Are you clinging to your favorite obstacle?

shree-ganeshGanesh removes obstacles.

I’ve been turning to Ganesh for help since 2002 — about 7 yrs longer than I’ve studied Hinduism. He’s always come through for me.

A close friend used to have a job that she hated. I knew she hated her job because every day when she got off work she’d call to talk for awhile about how much she hated her job. I used to live between her job and her home, so occasionally she’d stop by for a few minutes after work. A few times I had to wave incense around like crazy when she left because her “you’ll-never-believe-how-bad-work-was-today” energy hung in the air like poison. She’d ask me daily if I thought she should quit her job. She’d pray about whether she should quit her job. Once she called to report:

“I’ve been praying about whether I should quit my job, and the bush in front of the building [her workplace] caught fire! Do you think a burning bush is a sign? Should I quit my job?”

One day a man came in screaming and waving a knife around. He stabbed a counter repeatedly while the security guard was eating a sandwich in his truck. [By "counter," I mean a surface like a tall desk you stand behind, not a person who counts things; no humans were stabbed in this story.] So she started chanting a Durga mantra she got out of a book. Everyday she’d chant, “om dum durgayei namaha,” as she drove to work so she’d feel strong enough to get through another day.

Still she’d wonder, “Should I quit?”

Then one day she decided to try another mantra from her book. Ganesh mantra. Removes obstacles. She asked Ganesh, “Should I quit?”

Shortly after beginning the new mantra she got called into her boss’s office. It wasn’t working out, she was told. She was being asked to leave (but she did qualify for unemployment, which I think you don’t qualify for if you’re fired, so however her boss worded this, she was released from her job but not exactly fired). This all went down several years ago now, before the economy turned to crap.

Recently she was looking to make a major change in her life and she asked me for a mantra. I recommended, “om gam ganapataye namaha,” because I’ve been using it for years and Ganesh has always come through for me.

She said, “I’m afraid of that mantra.”

“Why?”

“Because I used it, remember, and it made me lose my job!”

That’s how I learned that people don’t necessarily appreciate if their favorite obstacle suddenly gets removed for them (even if they’ve asked for its removal).

Ganesh: to know him is to love him

Ganesh with his Daddy

Ganesh with his Daddy

Just about everybody loves Ganesh. I came across one person online once in the comments section of a news site who made a snide comment about people worshipping “an elephant-headed god” but that guy sticks out in my memory because most people have real affection for the One Tusked One. I even know a few Christians who have little Ganesh statues because he seems so friendly and likeable.

Ganesh with baby Krishna

Ganesh with baby Krishna

I started working with Ganesh in 2002, and even though I was working out of a book that had most of its facts wrong, using a ritual that was nothing like the pujas he’s accustomed to, he helped me then and he’s helped me ever since. There has never been an issue over the last decade that Ganesh couldn’t help with, and what’s best is that when I can’t see any possible solutions, he can. It’s his job.

baby Ganesh

baby Ganesh

Here’s a minor guide to understanding the symbols of Ganesh. Things have more than one meaning and covering everything would take a book (written by a saint) rather than a blog post (written by just me). This tip of the iceberg is the part that I understand:

  1. Ganesh is “always worshipped first.” What does that mean? It doesn’t, as I first thought, mean you have to do an entire Ganesh puja before you start any other kind of puja. One way of understanding is by looking to Voudoun and Papa Legba. You start a ritual with an offering to Papa Legba and then ask him for the person you want to talk to. Ganesh is like that. My husband asked if it was like bribing the doorman. With Ganesh, it’s more like a doorman you really like, for whom you have real affection, and you enjoy talking to him for a few minutes before you move on to stating your business. A second way of understanding is by realizing that Ganesh is strongly associated with the OM, which to ancient rishis in a meditative state, sorta looks like him. Most (not all, but the vast majority) of mantras start with OM. So even if you’re just saying a mantra and not doing any kind of ritual, Ganesh is worshipped first.

    ganesh om

    Ganesh OM

  2. Elephants rock. Seriously, there is no one else you want on your side when push comes to shove. Because elephants can push and they can shove and they can fight to the death and they love fiercely. Need a path cleared? Ask an elephant to walk ahead of you. Need an obstacle removed? Elephants can rip a tree out of the ground, roots and all. Feeling stuck? Watch these female elephants rescuing a baby elephant.
     They’ll keep working until there’s a solution and if the mud is too deep for you, they’ll dig out a walking path.
  3. Ganesh rides a mouse. Every Hindu deity is associated with an animal “mount” (vahana). Why is his a mouse? Mice are detail-oriented. They can get into tiny places and they care about the smallest things. They, too, can also remove obstacles: they’ll chew right through a wall. Some deities are concerned only with Big Problems and don’t like to be bothered with small stuff. Some deities can help with small stuff but have limited power over big stuff. Ganesh can do both. He has the elephant power of the cosmic deities and is in fact God Himself. He also has the personal intimate concern for your tiniest issues that an ancestor or local deity would have. He is the macrocosm and the microcosm.
  4. Ganesh has huge ears but you don’t see his mouth. He loves sitting and listening but doesn’t do a lot of talking. In fact, in all the years he’s helped me in various situations, I don’t remember ever sensing a verbal answer. He has a calm presence and in a little while a solution presents itself. He’s quiet the whole time.
Ganesh with his Mommy

Ganesh with his Mommy

I could go on forever, but this is already getting long. He likes sweets. He loves music and art and writing and books. He was created by Durga and her face lights up in a smile when he charges through obstacles. Some deities are fierce and powerful. Others are gentle and loving. Ganesh is both: he’s immensely powerful and a total sweetie. My life has changed unimaginably since 2002. I don’t know what I would have done all these years without Ganesh by my side.