GANESHA, GOD OF WISDOM
He who performs the maximum work with minimum labour.
It is said in Hindu tradition that Parvati, wife of Shiva and mother of Ganesha, saw the syllable AUM. Her powerful glance transformed the Sacred Word into coupling elephants which gave birth to Ganesha and then resumed the form of the AUM. Thus Ganesha, with elephant head and human body, possessed the AUM as his syllable, and at the dictate of the sage Vyasa, he set down the Word in symbolic and categorical form in the richly allegorical epic called the Mahabharata. In the process of performing this holy task, Ganesha became Ekadantin, the Single-Tusked One. When he entered into the alliance, it was stipulated that the sage would pour forth the stupendous epic into a lakh of stanzas, and that he must go on recording them at the same speed. The terms they entered into were equally marvellous. If the sage staggered in his inspired dictation, the writing faculty in the scribe would become permanently defunct. If the scribe were to halt or delay his composition, the articulate sage would become dumb. Both scribe and sage were fulfilling awesome tasks as if by divine dispensation. As customary in ancient India, Ganesha was writing on palm leaves with an iron stylus. Just when three-fourths of the work was over, the stylus snapped. Ganesha then and there broke his right tusk and used it as his pen without a moment's break in his work. The immortal undertaking was accomplished with solemn success and stands as an archetypal example of the teaching that no sacrifice is too great for a noble cause and that the resourceful know no impediments.
Ganesha is thus the Remover of Obstacles. Even devotees of Buddhism and Jainism propitiate him first, seeking his sanction in their invocation of their chosen deities. He is that aspect of Cosmic Intelligence which aids the awakening and growth of those who are divinely disposed. He apparently helps the wicked also, but ultimately arrests their untoward undertakings. In this sense Ganesha is called Vigneswara, the Lord of Obstructions. He is capable of creating hindrances as well as clearing off hindrances. Through either mode he brings good to all concerned. Sometimes what is sought after by the devotee is not sanctioned. The disappointment brought about thereby is no doubt poignant. But in due time it is realized that the seeming obstruction is a blessing in disguise. Vigneswara wields the affairs of the world in such a way that the greater evils of life are warded off through the intervention of lesser evils.
The ceremonial sanction and support of Vigneswara is sought after in all new undertakings. Whatever is undertaken ignoring the Lord of Wisdom is bound to meet with impediments, and therefore devotees circumambulate his image or perform such actions as knocking thrice on the head, holding the left ear with the right hand, right ear with the left hand, and sitting or standing as a mark of submission and obedience. In a child, such sanctification arouses the imagination and creates a living contact between the visible human and the invisible superhuman. It induces devotion in little children. It gives a practical shape to the urge in every child for a healthy and loving relationship with its comrades. Such acts as the giving of edibles dedicated to the deity and the sharing of their distribution amongst themselves become the means for the removal of obstruction through inherent selfishness.
The Enlightened Man invokes Ganesha through intense mental invocation. His inward prayer consists of the intention to act with the fervent wish that his undertaking be in tune with cosmic harmony and the Divine Will, and that if it should be counter to it, it might as well meet with the fate it deserves. Such a true devotee is deeply aware of the potent force that streams through Ganesha and recognizes that through success and failure alike he can learn progressively how to set his feet more firmly and squarely on the Path. He is also keenly appreciative of the symbolic attributes of the elephant-headed god. He realizes that the trunk of Ganesha is curved around his single tusk in the form of the Sacred Word as though to protect the essential potency of the remaining tusk. The power within the trunk is the sense of smell which in the elephant is the channel of experience par excellence. The symbolic significance of this is suggested in the yoga system wherein Muladhara, the root-centre of the mortal body, is related to the elephant, or Ganesha, as well as to the bottom of the spine and the elimination centre. The root-centre represents the earth and the sense of smell as well as cohesion, obstruction and bone. Thus Ganesha stands at the beginning of the pilgrimage through the chakra centres, and it is he who must be propitiated to remove all obstacles. In The Secret Doctrine the earth is spoken of in relation to the rudimentary sense of smell. The other senses are related to water, fire, air and ether and are said to be fused in the sense of smell, the last of the series to evolve. Related to this powerful sense is that form of memory associated with the psychic realm and also pertaining significantly to the libido. Ganesha, being a symbol for all such characteristics, embodies the powers of the Akashic and lower astral realm brought down to earth whereupon he stands at the entrance to the Path. He represents Divine Wisdom as well as worldly wisdom, the crucial link - or antaskarana - between them, and the timely manifestation of Brahma Vach in daily life.
[See also the HERMES Symbol article at https://www.theosophytrust.org/643-ganesha]