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Ganea - Remover of Obstacles

by Satyarja Dsa BTG

The joyous elephant-faced deity known as Ganea is revered by one billion Hindus worldwide, and though his worship has little place in the modern-day Hare K !"a movement, his personality and pastimes are part of #$K%&'(s heritage) Ganea is often seen as the creator and remover of obstacles, as the guardian at entrances and as a spiritually potent figure who can avert all evil influences) #n popular Hindu lore he is thus the god to be worshiped first, before all religious ceremonies, public and private) Things tend to start off with Ganea and this is reflected even in common idiomatic phrases) *or e+ample, in ,aharashtra when a dedication or inauguration is to be performed, a ,arathi speaker may refer to the occasion as -r. Ganea karae /0doing the -r. Ganea01) 2nother such e+pression is gaapatice kele /0to conceive a child01) $imilar phrases are found in other #ndian languages) $ince Ganea is considered the lord of beginnings, for the first installment in this series about the demigods we start with him) 2ccording to the 3edic literature, behind the workings of the cosmos stand powerful controllers known as devas, or demigods) 2s we people in this world control our cars or homes, the devas control various aspects of the cosmos) Ganea is a popular hero whose image adorns the walls of shops, homes, and temples throughout #ndia) 4ven for people unfamiliar with #ndian culture or the 3edic literature, Ganea is perhaps the easiest of all demigods to identify, with his human body, elephant head, and potbelly) He is usually pictured standing, sitting, or dancing, with his jolly elephant face looking straight ahead) Ganea is at times depicted with 5uill on palm leaf, for as 3y6sa dictated the ,ah6bh6rata, Ganea served as the scribe to write it down) Ganea is missing one tusk, a piece of which can sometimes be found in one of his four hands) #n another hand he sometimes holds a hatchet (parau), which, according to some te+ts, is for cutting away illusion and false teachings) 2nother of Ganea(s hands often gestures fearlessness and reassurance (varada-hasta-mudra)) He also holds a goad (ankua) like that used by an elephant trainer, symboli7ing his insistence on proper training or spiritual discipline) He sometimes holds a

noose (paa) used for restraining wild animals, here representing the restraint of passion and lustful desires) $ometimes he is seen holding sweets (modaka), for which he is said to have an inordinate fondness) Hence the belly) 8ho is this strange-looking god, and what, if anything, does he have to do with the worship of K !"a or 3i!"u9 3edic te+ts reveal that Ganea is the son of -iva and :6rvat., although his sonship like that of his half-brother, $kanda-$ubrahmanya, is peculiar) 2ccording to one version, -iva 0emits0 from his body a handsome son who becomes a seducer of women) :6rvat. is offended by her son(s e+ploits and curses him to have the head of an elephant and a big belly - in other words, to be ugly) Though with this he would seem fated to celibacy, he gradually settles down with two wives, ;uddhi /0wisdom01 and $iddhi /0success01, who can see beyond his physical ugliness) 2s time passes, Ganea becomes the commander of -iva(s troops (gana-a or gana-pati) and because he becomes famous as one who creates obstacles for the demons and removes obstacles for the demigods or the devotees, he is known as 3ighnevara /0lord of obstacles01 and 3inayaka /0one who removes <obstacles=01) The 0obstacle0 theme also tells us why Ganea uses a rat as his vehicle) 2s rodents generally succeed in gnawing their way through any obstruction, the rat, it is said, symboli7es Ganea(s ability to destroy every obstacle) #n another, more popular version of the Ganea story, :6rvat., wanting to seclude herself from her passionate husband, -iva, especially while bathing, creates a son from her perspiration and appoints him the guardian of her 5uarters) $oon after, when -iva seeks admission into :6rvat.(s inner chambers, Ganea, unaware of -iva(s identity, refuses him, pushing him away from :6rvat.(s door) 'ot one to be slighted, the enraged -iva summons his attendants (ganas) to do away with this bothersome upstart) ;ut Ganea defeats them one by one) *inally 3i!"u arrives and drawing upon His my /mystic potency1 He creates confusion on all sides) This enables -iva to cut off Ganea(s head) :6rvat., furious at what has become of her 0son,0 decides to send a multitude of goddesses to harass the demigods) These celestial women succeed in making it clear to the noble gods that their 5ueen can be appeased only if her guardian is revived) -iva then tells the gods to go north and cut off the head of the first living being they see) The head is to be mystically placed on the body of the decapitated Ganea, who will then come back to e+ternal consciousness) 2s fate would have it, the first living being to cross the path of the gods is an elephant)

The various Ganea stories described above - found primarily in the -iva :ur6"a and the ;rahma-vaivarta :ur6"a - are somewhat divergent, and tradition accounts for this by placing the variations in different cycles of cosmic time) 0;ecause of the distinction between kalpas /ages1,0 the -iva :ur6"a e+plains, 0the story of Ganea(s birth is told in different ways)0 The cyclical structure of 3edic time allows for repeated descents of the >ord and His devotees, so details of the pastimes may vary) 2ccording to popular #ndian tradition, Ganea is a benign and helpful deity who brings success and assures worldly well-being) $ince devotees of K !"a are more interested in spiritual reali7ation than in worldly security, #$K%&' tends to forgo the worship of Ganea) >ord K !"a says in the ;hagavad-g.t6 /?)@A1, 0Those who are devotees of other gods and worship them with faith actually worship only ,e, & son of Kunt., but they do so in a wrong way)0 >ord K !"a uses the word avidhi purvakam, 0in an inappropriate way)0 8hy is such worship of demigods inappropriate9 ;ecause it is materially motivated) 2s >ord K !"a says, 0,en in this world desire success in fruitive activities, and therefore they worship the demigods)0 /;g) B)C@1 $ince we are essentially spiritual beings in a material body, material rewards can never truly satisfy us) &nly spiritual rewards are satisfying for a spirit soul) Therefore :rabhup6da concurring with the above two G.t6 te+ts, says 0<To worship= Ganapati is not re5uired, but sometimes we do it) Dust like the gops - they worshiped Goddess Eurg6, K6ty6y6".) They did not re5uire to worship her, but that was part of the social system) ;ut they asked, ,other K6ty6y6"., give us the opportunity to have K !"a as our husband) Their aim was K !"a)0 (Morning walk, Los ngeles, !anuary "#, "$%&) $o the worship of Ganea, like that of his mother, Eurg6 /:6rvat.1, is not condemned, but it should be done for the proper reasonsF Ganea is a devotee of >ord K !"a and we can pray to him to remove obstacles on the road to K !"a consciousness) #n this regard, ;rahma-saGhit6 /H)HI1 e+plains that Ganea is K !"a(s devotee) The success achieved by worshiping Ganea depends on >ord K !"a and therefore such worship should ultimately be directed to K !"aF 0*or the power to destroy all obstacles to progress in the three mundane worlds, Ganea holds on his elephant head the lotus feet of Govinda) # worship Govinda, K !"a, the primeval >ord)0 /$atyar6ja E6sa is a disciple of :rabhup6da and a regular contributor to ;ack to Godhead) He has written several books on K !"a consciousness) He and his wife live in 'ew Jork %ity)1

Reason for Ganea having one tusk

He broke one of his tusks because he agreed to write ,ahabharata only if 3yasadeva will dictate nonstop) $o because it was his condition he didn(t had time to go and find new pen every time it get finished, so he used his own tusk) ;rahma-vaivarta :ur6"a, Ard /Ganea1 kha'a, gives another versionF 8hen :araur6ma visited Kailaa he was prevented from seeing -iva by Ganea) The ensuing dialogue between them ends in a fight in which Ganea catches :araur6ma(s a+ on one of his tusks, and become at once 4kadanta /one-tusked1)

Ganea and Vaiavas Gop6la ;haKKa Gosv6m. compiled $at Kriy6 $6ra E.pik6 as a vaidic sa(skara manual for the 3ai!"ava) The usual sa(skara manuals are compiled by those who are interested in karma /accumulating material fruits1, and prescribe worship of the devatas and pit)s for material prosperity) Gop6la ;haKKa Gosv6m. recogni7ing that most of the 3ai!"avas are g)hasthas, and that they should perform the sa(skaras, he has given a procedure that is not contradictory or offensive to the 3ai!"ava ideals) The first half of his manual is an argument for the worship of 3i!"u to the e+clusion of devatas, with ample scriptural evidence) 2ccordingly, in his practical procedure for sa(skaras, he substitutes worship of 3i!"u and His associates for worship of Ganea, the material aktis, and planetary deities) 8hereas worship of devatas /who are mi+ed devotees1, brings only material auspiciousness, worship of 3i!"u and His associates /who are pure devotees1, brings spiritual deliverance) Gop6la ;haKKa Gosv6m. cites the alternative for the 3ai!"ava according to the :adm6 :ur6"aF ananya sarano *hakto nama mantresu diksitah kada cin narcayed devan ganeadims tu vaisnavah yatra yatra surah pu+ya ganeadyas tu karminam visvaksenam sa sanakam sanatana matah param sananda sanat kumara pancaitan pu+ayet tatah 0The devotee interested in pure devotion to the >ord, and initiated with 3ai!"ava mantra should never worship Ganea and other devatas, 8herever the karms prescribe worship of Ganea and the devatas, the

3ai!"ava should worship the pure devotees of 3i!"u) Thus instead of worshiping Ganea to remove material obstacles, the devotee should worship 3ivaksena and the four Kum6ra brothers to remove obstacles on the spiritual path)0 (-adm -ura) #n the same way, instead of worshiping the nine planetary deities one should worship the nine yogendras, and instead of worshiping the dik palas /protectors of the directions1 one should worship the mah *hgavatas, #nstead of worshiping the mat) gana /si+teen e+pansions of Eurg6, in charge of material energy1 one should worship the >ord(s consorts who are the shelter of spiritual energies)

Vivaksena and Ganea

by H.H. Jayapataka Swami

The 3edas describe the guru as .sarva-devamayo guru., That all devas are within the spiritual master) ;y worshiping and respecting guru one respects the $upreme :ersonality of Godhead and also all devas, 2lso by worshiping spiritual master one removes obstacles in the path of devotional service /which is why one worships Ganea1) Therefore most 3ai!"avas worship guru initially to remove all obstacles rather than worship Ganea) # also heard :rabhup6da say to chant the o( a+/na mantra to remove offenses and that Ganea worship was included in the guru worship) # hope that this is clear now) # have been told by authorities on the -r.- samprdaya that according to their siddhnta in the 3aiku"Kha planets 3ivaksena, the general or faithful assistant of >ord 3i!"u, removes obstacles and he is represented in the material world as Ganea) $o karma kandis worship Ganea, -r. 3ai!"avas worship 3ivaksena, and GauL.ya 3ai!"avas worship guru,