In Sanaatana Dharma, we generally worship Lord Vinayaka before performing any auspicious activity. In this section, let us understand the subtle beauty of the form of Lord Ganesha.
Vinayaka means Supreme Leader (one who shows the path). Ganesha or Ganapati - the Lord of Ganas (the attendants of Lord Siva or His devotees). Gajanana - one having elephant's face. Vighneshwara - the Lord of obstacles (one who removes subjective and objective obstacles) (master of circumstances).
Married to Riddhi (Goddess of wealth) and Siddhi (Goddess of Knowledge).
Ganapati is the son of Lord Siva and Goddess Parvathy. He is the brother of Lord Subramanya or muruka.
Elephant face - large face indicates subtle, logical and discriminative thinking capability (to understand the depths of spirituality).
Large ears - Good intelligent listening skill (sravana).
Trunk - Flows down from the forehead. Denotes the intellectual ability to deeply think (manana) and discriminate over whatever is heard (subjective and objective matters). The trunk is more efficient than even the most scientific equipments. It can uproot huge trees as well as pluck a blade of grass or a needle.
Discrimination is possible only between two things. The trunk flows in between the two tusks.
Lord Ganesha is indicating a Man of Perfection. He is beyond the pair of opposites; shown by one tusk (the other one is broken).
Large belly - Is the dwelling place for the whole world.
The story of Lord Ganesha being called for lunch by Kubera is well known. A sincere seeker of Knowledge seeks the highest truth in and through all experiences (good and bad). So he is never satisfied (of eating or experiencing) until he is given puffed rice (denotes baking or roasting of vasanas in the fire of knowledge) by Lord Siva (Spiritual Guru).
Huge stomach indicates the readiness to accept both auspicious and inauspicious experiences.
Lord sits with one feet hanging down. Normally we experience this world through the subtle equipment of mind and intellect, our two feet. Lord is an integrated personality whose mind and intellect are not divorced from each other, but are in perfect harmony. Hence the significance of only one leg hanging down or resting on the ground.
Vehicle mouse - mouse is sitting looking at its master. It dares not to eat the abundant amount of food kept in front of the Lord. The Lord allows it to eat a little now and then. A little creature by itself, the mouse can eat up huge barns of grain and cause great loss. Similarly the mouse of desire in us can eat up the huge barns or mountains of merit in us and cause downfall. A Realized master keeps His desire under control and now and then allows it to eat (desire to serve the world).
The moon laughed at Ganesha riding on His little mouse. People of gross intellect (denoting the moon) laugh at Saints or Realized Masters when they ride on their vehicle (mouse of 'desire to serve').
Four hands - represent the four inner instruments (antahkarana chatushtaya).
Ganesha holds axe, rope, modaka in three hands and one hand is in vara mudra. With the axe, He cuts all our attachments (to the world of objects, emotions and thoughts) and pulls us towards Him (or ties us to the supreme Truth) with the rope. For such a surrendering seeker, He provides more and more subtle joy of the Truth. The Lord also bestows everything that is needed for the seeker in his growth (vara or boon) and removes his obstacles.
Lord's physical form represents the Truth. If we observe carefully, we will see His form resembling the Primordial sacred word OM in samskritam (`) (represents the supreme Truth). His form is brilliant and equals the brilliance of hundreds of rising suns. Lord is Knowledge (Brahman) incarnate. Hence His brilliance and shine is unsurpassing.
Enjoy the following names understanding their subtle meanings:
Name the work of Sankara with the least number of slokas
Laghu Vaakya Vritti
Watch out the next magazine for answers to this quiz. Email your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org and find out how good your scores really are.
Answers to previous quiz
Answer is none – answer is 1180 as per Skanda Purana. But whoever answered 108 are correct because that is the number given in Muktikopanishad
None – Katha Upanishad is the right answer
A – Aitareya Upanishad
B (Mundaka) and D (Aitareya)
C – 9 times
C (12 slokas)
A (Brihadaranyaka) and D (Taittiriya)
Aparna – 7.5
Sunanda – 8
Kudos to those who answered this quiz which had few answers that were “none of the options”.
If we look at the state the world is currently in, we can very easily understand that it is in total chaos. Hurricanes, tornadoes, storms, earth quakes, terrorist attacks etc. are growing day by day. The latest in the list being the earth quake in Haiti. This earth quake is something that has helped the entire world in a better way. Every country is trying to do their best for the sufferings of people in Haiti. Individuals as well as struggling to provide help in whatever way possible for the sufferings. This attitude of helping others out when they really need help and irrespective of any relations with the people we are helping out is termed in Sanskrit as Karuna or compassion. Kaarunyam is the quality of showing compassion to other people in the world. This is a quality that has been mentioned in the scriptures as something that will help the seeker to progress towards the goal of Brahman. We will try to see a very brief about this quality, how to implement it and how it will help us in realizing Brahman.
Karuna – true feeling of love towards other beings
Though we generally know karuna as feeling sad or helping out other people in the world, karuna really can be shown only when we love other people and thereby cannot bear them suffering. It is only when a person sees others sufferings as one’s own suffering that a person can show such compassion; compassion to such an extent as to forget one’s own worries and help out the other person. It is for this reason that Karuna is something very rarely found today. Even the so-called social service organizations aren’t really doing much of compassion because their emphasis is on the suffering of people. When we see somebody suffering, it is good human nature to help them out. But it is truly godly nature to help others out not just because they are suffering but because we consider them as ourselves – if not ourselves, then at least we consider them as our family. Vasudhaiva kutumbakam or the entire world being one family is one of the forgotten mottos of sanathana dharma which today has become just a means of religious riots, political favors etc.
Though the difference between helping out suffering people because they are suffering and helping out suffering people because we love them as “ours” isn’t huge but this minor change makes this activity of social service a jnaana saadhana (a sadhana towards the goal of Brahman). More on this a little later but it is very true that unless we love a person dearly we will not be able to provide full compassion but only partial compassion towards the person. Partial compassion is as good as giving a hungry person just one piece of bread – the hunger will only be partly appeased which is worse than not getting appeased. We all know that partially appeased hunger is more dangerous than not at all appeased hunger. Similarly if we don’t see people as “ours”, the compassion that we show is partial and will not last for long – it last as long as we don’t have anybody close to us suffering. The moment anybody close to us is suffering, we will stop caring about the truly needy people of the world. The person close to us might have means of getting rid of the suffering all by himself but because of all love to the person, we might end helping the person instead of helping other people in the world who truly need our help.
Thus the one aspect of compassion we ought to remember is “neediness” – compassion is that which is directed to the neediest person in the world and not based on our likes and dislikes. If we go by our likes and dislikes, then the very basic effect of purification of the mind (getting rid of dual notions from the mind) will not happen through compassion instead compassion will only boost our likes and dislikes thereby making us again and again get immersed in the ocean of samsaara.
Karuna – shown to the needy and devoid of dual notions
Compassion is thus shown to the neediest person in the world irrespective of our likes and dislikes. Therefore implementation of compassion is when we are truly helping out those who really need it – the best way to start with this is to not help any person that we like (this is fine at a later stage but initially it is good to stay away from this lest our likes affect our judgement). Thus once we start helping out those who need help in the best way possible, we will be able to get rid of our dual notions slowly and get proper judgement about who needs help.
Another important aspect to remember while showering compassion is that compassion is based on loving this entire world as one – this is truly possible only when we see Brahman or Ishwara as pervading this entire world. As long as we don’t see this, we will be running here and there to help out needy people. Our help will never become complete as this world is based on different factors like the actions of others (not just ours) – moreover ultimately this world is just an illusion or a dream and hence complete help or upliftment of the world is impossible. If we don’t remember this truth about Brahman pervading this world and the world being just an illusion in the Lord, we will get carried away into helping others that we will never be contend with any help that we do. Our life itself is limited and hence we will never be able to help each and every suffering individual in the world. Thus when we give up our lives, we will be thinking and worrying about how many people are still suffering – going by the rule given by the Lord in Gita, since we are thinking about suffering people at the end of our life we will be born as one in the next birth. So much for compassion helping us attain Brahman.
Therefore it is important to remember the goal of Brahman to be achieved through compassion and never to forget that compassion is just a means to the goal (not the goal or the end itself). A very easy way to never forget this is to offer all actions unto Brahman or Ishwara – even the compassion that we shower on others should be offered to Ishwara in order to ensure that we never lose sight of Ishwara. This offering attitude will also ensure that we never get egoistic about the help that we are providing to the world (ego can very easily rise in such situations).
If we are not interested in offering the activities to Ishwara, we should remember that we are just portraying our role in this huge drama of waking world. Thus remaining a witness to the actions and the results of the actions, we will be able to easily remain blissful irrespective of the activities that we perform. This doesn’t mean we cease to do good activities (as we are a mere witness to both good and bad activities) but just that we are not affected by the good or the bad activity. A person might donate huge amount to the suffering people in Haiti but it may take some time to fully fructify – during that time we should just remember that we did our part and not get affected by the fruit of “good” or “bad” or “no fruit”.
Karuna – a way to realization
Currently our minds are impure. When we hear in Vedanta about impurity of the mind, it is the likes and dislikes of the mind. Likes and dislikes stem out of considering each and every person or object of the world as different from ourselves and different from one another. These likes and dislikes in turn lead to attachment and aversion which will ultimately lead to our own destruction (destruction in the form of sorrows, sufferings and the chain of birth-death). These likes and dislikes can be completely removed only through knowledge.
The attitude of compassion when associated with considering the entire world as being one entity of Brahman will very soon get us rid of likes and dislikes. If we consider the entire world as one, then where is liking and disliking? Thus remaining without any likes and dislikes, we will not only be performing activities but jnaana sadhana or sama bhaavana or vision of oneness. The Lord says in Gita that this world is a world of actions and not even for one second can a person remain without performing actions. Actions when performed based on our tastes with craving for fruits will lead to more and more actions (kurvathe karma bhogaaya, karma karthum cha bhunjathe – man does actions for enjoyment and enjoys to do more actions). These actions in turn lead to more births when the instrument of the physical body isn’t capable of performing any more actions (birth means taking up a new body).
But when we perform actions remembering this entire world to be filled with Brahman, then we don’t crave for fruits and neither are we attached to the action in itself. Thus the fruits of such actions will be only purification of the mind – no other sins or tainting will happen to us. And since we remember the ultimate truth of Brahman pervading this entire world, we will be implementing knowledge. This knowledge and implementation is the direct way to moksha or ever rejoicing in bliss. Thus very soon we will be able to achieve the goal of moksha in this very birth itself by performing actions through an attitude of compassion.
To sum up this very brief article on compassion, compassion or karuna is a very essential quality required for a seeker to be able to implement knowledge and at the same time perform activities with no attachment to the activity or the fruits there-of. This would in turn help the seeker to achieve the goal of eternal bliss amidst his/her own sufferings in this world. We are constantly suffering in the pangs of samsaara by not getting whatever we want – which is eternal bliss. Through this attitude of compassion, we will not only be helping ourselves but helping others as well. This attitude of compassion is safer than knowledge in that there will no ego generated out of it (of course please remember that true knowledge means seeing oneness everywhere and hence there is no scope for ego but little knowledge is often associated with ego).
May the ultimate reality of Brahman help us in cultivating this attitude of karuna (which is one of the pivotal qualities of the sanaathana dharma) in order to help us achieve the goal of eternal bliss in this very birth itself.
Shiva rathri – 12th Feb
Shiva rathri is celebrated as a night where we remain awake in contemplation of Lord Shiva and through sacred chants and bhajans. There are many stories behind this festival but the most common one is it being celebrated as the night when Parvathi kept Shiva awake after he drank the poison that came out of the churning of the milk ocean by Devas and Asuras. Parvathi stopped the poison at the throat of Shiva but in order for the poison to not give its effect, Shiva had to remain awake the whole night.
This festival symbolizes the spiritual path of a seeker where the seeker has to always remain awake in contemplation of the Lord so that the poisons of worldly passions don’t affect him. Worldly pleasures are more dangerous than poison in that one look can delude and kill us instead of poisons which we have to intake for it to take effect. Thus Shiva Rathri is not just to be celebrated on one day but each moment of our life should be spent as Shiva Rathri where we are awake in contemplation of Shiva and don’t sleep off the pangs of the poison of ignorance in the form of the external world.
Editorial – a general message
Guru Mahima – Guru Gita explained in parts from the beginning
Mukhya Vishayam – main topic with a detailed explanation of a Vedantic concept
Sankshiptha Vedanta – brief summary of a Vedanta grantha
Gitaamritham – one sloka of Gita explained
Upanishad Prachaaram – summary of a minor Upanishad
Raga Varsha – analysis of a raga (both Hindustani and carnatic equivalents)
Madhuraamritham – one devotional/spiritual classical krithi.