Baby Ganesha: divine child as image of enlightenment

 Shiva, Parvati, and Ganesha as Divine Child by Raja Ravi Varma. UNknown date (about 50 years old). US public Domain via wikimedia.
Shiva, Parvati and Ganesha as Divine Child by Raja Ravi Varma. Unknown date. US public Domain via wikimedia.

In the image above, we see the Divine Child in the form of Ganesha. The Sanskrit word Ganesha is from gana meaning “multitude” and isha  meaning lord “lord” [1]. Ganesha is half elephant and half human. In the image, Ganesha sits on his mother’s lap. She is Parvati the goddess of love, strength, and spiritual power. Ganesha’s father is Shiva, the great destroyer of ignorance and the image of the supreme Self. The Divine Child Ganesha is born of a divine polarity. The cosmic father and mother make up two poles of a sacred Oneness.

In Tantric Shaivism, the initiate meditates on the nature of Shiva and Shakti (Parvati), so as to realize the unity of their nature. Shiva and Shakti represent two aspects of existence. Shiva represents consciouness and Shakti represents life energy. The spiritual aspirant meditates on bringing these two aspects of Being together into unity and Oneness.

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Shiva Speaks: words of the supreme Self

 

Shiva holding a trident with a dog at his feet, unknown author, Owned by Sir Elijah Impey (1732–1809), chief justice of Bengal. US public domain
Shiva holding a trident with a dog at his feet, unknown author, Owned by Sir Elijah Impey (1732–1809), chief justice of Bengal. US public domain

Oneness is a “state of being unified or whole, though comprised of two or more parts.” Carl Jung understood that the Self is the archetype of wholeness (CW 5, 9i, 9ii), meaning that the Self is realized when opposites are unified. The spiritual path of Vedanta understands that the only true Identity is between the individual Self and Ultimate Reality.  In Shaivism, the supreme identity is Mahādeva. Shiva is an image and representation of Ultimate Reality, and thus also an image of our potential union with Ultimate Reality. The union between the Self and Ultimate Reality is known as Oneness. In this post, I am going to continue my exploration of various spiritual traditions. I am going to share some passages from the Brahmanda Purana (Chapter 27), a Hindu Sanskrit text. In the story, Shiva makes a strong statement concerning his own nature.

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Ganesha Panchayatana: the child as archetype as wholeness

Ganesha Pachayatana. Ganesha with Shiva, Devi (Parvati), Vishnu and Surya- circa 1800. US Public Domain via Wikimedia
Ganesha Panchayatana.  circa 1800. US Public Domain via Wikimedia

Ganesha is an image of the supreme Self as deity; and, he is an image of enlightenment as the divine child.

In the painting above, we see the Ganesha Panchayatana. The Pañcāyatana pūja is a form of worship introduced by Adi Shankara, in the 8th century. In the center of the image, we find Ganesha surrounded by four deities: Shiva, Devi (Parvati), Vishnu and Surya. Adi Shankara, philosopher and theologian, understood that all deities are images or forms of the supreme Self (known as Brahman). In this painting, Ganesha is the central image and thus an image of the supreme Self.

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Ganesha: the child represents the urge toward Self-realization

Image from Martin-Dubost, Paul (1997). Gaņeśa: The Enchanter of the Three Worlds. US Public Domain via wikimedia
Image from Martin-Dubost, Paul (1997). Gaņeśa: The Enchanter of the Three Worlds. US Public Domain via wikimedia

In the above image we see the baby Ganesha, with his parents. Martin-Dubost describes the image:

“This square shaped miniature shows us in a Himalayan landscape the god “Śiva sweetly pouring water from his kamaṇḍalu on the head of baby Gaṇeśa. Seated comfortably on the meadow, Pārvatī balances with her left hand the baby Gaņeśa with four arms with a red body and naked, adorned only with jewels, tiny anklets and a golden chain around his stomach, a necklace of pearls, bracelets and armlets.”

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Uma-Maheshvara: the holy inner family

Shakta Manuscript with Uma-Maheshvara, Ganesha and Skanda Watercolor on wood, Nepal- 1810
Shakta Manuscript with Uma-Maheshvara, Ganesha and Skanda Watercolor on wood, Nepal- 1810

In the image above, we see Uma-Maheshvara. Shiva is an image of the Cosmic Self. His wife Parvati is an image of the primordial mother. We also see Ganesha as the child and Skanda as the image of widsom (the Chandogya Upanishad refers to Skanda as the ‘way that leads to wisdom’). Sometimes in the Hindu images you will see the deity stepping on a demon, an image of the shadow.

Carl Jung spoke of the inner holy family. Jung says:

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