By Swami Sukhabodhananda
God has given us one mouth and two ears so that we speak less and listen more. In Indic philosophy as well as our forefathers’ prescriptions, importance has been given to ‘listening’. Some people talk endlessly merely to derive pleasure. It is only when one stops talking and listens to others that the importance of what others have to say can be understood.
The interpretation of what one listens to is also important. The Buddha once addressed a gathering. ‘Do not forget to complete your duties before going to sleep’, he said. The disciples’ duty was to meditate, so they started meditating before going to sleep. A thief also heard the Buddha’s sermon. He was a professional thief. He asked himself, ‘What is my duty? I am a thief, my duty is to rob. The Buddha has endorsed my lifestyle.’ Interpreting the sermon this way, he continued to rob every day before he went to sleep.
The purpose of depicting Ganesh with huge ears is to show that he listens carefully and attentively to the words of others.
We may well ask, what is the evidence. The whole depiction of Ganesh denotes how a human being should be and what characteristics he should possess.
Ganesh’s huge belly has a specific meaning. It denotes that one should learn to stomach and digest all the problems of life and overcome them. His trunk tells us that one must develop skills. This large limb is capable of picking up a tiny needle from the ground and also uproot a tall tree. His broken tusk reveals that one should master one’s likes and dislikes. Our likes and dislikes are like ivory, very valuable. The broken tusk represents operating from commitment, not from likes and dislikes. The small axe in his hand is a tool that tells us to cut away our desires and infatuations.
The mouse at the feet of Ganesh is waiting for orders from the Master. Here the mouse is likened to ‘desires.’ The offerings – fruits and eatables – induce temptation, but the mouse (desire) is only waiting for orders from the master; desires should be one’s servant, not a master.
We can continue to expound on the figure of Ganesh and its underlying meanings. But let’s make sure that all these concepts do not enter through one ear and go straight out through the other! Let your intellect discern what is right and what is not. What I have tried to convey with the help of Ganesh and the Buddha has been put in a nutshell by the Tamil saint, Thiruvalluvar, thus: ‘Whoever or whatever said it, it is wise to grasp the truth from it no matter who said it.’
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Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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