Warm wishes to you all on this happy and auspicious occasion when Hindus celebrate the birthday of Lord Ganesha. But we neither need to be Hindu nor religious to appreciate the story of his wonderful life and what he represents.
In Hindu homes, this festival is usually filled with immense joy. There is often a retelling of the story of Lord Ganesha, as well as special food, decorations, music and offerings. For children, Ganesha is a magical, mythological being, and parents often refer to him and his life to teach values, such as “Having such large ears and a small mouth means you should listen more and talk less.”
There are also some very beautiful and profound spiritual messages we can learn from Ganesha that are universal in their appeal.
When you look at Ganesha, all you feel is joy and happiness. Whether you are religious or not, it is a natural response to smile when you see his image. That is the first message of Ganesh: be joyful, as after all only joy attracts Grace. You feel that joy radiating from him.
What else does he represent? He has an animal face, a human body and a divine function. Isn’t that the journey of spirituality, where we evolve from animal to human to divine in our nature? The sophisticated Murthi of Lord Ganesha is like three-dimensional infographics, detailing the spiritual journey and beyond, starting from the animal level of existence to a state beyond anandam or bliss! How to portray a state beyond bliss, where the very individual is no longer there in the form of consciousness to interact with non-bliss?
We have animalistic, instinctive tendencies that are associated with living in a physical body as part of the animal kingdom. Through developing our capacities to love, accept, understand and forgive, we become human, transcending the baser tendencies. As the journey continues, our existence slowly becomes divinized, so that we transcend even our humanness so that we can merge with the Ultimate. In that state, the animal, human and divine are integrated in the form of a divinized being. Ganesha symbolizes this journey; he represents the possibility that exists for all of us.
Now comes the mouse! Why should a big guy like Ganesha be riding a tiny country mouse? Here he is teaching us one of the most important principles of an evolutionary life. Our spiritual journey is all about the expansion of our consciousness, and this requires the refinement of our subtle bodies.
One of the four main subtle bodies is our ego, ahankar. As our ego is refined, the qualities of humility, innocence, simplicity and purity shine out in our behavior, as we are able to externalize the subtlest spiritual conditions.
Ganesha shows us this so beautifully and simply: we need to make our ego so light that even a mouse can carry us! He represents that carefree, joyful state of surrender, where the ego is light and utilized for universal, divine purpose.
So we have joy, happiness, integration of animal, human and divine, and the mouse: the lightness of a pure and humble ego. What a combination! No wonder Ganesha is loved by all. Instead of just loving him, let’s try to become like him.
All the best,