Shri Datta Swami

Posted on: 09 Sep 2005



Discourse Podcast


It is pitiable to depict Lord Ganapati [1][Ganesha] with the head of the elephant and offer grass and leaves to Him[2], treating Him as an animal. The story itself is absurd because the story says that Lord Shiva cuts the head of Ganapati, who was prepared by Goddess Parvati. It is said that Lord Shiva was ignorant of Ganapati being the son of Parvati[3]. How ignorant is this fabrication! Lord Shiva is said to be the deity of Knowledge (Jnanam Maheswaraat). He is Sarvajna or omniscient. Is it not insulting Lord Shiva who is the ultimate Lord? Even in the story of Markandeya[4], people have fabricated a story that Lord Shiva killed Yama[5] due to excessive anger and emotion, and that later on He realized His hasty action. Lord Shiva really gets angry and becomes Rudra[6] due to such insulting stories, which denigrate His divine personality.

Ganapati means the Lord of the devotees of His innermost circle that are liberated souls. He is the ultimate Lord who comes down to this earth in human form to play well here. Ignorance is at its maximum on earth and therefore the earth is an excellent playground for His divine play or game. He comes down along with His devotees of the innermost circle called as Gana (Kridayantam aharnisham—Shankara). It is just like a boy calling his closest friends to play a game or a person going to see and enjoy a cinema along with his family members. Therefore, the ultimate Parabrahman[7], who descends down in the human form along with His innermost devotees, for the divine play on this earth is Ganapati (Gananaantva—Veda).

What is the meaning of the elephant-head? It means the nature of the elephant. The head represents the intelligence or Buddhi of the elephant and not the head of the elephant physically. We scold a stupid fellow and call him a donkey. It means that his nature is like that of the donkey and not his physical form. What is the nature of an elephant? It is said “Gajaana mati Bhirutvam’, which means that the elephant has enormous strength but it forgets its own strength and is always afraid of everything. Similarly, when the Lord comes down, He imposes ignorance on Himself to enjoy the role. The actor should forget himself in the role if he wants to fully enjoy the role. Therefore, the Lord forgets His divine strength and acts like a Jeeva (soul) and fears for the troubles in this world. The Veda says that fear is the characteristic of the limited soul (Atha tasya Bhayam Bhavati). Only then can the Lord fully enjoy and also do full justice to the role.

It is said that Goddess Parvati prepared the body of Ganapati and also introduced life into it. This statement has inner spiritual meaning. Goddess Parvati represents Maya[8]. When the Lord incarnates, Maya prepares the human body and also introduces life, which is Para Prakriti[9] into it. Therefore, life or awareness is only a part of creation and is not Parabrahman. Ganapati also shows five faces like Shiva. This indicates that Parabrahman indicated by the word Shiva has entered the human body. Ganapati is said to be the husband of Siddhi and Buddhi[10]. Siddhi and Buddhi are not two ladies even though the symbolic representation shows two ladies. Buddhi means knowledge associated with logical analysis. Siddhi means attainment. You have to attain the Lord in human form, who is the Sadguru by logical analysis, so that you can eliminate the fraud preachers. Siddhi means the attainment of the Lord in human form.

Food and Ganapati

Dravya Yajna[11] means the sacrifice of the fruit of your hard work, which is called Karmaphala Tyaga in the Gita. This sacrifice is praised as the highest stage of the spiritual effort and is emphasized everywhere in the Gita. The Veda also says that one gets the goal only by the sacrifice of the fruit of his hard work (Dhanena Tyagenaikena). But in the Gita it is said that knowledge is higher than sacrifice of materials (Shreyaan Dravya mayaat). Now this is a contradiction. Here you have to solve it like this: when materials are wasted in terms of sacrifice that is done under ignorance, the ignorance can only be removed by knowledge. Therefore, in this case, knowledge of the inner meaning is better. The Veda also says that the food or money should not be wasted (Annam Naparicheksheeta). But when the fruit of work is properly utilized without wastage, the sacrifice of material is the highest because it is a practical sacrifice. Therefore, instead of purchasing leaves and branches of trees, you can use your money to serve the Sadguru or real devotees or beggars or at least hungry animals [in that order of preference]. Feed hungry animals with these leaves. Then the sacrifice is properly done and will give you good result.

Today people are worshipping the statue of Ganapati made out of earth. Such worship is condemned in the scriptures and especially by Shankara as Parthiva Puja. Ravana used to do this every day and was finally destroyed. It is actually a sin to establish the Lord in an earthen statue. You do the the ritual of initiation of life (Prana Pratistha) in the idol and then on the 10th day you say ‘Udvasana’, which means that you are removing the life from the body[12]. It means killing Lord Ganapati! You can invite the Lord but should never ask Him to get out after your work is over. You even immerse the dead body [idol] in the river on the 10th day! Instead, you should have a permanent photograph or statue and worship it everyday. You must invite the Lord every day and should never ask the Lord to go. In fact you should know that your invitation will never bring the Lord unless it is fully filled with devotion. Do you think that He comes on your invitation and goes out on your Udvasana? Is He your servant?

Some people say that if Lord Ganapati stays in the house, food materials will quickly get exhausted. How foolish is this idea! He is the Creator of this universe. He created you and food for you. Should you have such an idea towards Him? Is this devotion? You are treating Him as some human guest because when the guest stays for more number of days, food materials in the house get exhausted. In fact the statue or photograph does not eat even a grain of your food. Ganapati actually represents the Sadguru who is in human form. So now you think that if Ganapati i.e., Sadguru stays in your house forever, food materials will really get exhausted. In the correct sense of this statement, Ganapati means the human incarnation and not the statue or photograph. Thanks! At least you have recognized that Ganapati means the human form of the Lord and not the statue. Again this statement means that you can keep the Sadguru in your house for 10 days at the maximum and that He should be sent out by the 10th day. Therefore, you are treating the Lord as an outsider and not even equal to one of your family members, whom you keep forever and never ask them to leave. This shows the value you give to God!

You expect God to protect you in this world in every issue and finally give you salvation in the upper world? On this day we should analyse ourselves and feel ashamed regarding our behaviour to the Lord who gave us this human birth and created all these cosmic facilities. The story that the moon is cursed by Ganapati has also an inner meaning[13]. The moon represents the mind (Chandrama Manaso—Veda). This means that when the Lord comes in the human form, the mind sees only the outermost human body of the incarnation and laughs at the idea that He is the Lord as said in the Gita (Avajananti Mam). The face of such a fellow should not be seen by real devotees and this is the meaning of the story that we should not see the moon on this occasion.

Interpretation of Symbolism

You should take the inner sense of the story which alone is the truth. Scholars explain the concept in a symbolic language for the sake of illiterate and ignorant people. Ganapati was very brave and stood against even Lord Shiva. This means that when the Lord is with full knowledge in His original form, He is fully aware of His divine strength. But when the head of Ganapati is replaced by the head of an elephant, He forgot all his divine strength and was afraid of everything. This is a symbolic story. The actual meaning is that the Lord in his original form is fully aware of Himself and His power. But when He comes down in human form, He forgets His divine strength and fears like an ordinary soul. This gives full enjoyment to the Lord in the human role.

The vehicle of the huge Ganapati is a small rat[14]. This means that when you enter the service of the Lord, you need not think about your capacity to do service. By the will and power of the Lord you will do His service. You are just an external instrument and the Lord wants to give you divine fame. The small rat carries the huge Ganapati and this is not due to the strength of the rat. It is by the power of Ganapati, that the rat carries Him. When Ganapati and His brother Kumara got into the competition for the selection to the post of Ganapati (the leader of the Ganas)[15], the test was to go around the world and come back at the earliest. Kumara played the role of an ignorant devotee. Kumara represented the serpent which is famous for its ego (Tamas) and jealousy (Rajas). He went round the world at a tremendous speed. Ganapati surrendered to Narada who is the Sadguru. ‘Nara’ means knowledge and ‘Da’ is giver. This shows that if you catch the Sadguru and surrender to Him, you can achieve the goal very easily. By the advice of Narada, Ganapati went around His parents [Shiva and Parvati]. Shiva represents Parabrahman and Parvati represents the creation. Therefore, Ganapati went around the Parabrahman and also the creation. Kumara only went around the creation. The human forms of Shiva and Parvati represent the Lord in human form and His real devotees. Therefore service to the Lord in human form and His devotees is the ultimate path.

The rat was a demon and had become an enemy of the Lord. Finally it was turned into a servant of the Lord. This means that even if you misunderstand the Lord in human form for some time, but you realise the truth in course of time and surrender to Him, He will accept you as His servant and give you a place in His innermost circle. You need not hesitate due to your past behaviour. The Lord forgets everything and showers love on you in the same way as He graces other devotees.

 Today you are offering sugarcane and leaves to Lord Ganapati[16]. Sugarcane consists of the visible matter of cellulose and the invisible sugar which can be known only by experience. This represents the human incarnation. The visible cellulose is the visible human body. The invisible sugar is the unimaginable Parabrahman, which can only be experienced. Similarly leaves represent the best item of food, which are green leafy vegetables. The sages lived on leaves, which have herbal medicinal value. Such food develops the quality of Sattvam which pleases the Lord. It is said that Lord Datta appeared to a sage called Parnada. Parnada means he who eats green leafy vegetables. Unless you understand the internal sense and get benefited, what is the use of celebrating a divine festival simply by wasting the money and by overeating?

[1] Lord Ganapathi

[2] Offerings to Lord Ganapathi

[3] Version where Lord Shiva does not know that Ganesha is Parvati’s son

[4] Markandeya story

[5] Yama

[6] Rudra

[7] ParaBrahman

[8] Maya

[9] Prakruti

[10] Siddi and Buddi

[11] Dravya Yagna

[12] Prana Pratishta and Udhvasana

[13] Story of moon

[14] Lord Ganapathi’s vehicle

[15] Test between Ganapathi and Kumara

[16] Offerings to Lord Ganapathi