ears of the elephant signify that we must listen well whilst the constant flapping of the ear-lobes gives us the message - Hear no Evil - that is “flap-away” messages that are evil. The truncated elephant face of Lord Ganesh urges us to speak well and less – that is speak wisely and only when necessary - sufficient to convey the message and also signifies the cultivation of inner strength to Speak No Evil.

All deities have an animal assigned as the vehicle to them and Lord Ganesh’s vehicle is a tiny mouse. There is a mythological story behind this that explains how the mouse became the vehicle for Lord Ganesh. The story is about a powerful saint named Savupary whose wife Manomaya was constantly harassed by an “asura” or demon named Kravunchan. One day the Saint Savupary got angry and lost control over his emotions and cursed Kravunchan to turn in to a mouse. Also remember that the mouse has a habit of biting or tasting anything that it comes across. Even as a mouse the asura or demon was still going around biting and tasting everything that he came across. Saint Savupary now feeling sorry for this Mouse guided him to seek the wisdom of Lord Ganesh to overcome these desires which he did. Eventually Lord Ganesh accepted this mouse as His vehicle.

The message this story implies is that the mouse signifies the Worldly Desires or Kama that mankind suffers from. In order to overcome this and cultivate will power one needs the higher Wisdom through the grace of the God one believes in. By making the mouse as his vehicle under His control – Lord Ganesh signifies the need for higher Wisdom that is required by mankind to overcome the Kama or worldly desires which in fact is one of the six negatives qualities or obstacles that impede spiritual progress of mankind.

Another interesting practical feature is how a tiny mouse can carry around the heavily featured Lord Ganesh on his body. This signifies the fact that when you have the grace and blessings of the God you believe in – then God becomes an indweller in the hearts of the devotees residing as an eternal companion, light as a feather without causing any discomfort to the devotee.

In the same vein, when the carer of the elephant or the mahout wants to climb up on to the back of the elephant, the great beast lowers its trunk or bends his great pillar like legs to enable the keeper to climb up. This signifies the situation when the devotee earnestly and sincerely yearns to acquire spiritual or higher Wisdom that will enable the devotee to realise the true identity and purpose of human birth, then God enables the devotee to achieve this by giving all the assistance necessary to “climb up” towards this Wisdom.

And finally – in front of Lord Ganesh – as a mark of respect and devotion, it is traditional that the devotees knock the extreme corners of their forehead with crossed hands and clenched fists and also hold their ears and do sit-ups referred to as “Thoppu Karanam”.

Scientifically it has been discovered that doing this initiates fresh circulation of blood to the brain and thus assist in “recharging” the brain function. The sit-ups helps improve the circulation along the spine and the limbs, resulting in a feeling of freshness and alertness. This exercise is now being recommended to those who suffer from memory loss and absent-mindedness. In other words – Healthy mind in a healthy body is the message behind this traditional “Ganesh exercise”.

For the journey of life we need a healthy body and mind with higher Wisdom that will allow us to face the journey with courage and confidence and rather enjoy the journey than lament over the obstacles on the journey which are in fact placed there by the divine for our own good.

Therefore “Lord Ganesh” virtually signifies all the above discussed and is a Universal Messenger of divine wisdom for all devotees and not symbolic of Hindu religion. This is the reason that even in Prashanthi we have Lord Ganesh as you enter the holy premises and is called Ganesh Gate.

Jai Sairam
With humble Pranams - Raj Selvakumar