This is Ganesh or Ganesha, the elephant headed god. How did he get this head? One day, he was asked to guard Parvati the goddess of fertility, love, and devotion who coincidentally was also his mother, while she was taking a bath. His father Shiva, who did not know he had a son, came home and wanted to enter the house. Ganesh, protecting his mother, refused to let him in. In a fit of rage, Shiva cut of Ganesh’s head. His mother, obviously being upset, let Shiva know that this was his son whose head was on the floor. Ganesh had only been doing the duty he was asked to perform. Hearing this news, Shiva sent his men out to find the head of the first dead animal they could find. Finding an elephant, the men returned. Shiva attached the elephant head to the body of the boy Ganesh and brought him back to life – and you thought you had an interesting childhood!
The Hindu tradition calls Ganesh the Vighneshvara. “Vighneshvara” in Sanskrit language means one who is the lord of obstacles or difficulties. In the Hindu tradition worshiping or by even by asking Ganesha to help, one can remove obstacles and difficulties (Wikipedia). Ganesh’s most striking feature his large elephant head symbolizing wisdom and knowledge. As for his ability to remove obstacles, have you ever seen an elephant take a walk? If an elephant wants to go somewhere he just goes. If an obstacle is in his path he doesn’t just go around, he just goes through.
Overcoming Obstacles: Perseverance
So our first method of removing obstacles is perseverance – pushing on through till we reach our goal. If an obstacle is placed in our path, we think, be like a bull-elephant headed (or an elephant headed god) and just keep on going. For example, in your yoga practice, your teacher may ask you to hold a pose for what you think is a very long time. At first the pose seems easy but the longer you hold the pose the harder and harder it seems it become. You may want to give up, but, be like the elephant. Keep going. Try staying with the pose, pushing on through till the holding ends. (Of course any real pain is a sign to stop doing what you are doing).
Same thing applies to your sitting meditation. As you sit, endless thoughts, feelings, and even physical discomfort may come up. It seems like nothing can be done to stop these feelings and discomforts. Accept these feelings, thoughts, and even the small discomforts. Just keep sitting returning to your meditation technique. Pushing yourself onward can be a good strategy for developing a longer practice.
Of course there are other methods – – – – – – Have you ever come to a busy road intersection and wanted to cross? You can try being an elephant head and continue walking into the traffic but that usually comes with some unwanted side effects like being hit by a car. Being Ganesh-like has it’s place but it is not the end all of removing obstacles. After all, Ganesh was just following his instructions perfectly and lost his head over it! While asking Ganesh to remove obstacles is one way of removing them, there are some others. We will explore them in upcoming blogs. To be continued – – – – – – – –