LORD GANESHA – Significance of His Name and Form ~ by Swami Chinmayananda

Lord Ganesha

Lord Vinayaka is the Supreme Reality, who is bountiful, eternal and the bestower of joy and glory to those who worship Him. He is of the nature of the Pure Consciousness and Liberation. Lord Ganapathi, the leader of the Ganas is extolled as one who brings well-being to the entire universe. As the Lord of all Obstacles Vighneswara, He is the Master of all Circumstances. He is the Master of Knowledge and the Champion of Worldly Achievements. He also represents a Man of Perfect Wisdom and a fully Realised Vedantin.

Ganapathi, the Elephant-headed Lord, represents the highest and the best that have ever been given in our scriptures. To a Vedantic student, since his ‘path of knowledge’ is intellectual, he must have a ‘great head’ to conceive and understand the logic of the Vedantic thought, and in fact, the truth of Vedanta can be comprehended only through listening to a teacher and therefore, Shravana (listening) is the initial stage. Therefore, Ganapathi has large ears representing ‘continuous and intelligent listening’ to the teacher. His intellect must have the depth and width in order to embrace in his vision the entire world of plurality. Not only must he, in his visualisation, embrace the whole cosmos, but he must have the subtle discriminative power (Viveka) in him to distinguish the changing, perishable, matter-vestures from the Eternal, Immutable, All-pervading Consciousness, the Spirit. This discrimination is possible only when the intellect of the student has consciously cultivated that power to a large degree of perfection. The trunk, coming down the forehead of the elephant-face, has got a peculiar efficiency that beats all achievements of man and his ingenuity in the mechanical and scientific world. Here is a ‘tool’ that can at once uproot a tree or pick up from the ground, pull heavy weights or pluck a blade of grass — the mechanical instruments cannot have this range of adaptability! Like the elephant’s trunk, so should be the perfect discriminative faculty of an evolved intellect, so that it can use its discrimination fully in the outer world for resolving gross problems, and at the same time, efficiently employ its discrimination in the subtle realm of the inner personality layers. The discriminative power in us can function only where there are two factors to discriminate between; and these two factors represent the tusks of the elephant and the trunk growing down between them. Between good and evil, right and wrong, and all the dualities must we discriminate and come to our own judgements and conclusions in life. The broken tusk indicates a real Vedantic student of subjective experience who has gone beyond the pairs of opposites (dwandwatita).

Ganapathi has the widest mouth and the biggest appetite. A Man of Perfection has an endless appetite for life — he lives in the Consciousness and to him every experience, good or bad, is only a play of the Infinite — he must have a big belly to stomach peacefully, all the experiences of life — auspicious or inauspicious.

A Mastermind sits with ONE foot down. Generally, we move about in the world through the corridors of our experiences on our two feet — the mind and the intellect. A perfect man of wisdom has integrated them both to such an extent that they become in him as ONE — an intellect into which the mind has folded and become completely subservient.

In the representation of Sri Vinayaka, we always find a “mouse” sitting in the midst of beautiful, fragrant ready-made food, but not daring to touch anything without His command. The “mouse” within each personality which can eat away a mountain of merit in us, is the POWER OF DESIRE. The Man of Perfection is one who has so perfectly mastered his urge to acquire, possess and enjoy — this self-annihilating “power of desire”, that it is completely held in obedience to the will of the Master. He rides upon the mouse — meaning, it is a “desire” to do service to the world and it becomes His vehicle to move about and act.

The Lord of Obstacles, Sri Vighneswara has four arms representing the four inner equipments — the ANTAHKARANA. In one hand He has the ROPE and in the other He has an AXE. On the spiritual pilgrimage, all obstacles are created by the very subjective and objective worlds in the seeker himself. Sri Vighneswara chops them off with the AXE. He cuts off the attachments of His devotees to the world of plurality and thus ends all the consequent sorrows. He holds the attention of the seeker constantly towards the Higher, and pulls us nearer and nearer to the Truth and ultimately ties him down to the Highest Goal with the ROPE. With one hand, He blesses all His devotees and protects (ABHAYA) them from all obstacles on their spiritual path of seeking the Supreme, and with the other hand He feeds the seeker with MODAKA, representing the reward of the joys of sadhana — the “Joy of Experiencing the Reality”.

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