Devotion Emotion in Spoken Form


While in Chicago recently I picked up a few books on Ganesha specifically. I’ve already made my way through the smallest, which is essentially a booklet. The title is something like Shree Maha Ganesha Siddhi Vrat.

For anyone unfamiliar, “vrat” is the source of the word vow and typically translates as “fast,” meaning to abstain from food for a period of time as a means of purification. The word “siddhi” has many translations and often refers to some beneficent result of having performed some manner of penance. So, loosely, you complete a vrat and achieve some kind of siddhi. My general understanding of siddhis is that they shouldn’t be sought, and can end up being misused or a distraction – but that they can also be quite beneficial, especially when used for others’ good, and can also serve as “milestones” in personal/spiritual progress.

So this booklet details what it indicates is the fool-proof-est way of obtaining a Ganesha siddhi through a very specific vrat. I’m cool with this, aside from the info in the booklet being mostly uninteresting. But something about the booklet kept jabbing me.

Throughout the booklet, instead of telling the reader the right time to intone a mantra, it would instruct the reader and person attempting the vrat to “say the spell.” My first thought is that this is a translation error. My second thought is one of indignation – afterall, mantras aren’t SPELLS, right?

But wait… for a brief period, after Christianity and before Hinduism (and in fact the reason I even encountered Hinduism) I studied paganism and witchcraft. Spellwork was a huge part of this. Anybody will tell you that a spell is something you say to make something happen. On the mundane level, the very foundation of all language is spellwork. More magically, however, we’re talking about something higher than the mundane that we’re still trying to make happen via words. Are mantras any different than spells?

When you break everything down, yes. They are different. But beyond that, from actual formulation clear up through practical application, mantras are as much like spells as they are different. It’s odd. And while we’re at it, “prayer” in other religions is no different. We’re speaking what we want in hopes that something higher or bigger than us will get things moving. I think in my estimation, the biggest difference is that Hinduism cites more than a little science behind the formulation of it’s myraid mantras – something definitely different than the spell an English speaking witch would cast, which more than anything is devotion emotion in spoken form.

How beneficial is it to split spiritual hairs? I’m assuming it’s only as beneficial as knowing whether there’s power behind your actions and words, or whether you’re kind of just making it up.

Om Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Om Shanti



Anyone who’s ventured into more than one religion – at once or separately – can attest to the comfort, joy, and simple benefit of knowing where your “home” is. Having been born into a non-religious family, I suppose I was blessed with the option of choosing my own path and making my own home.

As a teen I found myself enjoying the school band, and eventually found myself in the high school marching band. (As an aside, my hometown had the USA’s first high school marching band.) Every year we’d go away for week or so to a remote location, entirely inescapable, and have band camp. Anyone who’s watched the America Pie movies snickers when someone supposedly has a band camp story. Please let me verify, band camp IS like that.

My band camp story is one of religion, though, instead of teen sex-capades. We held band camp at a theological seminary and for a week we literally lived as monks. (I was in heaven, no joke, and have hinted at this in past posts.) Somewhere amidst all the torture and antics, a guy invited me to church. THAT is my band camp story.

Shortly after returning from band camp, I went to church – Jesus stuck to me and the rest is virtually history. For a few years following, I was a veritable monster for The Christ.

It was horrible. And it came to a very lonely and painful end when they learned that not only did I have no plans to marry someone of the opposite sex, but also that I was happy as such. I thought I had found my spiritual home. I was wrong. A few years later, after a brief journey with paganism, I managed to find Hinduism and have been home since.

I read another blogger’s post recently that reminded me of my journey – although hers is her own and is currently still pagan. I’m reminded of a huge lesson taken from the Gita of the importance and immense benefit of knowing one’s own dharma and following it – this applies to one’s religion or spiritual choices as well as the general life path one takes.

In closing, I’ll share a video of a song that has been with me since my pagan days. I sing it regularly, although the significance for me has changed slightly. I hope you enjoy it, I hope you learn to sing it too, and above all I hope you are able to hear The Voice and known your path as fully as possible. Home is where we started, after all, and is where we’re returning.

Om Shanti