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31 July, 2011


VISNU is one of the gods of the Trinity. Visnu represents the power of sustenance. The other two powers manifest in the world, namely creation and destruction are personified as Brahma and Siva respectively. Visnu is wedded to Laksmi the goddess of wealth. The significance is that sustenance or maintenance involves wealth. In order to maintain anything the maintainer must necessarily possess wealth.

In the Visnu Purana, Sage Vyasa refers to Visnu as the supreme all-pervading Reality, the Reality which is the substratum of the microcosm and macrocosm. The root ‘vis’ means ‘to pervade’. Visnu is the core of the human personality. He is the Atman which manifests Itself through body, mind and intellect as the individual. The same Visnu pervades the entire cosmos as Brahman.

Visnu is said to be lying on a great serpent, Sesa or Ananta, in an ocean of milk, ksirabdhi in heaven, Vaikuntha. He is said to be in yogic sleep, yoganidra. The body of the serpent is coiled to form Visnu’s bed. The serpent has a thousand heads and its hood is turned inward looking at its own coiled body. Visnu’s consort, Lakshmi, sits at his feet serving him.

Visnu represents the supreme within the human body, mind and intellect. The picture of Visnu lying on the serpent-bed in the milky ocean suggests the means of recognizing the Atman, the innermost core of man’s personality. The ocean is the mind with its infinite thoughts. The milky ocean stands for the sattvika mind. A sattvika mind is pure and serene. It is the highest quality of the mind. The other two states of the mind are rajasika, and tamasika. The rajasika mind is ever agitated. Tamasika is dull and stupid. When the mind is in the latter two states man gets involved in the mundane world. Only the sattvika mind lifts man to the higher realm of Divinity. In a sattvika mind alone can man recognize his Godhead.

The serpent is the ego with its many desires. In a sattvika mind the ego is turned inward. An extroverted ego loses sight of the Divinity within. When the same ego turns its attention inward, when its concentration is upon the inner Self instead of the outer objects of the world it recognizes the supreme Self, Atman. The thousand heads of the serpent turning inwards indicates that the thoughts are directed to single-pointed concentration meditation upon the Atman. When man holds his mind thus in deep meditation upon his supreme Self he realizes Visnu, the all pervading Reality.

Visnu is shown to be in yogic sleep—yoganidra. Yoga is derived from its root yuj, to unite. This indicates his perfect union with the infinite Reality. Nidra means sleep. A man who is totally absorbed in the supreme Self is asleep as it were to the happenings of the terrestrial world, reveling in the infinite bliss of Self-realisation. He is disinterested in the experiences of the finite world.

Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Visnu, sits at his feet, serving him. Lakshmi symbolizes the wealth, power and glory of this world. When man seeks the higher Truth and is disinterested in the world the sense-objects seek him. When Visnu is sought, Lakshmi necessarily follow the seeker. But the trouble in the world today is that people try to seek Lakshmi directly. The moment runs after wealth, starts desiring, craving, asking and begging for it, the object of desires leaves him. That is the law.

Visnu is the one eternal, unmanifest Reality. The manifest world of plurality has emerged from the unmanifest Reality. Brahma, the creator of the world is shown as emerging from the navel of Visnu while he is lying on the serpent-bed. The naval portion represents the psychological centre, cakra from where sound originates in the form of paravak, transcendent speech. This inaudible sound passes through two more stages of developments, namely pasyanti and madhyama, before it becomes audible speech, called vaikhari. This audible sound is the quality of space, akasa. Space is the first of the five elements which constitutes the entire universe. The production of sound therefore symbolizes creation. This idea of the manifested world created from the unmanifested Reality is illustrated by Brahma emerging from the navel of Visnu.

Visnu is known to be blue in colour and clothed in yellow garb. He wears a crown and stands upon a lotus. He has four hands. All these are significant symbols indicating that Visnu is none other than the supreme Self, the changeless Reality around which all the terrestrial changes take place, the imperishable essence in the perishable world.

The blue colour of Vishnu indicates His infinite stature, Blue is associated with the infinite since immeasurable entitites like the sky or ocean appear blue in colour. Yellow is usually attributed to the earth for two reasons: one, the earth (silica) glows with a yellow fire when introduced in a colourless flame; and two, anything that is buried in the earth for a long period of time gathers a yellowish colour. Visnu, blue in colour and clothed in yellow, therefore, represents the descent of the infinite, immeasurable, transcendental Truth to the terrestrial realm i.e. God in a human form.

When the Infinite expresses through a finite form, there is a manifestation of an individual, jiva. The individual comes in contact with and reacts to the world with the help of four subtle instruments in him. They are the four constituents of his subtle body, viz., manas mind, buddhi intellect, ahankara ego and citta conditioned consciousness. The four hands of Visnu represent them.

The crown on Visnu’s head signifies his supreme sovereignty and lordship over the entire world of plurality. He is the one who maintains and protects all things and beings in the entire universe.

The deity stands upon a lotus. The lotus represents Truth. ‘Standing upon the lotus’ therefore, means that the ground or substratum which supports a God-man is the Brahman i.e., a God-man is ever rooted in the supreme Truth.

In his four hands Visnu holds a sankha conch, cakra discus, gada mace and padma lotus. The lotus indicates the final goal of human evolution. By showing the lotus, Visnu invites mankind to reach this goal of perfection by realizing his pure Self within.

The Lord blows his sankha conch, calling the people of the world to lead a pure and noble life so that they may shift their attention and interest from the material world to the supreme Self within. This call is the whispering of the conscience within. The conscience of man tells him to give up sensuous appetites and extrovert living and directs him to the higher life. But man does not heed this sacred voice from within. He continues with his passionate living until he experiences knocks and shocks leading to disappointment and dissatisfaction with life. The mace in the third hand is meant as a warning to draw man’s attention to this stern law of nature. If man, despite the growing sense of restlessness and agitations in his bosom, still persists in his sensual indulgences and does not turn towards the spiritual path, he meets with total disaster. The discus is meant to show man this inevitable end that he would reach if he were totally heedless to the warnings of nature.

On the other hand, a seeker who listens to the call from within and follows the spiritual path leading to the Truth, does not experience the knocks of the mace or the destruction of the discus. He lives a life of contentment and bliss until he reaches the abode of Truth and becomes one with Visnu.

Visnu’s message conveyed by his four hands is true not only with reference to an individual but to a society, community or a nation as well. As long as people do not heed the sacred advice of the scriptures and take to the spiritual values of life, they meet with sorrow and suffering in life. If this warning also is not heeded and the people continue to live extrovertedly fulfilling merely their sense gratifications, they are bound to meet with disaster. This is what history has been recording from generation to generation as evidenced by the rise and fall of nations and empires.

Source: Excerpts from the Book on “The symbolism of Hindu Gods and Rituals”.

23 July, 2011

THE GOD BEHIND THE GODS (Story from Kena Upanisad)

Part III of the Kena Upanishad contains a simple narrative. The puranic literature adopted the same method with many mystical stories describing god. It is primarily meant for exercising the intellect to comprehend the subtle truth ingrained in them.

The narrative speaks of a battle between the gods and the demons. The gods were losing the battle. So they sought the help of the Supreme God, Brahman. Through Brahman’s help they emerged victorious. But they were vainful of their glory. They celebrated the victory as their own. Amidst their jubilance they ignored the vital part played by Brahman. Brahman noticed their vanity, ingratitude. And wanted to expose their frailty.

Thus Brahman appeared in the sky as a Yaksa apparition, Spirit. The gods saw the form of the Spirit. They were baffled. Did not know what the yaksa was. And were terrified at the thought of the enemy still lurking. So they approached Agni meaning Fire-god and requested him to find out what that Yaksa was. He agreed to do so.

Agni hastened to that spot. And drew near the Spirit. The Spirit softly asked him, “Who are you?” He replied he was Agni, also known as Jatavedha, meaning, All-Knower. The Spirit enquired, “What power do you possess?” He replied, “I burn everything on earth.” The Spirit then placed a straw before him and asked him to burn it. Agni tried and failed. He promptly returned to the gods and admitted he could not ascertain what the Spirit was.

The gods then approached Vayu meaning Wind-god with the same request. Vayu too agreed to find out what that Spirit was. He hastened to the spot. The Spirit asked him the same questions, “Who are you? What power do you possess?” Vayu answered, “I am Vayu, also known as Matarisva meaning Mover-in-sky. I can blow away everything on earth.” The Spirit placed a straw and asked him to blow it away. Vayu could not do so. He also rushed back and admitted he could not ascertain what that Spirit was.

The gods by now panicked. They approached Indra, the ruler of gods also known as Meghavan meaning Worshipful-one. They requested Indra to investigate the mystery of the Spirit. He agreed and hastened to the spot. As Indra approached, the apparition disappeared. But Indra continued his quest without returning unlike the other two gods. At the very space an extremely beautiful woman appeared. She was Uma, daughter of Himavan, the personification of the Himalaya mountain. Indra asked Uma, What was that apparition which disappeared?”

Part Three of the Kena Upanisad ends with this question. Uma answers the question in the first mantra of Part Four. “Brahman”, she exclaimed, “through Brahman alone you have gained this victory and glory.” Then alone Indra realized the apparition was none other than Brahman, the supreme God.

It appears odd that the story was not completed in Part Three itself. Stranger still that the question and answer are placed in different parts of the Upanisad. It would seem appropriate to have ended Part Three with Uma’s answer. The reason for the split will be covered in the interpretation of the episode which follows.

The narrative has a deep allegorical significance. The Yaksa in the sky represents the supreme God, Brahman, Atman, which is above human perception, emotion or conception. The gods represents human virtues. And demons, represent vices. The apparition appeared after the gods gained victory over the demons. It signifies that the spiritual enquiry starts after virtue prevails over the vice.

When this happens the seeker initially adopts the simple form of spiritual practice using his gross body. He takes to mechanical, ritualistic worship. This is subtly indicated by the Fire-god approaching the Spirit. Fire-god Agni in the context represents the organs of action. Fire signifies speech. Speech is associated with Fire. Typical examples of this association being: “He gave a fiery speech”, “The boss fired him”, “Hot words were exchanged between them”, He took the generation aflame with his oratory”. Etcetera. And speech is used to mean collectively all organs of action. That covers mechanical worship with the gross body. Such physical practices provide hardly any spiritual satisfaction. And the practitioner remains far from spiritual enlightenment.

In the encounter with the Spirit, the Fire-god had two significant experiences:

(i) He could not ascertain what Spirit was

(ii) He lost the power he possessed. He could not burn the blade of grass.

In the first experience indicates that no seeker can contact the supreme God, Atman, the Self through the gross body. The organs of action cannot embrace the Atman, Self.

The second experience indicates that the organs of action are enlivened by the Atman, Self. Without the support of the Self, the organs of action become in effectual. They cease to function.

The repetition of this episode with Vayu Wind-god signifies the relationship between Atman, Self and the organs of perception. Wind-god here represents pranas vital-air sheath. And pranas cover the organs of perception. Therefore, Vayu’s identical experiences with Brahman establishes the same two truths:

(i) The organs of perception cannot perceive Atman, Self.

(ii) Without the support of the Self, the organs of perception become ineffectual. They cease to function.

The third episode with Indra, the ruler of gods, has a variation from the other two gods. Indra’s effort to find out the apparition was not a total failure. Indra did obtain the knowledge of Brahman indirectly through the help of Uma.

Indira represents the mind and intellect, the subtle body. The apparition disappearing from Indira indicates that the mind cannot feel God, nor the intellect comprehend God. However, when the mind surrenders to God in devotion with humility and the intellect probes the Reality with the help of the sastras scripture one can ultimately attain spiritual enlightenment. Symbolised by Indra finally gaining the knowledge of Brahman.

Uma represents scripture. Being the daughter of the Himalayas indicates that the supreme knowledge of Reality emanated from the galaxy of sages and saints in the Himalayan ranges. The dazzling beauty of Uma speaks of the brilliant literature in which that knowledge has been presented.

The idea of separating Indira’s question from Uma’s answer deftly suggests the meditative pause that precedes spiritual Enlightenment. After acquiring the knowledge of the scripture and exhausting the bulk of vasanas, desires, the seeker has to practice concentration and meditation. And wait in silence for the ultimate Experience. In the moment of absolute silence the seeker gains Enlightenment. The last stage of silent pause is beautifully indicated by the deliberate gap between the question and the answer, between effort and Enlightenment.

Further, the above story reveals the following ideas –

1) It is meaningless to be arrogant over one’s power.

2) Brahman is existent.

3) Brahman cannot be known by the senses (gods) and the mind and intellect (Indra).

4) Knowledge of Brahman cannot come without qualifications like humility and devotion.

5) Knowledge of Brahman is the noblest of all.

Source: 1) Excerpt from the Book ‘CHOICE OF UPANISAHDS” by A. Parthasarathy.
            2) Kena Upanisad commentaries by Swamy Paramarthananda.

16 July, 2011



What can you do right now to begin to turn your life around? The very first thing is to start making a list of things to be grateful for. This shifts your energy and starts to shift your thinking. Whereas before this exercise you might be focusing on what you don’t have, your complaints, and your problems, you go in a different direction when you do this exercise. You start to be grateful for all the things that you feel good about.

“If it is a new thought to you that gratitude brings your whole mind into closer harmony with the creative energies of the Universe, consider it well, and you will see that it is true.”
Wallace Wattles (1860-1911)


Gratitude is absolutely the way to bring more into your life.


Every man knows that when his wife is appreciating him for the little things that he does, what does he want to do? He wants to do more. It’s always about appreciation. It pulls things in. It attracts support.


Whatever we think about and thank about we bring about.


Gratitude has been such a powerful exercise for me. Every morning I get up and say “Thank you.” Every morning, when my feet hit the floor, “Thank you.” And then I start running through what I’m grateful for, as I’m brushing my teeth and doing the things I do in the morning. And I’m not just thinking about them and doing some rote routine. I’m putting it out there and I’m feeling the feelings of gratitude.

The day we filmed James Ray sharing his powerful exercise of gratitude is one I will never forget. From that day on, I made Jame’s process my life. Every morning, I do not get out bed until I have felt the feelings of gratitude for this brand new day and all I am grateful for in my life. Then as I get out of bed, when one foot touches the ground I say, “Thank”, and “you” as my second foot touches the ground. With each step I take on my way to the bath room, I say “Thank you.” I continue to say and feel “Thank you” as I am showering and getting ready. By the time I am ready for the day, I have said “Thank you” hundreds of times.

As I do this, I am powerfully creating my day and all that it will contain. I am setting my frequency for the day and internationally declaring the way I want my day to go, rather than stumbling out of bed and letting the day take control of me. There is no more powerful way to begin your day than this. You are the creator of your life, and so begin by intentionally creating your day!

Gratitude was a fundamental part of the teachings of all the great avatars throughout history. In the book that changed my life, “The Science of Getting Rich”, written by Wallace Wattles in 1910, gratitude is its longest chapter. Every teacher featured in The Secret uses gratitude as part of his or her day. Most of them begin their day with thoughts and feelings of gratitude.

Joe Sugarman, a wonderful man and successful entrepreneur watched the film The Secret and contacted me. He told me his favorite part was the gratitude process, and that his use of gratitude had contributed to all he had achieved in his life. With all the success Joe has attracted to himself, he continues to use gratitude every day, even for the smallest things. When he gets a parking space he always says and feels, “Thank you.” Joe knows the power of gratitude and all it has brought to him, and so gratitude is his way of life.


As soon as you start to feel different about what you already have, you will start to attract more of the good things. More of the thing you can grateful for. You could look around and say, “Well, I don’t have the car I want. I don’t have the house I want. I don’t have the spouse I want. I don’t have the house I want. I don’t have the health I want.” Whoah! Back up, back up! Those are all the things you don’t want. Focus on what you have already have that you’re grateful for. And it might be that you have the eyes to read this. It might be the clothes that you have. Yes, you might prefer something else and you might get something else pretty soon, if you start feeling grateful for what you have.

“Many people who order their lives rightly in all other ways are kept in poverty by their lack of gratitude.”

 Wallace Wattles.

It is impossible to bring more into your life if you are feeling ungrateful about what you have. Why? Because the thoughts and feelings you emit as you feel ungrateful are all negative emotions. Whether it is jealousy, resentment, dissatisfaction, or feelings of “not enough”, those feelings cannot bring you what you want. They can only return to you more of what you don’t want. Those negative emotions are blocking your own good coming to you. If you want a new car but you are not grateful for the car you have that will be dominant frequency you are sending out.

Be grateful for what you have now. As you begin to think about all the things in your life you are grateful for, you will be amazed at the never-ending thoughts that come back to you of more things to be grateful for. You have to make a start, and then the law of attraction will receive those grateful thoughts and give you more just like them. You will have locked into the frequency of gratitude and all good things will be yours.

“The daily practice of gratitude is one of the conduits by which your wealth will come to you.
 Wallace Wattles


I think everybody goes through times when they say, “Things aren’t working right,” or, “Things are going bad.” Once, when there were some things going on my family, I found a rock, and I just sat holding it. I took this rock, I stuck it in my pocket, and I said, “Every time I touch this rock I’m going to think of something that I’m grateful for.” So every morning when I get up in the morning, I pick it up off the dresser, I put it in my pocket, and I go through the things that I’m grateful for. At night, what do I do? I empty my pocket, and there it is again.

I’ve had some amazing experiences with this idea. A guy from South Africa saw me drop it. He asked, “What is that?” I explained it to him, and he started calling it a gratitude rock. Two weeks later I got an email from him, in South Africa. And he said, “My son is dying from a rare disease. It’s a type of hepatitis. Would you send me three gratitude rocks?” They were just ordinary rocks I found of the street, so I said, “Sure.” I had to make sure that the rocks were very special, so I went out to the stream, picked out the right rocks, and sent them off to him.

Four or five months later I get an email from him. He said, ‘My son’s better, he’s doing terrific.” And he said, “But you need to know something. We’ve sold over a thousand rocks at ten dollars a piece as gratitude rocks, and we’ve raised all this money for charity. Thank you very much.”

So it is very important to have an “attitude of gratitude”.

The great scientist Albert Einstein revolutionized the way we view time, space and gravity. From his poor background and poor beginnings, you would have thought it impossible for him to achieve all that he did. Eintein knew a great deal of The Secret, and he said, “Thank you”, hundreds of times each day. He thanked all the great scientists who had preceded him for their contributions, which had enabled him to learn and achieve even more in his work and eventually become one of the greatest scientists who has ever lived.

One of the most powerful uses of gratitude can be incorporated in the Creative Process to turbo-charge what you want. As Bob Proctor advised in the first step of Creative Process, Ask, start by writing down what you want. “Begin each sentence with, I am so happy and grateful now that …..” (and you fill in the rest).

When you give thanks as though you have already received what you want, you are emitting a powerful signal to the Universe. That signal is saying that you have it already because you are feeling gratitude for it now. Each morning before you get out of bed, make it a habit to feel the feelings of gratitude in advance for the great day ahead, as though it is done.

From the moment I discovered The Secret and formulated the vision to share this knowledge with the world, I gave thanks every day for the film The Secret, which would bring joy to the world. I had no idea how we would bring this knowledge to the screen, but trusted that we would attract the way. I stayed focused and held to he outcome. I felt deep feelings of gratitude in advance. As that became my state of being, the floodgates opened and all the magic flowed into our lives. For the magnificent team of The Secret, and for me, our deep, heartfelt feelings of gratitude continue to this day. We have become a team that resonates gratitude with every moment, and it has become our way of life.

Secret summaries

 Gratitude is a powerful process for shifting your energy and bringing more of what you want into your life. Be grateful for what you already have, and you will attract more good things.

 Giving thanks for what you want in advance turbo-charges your desires and sends a more powerful signal out into the Universe.

Source: Excerpts from the book on THE SECRET.

10 July, 2011


GANAH in Sanskrit means ‘multitude’. Isa means ‘Lord’. Ganesa therefore literally means the ‘Lord of all beings’. Ganesa is the first son of Lord Siva. Siva represents the supreme Reality. The son of Siva symbolizes one which has realized the Reality. One who has discovered the Godhood in him. Such a man is said to be the Lord of all beings.

Ganesa is known by other names as well. Ganpati, Gajanana, Vinayaka, Vignesvara. Ganapati has the same literal meaning as Ganesa. Gajanana means ‘elephant faced’. Gaja=elephant, anana=face. Vinayaka means the supreme leader, literally one who has no leader himself. Vignesvara is the Lord of all obstacles, worshipped in the initiation of Hindu rituals and ceremonies. As his name suggests Vignesvara removes all obstacles, overcomes all challenges of life. There is a belief that no undertaking will meet with failure if the grace of Vignesvara is invoked.

In Hindu mythological literature Ganesa is described as having a human form with an elephant’s head. One of the tusks is broken. He has conspicuously large stomach. He sits with one leg folded in. At his feet a variety of food is spread. A rat sits near the food and looks up at him as if it were asking him for sanction to eat the food. This mystical form of Lord Ganesa represents not only the supreme state of human perfection but the practical path to reach that state. The details of his description suggest deep philosophical significance which can guide you to reach that ultimate state.

The first step of spiritual education is sravana which means listening to the eternal truths of Vedanta. The second step is manana which is independent reflection upon those truths. The large ears and head of Ganesa indicate that he had gained previous wisdom through sravana and manana. An elephant’s head on a human body in Ganesa is meant to represent supreme wisdom.

The trunk which springs from his head represents the intellect, the faculty of discrimination which necessarily arises out of wisdom.

Intellect is the discriminating faculty, the discerning ability or the judging capacity in man. Man’s intellect is of two distinct types, namely the gross and the subtle. Gross intellect is that aspect of discrimination which is applicable to the realm of the terrestrial world, that part of the intellect which distinguishes between the pairs of opposites existing in this world, distinguishes between the day and night, black and white, joy and sorrow etc. Subtle intellect is the other aspect of his discrimination which distinguishes between the infinite and the finite, the real and the unreal, the transcendental and the terrestrial. A man of realization like Ganesa is one who has fully developed both his gross and subtle intellects. He has perfect understanding and knowledge of the terrestrial as well as the transcendental.

The trunk of an elephant has the unique capacity of performing both gross and subtle activities. A trunk can uproot a tree. It can pick up a needle from the ground. One rarely finds gross and subtle operations being performed by a single instrument. A spanner which is used for fitting a locomotive is useless for repairing a wrist-watch. The elephant’s trunk is an exception to this rule. It serves both ways. So does Ganesa’s intellect penetrate the realms of the material and spiritual worlds. That is the state which man must aspire to reach.

A Man-of-Perfection is thus rooted in the supreme wisdom. He is not victimized by raga-dvesa, likes and dislikes. He is not swayed by agreeable and disagreeable circumstances, pleasant and unpleasant happenings, good and bad environment. In other words, he is not victimized by the pairs of opposites existing in this world. Heat and cold, joy and sorrow, honour and dishonor do not affect him, influence him or harass him. He has transcended the limitations of opposites in the world. He is dvandva atita, beyond opposites. This idea is well represented in Ganesa having two tusks one of which is broken. The common man is tossed between pairs of opposites. Represented by Ganesa’s tusks. He should endeavour to overcome the influence of the pairs of opposites in him. Man ought not to act merely by his likes and dislikes; these are his worst enemies which he must control and conquer. When he has completely mastered the influence of these pairs of opposites in him, he becomes a Ganesa.

Ganesa’s large belly is meant to convey that a Man-of-Perfection can consume and digest whatever experiences he undergoes. Heat or cold, war or peace, birth or death and other such trials and tribulations do not toss him up and down. He maintains an unaffected grace in and through all these fluctuations of the world. Figuratively, he is represented as being able to stomach and digest all types of experiences.

In Hindu mythology, Kubera, the god of wealth offered a dinner to Ganesa in his palace. Ganesa ate all the food that was prepared for the entire gathering of guests. Thereafter still dissatisfied, he started eating the festival decorations that were used for the occasion. At this juncture his father Lord Siva approached him and offered him a handful of roasted rice. Ganesa consumed the roasted rice and his hunger was satisfied immediately. This story is a directive to mankind that man can never be satisfied with the joys provided by the world or objects represented by Kubera’s feast. Material pursuits can never give peace, contentment or happiness to mankind. The only way to attain absolute fulfillment or peace is by consuming your own vasanas, unmanifest desires in you. The destruction of vasanas is represented by the consumption of roasted rice. When rice is roasted it loses its capacity to germinate. The consumption of roasted rice indicates the destruction of vasanas, desire in you. Thereafter you remain in a state of absolute peace and bliss.

Ganesa sits with one leg folded-up and the other leg resting on the ground. The leg on the ground indicates that one aspect of his personality is dealing with the world while the other is ever-rooted in single-pointed concentration upon the supreme Reality. Such a man lives in the world like anyone else, but his concentration and meditation are ever-rooted in the Atman within himself. This idea is symbolized in the above posture.

At the feet of Lord Ganesa is spread an abundance of food. Food represents material wealth, power and prosperity. When a man follows the high principles of living indicated above he achieves these material gains. He has them always at his command though he has an attitude of indifference towards them.

Beside the food is a tiny rat looking up towards Ganesa. The rat does not touch the food but waits for the master’s sanction as it were for consuming it. The rat represents desire. A rat has a small mouth and tiny sharp teeth. But it is the greediest of all animals. Its greed and acquisitiveness are so great that it steals more than it can eat and hoards more than it can remember, often abandoning burrows full of hoarded grains through forgetfulness. This predominant trait in a rat justifies amply its symbolism as desire. One little desire entering man’s mind can destroy all his material and spiritual wealth earned for many long years. The rat looking up therefore denotes that the desires in a perfect man are absolutely under control. The activities of such a man are motivated by his clear discrimination and judgement rather than by an emotional craving to enjoy the variety of sense objects of the world.

There is a belief amongst Hindus that it is inauspicious to see the moon on the Vinayaka Chaturthi day, reckoned to be the birth day of Ganesa. As per a Puranic story, the moon saw Ganesa riding on his tiny rat and laughed at the ludicrous scene. For this reason the moon is condemned and people are forbidden to see it on this day.

Ganesa riding on his rat indicates a Man-of-Perfection trying to use his limited body, mind and intellect to convey the illimitable Truth. The body, mind and intellect are finite. They cannot express the infinite Atman. A Man-of-Realisation finds it almost impossible to convey his infinite experience through his finite equipments. Hence the words and deeds of all spiritual masters are peculiar and incomprehensible. The common man’s intellect cannot comprehend the Truth. The moon is the presiding deity of the mind. The moon laughing at Ganapati riding on the rat indicates the ignorant scoffing at the Man-of-Realisation’s attempt to convey the truth. This attitude of scoffing at spiritual preceptors and precepts id detrimental to humanity. The generations are therefore warned not to laugh or scoff at the spiritual messages. If they do, they meet with degradation and disaster.

Ganesa has four arms. The four arms represent the four inner equipments of the subtle body, namely manas mind, buddhi intellect, ahankara ego and citta conditioned-consciousness. Ganesa represents the pure Consciousness, the Atman which enables these four equipments to function in you.

In one hand he holds an axe and in another a rope. The axe symbolizes the destruction of all desires and attachments and their consequent agitations and sorrows. The rope is meant to pull the seeker out of his worldly entanglements and bind him to the everlasting and enduring bliss of his own Self. In the third hand he holds a modaka rice ball. Modaka represents the joyous rewards of spiritual seeking. A seeker gains the joy of satisfaction and contentment as he progress on the path of spiritual evolution. In the fourth hand he holds a padma lotus. The lotus represents the supreme Goal of human evolution. By holding the lotus in his hand he draws the attention of all seekers to that supreme State that each one of them can aspire for and reach through proper spiritual practices. He blesses all his devotees to reach the supreme State of Reality.

Thus by indicating to mankind the goal of human evolution and the path to reach the same, Lord Ganesa occupies a place of distinction in the Hindu pantheon. May he give us all the strength and courage to pursue the path which he has led and may we gain that supreme Goal which he has reached.
Source: From the Book “The Symbolism of Hindu Gods and Rituals” by A. Parthasarathy.