Ganesh Puja Procession with lots of people around the image

Worshipping Ganesha– The Psychology of Obstacles

Ganesh Puja Procession with lots of people around the image
Pic by Sudharshan Poojary from Unsplash

Ganesha is the Family Deity for my Dad’s family. I as told that his native village in Mayavaram had a Ganesha temple built by the family.

Growing up, Ganesh puja was done reverently by Mom as a way to honour our ancestral tradition.

Perhaps this connection drew me to the worship of Ganesha, the common ritual and symbols around it. For this article, I will dwell on only one aspect of it – that Ganesha is Vigneshwara –that he is the Lord of All Obstacles.

In our family, the talk was if there was a challenge in one’s life, you prayed to Ganesha. If we started a new project, we first invoked Ganesha to preside and ensure there were no obstacles. If we wanted to workship any other diety, say Great Goddess Lalitha, we first invoked the Elephant-God through shaping a turmeric paste in his form. And sought his blessings so we could worship the Goddess unhindered.

A symbolic ritual in this worship was also breaking of coconut. Coconut, we were told, has a hard exterior (representing ego that separates us from the universe) and a soft nourishing interior (representing divinity and connection to all).

The breaking of the coconut was interpreted in multiple ways. One was that the coconut represented a challenge. When the coconut was broken nicely into two equal even parts, family members told us, Ganesha was pleased and would now preside over managing challenges.

And I was also told the breaking of coconut was a call to move beyond ego. And the problems were caused because we believed it to be real through our egoic attachments to its history and substance.

And sometimes, we threw the coconut harshly on the ground, a specific symbolic ritual in the temple that splintered the coconut. It was then gifted to passerby and other devotees. Again, the message was that the challenge had been splintered.

The 'Hindu' Ecosystem and NLP

I have been pondering over these rituals as an NLPer and how they may naturally support the psychology of action in the world.

With major South Asian communities, there is a preponderance of ‘negative” words like Ni-sima (without limits), Nir-bhay (without fear), Apeksha (Without expectations), Ne-ti (not this) in their languages. A cultural tendency to express a state as an absence of another state (Please read Wimal Dissanayake’s works on this topic).

In NLP, the ontological assumption is that nothing is real. And what we assume as real is what is useful for the system in the current context—aka the Magician who magically makes the world to be as per her needs of the moment. Within certain Indian philosophical traditions, there is a similar view. I grew up with the concept of Maya—delusion. That “this” seems real, but Sat (Truth)-Chit (Consciousness)-Ananda (Bliss) lies beyond. The language structures follow this philosophical view of the human and universe.

The dominant filter “Motivation Away” fits in this cultural ecosystem as a natural methodology aligned to the ontological assumption.

The negative words can be decoded neurologically in this way. For example A-shok which is without sadness. First the brain processes what is “Shok” and then processes, “A” (without) to explore how to do that. A parallel would be, if your car is speeding, a passenger could say – “Stop Speeding.” First the brain registers “Speeding” and specific behaviours done in the moment to speed. Then the brain processes “Stop” to engage in behaviours in a future moment to stop speeding, like pressing on brakes.

This is different from saying, “Press the brake” or “Slow down.” Notice, there is no awareness of the current state in this language structure. There is a command for the future.

Vigneshwara in this Ecosystem

The specific South Asian ecosystem (loosely called as the Hindu ecosystem, although there is no monolith called the “Hindu” culture) consists of a structure of being aware of what is done in the moment and a command to figure out how to do things otherwise. It can be beneficial as a wonderful awareness building process. And at the same time, lies the danger of being highly problem-oriented.

Ganesha or Vigneshwara fits within this ecosystem and serves wonderfully as the Lord of Obstacles Metaphor.  And ritual that activates Spiritual Panorama and offers up the responsibility of managing the challenges to the Elephant God, ensures the System has as much responsibility to achieving a goal as does an individual. This again, is another trait of a collectivistic culture, where a problem is not a one woman or man’s issue. It is collectively owned and managed.

What such a ritual does is to free up the mind pre-emptively and attain a powerful resourceful state to achieve an outcome. It naturally builds resilience in the system.

Please understand that this ritual requires the specific ecosystem. It is built in alignment to other practices which is—being aware of what the mind treats as real in the current moment and choosing to transcend it.

Without the other elements, the mind has no practice of being a Magician. The ritual does not make sense.

In modern world, with confusing swirl of cultures and multiple global languages, what ecosystem an individual is accessing differs from person to person and from one time period to another.

And it gets reframed and recast in new ways as humans tend to do.

It is what it is.

And then not.

2 thoughts on “Worshipping Ganesha– The Psychology of Obstacles”

  1. the easy explanation of understanding the current state and then transformation to the desired future state with even the easier example of speeding is very helpful. I liked the metaphor for breaking the coconut.

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