(Lord of All Beings)
(Discourse By N.R.Srinivasan July 2011)
Ganesha is the widely worshipped Hindu deity. All ceremonies, religious as well as secular begin with an invocation to Lord Ganesha.
Lord Ganesha is the son of Shiva and Parvati. The sixteen step pooja vidhaanam (worship procedures) as well as other pooja rituals in Hindu Temples begin with a salutation to Lord Ganesha (Lord of all beings). He is also known by other names – Gajaanana (elephant faced), Vinaayaka (Supreme Leader), Ganapathi (same as Ganesha), Vighneshwara (remover of all obstacles, Vighnaraja (ruler of all obstacles).
In Hindu mythological literature, he is described as being created by Parvati as Ayonija (unborn in the womb) to guard her privacy. He is endowed with supreme power and intelligence. He successfully fights his own father Siva, who tries to break the privacy of his wife. Siva rewards him with supreme intelligence by placement of an elephant-head on a severed human body to appease Parvati. Ganesha chooses supreme intelligence to power to defeat his own brother Shanmukha, who is a child prodigy in a contest. He was an honored guest of Lord Kubera and he alone consumes all the food prepared for the guests. Yet he is not satisfied. With a handful of roasted rice from his father Siva, his hunger is satisfied. This incident is cited as the cause of his big belly. He is supposed to have written the great epic, Mahabharata with one of his broken sharp tusks etching on 'bhoj patra' (paper thin bark) with lightning speed and instant understanding as dictated by Sage Vedavyaasa.
The physical form of Ganesha is corpulent and awkward which reminds us that the outward appearance has no connection with the inner beauty and spiritual perfection.
The elephant's head on a human body in Ganesha is meant to represent supreme wisdom. The trunk of an elephant has the unique capacity of performing both gross and subtle activities. It can uproot a tree with its trunk and can also pick up a needle from the ground. Its large ears symbolize the importance of listening and learning. It is important for the intellect to have a capacity to discriminate with regard to bigger issues as well as finer issues. Ganesha's intellect penetrates the realms of material and spiritual worlds, the state which one must aspire to reach. He is "dvanda atita" beyond opposites. This is ideally represented in Ganesha having two tusks, one of which is broken. Heat and cold, joy and sorrow, honor and dishonor, do not affect him, influence him or harass him. Ganesha's large belly is meant to convey that 'Man of Perfection' can consume and digest whatever experiences he undergoes. He is therefore represented as being able to stomach and digest all types of experiences. Ganesha sits with one leg folded up with toes pointing upwards and the other resting on the ground. The leg on the ground indicates that one aspect of his personality in dealing with the material world while the other is ever rooted in single pointed concentration upon the Supreme Reality. At the feet of the Lord one always finds an abundance of food, which represents material wealth, power and prosperity. Beside the food, a tiny mouse is seen looking up to Lord Ganesha waiting, as if, for it's master's sanction. The mouse, greedy by nature, represents desire. The mouse looking up therefore denotes that the desires in a faithful devotee are absolutely under control.
Ganesha is always seen with four arms. The four arms represent subtle body called 'manas', intellect called 'buddhi', ego called 'ahankaara' and conditional consciousness called 'chitta'. Ganesha represents pure consciousness, Aatman. In one hand he holds an axe which symbolizes the destruction of all desires and in the other hand a rope, which is meant to pull the seeker out of his worldly entanglements. Sometimes Ganesha idol is seen with a noose and a hook in these hands. The noose is to remind us that the worldly attachments are a noose and the hook in his hand is to prod one on to the path of righteousness. In the third hand he holds a Modaka, a sweet rice ball. Modaka represents a joyous reward for spiritual seeking. In the fourth hand sometimes he holds a lotus, padma. The lotus represents the Supreme goal of human evolution. Sometimes this hand is in the 'abhaya mudra' posture with palm facing the devotee and all fingers pointing upwards. This indicates 'Do not fear, I shall protect'.
His huge body also represents the cosmos or universe and his trunk the Pranava or OM, the symbol of the Brahman. The snake around his waist represents cosmic energy.
Different iconographical features of Sri Ganesha as seen in idols, pictures, paintings, carvings etc., depict the different roles he played at different times as narrated in Puranas and the messages he conveys his devotees, symbolically. This symbolism helps the devotee in his meditation and his thoughts progressively pervade on Brahman or the Universal Soul. "Vedas proclaim, 'Eko Vipraaha Bahudaa Vadanti' meaning 'the ONE (Brahman), the learned call by many names'. In this way, Lord Ganesha occupies a place of distinction in the Hindu pantheon. He blesses all his devotees to reach Supreme state of wisdom and Reality.
Why is Ganesha not made as a lovely idol? The answer is perhaps if he is so presented, the devotee is very likely to be attracted to the form only and forget about the real significance of seeing Brahman through him.
We prostrate before Ganesha squeezing both the ears with fingers of crossed arms and with crossed legs bending down and getting up many a times. It is a difficult exercise. You might have observed our priests doing it even though many do not do it except for few Ganesha Bhaktas from Tamilnadu. This is called "Thoppu Karanam" in Tamil Nadu which is a popular scene in Ganesha Temple worship all over Tamilnadu. This word is a corrupted form of "Dhorbit Karana".
Saivite Mythology has an interesting story behind it! Sri Devi gazing steadfastly at the face of Kameswara created Gajamukha to destroy Gajamukha asura. The celestials were forced to kneel with their hands holding their ears cross-wise as also their legs, during the sway of Gajamukha asura. Thus having got into the habit they began to adore Lord Ganesha in this manner, even after the asura (demon) was destroyed.
Squeezing the ear could be useful in treating heart problems according to Dr. Siddeshwar Raj Saxena (London Sep. 26, 1976 Medical journal Lancet). He has found from experiments that the simple procedure of squeezing the ear produces temporary effect of heart dynamics, causing small reduction in pulse rate, a profound drop in the amplitude of the pulse and a drop in the peak and mean flow velocity. His researches would have continued to know the clinical application of ear squeezing for both diagnostic and therapeutic application. An American doctor has also reported a theory that a metal staple inserted in the ear might help stop smoking, drinking or doing drugs.