Lord of the Heavenly Hosts
Ganah in Sanskrit means "multitude" and / sha means "Lord". Ganesha therefore means "Lord of all beings". He is the firstborn son of Lord Shiva, who represents the Supreme Reality, the highest form of consciousness (CitSvaroopa).
In the Padma Puràna it is said that the Mother of the Cosmos, Parvati (that is, She who possesses the three parva, that is, the aspects of Wisdom, Will and Action), has generated the Universe in the moment of greatest balance between the three qualities. The universal Mother married Shiva, that is, God or the Supreme Consciousness: this marriage indicates the union of the Finite with the Infinite. One day Mother Parvati doused her body with fragrant oil and powder and, with her perfume emanating from her, she created a masculine form with an elephant head. She then she immersed this creature in the waters of the sacred Ganga, second divine consort of Lord Shiva. In contact with the water, that image came to life. Mother Parvati and Mother Ganga called him "Son". All the gods and sages paid homage to that beautiful being and called him Gàngeha, the son of Ganga. The son of Shiva is the symbol of the one who has realized the Supreme Consciousness, who has discovered the Divinity in himself.
There are other names that are attributed to Ganesha: Ganapati (Leader of the Ganas or Celestial Beings or Deva); Gajànana (Gaja = elephant, Anana = face: Elephant face); Vinàyaka (Supreme Leader, literally "He who does not let himself be led"); Vighneshvara (Lord of all obstacles). This last attribute is remembered in all Hindu initiation rituals and, according to its etymology, indicates the complete victory over all the challenges of life. It is common belief that, if one invokes Him, nothing can resist His Grace, not even a divine power: nothing is impossible for It.
According to Hindu mythology, Ganesha married Lakshmi and Sarasvati, who respectively represent the deities of Prosperity and Knowledge; these unions are but the symbol of His ability both in Knowledge (Vidya) and in earthly enterprises (Avidya). Westerners are very impressed by the mythological figure with which Ganesha is represented: a divinity with an elephant head, a severed tusk, an obese belly, a leg folded and raised from the ground, four arms, some food in front and a nearby mouse that seems to ask permission to eat. In truth, this is but a mystical representation, whose multiple and profound meanings are entrusted to details, which express a state of perfection and describe the ways to achieve it.
The large elephant head emphasizes the dimension of learning skills, essentially intellectual, necessary for those who scrutinize Vedantic thinking and on the supreme wisdom, which is the goal of the seeker.
The huge ears symbolize the great wisdom of spiritual education, the fruit of listening (Shravana) to eternal truths and reflecting (Manana) on those truths.
The trunk indicates the intellectual abilities emanating from wisdom and manifesting themselves in the faculty of discrimination. There are two types of intellect: elementary and subtle. The elementary intellect, at a rudimentary stage, is that form of discrimination which applies to the things of the world. It allows us to distinguish between earthly realities, between day and night, black and white, joy and pain, etc. The subtle intellect allows us to discriminate between higher concepts such as the finite and the infinite, the real and the unreal, the transcendental and the phenomenal. A man who achieves the realization of Ganesha fully possesses the two types of intellect: he is able to perfectly understand both terrestrial and transcendent realities. The trunk also symbolizes an instrument capable of both uprooting a tree and plucking a flower. It is not easy to find a mechanical means that has both the qualities of strength and delicacy: a wrench can tighten the chain of a wheel, but it cannot repair a wristwatch. In the elephant's trunk one can glimpse the malleability of the perfect discriminative attitude, capable of penetrating both the material and the supernatural world.
These two worlds are represented by the two fangs of Ganesha, one of which is broken, in memory of a struggle with Parashuràma, a great disciple of Lord Shiva: it remembers that whoever has fought for the truth and has truly understood the Vedànta is beyond beyond any dualism. The ordinary man struggles through the ups and downs of life. The perfect man, on the other hand, is founded on the highest Wisdom, he is not affected by sympathies (ràga) or by antipathies (dvesha), he is not contaminated by good or adverse circumstances, he is not conditioned by pleasant or unpleasant events. In other words, while living among the contradictions of the world, he remains in other words, while living among the contradictions of the world, it remains unchanged. Hot and cold, joy and sadness, honor and dishonor do not disturb or affect him. By going beyond the domain of opposites, he becomes a Dvandvatta, one who transcends opposites, duality, Ganesha himself.
Another characteristic of Ganesha is the fat belly and a great appetite, which indicate the ability to "ingest" any experience, cold and heat, war and peace, birth and death, while all kinds of tribulations continue to leave him indifferent.
In Hindu mythology the following story is told.
The treasurer of Heaven, Kubera, went to Mount Kailash one day to have the darshan (vision) of Shiva. Because he was vain, he invited Him to a dinner in his glitzy city of his, Alakapuri, so that he could exhibit all his riches and glories of him. The Lord smiled and said to him, "I cannot come, but you can invite Ganesha. I warn you that he is a voracious eater!"
Not at all worried, Kubera was ready to satisfy even an insatiable hunger like that of Ganesha with his opulence. He took little Vinayaka with him and took him to his city. He arranged to offer him a ceremonial bath and to dress him in sumptuous robes. After these initial rites, the great banquet. While Kubera's servants went out of their way to serve all the dishes, little Ganapati began to eat, eat and eat ... His appetite did not stop even after having devoured the dishes intended for the other guests. There was not even time to substitute one course for another, that little Ganesha had already devoured everything and, with signs of impatience, he was waiting for new food. Devoured all that had been prepared, Ganesha began to eat decorations, furnishings, furniture, chandeliers, ... Terrified, Kubera prostrated himself before the little omnivore and begged him to spare him the rest of the palace.
"I'm hungry. If you don't give me anything else to eat, I'll eat you too!" He told Kubera. The god of wealth, desperate, rushed to Mount Kailash to ask Shiva for an urgent remedy. The Lord then gave him a handful of toasted rice, saying that that would satisfy him, Ganesha had already gobbled up almost the whole city, when Kubera humbly gave him the rice. Ganesha was satisfied with that food and calmed down.
This story, which comes from the Puranas, teaches that man attracted to perfection is not satiated by the worldly joys, symbolized by the banquet of Kubera. Pursuing material possessions can never bring peace, satisfaction or happiness. The only way to attain complete peace is by consuming the yasanas, the occult desires of the mind. These desires, in fact, are like roasted rice which has lost its germination capability. Peace and bliss therefore come when the innermost desires have been destroyed. And, to administer this handful of benevolent rice, it is the Supreme Master, Lord Shiva, who with the fire of Knowledge cauterizes desire in the bud, taking away any possibility of development.
Ganesha sits with one leg raised off the ground and the other with the foot resting on the ground. The Puranas explain this: it means that one aspect of his personality is interested in the world, while the other is always rooted in concentration on the Supreme Reality. The man who resembles Ganesha lives like any other in the world, but without being of the world, concentrating and meditating basically on the Atma.
At the feet of the Lord, as before a yogi, there is a great deal of food. It symbolizes material wealth, power and prosperity, which can be achieved after following the principles of life mentioned above. I am at his feet, because all cosmic powers and forces are always available to man who lives according to the spirit of Ganesha.
Near the food there is a little mouse with his eyes turned to Ganesha. In other representations, the little mouse is ridden by little Ganesha in the middle of the food. But it doesn't touch them. It almost seems to wait for a sign to be able to taste it from time to time. The mouse is a symbol of desire: in fact, like desire, despite having a small mouth, with its tenacious and quick teeth, it can ruin an entire barn. The greed of these rodents is known to steal more than they can eat, often abandoning the food reserves they have accumulated themselves. So is desire. A single small desire that creeps into a man's mind can ruin both the material and spiritual heritage, achieved through years of hard work. The gaze directed not at food, but at Ganesha, denotes that the desire for a perfect man is completely under control. Such a person's actions are motivated by his clear discrimination and judgment, rather than by his greed for the various objects of the world. Among the Hindus it is believed that it is a bad omen to look at the Moon on the day of Vinàyaka Chatùrti, the day in which Ganesha was born, because in the Puranas it is said that the Moon mocked Ganesha, seeing him ride the mouse. But, even in this scene there is a meaning of profound value. The man who yearns for perfection uses every means, among those that have been given to him, in order to reach the goal: body, mind and intellect, in reality, are disproportionate to the comparison with the infinite Atma and their juxtaposition may seem grotesque. . The realized has no means to express or communicate his experience of the Infinite. For this reason, the words and actions of the spiritual masters are often incomprehensible and absurd. The mockery of the Moon allegorizes the ignorance of the human mind, which finds many representatives among those who mock the sacred teachings and the great masters of the spirit. The image of Ganesha riding the mouse, therefore, is also a warning to avoid the catastrophe that affects the incredulous and mocking generations.
Finally, the Lord of Obstacles - Vighneshvara - has four arms, which represent the four inner attributes of the subtle body: Manas (the mind), Buddhi (the intellect), Ahamkara (the Ego) and China (the conditioned Consciousness). Ganesha represents Pure Consciousness, the Atma that puts the four elements into operation. In one hand he wields an ax, symbol of the severing of all desires and attachments that bring suffering; in the other a rope, symbol of the force that attracts the devotee away from chaos and confusion to bind him to the eternal bliss of the Self. In the third hand he holds a rice ball, a symbol of the happy reward that belongs to the devotee. The devotee, in fact, as he continues his path of spiritual evolution, obtains joy and fulfillment. In the fourth hand he holds a lotus flower (padma), which symbolizes the highest goal of human evolution. With the lotus in his hand, Ganesha leads the attention of all seekers to that supreme state to which each of them aspires with the due spiritual practices and blesses all his devotees and protects them, so that they reach that goal unscathed.