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Possibly the most well-known and beloved God of auspicious beginnings, Gaṇapati or Ganeśa is a benevolent force, who when invoked, helps us recognize the subtle (or obvious!) obstacles encountered in our daily lives and also helps transcend our own limitations in overcoming these obstacles.
We can unanimously agree that at least a few times in our lives, some more than others, have faced obstacles, things that don’t seem to go as planned or worse, take their own unpleasant direction. Interestingly, if we speak with our friends and family about obstacles in life, we will most likely hear about problems at work, financial troubles, travel problems, holiday problems, school problems, social media problems, the list is endless right?
Indian scriptures speak widely and deeply about obstacles as well. There is one key feature though in all the texts that address problems in life, which is, that the problems all find their source in our own minds.
The popular and well-known text on Yoga – The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali lists 9 main obstacles on our journey. Here’s our study group reciting it.
Vyādhi styāna saṁśaya pramāda ālasya avirati bhrāntidarśana alabdhabhūmikatva anavasthitatvāni cittavikṣepāste’ntarāyāḥ
- Disease, sickness
- Mental laziness, dullness
- Doubt, indecision
- Carelessness, lack of enthusiasm, negligence
- Laziness, lethargy, inertia
- Worldly mindedness, clinging to sense enjoyments
- Delusion, false perception
- Despair caused by failure to concentrate
This is only one framework of obstacles that we come across in the texts, other texts speak of the ṣadripu-s or the six (internal) enemies – kāma (lust), krodha (anger), lobha (greed), mada (pride), moha (attachment), mātsarya (envy).
What is helpful to know is that our beloved elephant headed Gaṇapati is described both as the lord of obstacles (vighnarāja) and also as the destroyer of obstacles (vināyaka). According to my teacher Prof R.L.Kashyap, nature places these obstacles to test our perseverance. If we are serious in our movement towards progress, a clear guidance comes to chart out the course of action.
He says, chanting the mantras of Gaṇapati with śraddha suggests a course of action.
The obstacles in the path of each one of us is caused by the forces and beings of darkness being housed in the subtle bodies of human beings in those regions with little consciousness. Their presence becomes evident only when some of their effects, like intense anger, sickness, envy etc. bubble up and make their presence known.
The Vedic seers or Ṛṣi-s looked upon life as a continuous battle between the forces of light and these internal obstacles.
We can experience Ganeśa as that part of us which takes us from primitive behaviour to rational behaviour, from instinctive to knowledgeable behaviour and from reactive to behaviour that is well thought out.
In the Gaṇapati Gāyatrī mantra, we meditate on Gaṇapati, so we can be guided on the right path, so we can gather up our best inner resources to deal confidently with all that life throws our way. Most importantly, this mantra asks that we be inspired with the knowledge of the true nature of Reality.
Here’s a small excerpt of our group reciting this mantra 108 times.
This 24 syllable mantra is an excerpt from the famous and powerful Gaṇapati Upaniṣat or Gaṇapati Atharvaśīṣam which reveals the Truth as Lord Gaṇapati.
“Salutions to the One truth, Oṃ, Laṃ – the seed of the earth in the mūladhāra chakra,
You alone are the transcendent Reality manifest before us,
You are the sole creator, sustainer, annihilator,
You are the earth, water, fire, air and the space,
You are the evident ātma witnessing the universe”
May Gaṇapati come to be seated in my heart, may Gaṇapati help me grow my strengths, take them higher.