Worshipping Lord Ganesha
Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami , 2006-04-15
Bodhinatha explains the basis for the worship of Ganesha--that he is a real being who is closest to us on the earth plane and is thus the easiest to contact. He also explains how we can become closer to Lord Ganesha. Bodhinatha explains eleven ways Vinayaga can benefit our daily life. Finally, satguru lists six common situations where the worship of Lord Ganesha is particularly helpful.
We're working on upgrading our material that we used on the recent Innersearch: Spiritualizing Daily Life. So we can use it in Singapore in August and in Mauritius in December. So you may recall it has two groups of six so far. It has six Facing Life's Challenges. Then it has one called, Six Ways of Helping Others, which work good for the Innersearch. For the seminar in the fall we want to add some more devotional material. So we are adding six situations which are excellent for worshipping Lord Ganesha. So that is what this material is for.
So it starts out with our standard introduction which I won't read--you've heard it many times. I'll just paraphrase some of the points. In the introduction we're trying to establish two ideas. One is the reality of Lord Ganesha; that Ganesha is a real being and not just a symbol. The other is the immediacy of Lord Ganesha; that Ganesha is very close, very easy to contact and is able to help us in our day to day concerns. So the first way we point that out is by talking about Thailand, because it was a very interesting fact that we found out when our reporter went there to do research for the article on Hindu temples in Thailand. He asked the Buddhists, "You're Buddhists right? You worship Buddha, so why are you going to the Hindu temple? What's going on here?" In particular there is a famous Ganesha temple there. So the answer, the essence of the answer was, "Well the worship of Buddha helps us in a purely spiritual way, whereas the worship of the Hindu gods helps us in our daily life." I thought that was a classic answer. So that certainly describes Ganesha quite well--helping us in our daily life.
Then I do the quote from Gurudeva here which is also on that. "Among all the wonderful Hindu deities, Lord Ganesha is the closest to the material plane of consciousness, most easily contacted, and most able to assist us in our day to day life and concerns. Worship of Lord Ganesha leads the devotee most naturally to the other great gods." So that's showing the immediacy again and the practicality of worshipping Ganesha.
Then we go through the real being, so my real being presentation starts out in the past. So for Ganesha, we start out with Auvaiyar and quote from her Vinayaga Avargal about her vision of Ganesha. Then we move onto modern times and we quote from Gurudeva about his vision of Ganesha. So there's ancient times, modern times. Then we try and show that you don't have to be a great saint or be a great satguru to have a vision. We talk about the fact that on our pilgrimages to India many of the pilgrims have had visions of the deities including Ganesha. So that establishes it more within the possibility of everyone. If the pilgrims have had visions, I can have a vision too.
Then to the last point is the milk miracle. We talk about the milk miracle because so many Hindus around the world saw that happen or know of people, friends and relatives who saw it happen. So it helps establish the reality of Lord Ganesha in still another way. Certainly all of that milk drinking couldn't have taken place without something going on there in the inner worlds. So those are the ways we make Ganesha a real being to people. We summarize that section by saying, "Knowing that the gods are real beings and that the purpose of going to the temple is to experience their blessings, is what transforms the temple from a cultural hall to a truly sacred place."
So then we move into a section on, "Getting Close to Ganesha." Most of this is new material, so I'll read that. There is a Tamil saying, "Ganapati is my support." Ganapati tunai, which conveys the idea that Lord Ganesha influences everything in our life for the better. You can develop a close relationship with Lord Ganesha in which he feels like a good friend if you take the time to get to know him through bhakti yoga--the practice of devotional disciplines, worship, prayer, chanting and singing with the aim of awakening love in the heart and opening your self to the deity's grace.
Deepening our devotion to Lord Vinayaga takes place by worshipping in the temple as well as at home in the shrine room. It is important to stress that having a shrine room in the home is quite important. In fact there is no more dynamic way to strengthen Hinduism in the lives of our children and family than by establishing a shrine in the home. The home shrine works best when it is an entire room. That way it can be strictly reserved for worship and meditation unsullied by worldly talk or non-spiritual activities. This is the ideal which builds a spiritual vibration over the years. When that is not possible, it should at least be a quite corner of a room and more that a simple shelf or closet. Make the shrine a refuge for all family members; a haven where they can find peace and solace, where they can connect with the gods, offer their praise and pray for practical needs.
It is important to mention that daily worship in the home shrine does not eliminate the need to worship at a temple. Weekly worship at a local temple allows us to experience the blessings of God and gods in a stronger way than the home shrine. This is because of the special way the temple is constructed, consecrated and the continuous daily worship that occurs thereafter. The temple is built according to certain rules laid down in scripture. This governs what shrines are included in the temple, the shrine's location and the overall dimensions of the temple.
Consecration occurs through the powerful ceremony of kumbhabhishekam which involved a large number of priests performing elaborate ceremonies for days on end. Then begins a schedule of daily pujas that are held thereafter, conducted by professional priests. An additional factor that distinguishes the temple from the family shrine is that no family lives in the temple. The activities there are only of a religious nature. All of these factors combined are what make the temple much more powerful than the home shrine.
This is an answer. I was asked by a fairly young boy in Australia, after I built up the home shrine as something great, and you can turn your home into a temple, he asked me the question, "Why go to a temple if the home shrine is so strong?" So I over did it on the home shrine. I made it sound fantastic. I had to balance it out here so that none of the young boys in the group ask me, "Well why do we have to go to the temple if the home shrine is so good?"
As I always like to mention when attending the temple is it important to always bring a flower or fresh fruit for each shrine for each shrine at which you are going to worship. The act of giving opens you to the blessings of the deity. Never visit the temple empty handed.
In addition to worshipping at the Ganesha murthi in the home shrine, I know some children who take delight in having their own murthi of Ganapati in their room. Many children take naturally to the worship of Lord Ganesha. Here is an interesting story in this regard. A four year old girl has a Ganesha in her room, whom she refers to as her friend, Lord Ganesha. When her younger sister was recently born, she told her parents that her new sister also needed a Ganesha murthi in her room to protect her.
Older children can be less inclined to worship Ganesha in this way and sometimes challenge their parents and teachers of Hinduism to explain the benefits of worshipping the temple and home shrine. The idea is unless you can clearly show me the advantage of this practice, I won't do it. With this in mind, we developed a list of eleven ways in which Lord Vinayaga can benefit our day to day life. The benefits are: Strengthen memory. Stimulate intelligence. Solve problems easier. Study well in school. Stabilize emotions. Improve your character. Experience good timing. Increase domestic harmony. Increase self control. Remove obstacles in your path. Be more successful in life.
To help individuals experience these benefits in their lives, we have also developed a list of six common situations in which the worship of Lord Ganesha is particularly helpful. Let me briefly introduce them: First situation-when leaving the home. Tuning in to Lord Vinayaga's shakti when departing the home helps us be more successful in the activities we undertake, as well as maintain a religious perspective during our time out of the home. Second situation--upon returning to the home. Worshipping Ganapati upon returning to the home is helpful in dropping off any worldliness we have taken on during our time away from the home. Third situation--before major events. Perform extra Ganesha worship before all important undertakings and thereby maximize your success. Fourth situation--when solving intellectual problems. When solving difficult problems taking school exams or facing other challenging intellectual tasks, before beginning, visualize in your mind the image of Lord Vinayaga sending his blessings to you. Fifth situation--when emotionally upset. If you find yourself experiencing emotions such as anger, fear or jealousy, sing a Ganapati bhajan. Repeat Ganapati mantras and let his soothing presence calm the emotion. Sixth situation--when needing good timing. On days when we find ourselves constantly missing the timing of events, stop and take time to worship Ganesha and ask his help for being in a good flow of timing.
In conclusion, we have explored together six situations in which we can deepen our devotion for Lord Ganesha and receive benefits in our daily life. Follow them and your family will find new spiritual purpose. Family members will become friends with Lord Ganesha and the Lord of Obstacles will become a living presence in your home and hearts.
So that's the first draft there. You have to go to our editing committee. So the idea is that in teaching it, this is the introduction and then there is a five-ten minute presentation on each of the six situations which explains in more detail what to do and how it can benefit you.
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