A disciple tries to awaken his consciousness to higher levels once he realises that there exists a higher level of understanding. Within us is a seed which, by proper care and training, can evolve into something higher. This is represented by Ganesha, the god we pray to for happiness and prosperity.
Ganesha is the son of Shiva and Paravati. He was born out of the body dirt of Paravati. At that time Shiva was not even present; he was at the smashan where the dead bodies were lying. This represents that Ganesha was born without the active participation of Shiva. Happiness and prosperity are born out of Shiva (kalyankari or the welfare element lying dormant in all of us). We put a statue of Ganesha and pray to him to bring us peace and prosperity, but would this work? The story tells us that just doing pooja is not enough and that we must give birth to Ganesha within ourselves.
The dirt of which Ganesha is born from is symbolic of the negative emotions in our psychic body. To give birth to Ganesha within us means to transform negative emotions such as anger, irritation, jealousy, complaints, bad moods, fear, hatred, and revenge, among others into positive emotions. Every time negative emotions rise from the subconscious into the field of the conscious mind, we pause and transform them. If we can do this then the Shiva lying dormant in us will have a child - the god of fortune and prosperity, which will then follow us wherever we go. Many of us have a lot of money and prosperity in our destiny, but we don’t have the good fortune to enjoy it because our minds are full of negativity. If we are free of negativity, then every moment in life brings joy and happiness; this leads to deep gratitude and then we do not have to do a special pooja to Ganesha as every moment is a pooja to him.
Paravati is the daughter of the mountain. It comes from the word ‘parv’ which means to fill or that which is full of over-flowing energy. This over-flowing energy needs to be purified and in the story is represented by her taking a bath. She instructs Ganesha to stand outside her door and not allow anyone in. Ganesha, born out of dirt, is also symbolic of a mind that needs to be purified - where the inner vision has not yet opened. He could not recognise his father Shiva and did not allow him to where Paravati was bathing. Shiva represents the divine within us and even our minds do not have the capacity or vision to recognise the divine within ourselves. Shiva cuts off Ganesha’s head. When Paravati sees this, she starts crying and admonishes Shiva as he has killed their only son. Shiva again gives him life by putting an elephant’s head in place of the human one. The elephant is a symbol of the sprouting of wisdom (viveka) within the mind and when this fountain sprouts, we recognise our own divinity. Shiva gives Ganesha two boons (1) in all auspicious work he will be worshipped first and (2) if worshipped, he will remove all obstacles. In actuality, obstacles are only removed from occasions that are free of individual desire (or ‘yagna karma’). Sadly, everybody worships him to fulfil personal desire (or ‘kamya karma’).
Ganesha is known as Gana and Gaja. Gana means to count and Gaja means to sound. Our ancient scriptures have a theory of sound similar to modern day physics’. They considered that the universe was built by sound. It is through sound that ‘gati’ or movement was born and to make gati possible, energy or prana was needed. All this was born out of sound. Science says light moves in packets called photons, while our ancient rishis said sound moved in packets called ‘matrukas’. The word ‘matr’ means to count – how much of energy or sound goes into each action, and this precise count of energy is Gana. He is also called ‘Gajanan’ which means that when energy goes forth, it makes a humming sound. In mantra we do the opposite; by humming we create energy. It is this humming sound that sustains the whole universe.
Ganapati has four hands, symbolising that when we have the wisdom of the elephant, we can enjoy every moment of our life in four different ways. One has a rope signifying control or enjoyment by controlling our passions and desires, the second has ‘ladu’ or the symbol of mud representing enjoyment by transforming the lower into the higher, the third has the Vedas showing enjoyment through knowledge, and the fourth is in the ‘abhaya mudra’ or the posture of fearlessness, the essential quality to enjoy life. Since he can enjoy and transform both the positive and negative emotions, he has two wives – Riddhi and Siddhi.
Ganesha’s vehicle is ‘mooshak’ or mouse. The mouse steals stealthily at night; he has the power to steal bliss or ‘ananda’ in every event of life. Ganesha has a crooked trunk, Vakratunda, meaning he breathes with a crooked nose. All of us breathe with a straight nose. All our thoughts and emotions affect our breathing, but with his crooked nose he can control his breath to create whichever thought or emotion is appropriate to the moment.
In yoga, the ‘kundalini shakti’ is made to rise by either creating fission or fusion at muladhara and swadhisthana. In all the prevalent yoga schools they use the method of fission which creates a kind of tension between the two chakras. This is a very dangerous method. My teacher taught the technique of fusion; the joining of muladhara and swadhisthana through rhythmic breathing and body postures. Over a long period of time, the muladhara and swadhisthana fuse to become one chakra. When this happens the kundalini energy rises in a very soft, safe, and rhythmic manner. Muladhara is the head of the elephant and swadhisthana is our lower body. When these two fuse we give birth to the Ganesha within us. The disciple then experiences the rise of energy bringing rhythm, harmony, and joy in his life.