Symbolism and Spiritual meaning in the Divine birth of Ganesha!

As explained by Sri Sri Ravishankar.

We are all familiar with the story on how Ganesha became the elephant-headed God. Shiva and Parvati had been celebrating and Parvati becomes dirty. When she realizes this, she removes the dirt from her body, creates a boy out of it and asks him to keep guard while she bathed. When Shiva returned, the boy could not recognize him and obstructed his passage. So Shiva chopped off the boy’s head and entered. Parvati was shocked. She explained that the boy was their son and pleaded with Shiva to save him at all costs. Shiva then instructed his helpers to go and get the head of someone who was sleeping with the head pointing to the north. The helpers then got the head of an elephant, which Shiva affixed to the boy’s torso and Ganesha was born!

Does this story sound strange? Why should Parvati have dirt on her body? Didn’t the all-knowing Shiva recognise His own son? Was Shiva, the epitome of peace, so short-tempered that he cut off the head of his own son? And why an elephant head on Ganesha? There is a deeper meaning to all these.

Parvati is symbolic of festive energy. Her becoming dirty signifies that celebration can easily become Rajasik or feverish and can take you away from your center. Dirt is symbolic of ignorance and Shiva is symbolic of the Supreme Innocence, Peace and Knowledge. So when Ganesha obstructs the path of Shiva, this means that ignorance, which is an attribute of the head, does not recognize knowledge. Then knowledge has to overcome ignorance. This is the symbolism behind Shiva chopping off the boy’s head.

And why the elephant head? Elephant represents both gyan shakti and karma shakti. The principle qualities of the elephant are wisdom and effortlessness. The enormous head of the elephant signifies Wisdom and Knowledge. Elephants don't walk around obstacles, neither do they stop at them. They just remove them and keep walking straight on – signifying effortlessness. So, when we worship Lord Ganesha these elephant qualities within us are kindled and we take on these qualities.

Ganesha's big belly represents generosity and total acceptance. Ganesha’s upraised hand, depicting protection, means, “Fear not - I am with you,” and his lowered hand, palm facing outwards means - unending giving as well as an invitation to bow down – symbolic of the fact that we will all dissolve into earth one day. Ganesha also has a single tusk which signifies one-pointedness. Even the implements Ganesha wields are symbolic. He carries in his hands, the ‘Ankusa’ (signifies awakening) and the ‘Paasa’ (signifies control). With awakening, a lot of energy is released, which without proper control, can go haywire.

And why does Ganesha, the elephant-headed God travel on something as small as a mouse? Isn’t that so incongruous? Again there is symbolism that runs deeps. The mouse snips and nibbles away at ropes that bind. The mouse, which gradually nibbles away, is like the mantra which can cut through sheaths and sheaths of ignorance, leading to the ultimate knowledge represented by Ganesha.

Our ancient Rishis were so deeply intelligent that they chose to express Divinity in terms of symbols rather than words, since words change over time, but symbols remain unchanged. Let us keep these deep symbolisms in mind as we experience the omnipresent in the form of the elephant God, yet be fully aware that Ganesha is very much within us. This is the wisdom we should carry as we celebrate Ganesh Chaturti.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Happy Ganesh Chaturthi...
DNA, 24th January, 2010

H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

One should be content with the qualities he or she is bestowed with in the journey of life

In a state of ignorance, imperfection is natural and perfection is an effort. In a state of wisdom or enlightenment, imperfection is an effort; perfection is a compulsion and is unavoidable! Perfection is the very nature of the enlightened one.

Perfection is, taking total responsibility. And total responsibility means working as if you are the only responsible person in the whole world. When you work this way and when you are in total vairagya (dispassion), you can take care of even the most trivial and insignificant things with great perfection.

In this perfect world, why is man so imperfect? It is so that he can become more perfect. Recognition of imperfection leads you to more perfection. This is a very delicate point. Usually when you recognise imperfection you may just sulk and brood over it - "Oh, I am imperfect." I would say recognise the imperfection but dont condemn or condone it; rather overcome it by focusing on the perfection around. It is important to become Anasuya (devoid of fault-finding eyes) otherwise you cannot blossom.

There are three kinds of perfection: Perfection in action/work, perfection in speech and perfection in feelings (intention). Some people are very good in their actions but inside they feel very grumpy and angry. Some people tell lies, so their speech is not perfect but they do their jobs with the right intention. For instance, a doctor may tell a patient, dont worry, your disease will be cured, but that may not be true. Here, the intention behind lying is perfect. But if someone lies intentionally, then the feeling is imperfect, the speech is imperfect and the action will also reflect the same.

When someone makes a mistake and you get angry about it, then you are no better than the person who has made the mistake, because there the action was imperfect, but here your feelings have become imperfect. Any action will have some flaw. But when the feeling becomes imperfect the innermost perfection is lost.

There are six Vikaras, imperfections or distortions of nature; lust, anger, greed, entanglement, arrogance and jealousy. The whole creation is made up of nature and distortions of nature. Thats why we call it Prakriti and Vikriti. They are part of this creation but we still call them distortions, because they do not allow the Self to shine forth fully and lead you to sin. Lust is considered a sin because in lust, you treat the other person like an object. Anger or arrogance is a sin because when you are angry, you lose your centre; you lose sight of the Self. Greed and entanglement lead you to possession and obsession.

If you nourish these Vikaras inside, they change from one impurity to another and keep multiplying inside you. Understand that sin is not your nature and you are not born out of sin. Sin is just the wrinkle in the cloth. It needs proper ironing. Sadhana helps you maintain your centeredness and not be shaken by these distortions.

Deep inside, you are a fountain of bliss, a fountain of joy! Be thankful that you have been bestowed with the qualities that you have. When you understand this basic truth then your imperfections diminish and the inner perfection begins to blossom.
A perfect life can be yours.


Jai Guru Dev!!!