India since the time of the Veda, which means knowledge, has always been a knowledge-oriented civilization. This Indic pursuit of knowledge has not been limited to the outer world but uniquely contains a full exploration of the inner world of consciousness.
The primary icon of India's knowledge based civilization is Sri Ganesha, who represents the power of knowledge on all levels. Sri Ganesha is the lord of wisdom, speech, science, mathematics, philosophy and practical spirituality. He is invoked first before any sessions of knowledge, performance of rituals or yoga practices. Worshipping Ganesha means connecting to the great gurus and ultimately to the supreme guiding power of cosmic intelligence.
Why the head of an elephant, one might ask? Ganesha indicates superhuman intelligence, beyond the limitations of the human mind and brain. The elephant indicates vastness, steadiness and mystery. Only when we lose our heads, meaning silencing the mind, can we access the power of infinite space and discover the real meaning of our magical existence.
Sri Ganesha indicates the cosmic mind and its storehouse of wisdom, the Mahat Tattva of Samkhya philosophy. Yet, Ganesha ultimately brings the knowledge of the Self (Atma Vidya) that is the foundation of all forms of knowledge as well as the highest truth.
Ganesha, though arising through Parvati as Mother Nature, has a head given to him by Lord Shiva, meaning representing the transcendent truth beyond all name and form.
Ganesha is the cosmic guru who reveals our unity with the entire cosmos. If we don't make a cosmic connection with Ganesha what we do will be merely human, limited by ignorance, desire and attachment to the material world.
Vedic knowledge teaches us to awaken the buddhi or higher intelligence at the summit of the mind, which is its ability to reflect the Self and universal awareness. To truly learn we must give up the arrogance that we already know. The highest knowledge is a form of unknowing or deconditioning of the mind. This is the Ganesha Vidya, the wisdom of Ganesha that teaches us the formless essence of all.
Ganesha integrates all the myriad levels of information, ideas and insights into a precise focus and unshakeable intent. The entire universe is a single person or Adi Purusha, of which everything manifest is but a particle, wave, expression or instrument. Ganesha is the lord of all mantras that are the key principles of cosmic intelligence and its vibratory energy. Such mantras are not mere words or sounds but the core creative forces that set everything in motion.
Ganesha is well known to provide the wisdom to overcome all the obstacles that assail us. Yet this does not mean ramming our way through our obstacles or forcefully pushing them aside. Sometimes, we need to go around our obstacles, which may be telling us that we are not on the correct path. The wisdom of Ganesha is very subtle and cannot reduced to any formula. He asks us to look deeply into the wisdom of life.
Honouring the Ganesha within us
To honour Ganesh is to honour our own inner knowing, which is to look within and not accept mere information, words or ideas as the ultimate truth. All that we see is just a reflection of a greater reality beyond anything we can say or conceive.
Ganesha exists in the most minute and the most vast, the most near and most far, the high and the low, what reaches everywhere in an instant and what does not move at all. He is the lord of time and karma, yet stands eternal beyond all action. He holds the transformative power of Shakti, yet contains the stillness of Lord Shiva.
Ganesha pervades the world of nature that is filled with mystic secrets but he is also the guiding power behind all human affairs. Ganesha teaches us how to organize society in an equitable manner, which is not the mere fair distribution of material wealth, but recognizing the unique place and importance of each person, creature, object or energy in the cosmic order.
Sri Ganesha teaches us how to unify all the various aspects of our nature and yet transcend our individual limitations to embrace the entire universe, so we can hold the cosmic Shiva and Shakti within us as our own father and mother. He helps us move on to a higher level of knowing, where to see is to be.
May Sri Ganesha grant you his grace and inspire you to the highest!
(Dr David Frawley, or Pandit Vamadeva Shastri, is a Western-born Vedacharya, who teaches an integral approach to Yoga, Vedanta, Ayurveda and Vedic studies. He is the author of 50 books published in 20 languages, and is a recipient of the Padma Bhushan from the Government of India. He is the director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies.)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)