Ganesha – Lord of Ganas & Guide to Higher Self
When an elephant passes through the forest, it pushes any obstacles from its path. The other animals living there easily follow the elephant’s path.
Sri Ganesha, also known as Ganapati and 108 other names, is the elephant-headed god of the Hindu pantheon. Ganesha is the remover of obstacles and lord of the Ganas. The Ganas are attendants of Siva—think of them as a spiritual posse that supports all of our journeys toward the light. Siva is the source of our infinite consciousness, and the Ganas protect the source and path to the infinite. The Ganas are our sacred warriors of love.
When we pray on or invoke Ganesha, we must hold Siva in our hearts—Ganesha is concerned with the path toward our higher self and guides us through the forest of our inner shadows while helping us to forge a new course. Ganesha is known to remove obstacles but may also place obstructions in our way to help nudge us in the right direction.
Observing obstacles (or challenges) helps me remember that spirit is guiding my path and that I need to pay attention and give gratitude to the lesson. It’s not always easy to remember this, and I frequently forget.
Ganesha’s Origin Story
There are a few origin stories about Ganesha, but I resonate most with the following; Ganesha is the son of the power couple from the Hindu pantheon— Parvati and Shiva. Parvati created a son to watch over her as she was bathing. Shiva had been in the Himalayas meditating and decided to return to his wife’s location. Upon approaching the bathing area, his new son stopped him from entering his mother’s intimate location. Shiva was not to be stopped and took out his trident and removed the head of the boy preventing him from his wife.
Parvati was devastated and told Shiva that he had just removed his son’s head. Shiva ordered his Ganas, the most esteemed servants of God, to go into the jungle and bring the head of the first animal they could find. They returned with the head of an elephant. Shiva placed the head onto his son’s lifeless body, and Ganesha, the elephant-headed God, was born.
Lord Shiva decreed that no sacred ritual would start without first praying to Sri Ganesha and honored him as the lord of beginnings. I always chant to Ganesha before every ayahuasca ceremony and hape session, and I encourage you to explore this invocation if you feel called. Shiva also stated that any offering made with love to his new son would remove obstacles from life’s path. He established Ganesha as the patron deity of all arts, science, music, and literature. The goddess Saraswati holds similar duties.
Let’s talk about what is being taught in this epic story—we’ll notice similarities to our spiritual journeys. The divinely created son acts in ignorance of God and tries to prevent the unification of the male (Shiva) and female (Parvati) principle. I struggle with this yin-yang union; remembering my feminine aspect always brings balance. Only when the head representing our egos is removed by the trident (which symbolizes the energy channels of our prana) can we awaken to our higher manifestation. With the ego out of the way and the monkey mind quiet, we remember who and what we are, step into our divine path, and walk peacefully without obstacles.
Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha
Ganesha is widely associated with the sacred sound Om (Aum). In some writing styles, the letter for Om resembles the shape of an elephant’s head or body and is considered the greatest of all sacred symbols. Ganesha can be depicted with 2 – 16 arms. In most iconography, Ganesha has four arms, an elephant head, and a round belly and carries objects in three of his four hands.
Ganesha is usually depicted with a broad smile and a trishul symbol on his forehead—the trishul is in honor of his father Shiva. Ganesha has one whole tusk, while the other is broken. The remainder of that tusk is usually held in one of his hands. Ganesha can be pictured with fruits, sweets, flowers, a water pitcher, and many weapons. The most common representations show him holding a lotus flower, his tusk, and an ax or whip. With his free hand, he performs the mudra for blessing, protection, or refuge.
Ganesha is usually yellow or red, and his vahana (sacred vehicle) is a mouse. The mouse is an extension of Ganesha’s power to remove obstacles. Ganesha may be shown dancing, standing, in a tantric yoga pose, crawling as a child, or seated on Parvati’s knee. He makes frequent appearances as an infant in Parvati iconography.
Each aspect of Ganesha has its symbology. The trishul or trident symbol on his head signifies his power over time. The lotus represents the inner self fully realized. His tusk represents sacrifice in artistic efforts. The ax is used to cut back desires. The whip symbolizes the force tying God to man. Ganesha’s belly symbolizes bounty, his ability to swallow sorrows, and is said to contain infinite universes.
Ganesha’s elephant head symbolizes discriminating intellect, wisdom, and understanding. His wide mouth represents the joy people desire to have. His efficient, adaptable trunk represents the sacred sound Om and can hold anything in the universe. His wide ears indicate his ability to listen and learn. His small eyes symbolize the attainment of humility by discarding pride. His right tusk represents wisdom. His left broken tusk represents emotion.
Connecting With Ganesha
If you feel called to the energy of Ganesha, I encourage you to honor him with a picture or statue. Creating an altar dedicated to the energies and deities called to your side is a beautiful way to connect with aspects of the spirit realm.
Chanting to Lord Ganesha is another way to connect to this wonderous deity—Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha. This chant can be translated as “my salutations to Lord Ganesha.” This mantra is from the Ganapati Upanishad, a Sanskrit writing from the Vedas.
In addition to creating an altar and chanting, connecting with Ganesha can involve meditation and visualization. You can visualize Ganesha in your mind’s eye and imagine yourself walking alongside him, seeking his guidance and wisdom. You can also incorporate Ganesha’s symbols and attributes into your daily life, such as wearing a lotus flower or carrying a small object representing Ganesha throughout the day.
Finally, it’s important to remember that Ganesha is not just a deity to be worshiped but also a symbol of the inner journey we must take toward our higher selves. As we navigate the obstacles and challenges of life, we can call upon Ganesha’s energy to help us remove any barriers blocking our path and guide us toward our true purpose.
Blessings to my brother Clarke for invoking a deep love for Ganesha and helping open my eyes and heart to his manifestation.