परशब्द

Image taken from Google Image search

Image taken from Google Image search

The Christian Bible (New Testament) states that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God.(John 1:1)” Many Christians I grew up with cited this verse as indication that the Bible has always been around – literally. This is based on their strict definition of what “the word of God” means, and not only contradicts the actual history of the Bible, but also basic Christian theology. Alternately, I have also heard that “The Word” is the English translation of “Logos,” which apparently is Jesus in his pre-human, pre-creation, form. So, The Word manifested as The Son. It’s a verse and a concept that now makes me smile, and is actually quite “Hindu” and our own scriptures, which predate all Abrahamic scriptures by millennia, also assert that The Word existed before the physical world.

Hindu spirituality informs that the Supreme exists and only exists. From this unfathomable “Is-Ness” issues forth everything else. The first discernible emanation from this “is-ness-only” Brahman is an expansion in the form of sound and light. It’s because of this that our universe is built the way it is and that everything in the physical realm is actually hardly physical, but is instead varying combinations of light and sound. I find this to be yet another area where Hinduism is ahead of science, and even the mystical parts of Hinduism are supported by this kind of parallel between science and the faith – some Hindu theology indicates that God is, and pervades, everything. If the known universe is essentially light and sound in varying resonance frequencies, and the primary active manifestation of God is as Light/Sound, there’s no conflict.

My own ishtadevata, Ganesha, happens to be the arguably most common face in the Hindu pantheon attributed to that first Sound – reaching back into our foundational scriptures, the Vedas. The Word that was in the beginning, was with God, and was/is God. To Hindus across the broad Hindu spectrum, the Primal, Primeval, and Causal Sound is Aum. Aside from the notion of Brahman (which isn’t a god, per se), the only god in the entire Hindu pantheon that is endeared pretty much across that spectrum, although to varying degrees, is Ganesha. His cosmic and religion-wide (indeed trans-cultural) universality is a direct side effect of Him being the embodiment of the concept recognized by every Hindu: Aum.

An aside that I find interesting, Christianity claims that the Son was actually in “Logos” form before there was a corrupted earth on which to incarnate. At the right time, he manifested and was then known as The Son. Ganesha, with some very obvious differences, has some parallels. “In the beginning” there was Aum and later on down the road, that Word took shape as Ganesha, the Son of Shiva, also known as Mahesh (Great Lord) or Mahadev (Great God), who is The Father.

In the past, I’ve detailed my perception of Ganesha being simultaneously the closest to the material plane AND the closest to Brahman. That seemed to have mixed reception – reasons about which I sometimes still speculate. At any rate, my intention isn’t to express Ganesha’s supremacy so much as share thoughts based on material I’ve been reading lately in regard to him being The All-Sound, Shabda Brahman.

In a post a while back, I detailed (among other things) why I decided to change how I spell the symbol of the Hindu faith. I had been using the phonetic rendering, and have since adopted the try-akshar version, which I find to be cleaner and also indicative of my understanding of Ganesha as the beginning-middle-end of all that is.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Aum Shanti

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Jnanam

Two posts ago, I began this three-part episode. In the last post, I discussed as best I’m able how my experience with bhakti cemented my relationship with Ganesha and I mentioned, just briefly, how that bhakti has led me to progressively higher experience within jnana yoga. In this final post my goal is to explain some knowledge about Ganesha (some very superficial jnana, at best) and perhaps to step a little deeper if the post leads me there.

Although Ganesha’s form, having a human-like body and an elephant head, is mismatched, His immense form comes loaded full of an immensity of symbolism and wisdom pointing to higher Truth. In fact, the most notable trait He possesses, His head/body combo, point to an undeniable truth. The human body is attached to a non-human head. One meaning behind this is to show us that, while a body will not remain alive without the brain within the head telling all parts what to do, Divinity is an automatic and necessary part of human existence.

From there, you can just about pick something -anything- about Ganesha’s form and He will use it to enlighten you. In some images He has more than one face or head. His large ears are said to not only serve as sifters, helping to sort Truth from untruth (Asato ma sat gamaya…), but also are efficient and even necessary to hear the multitude of prayers sent to Him -a natural observation considering He’s only deity within Hinduism worshipped/approached by (literally) all before any task or any other form of worship. Ganesha’s broken tusk has meaning. The varied directions and curvatures of His trunk also possesses esoteric knowledge. The position of his legs, whether seated or standing or dancing, is also meant to be a sign to us. One obvious place where knowledge has been encoded: His hands/arms. Their number, position, mudra, and what they may hold are all indicative. His color is meant to teach us. Whether he has a consort on His lap, or two, or none, is meant to point to Truth, too. His vahana is highly symbolic. The size of his belly also tells us something. Everything about everything about everything, pertaining to all forms of Ganesha (Vedic wisdom supplies us with 32, officially), points to higher Truth. As such, the progression toward Truth (Brahman) is quite literally inescapable while contemplating, meditating on, or worshipping Ganesha.

Oddly enough, even in unorthodox representations of Ganesha, very nearly the full Truth can be found. To be clear, as mentioned above, there are 32 officially recognized forms of Ganesha. However, one other form that I’ll mention now is known as Sri Shubh Dhrishti Ganapati. There are a number of stories accounting for how this form came to be, but the most accepted or known is that He appeared in this form to a man who then made that form known to us all. Some say that this form of Ganesha is just a money-making scheme, and I suppose that’s quite possible, but I also think that’s irrelevent because any form of any god could be used for the same, and is, without automatically negating that form’s inherent value or purpose. He apparently manifested to the aforementioned man in a dream as a way of coming into our present Kali Yuga, and is meant to be an all-encompassing representation of The All, and as such is also known as Sarva Mahashakti. This form of Ganesha, like all other forms of Ganesha, is known as the physical form of the pranava (Om, Aum,…), and encompasses/combines all other major deities. One can easily see, with even a glance at the form: Shiva’s trident, Vishnu’s conch, and Durga’s lion -among a number of other notable attributes, signifying the culmination of all attributes. Worshipping and meditating on any of Ganesha’s holy forms will lead to liberation because the worshipper or meditator is, among other things, simultaneously worshipping or meditating on all other gods within the pantheon, which themselves point to The Absolute, as well as the Primordial Sound, which is itself the Foundation of all phenomenal existence (as our modern physics is proving). In this way, both Saguna Brahman and Nirguna Brahman are sought and experienced, and the wheel of samsara transcended.

Sri Shubh Dhrishti Ganapati

In my beginning with Ganesha, in part because of His fantastic form, I found devotion to Him to come quite easily. The entire last post somewhat detailed my journey with bhakti, which was then the primary and elementary form of my religion. Bhakti, being my starting place, is what led me to familiarity with karma yoga and then to an ever-deepening experience of jnana yoga. For me, this progressed naturally: Developing bhakti enables the potential for me to see That (Brahman, Atman, Ganesha, Krishna, Vishnu, God, myself…whatever label I attach to that which I’m devoted) in each conscious entity I encounter. Also, the realization and experience of It’s omnipresence leads naturally to modified, corrected, and elevated behavior, which includes behaviors of the mind/intelligence (read: practicing karma yoga). No joke: Try seriously believing that everything you encounter is pervaded by that One to which you’re devoted and still behave as you did before that realization. I’ll be bold and say that if you’re able to behave as you always have, you’re not only not really seeing that to which you’re devoted in others, but also you’ve yet to even taste bhakti -even if the taste is otherwise only fleeting.

With “Step 1” and “Step 2” partially under my belt (at least theoretically), the stage is set for “Step 3” : Jnana Yoga. When you take the fire provided by yoga of devotion (bhakti) and add to it the wood of karma yoga, you find yourself surrounded by the other-worldly glow of Jnana. Many people stop understanding what jnana is after scratching its surface. This is why some are fine believing that jnana (“knowledge” with a miniscule k) leads to bhakti/karma. That’s an incomplete understanding of what jnana is, and in that light it’s easy to conclude that “learning what’s right” (jnana) allows one to better perceive The One, and then enables true and full devotion, resulting in liberation at the feet of the Lord.

Jnana is more than mere “knowing.” It’s knowing with a magiscule K. When one’s devotion (bhakti yoga) and devotional actions (karma yoga) are effectively used to still more and more samskaras, the wisdom inherent in one’s atman appears increasingly clear to the mind. With this settling of samskaras the mind is able to perfectly reflect back to the atman the Image of Itself. This is an experience of jnana -Truth(one’s soul) knowing/seeing Truth(that soul’s Source) clearly. The experience is of a ridiculously indescribable, transcendent, and blissful Consciousness which is the truest essential nature of the atman/paramatman/Brahman. This is Sat-Chid-Anand and this is Brahman.

Om shanti