Ganesha the Lord of Obstacles
Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami , 2006-08-27
Bodhinatha discourses on Ganesha, the Lord of Obstacles and gives effective ways to worship Lord Ganapati as He is presented in the fourth belief of the Saivite Creed. Bodhinatha then discusses karmic consequences and illustrates that our actions are their root causes. The planet Saturn, Sani, it's influence and ways to mitigate karma are presented.
Good morning everyone. For our talk this morning, starts with Lord Ganesha. Appropriately, we have Ganesha Chaturthi coming up this week--27th. And at our center in Mauritius, it's the biggest day of the year in terms of attendance there for the Pancha Mukha Ganapati Shrine, one of the reasons is it's a public holiday, that helps. Even if it's Tuesday or Thursday everyone in the whole country has the day off. So I think they anticipate a total number of people that will come during the day are four to five thousand people. Something like that. Pretty good attendance. So for the morning ceremony everyone isn't there, lots of Mauritians go to multiple Ganesha temples and shrines that day. So for some we're just one stop out of say five. But there's I think, usually at least three thousand people there at once for the homa. So I wrote a talk to be read there and translated into Creole which is a form of French, which is similar to the first part of this talk. It has a few differences based upon Mauritius. They're going through some challenging times there in terms of the economy and all. So people are out of work because of changes in the sectors of the economy that are doing well. So it address little, a few more points than this talk does. This one is the version of the same talk which is for our coming trip. Leaving in a few days for Malaysia and Singapore and one of the events in Malaysia is a morning talk after some initiations at the Kotumalai Pillayar Temple, which means Court Hill Ganesha Temple and it's very popular in Malaysia, it's near the court. So everyone goes there, prays to Ganesha to win their side of the case, even the lawyers. So around seven or eight in the morning you see all these fancy cars drive up with lawyers jumping out and you know, praying to win their case for the day. And very popular temple but also very powerful even though it's a small deity, somehow it seems to be much more strong than the size of the murthi itself would generate. So maybe it's been well taken care of our something. It's been their for a while so it's certainly one of my favorite Ganesha temples in the world. So we look forward to going there. So this is the talk which will get translated into Tamil there. So it's roughly about nine or ten minutes long.
In all our lives, there are times when everything is going smoothly. And there are times when we are faced with numerous difficulties and challenges. And it is human nature in facing these difficulties in life to sometimes become negative, despondent and discouraged. However, fortunately Hinduism gives us many tools we can use to rise above these negative states of mind and emotion and face life's challenges in a positive, courageous and wise way.
Certainly one of the most important tools given to us is the worship of Lord Ganesha. Gurudeva explains Ganesha's abilities to help us face challenging times in this way:
"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. In His hands Ganesha wields a noose and a goad. With the noose He can hold you close or hold obstacles close. Ganesha can capture and confine both blessings and obstacles. With the goad, Ganesha can strike and repel obstacles. This Lord is called the Remover of Obstacles; but He also places obstacles in our way, for sometimes his devotees are proceeding in the wrong direction, and His obstacles block their progress and guide them slowly back onto the straight path of dharma."
Sometimes devotees choose to focus on Ganapati solely as the remover of obstacles. And when they pray to Him for a certain result and then find that result blocked by an obstacle, they conclude that their prayer is not being answered and become even more discouraged. However, this is not the deepest perspective.
As Gurudeva explains, Ganesha is the Lord of Obstacles, Vighnaraja, and in this role both removes and places obstacles in the devotee's path. Obstacles may be encountered because the devotee is proceeding in the wrong direction. A simple comparison is to a mother raising a young child. To the child, (going to sneeze here). To the child the mother is the Lord of Obstacles.(Would you get me a kleenex from the...) To the child the mother is the Lord of Obstacles. The most common way she exercises this authority is by placing an obstacle in the way of the child to prevent the child from getting hurt by a sharp object, falling down stairs, and so forth. The mother places each obstacle in the child's path to protect the child.
Therefore, when we pray to Lord Ganapati for a certain result and then find that result blocked by an obstacle a good response is to consider that we are proceeding in the wrong direction and look for alternative approaches that have a better chance at succeeding.
When is a good time to worship Ganesha? Of course His annual festivals such as Vinayaga Chaturthi are the best days of the year for His worship. His monthly chaturthi days area also special days. What is an effective way to petition Lord Ganapati with our needs in life. A good method recommend by Gurudeva is to sit or stand in front of his sanctum at the temple and send your thoughts to Ganesha through the top of your head. Imagine them rising up through your head until they reach Lord Ganesha's realm. Pray in exactly the same way you would if you were writing down your prayer on a piece of paper. In other words, be very clear and organized in stating your request.
Gurudeva also gives some specific advise on how to word your prayer to Ganapati. He tells us to give options. For example, in seeking help in finding employment, you might suggest three places you would be content at, indicating your first choice, second and third. This is because if you only give one choice, it is not possible... This is because if you only give one choice, and if it is not possible in your karmic pattern, then Lord Ganesha and his devas will not be able to help it manifest in your life. Therefore, it is wise to suggest two or even more alternatives when making a request.
When you are praying in this way to Lord Ganapati for help in your life, it is good to attend the temple once a week to worship Him and make your petition until it is answered. It is also good to choose a temple where you feel Ganesha's presence is particularly strong.
Gurudeva stressed the importance of the worship of Ganesha in the fourth belief in the Saivite Creed or Sraddha of twelve core beliefs that he composed. "Siva's followers all believe in the Mahadeva Lord Ganesha, son of Siva-Sakti, to whom they must first supplicate before beginning any worship or task. His rule is compassionate. His law is just. Justice is His mind. Aum."
That's the first part. Second part's a bit daring for Malaysia anyway. This is the question of worshiping Sani or Saturn.
As we mentioned at the beginning of this talk, in all of our lives, there are times when everything is going smoothly. And there are times when we are faced with numerous difficulties and challenges. Let me ask a question? Who or what is responsible when everything is going smoothly in our life and success comes easily? The correct answer, of course, is that we are. Whatever comes to us in life is our karma, the reactions to actions that we performed in this or a past life. If people are generous to us, it is because we have been generous to others in the past.
Next question. Who or what is responsible when everything is going poorly in our life and success seems impossible to achieve? The correct answer, of course again, is that we are. It is again our karma, the natural reactions to the actions that we have performed in this or a past life.
The cause of both good times and difficult times is not outside of us. It is us. Sometimes it is said that the cause of difficulty is the planet Saturn, Sani. This is not correct. All that Sani can do is enliven the difficult karmas that we created in the past. Sani did not create the difficulties, we did.
A common situation that you have probably heard goes something like this: "My life is in a state of chaos. Everything is going wrong, and it all started three months ago when Saturn entered Taurus and my karma changed. I have been advised that if I can successfully appease Saturn through having a priest do regular Sani puja, my problems will go away. Therefore, this has become the entire focus of my religious life at this time."
If all one is doing is paying a priest to do Sani puja, that's not enough. This kind of mail order karma repair doesn't really work. Such karma can be mitigated through specific actions performed by the individual, which we will discuss next, but not merely by giving over such duties to others.
To better understand mitigation, let's make a comparison to the judicial system. You commit armed robbery and receive a ten- to twenty-year sentence. But due to good behavior in prison, you are released after only five years. You have mitigated your sentence, made it less severe, through your good behavior.
Let's now take an example of karma that is mitigated. You are destined to lose a leg in this life because you caused someone to lose his in a past life. If you are living a selfish, low-minded kind of life, the karma would come full force and you would lose your leg. However, if you are a kindly person who regularly helps others, the karma would be mitigated and you might read in the morning paper about someone losing a leg and take on the emotion of that experience as if it had happened to you. Later on when hiking you stumble and your leg is injured, but not severely. The full force of the karma was softened or mitigated by your kind and helpful actions.
Helping others--karma yoga, performing good deeds--and thus acquiring merit which registers as a new and positive karma is one way of alleviating the heaviness of some of our past karma.
Worship, bhakti yoga, that is intense enough to cause us to receive the grace of the Gods can change the patterns of karma dating back many past lives, clearing and clarifying conditions that were created hundreds of years ago and are but seeds now, waiting to manifest in the future. The key concept here is intensity. Dropping by the temple for fifteen minutes on the way home from work is unlikely to accomplish such a transformation.
Pilgrimage is an excellent way to generate an intensity of worship. Over the years, Gurudeva's devotees have pilgrimaged to India, visiting major temples such as Chidambaram, Rameshvaram and Palani Hills. Many have come back transformed. They physically look a little different, behave differently and fit back into life in a more positive way than before. Their karma was changed by the grace of the Gods because of the intensity of their worship.
A vrata, or vow, can also generate an intensity of worship, such as fasting during the day and attending the temple on each of the six days of Skanda Shashthi or the 21 days of Vinayaga Viratam.
Penance, prayaschitta, is a third way to mitigate karma. This is like punishing yourself now and getting it over with instead of waiting for your karma to manifest a punishment in the future which may come at an awkward time. A typical form of penance is to perform walking prostrations, such as around a sacred lake or mountain, up a sacred path or around a temple.
You can also do a penance that is directly related to a misdeed. Let's take the example of a father who frequently used corporal punishment to discipline his children but now strongly feels hitting children for any reason, even discipline, is inappropriate. A penance would be to print and distribute to parents literature on alternative methods to corporal punishment. This type of penance should only be undertaken after a certain degree of remorse is shown and the urgency is felt by the devotee to rid his mind of the plaguing matter.
Concluding this second and last portion of the talk, let me share a statement from Gurudeva about mitigating karma: "When pre-dawn morning pujas, scriptural reading, devotionals to the guru and meditation are performed without fail, the deeper side of ourselves is cultivated, and that in itself softens our karmas and prolongs life."
Thank you. Aum Namah Sivaya.
[End of transcript]