Ganesha is the elephant headed deity popular among today's yoga community. He brings in the spirit of such a refined intelligence that one is able to see through all things; particularly all opinions and points of view which appear as various philosophical and religious schools. The intelligence represented doesn’t really need a point of view because it is resting in a direct experience of reality. Ganesha has a great sense of humor. He reminds us of how important humor is as we try earnestly to perfect the practices of yoga. Especially if we believe we have achieved perfection, there is something that has been unseen, unrecognized. The impossibility of perfection is the shadow side to the apparent idealism of any dogma, be it religious, spiritual or scientific. Ganesh represents that shadow side and laughs at it.
Ganesha also represents all of the various obstacles that arise in practice (and in life). In the beginning stage, we may be so enthusiastic about our yoga practice that it feels like a love affair; all aspects of our new life seem wonderful. After some months or years of practice, we hit a plateau. Many types of obstacles begin to arise. The yogic point of view is that the obstacles themselves are Ganesha. They are the deity and if we pay very close attention to things as they are, that is the resolution of the obstacle. Projecting an unknown ideal or goal out into the future is often an obstacle itself. And so, through the invocation of Ganesha we learn to meditate on that which is actually arising in the present moment. Rather than try to focus on some idealized form which happens to not be arising in the present moment. And which is a form of frustration to us. In other words, the world is quite sacred as it is even with its imperfections. Our minds and our bodies are sacred as they are. Even with their minor imperfections.
The practice of chanting the names or mantras of the deities is perhaps the most important technique in bhakti yoga. Although the practice itself is simple, the internal process that it stimulates is vast and mysterious. Externally, we’re just singing repetitive songs with simple melodies and a few Sanskrit words. We try to put our analytical minds to the side and sing from the heart. We try to channel whatever emotion we’re feeling into the song. Then the magic happens: Walls constructed long ago come crumbling down. Wounds that we never knew were there begin to heal. Long-submerged emotions come to the surface. As we sing, we immerse ourselves in an endless river of prayer that has been flowing since the birth of the first human beings. And somehow, effortlessly, we move into a meditative state that creates a safe haven for the flower of the heart to unfold. (www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101/sea-of-love/ accessed 12/25/2020)
The following is a you tube video of a kirtan where the energy and power of Ganesha is being invited to come and have a seat in the sacred space which has been prepared.
OM GAM GANAPATAYE NAMAHA
The following is a transliteration of the Sanskrit characters and meaning of the words.
OM is the primordial sound, the vibration of the universe
GAM is the seed sound or bij mantra for Ganesha GANAPATI is another name for Ganesha NAMAHA means I bow to you, I offer my salutations to you
SHARANAM means refuge or protection
The following is an English translation:
I bow to you
I offer my salutations to you
Remove from me these fears and attachments to worldly things
I take refuge in that which is beyond boundaries and beyond form
I fell in love with Bhakti Yoga in 1994 during my month long 200 hour Yoga Teachers Training at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. A young renunciant in residence at Kripalu invited anyone staying at the Ashram to join him for his morning devotionals. He played his harmonium and raised his voice in adoration of the Great Mother. I understood Bhakti Yoga to be the yoga of devotion, and certainly felt the energy of love and grace when listening and chanting.
2020 has certainly been a year of great obstacles. I have called upon the power and grace that the energy of Ganesha brings almost daily. This year of the novel coronovirus and all that it has had to offer in the way of obstacles is extraordinary. The practice of mantra and meditation has allowed me to persevere.
Even as I sought to learn as much as possible about the science of SARS-CoV-2, I had to acknowledge that science does not have all the answers. I was eager to learn as much as possible. But the science was evolving and opinions changing almost daily. The experience felt to me as one of validation. I long ago let go of belief in the dogma of science which says only what is scientifically observed or measured is important, or even real. I was reminded of the importance of meeting individuals where they are. And to not waste energy trying to convince anyone to believe, or act a certain way.
The lock down forced an abrupt slow down of the frantic pace I often set for myself. I was provided an opening into deeper intimacy with my inner life. This year has been an opportunity to re-evaluate what is real and what is important. I allowed my own deep inner experience of what is real and important be my guide.
I have make best effort to be present; to accept what each day brings and to do what I can to nourish both my inner life and to attend to the needs of my family, and the larger community. To let go of my need keep up with the science; to let go of the need to uphold a particular point of view. To recognize the impracticality of perfection, and simply to be.
Remember, the world is quite sacred as it is.
I hope that you will explore the many musical interpretations of this powerful mantra and allow the energy of Ganesha to help you to overcome obstacles which will surely present themselves in the New Year.
Blessings on the journey my friends.