In the last post I scratched the surface on a three-part series I’m planning to write about my understanding of the nature of the Hindu conception of God, and also where I personally have encountered the highest concentration of This in my own life. Before continuing in this post, you’ll want to have read the one before this. Inform yourself here. As mentioned in the post before this, Ganesha deva holds a particular place in my swadharma. In this post I’d like to attempt to explain how trying my hand at devotion (Ganesha = my ishtadevata) brought me to a higher knowledge regarding Truth. Right now, I’m not terribly confident that my thought processes or use of words will serve as I hope, but if you care to continue reading, you’ll have my best effort.

Bhakti, or devotion, was the first component at play in my being transfixed on the Ideal that is Ganesha. I came to know of Him almost the very instant I came to know anything at all about Hinduism. Perhaps love/devotion at first sight? LOL No, but really -probably the first two things I knew regarding Ganesha is that He’s the Remover of Obstacles, and that He’s the son of Shiva, the God of Destruction (among other things and whose name is synonymous with auspiciousness and consciousness. I’ve been meaning to make a post just about Shiva.). With attributes like that instantly my heart was hooked.

As I mentioned in the last post, I find the highest quantity and concentration of divine attributes to be applicable to Ganesha. If Brahman is essentially attributeless, and It is (Neti, Neti, remember?), then it reasons that devotion to anything with attributes best serves as a launch pad for experiencing/merging with something virtually impossible to conceptualize. You have to essentially master the phenomenal world before transcending it and realizing the Foundation of all that is phenomenal. Otherwise you’re trying to go from zero to sixty without really even knowing how to operate the vehicle. Some vehicles come with power windows, but no power seats. Some don’t have power windows, but have power seats, and so on. I want a vehicle with as many bells and whistles as I can find so that operating my vehicle happens as optimally as possible, making that zero-to-sixty acceleration not only more likely, but smoother in the process. And so, as it happens, I found Ganesha.

In my opinion, of all the prominent gods within the Hindu pantheon, Ganesha is the most striking. For me personally, gods like Brahma, Vishnu, Kartikeya/Murugan, Shiva, and just about all forms of Shakti/The Mother are too anthropomorphic. I don’t think this lessens their value in any way, but it makes them less appealing to me. Even one such as Hanuman, who has a human-like form of a monkey, is too human-like to represent something as indescribable as Brahman in my experience. In contrast, Ganesha refuses to fit most moulds. Possessing the head of an elephant, a typically obese thorax and abdomen, and rarely seen with fewer than four arms … the whole mess of which is perched upon a miniscule maushika (mouse) vahana. His form, while full of meaning that I’ll pick apart later, doesn’t fit in. Maybe this pulls more at my own heart strings because of growing up as I did: short, scrawny, unathletic, non-farmer gay kid in the middle of Indiana’s corn fields. Like Ganesha’s misfit head and whacked beginning, I didn’t fit many moulds hoped for me either. On some level, I feel affinity for His image and all it’s various traits may represent.

I think, too, much of what Ganesha is said to symbolize/represent/govern are things I hold dear. This list is actually super big, and I’ll get to that in the next post. I suppose it’s selfish, but finding not only what I hold dear, but much else otherwise kind of makes Ganesha the ultimate in one-stop spiritual shopping for me.

Shortly after learning of Ganesha I purchased my very first murti. At that time, I was already more inclined toward the Shiva side of things, but a murti of Ganesha is what I encountered first and it was almost like I was imprinted instantly. I’ve included a photo of it above. My first “mandir” was nothing other than the top of a cheap dresser and consisted of hardly more than a cloth covering the dresser’s top, a candle, and the Ganesha above. I’m tempted to say that it was during this time that my bhakti was newest and strongest. I certainly didn’t yet possess much spiritual knowledge, but I knew I loved God and I knew that for me, Ganesha was my preferred image of God. At this time, too, I was familiarizing myself with Yogananda and his autobiography, and with the Bhagavad Gita. Because of the lack of knowledge, including knowledge of the concept of Karma Yoga, bhakti was literally my entire religion. I had known devotion before with earlier religious experiences, but during this time in my life it was quite literally just myself and what I understood to be my god -the connection was palpable and real and it’s from this time of my life that I retain spiritual memories that not only are kept tucked away for my remembrance only, but sealed my relationship with Brahman as Ganesha.

Since those days, I’m become more familiar with the other faces of Brahman. I don’t suppose I could ever fully exclude any one of Hinduism’s god. However, I’ve also become increasingly close to the Ideal of Ganesha and have learned so much about Him -and have learned and experienced so much as a result of learning about Him. This brings me to the next post which I intend to deal with the meaning encapsulated in Ganesha’s form as well as jnana yoga. For now, let it be clear that Ganesha is the source of my devotion and its object, and this has brought me to new landscapes of internal wisdom.

Om Shanti


Ganesham Bhajema

Although not everything about my religious/spiritual journey in this life has been pleasant, I’m immensely grateful for every step. After being forced to part ways with Christianity, and wandering for a brief year or two, I came to discover what might be modernly recognized as the principal deities of Hinduism, namely Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. It was in learning about the Trimurti that I learned about other manifestations of the divine such as Vayu, Indra, Surya, Agni, Lakshmi, Hanuman, Ganesha, Saraswati, and many others. Initially there seemed to be a profound yet finite hierarchy within this pantheon; some gods being the husbands/wives/fathers/mothers/sons/daughters of others. For a time, most of my learning centered around acquainting myself with these relationships and their histories.

As the depth of my knowledge increased, I gained the realization that these gods were variously known to be faces of the One Supreme Reality, as well as actually worshipped by their respective devotees as That One. I found this to be an interesting facet of Sanatana Dharma that is missing from religions of the West. I also found this to be one of the single most important things a dharmi could come to know. In fact, this is literally foundational to the faith: Ekam sat vipraha bahudh’ vadanti, Truth is one, though the wise recognize it variously. It’s because of this foundation of the Hindu belief system that I’ve always wondered why a Hindu is able to genuinely believe that any such “face” the One might happen to wear, is actually the “complete” manifestation of Brahman.

Having said that, I’ll say two other things.

  1. I feel that each of the Hindu gods (it’s been said that there are over 330 million) does absolutely represent Brahman, although incompletely -if that even makes any sense. Truly, only Brahman is That, and That is impossible to fully describe from the perspective of human language and conception – which might account for why there are a bajillion deities recognized within Hindu panentheism, and which is also a testament to the vastness of Hindu religion and the fruit of its ancient and on-going efforts to paint an ever clearer picture of what Reality is. In no other religion known to humans on Earth is the picture of God provided in such an encompassing way. No joke. But each god, while worshipable as a representation of The All, at best can only point to some of That All.
  2. I’ve spent more than one-third of my current life learning about and actively living Hindu Dharma. A lot of this time, and certainly especially in my earlier Hindu years, has been spent (as I already mentioned) continually educating myself. Some of this self education has been very basic: “This is such-and-such god, and this is what he/she governs/represents.” It didn’t take long before I noticed overlapping from one god to the next. A basic example is that of goddesses Kali and Durga. Both are distinct in their own ways, yet both are known as fierce, protecting Mothers and are understood to be magnificent but volatile faces for the Shakti that animates everything. I think it’s because of encountering this that I’m not likely to ever say that one god is actually supreme over the rest. Not in all cases, but in enough, an attribute of one god is equally as applicable to another. With that in mind, why would it be logical to say that Kali is supreme, when Durga has any number of things in common with Her? And what of the attributes typically ascribed to Durga that don’t apply to Mother Kali? Do those render Durga superior to Kali? This can be carried over and applied to a huge number of Hindu deities.

Sri Ganesh is (kind of) an exception. Or at least to my current personal sensibilities, He’s the closest thing to an exception that I’ve found. I say He’s kind of an exception, because I believe you are either an exception or you’re not, and technically speaking He’s not. Why then, even bring Him up? If for no other reason, because the greatest amount of the aforementioned deity-deity overlapping occurs with Him, AKA from my perspective it seems as though the greatest number of Brahman’s attributes apply to Ganesha. I don’t think this alone makes Him an exception, but it does make Him stand out to me.

Dear Reader, allow me to provide a slight disclaimer at this point: I’m not professing to be any sort of expert. I’m also not in any way intending to invalidate anyone else’s beliefs or ishtadevata or marg or …anything. What I’m saying in this post, and in the next few to come, applies strictly to my experience. If it happens to also apply to your own, by all means let me know, and we’ll relate our commonality. If your experience has been different, and seemingly conflicting to what I’ve posted here and am about to post, you are also welcome to let me know this, provided you respect our difference as it’s been expressed in my writing. I’ll ask just one favor of you before you express your differing viewpoint. Read at least the final paragraph of this.

Om Shanti

God is good?

I’ve been working on the draft of a post for a while already… something about the nature of G/god. It’s getting kind of long and, I fear, it’s beginning to ramble. I plan to whittle it down and finally post it. I don’t care for things to be hovering over my head for so long.

If you’re reading this, gather your thoughts on the nature of G/god and perhaps on any/all attributes you think may or may not apply and be prepared to share when I make the next post.

Om Shanti!