What can Lord Ganesh teach us?



Img courtesy: Vinay Bavdekar on Flickr
Image courtesy: Vinay Bavdekar on Flickr
Staying in Pune, Maharashtra, I don’t need a Hindu calendar to know the date for Ganesh Chaturthi. The drum rolls and the festive mood tell me that today is the day. 

I was born on Ganesh Chaturthi. (Now my birthday rarely coincides)

Although, I’m an atheist, I find deep gratification in questioning, discovering and understanding the reasons behind mythology/religious doctrines. The stories revolving Lord Ganesh are no exception. I would like to share two moral lessons that are neatly woven into Ganpati folklore.

Circumnavigating the globe


Everyone knows the story where Ganesh triumphs over his younger brother, Kartikeya, in a race around the world, by circling around his parents, Shiva and Parvati, while his brother flies around the actual globe on his peacock.

The key moral lesson conveyed beautifully through this mythology is respect for one’s parents. The story leaves a strong impression on the mind and reinstates the truth: one’s parents are ought to be one’s world.

In my humble opinion, this comparison tries to draw our attention to another key psychological idea or concept: mind over matter. The point is you cannot treat everything ‘objectively’; to truly understand the mind/body/spirit complex one needs to contemplate ‘subjectively’ on many matters.

Symbolism of Ganesh’s vehicle: the mouse


One of the most subtle yet powerful symbolisms hidden in the Lord Ganesh mythology is his vehicle: a mouse. The moral lesson behind this symbol is that the largest and powerful things often depend on the smallest and trivial things. 

Great people don’t achieve greatness by jumping ladders. Morever, the media never glorifies or covers the small achievements that eventually enables a person to make her mark. Greatness emerge from the interaction and interference of seemingly trivial and tiny things.

In other words, his mouse is a reminder to the fact that no person, however strong and powerful, should harbor personal ego and take full credit for her brilliance or greatness. We should recognize that small events manifesting from time to time woven together finally make the whole big picture.
Simultaneously, it also teaches us that if we want the stupendous power of Lord Ganesh behind us, then the small and humble processes of the mouse are our vehicle.

May the force be with you. Ganpati bappa moriya!

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