Who is Lord Ganesha?
Lord Ganesha is the eldest son of Lord Shiva and the Goddess Parvati. He has an elephant's head, with a trunk that curls gracefully over his big, round belly.
As one of the Indian deities, Lord Ganesha has many divine attributes and powers. He is the general of Lord Shiva's army and is one of the guardians of music, dance, and learning. He is also the remover of obstacles, and his devotees pray to him for blessings before any new undertaking.
Lord Ganesha is worshipped throughout India and Asia and is depicted in many different forms. He is shown, for example, sitting on his golden throne, dancing, singing, playing musical instruments, walking, reclining in a resting pose, meditating, and riding on his chosen vehicle—a little mouse.
In Birthday Bliss—Anukampa Chapter 2, worship is offered to the beautiful four-armed murti of Lord Ganesha seated in the garden of Shree Muktananda Ashram.
In his upper right hand he holds an ankusha (goad) to support the devotees who meditate on him by keeping their minds focused on the highest Truth.
In his lower left hand he holds a gada (mace). With this weapon he answers the prayers of his devotees by destroying their ignorance and removing all obstacles on their spiritual path.
His lower right hand is in the abhaya mudrā (gesture of fearlessness), bestowing blessings and protection when devotees have his darshan.
In other traditional forms, Lord Ganesha holds:
modakas or laddus (sweets). In the Indian tradition food is a symbol of prosperity, and Lord Ganesha is the bestower of abundance and success. The sweets are also his prasād; they carry blessings for his devotees to think, speak, and act with the essence of sweetness.
a japa mālā
a pāsha (noose), with which he captures and tames the negativities of his devotees and guides his worshippers to the experience of the Self.
a lotus flower, symbolizing spiritual enlightenment.
A Story about Lord Ganesha
Once there was a proud and mighty god-king named Kubera, whose palace was near Mount Kailasa—the abode of Shiva, Parvati, and their young son Ganesha. Kubera was so wealthy that he was called the Lord of Wealth. But he was never satisfied with his riches, and was always looking for ways to increase his wealth and power.
One day Kubera had a splendid idea: he would host a magnificent banquet for all the gods and goddesses. Surely such an extravagant display of generosity would win boons from all the deities!
Kubera decided to invite Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati to be his guests of honor at his banquet. So, with great ceremony, he arrived at Mount Kailasa and announced himself in a booming voice. “O revered ones, it is I, Kubera! I have personally come to invite you to a glorious feast. My cooks have prepared a thousand exotic, mouth-watering dishes. I have spared no expense; it will be the greatest banquet ever held. Please accept my humble invitation to be my honored guests.”
Shiva and Parvati immediately saw this king’s greediness, so they declined Kubera’s invitation.
“However,” said Lord Shiva, “You may invite our son, Ganesha, in our place. Be forewarned, though: he is a voracious eater.”
In his conceit Kubera replied, “That’s no worry. I can easily feed your child to his heart's content.”
Young Ganesha bowed to his parents, then took hold of Kubera’s finger and followed the king back to his palace.
The king led Ganesha into the banquet hall. The vast room was filled from end to end with long tables laden with huge platters of food—every kind of delicacy you could imagine! Ganesha walked over to the nearest table and took a seat. Although none of the other guests had yet arrived, Kubera told Ganesha that he didn’t need to wait for anyone; he could begin the feast.
Lord Ganesha acquiesced to the king’s wishes and began eating. And eating. And eating. As soon as Ganesha emptied one platter, the king ordered his servants to bring another. Platter after platter of food disappeared into Ganesha’s belly, until he had consumed every morsel in the banquet hall. The king looked around at the empty tables and recalled Lord Shiva’s warning, “He is a voracious eater.”
In the meantime Ganesha was rubbing his belly. He said to the king, “Sire, I’m still hungry.”
The dismayed king shouted to his servants, “Bring all the food from the royal kitchens!” But Ganesha soon finished all of that as well, and he still appeared hungry. The king frantically called his servants and demanded that they hasten to the neighboring palaces and borrow food from their larders. But even after Lord Ganesha had eaten all this food, he was not satiated.
Finally, Kubera flung out his arms in exasperation and exclaimed, “Oh, child, I have nothing left to feed you.”
Little Ganesha cocked his head inquisitively and said, “Is that so? Well, if you don’t feed me more food, then I’ll have to eat you, Sire.”
Aghast, the king knew that Ganesha meant what he’d said. Kubera could only think of one thing to do—he rushed back to Mount Kailasa, with Ganesha following close at his heels. Kubera found Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati seated together in deep meditation. Falling at their feet, the king begged for mercy, sobbing, “Please save me or I will be eaten up by your child!”
Hearing the commotion, Shiva and Parvati calmly opened their eyes. They saw the wailing king and their smiling son sitting quietly beside him. Parvati silently arose from her meditation seat, left the meditation grove, and returned with a small bowl of sweet pudding. She gently handed the pudding to her son, who received it with reverence and ate slowly, with great relish, savoring every bite.
When Ganesha had finished the pudding, he bowed to Goddess Parvati and said, “Thank you, Mother. Now I feel satisfied.”
Kubera silently witnessed this beautiful interaction between mother and child. Hearing Lord Ganesha’s expression of gratitude for the food, Kubera reflected on what had been missing from his extravagant banquet.
He realized that his only motive had been to gain the favor of the deities and earn merits to amass more wealth and power. He had been using food for his own selfish ends.
The moral of this story is: when serving food to others, in order for that food to provide nourishment and satisfaction, it must be offered with respect, humility, gentleness, and love.