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======= Understanding Hinduism =======
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of Ganapati and
In Sanskrit language, there are more than one meaning attached to a word. For example, the word GO means cow as well as sense organs. Gopal means cowherd. Gopal also means a yogi whose sense organs are completely under his control. This dual meaning enables poets to bring out their best on the physical plane as well as on the spiritual plane.
We have Krishna the cowherd boy in Vraj and Vrindavan, and we have Gopalnanda Krishna, the yogeshwar, milking the Upanishads, and the milk is the great nectar of the Bhagavad Gita.(Gita Dhyanam, verse 4, usually found at the beginning of Bhagavad Gita books). The maakhan (cream) or the gist or essence of the Upanishads is presented in the Bhagavad Gita. This is what the `makkhan chor' took from the Upanishads and distributed for the benefit of mankind.
Similarly, a common Sanskrit word to denote elephant is GAJA. Here Gajanan means elephant faced - a name for Ganapati. But the word Gaja has a much deeper connotation. GA indicates gati, the final goal towards which the entire creation is moving, whether knowingly or unknowingly. JA stands for janma, birth or origin. Hence GAJA signifies GOD from whom worlds have come out and towards whom they are progressing, to be ultimately dissolved in Him. The elephant head is thus purely symbolical.
We observe creation in its two fold manifestation as the microcosm (sukshmanda) and the macrocosm (brahmanda). Each is a replica of the other. They are one in two and two in one. The elephant head stands for the macrocosm (representing vastness or bigness), and the human body for the microcosm. The two form one unit. Since the macrocosm is the goal of the microcosm, the elephant part has been given greater prominence by making it a head.
The Chandogya Upanishad has pronounced a philisophical truth as TAT-TVAM-ASI, THAT- THOU -ART. It simply means "You, the apparently limited individual, are in essence, the cosmic Truth, the Absolute". The elephant-human form of Ganapati is the iconographical representation of this great Vedantic dictum. the elephant stands for the cosmic whereas the human stands for the individual. The single image reflects their identity.
Vedanta is the synthesis of the `within' and the `without'; the macrocosm and the microcosm. The study of this `within' of nature through an inquiry into the `within' of man, who is the unique product of nature`s evolution, is religion according to Indian thought. The synthesis of the knowledge of the `without' , which the physical sciences give, and the `within' which religion gives, is what India achieved in her Vedanta. This she calls BRAHMA - VIDYA or philosophy; God or Brahman(`BRAHMAN' is the Upanishdic term for the Supreme Reality, God) standing for the totality of reality, physical and non-physical. Brahma - vidya is Sarva - vidya- pratishtha (philosophy is the basis and support of all knowledge) says the Mundaka Upanishad (i.i.i.).
The Ganapati Upanishad identifies Lord Ganesh with the Supreme Self. Lord Ganesh represents the Pranava (AUM) which is the symbol of the Supreme Self. Taitiriya Upanishad (1.8.1.) states: "AUM ITI BRAHMAN -AUM is Brahman(GOD). AUM is all this . Nothing can be done without uttering it. This explains the practice of invokong Lord Ganesh before beginning any rite or undertaking any project.
Lord Ganesh removes all obstacles on the path of the spiritual aspirant, and bestows
upon him worldly as well as spiritual success. So he is called VIGNA VINAYAKA or
From The Mahabharata
Brahma said to Vyasa:
Sauti said: Brahma having thus spoken to Vyasa, retired to his own abode. Then Vyasa began to call to mind Ganesha. And Ganesha, obviator of obstacles, ready to fulfil the desires of his votaries, was no sooner thought of, than he repaired to the place where Vyasa was seated. And when he had been saluted, and was seated, Vyasa addressed him thus: O guide of the Ganas! Be thou the writer of the Bharata which I have formed in my imagination, and which I am about to repeat.
Ganesh, upon hearing this address, thus answered: I will become the writer of the work, provided my pen do not for a moment cease writing.
And Vyasa said unto that divinity: Wherever there be anything thou dost not comprehend, cease to continue writing.
Ganesha having signified his assent, by repeating the word Om! proceeded to write. And
Vyasa began and by way of diversion, he knit the knots of composition exceeding close; by
doing which, he dictated this work according to his engagement.
The three gunas Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas are present in all beings.
When the mind, intellect and sense organs remain calm due to the predominance of Sattwa guna, and develops a taste for spiritual knowledge and austerities, it is Krita Yuga. Krita is another word for Satya.
When the mind is devoted to materialistic pursuits of acquiring wealth (artha) and fulfilling ones desires (kama) in the righteous manner (dharma), it is Treta Yuga in which the Rajo guna (Rajas) predominates.
When under the influence of Rajas and Tamas, the mind is beset with greed, discontent, pride, hypocrisy, rivalry, etc., then it is the Dwapara Yuga.
When due to the domination of Tamas, mind is driven to deception, untruth, indolence, excessive sleep, violence, sullenness, sorrow, delusion, fear and wretchedness, know that to be the Kali Yuga.
These Yugas are not only epochs at cosmic levels, but also periods of upheavals at the individual levels. Thus all of us, individually, as well as collectively pass through these epochs in our personal, social and national lives.
The various Asuras (demons) represent the devilish forces created by the Rajasic and Tamasic tendencies. There are eight such imperfections or defective traits of the mind (vikaar) identified in the Mudgal Purana. These are described as the enemy of man. Of these eight, six are kama, krodha, lobha, moha, mada, and matsarya; and their two faithful allies mamata and abhimaan.
According to Mudgal Purana, there are eight important avatars or manifestations of Lord Ganesh. Each having a particular significance.
The order in which these are narrated start with the grossest manifestation Matsarya and goes down to the core Kama, and then to the subtlest viz., Mamata and Abhimaan.