Bhakti in Vedanta: Symbolism of the elephant god Ganesha
I heard often in spiritual circles that Vedanta does not have any devotion or Bhakti and its practice is dry and unemotional.
Sure, there is not a lot of emotion visually, but we are full of appreciation for life and our love can be expressed outwardly as well.
I have a statue of Ganesha in my house and every morning, as part of my Sadhana morning practice, I put incense and light a candle in front of the statue. I do a few chants and then go into meditation.
Some might question my behavior, especially as a non-dual Vedanta teacher.
Let me explain: All deities are a symbol of the SELF.
How does Ganesha symbolize the Self?
Ganesha symbolism: One tusk
First, this elephant God has only one tusk, the other is shown broken. There is a whole story why it broke, but I just want to point that one tusk symbolise that the wise person is beyond duality. The single tusk shows us that reality is one.
Ganesha symbolism: Big body
He has a full belly, a sign of being “full” and content and a big head, a sign of wisdom.
Ganesha symbolism: Foot on the ground
Ganesha is shown with one foot on the ground and the other resting on his knee, above the ground. The wise person is from the earth, naturally and unpretentious but not totally. There is an ascending aspect to him.
Ganesha symbolism: The rat
And there is the rat, a symbol of the ego. Ganesha is sitting on it, he is in control of the rat. It is said that Ganesha “rides “ on the rat. This animal is the greediest of all. It needs to nibble and eat all the time and never sits still. If a rat can not eat, its teeth grow too long and it dies.
The rat is our like our senses: Our senses feed the ego and they need constant stimulation. A wise person “rides “ on his senses and keeps them controlled.
Ganesha symbolism: Sweets
Often Ganesha is shown with sweets in one of his hands, a sign about the sweetness of liberation. The rat looks at the sweet, eager to gobble them, but Ganesha keeps it in check. The senses are under his control.
Ganesha symbolism: Disk
In another arm he hold a disk, a symbol of discrimination. He can cut through illusion.
Ganesha symbolism: Raised hand
And of course, the raised hand with the palm facing us obstacles indicates that his force will be with you to overcome all obstacles.
Ganesha symbolism: Siva and Parvati
Ganesha is the son of Siva and Parvati, the gods governing the life force and the earth-mother. This symbolizes the spirit and the body of a wise person.
Ganesha symbolism: Elephant
Finally, the wise person has the dignity of an elephant. When I chant “Om Ganeshaya Namah” in the morning I want wisdom to guide all the actions I will make during the day to be wise, kind and in harmony with Dharma.
Why did I choose Ganesha and not another deity like Krishna?
I can't say, only that Ganesha chose me.
He is a focus for my gratitude and a reminder each morning to be the best I can be. To stay in the heart, to remain aware and to discriminate between what is real, and will never change and what will change all the time.
My day can begin.
Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha
Lots of Love,
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