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  1. #1
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    Talking to a young adult about Ganesha and pantheons of Hindu Gods & Goddesses


    1 Not allowed!
    Today, September 17, 2015 Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations are underway all over the world including in many temples and homes.

    Some of our young adults have heard Puranic stories attributed to this event. In addition to cultural aspects of celebrations many understand Ganesha as 'remover of obstacles'.

    My own children and many others had asked many questions about this and other such events. Some examples of questions, which vary depending on the age of questioner include:

    1. Was this God Ganesha actually born on a given day? Is that why we are celebrating his birthday?
    2. Why are we worshipping so many Gods ? is there one God or many Gods?
    3. Is Hinduism monotheistic or polytheistic?
    4. The Puranic story about Goddess Parvathi making a person out of turmeric in her body to guard the door while she took a bath, and Lord Shiva coming there later getting angry & cutting off head of this guard, makes Gods appear like ordinary human beings with petty emotions. How do we understand this story so we feel more devotion to God?
    5. Why is Ganesha worshipped before start of any event?
    6. Why should a God be assigned as remover of obstacles? Who put the obstacles in the first place? Is this God Ganesha waiting for me to pray so he can remove my obstacles?
    7. Is there a difference between myths of Puranic stories and Gods of Greek mythologies?
    8. When we go to temples do we have to first go and visit the deity of Ganesha?
    9. Are there more profound ideas about Ganesha like we have about Lord Krishna teaching B.Gita?
    10. If divinity is supposed to be in each of us how do we relate to Isvara?

    The above is a set of sample questions only and I am sure there are many more.

    Over a period of some weeks (and months) I will share my understanding of our scriptures and how such questions could be addressed.
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    1 Not allowed!
    Interesting thread.
    I have a few questions of my own.

    1. Repeatedly we have been telling our kids that the Elephant's hand was placed on Ganesha when his head was cut off. Now we all know that it is not possible to do so. Then what is the logical explanation for that? Can we dismiss it as "don't question god" or is there a better answer to it?

    2. Why do we have so many gods is a very good question.

    3. Rats are seen as an ugly thing. But how come it got associated with a god?

    Is there a difference between myths of Puranic stories and Gods of Greek mythologies?
    Are they one and the same?

    I noticed there are two books that talk about an ancient civilization before us that are out in the market. Though i have not yet read both, is there any truth in them?
    The books are
    Species with Amnesia - Our Forgotten History by Robert Sepehr (http://www.amazon.com/Species-Amnesi.../dp/1943494045)
    Magicians of the Gods: The Forgotten Wisdom of Earth's Lost Civilisation by Graham Hancock (http://www.amazon.com/Magicians-Gods.../dp/1444779672)
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    1 Not allowed!
    To answer even the simplest of the questions above, one needs absolute clarity about many facets of Hindu tradition. The issue one runs into is due to the fact that unlike any other religion, Hindu religion has seemingly contradictory ideas.

    It is a religion and tradition that truly does not have a founder. There is no one book for this religion, and same event such as Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated in a wildly different manner in various parts of India.Even the significance attributed to a given tradition itself is rooted in very different stories.

    If one were to try to rise above the tradition and try to look for some kind of underlying philosophy, we find diverging schools of thought as the basis.

    When a given festival comes, like this Ganesh Chaturthi, many devotees chant mantras often without knowing the meaning.

    For example there is this sloka called Ganesha Ashtakam (8 verses) praising Lord Ganesha. If one were to look at the meaning, it will say why Lord Ganesha is the only God there is.This Ashtakam that comes in one of the Puranas called Ganesha Purana has verses that has translations such as this:

    Verse2:

    We sing about and salute that Lord Ganesha,
    From whom this entire universe emerged,
    And from whom Lord Brahma who sits on a lotus,
    Lord Vishnu who pervades the universe,
    Lord Shiva who can hide this universe,
    Lord Indra, other Devas and men emerged

    Verse 3
    We sing about and salute that Ganesa,
    From whom, the Fire, Sun, Shiva earth and wateremerged,
    From whom ocean, moon and sky emerged,
    And from whom stable and movable beings and treesemerged.

    From<http://www.hindudevotionalblog.com/2...and-video.html>

    The above type of description will contradictanother Purana where the greatness of Siva or Vishnu will be highlighted!
    We have 18 Puranas and many Upa-Puranas. Therefore the number of stories that extoll the virtues of various Gods will be many.

    There are three 'apparently' contradictory perspectives about Ganesa from various Hindu scriptures.


    1. Mythological/Purana perspective - The specific story giving the 'birth' of Lord Ganesha will be addressed later
    2. Worship of Ganesa as Ishvara (God) - There is a term called Brahman which is postulated to be the cause of everything in this world. Ishvara is called Saguna Brahman. There are vedic verses about Ganesa and there are also 108 names used for Archana extolling the power and virtues of Ganesa.
    3. There is one more teaching that says that the underlying reality of all that exists is formless, attribute less, and timeless. There is a Upanishad in Atharva Veda that is all about how to understand Ganesa as nothing but this formless Brahman.


    In addition to schools of thought that has come about due to freedom of expression in Hindu thinking over the years, we also have modernized versions of various aspects of any of the above.

    When one tries to mix and match the three different scriptural views overlaid with schools of thought one can easily get lost. Therefore many people including those in teaching roles have resorted to an approach which can be called simply as 'make things up' to somehow force fit the ideas. There are many newer practices of worship that have emerged. In USA it is now common for many organizations to celebrate this day on the closest weekend :-)

    How is one supposed to understand all this and then be able to explain to a young adult as to what all this means?
    The assumption here is that the young adult asking the questions is totally sincere and the person doing the explaining is also sincere, not holding cynical world view and is qualified.

    The three perspectives coming from three kinds of scriptures namely Puranas, Vedas (first 3 sections) and Upanishads (last section of Veda) do not represent a weakness but strength of Hindu thinking and traditions. Let us see how this is true.

    Throughout the series of posts, it will be important that some key aspects of Hinduism is explained which is necessary to make sense of it all.

    There is a concept called 'Adhikari Bheda' in Hinduism. From Wikipedia article here is the first sentence. ( I think the article itself is not precise and accurate and needs to be improved)

    Adhikari-bheda, the Sanskrit expression which is a combination of two words – "adhikari", meaning the rightful or the qualified,and "bheda",meaning distinction or difference, basically refers to the distinction between qualified persons or to the difference of the qualified aspirants capable of apprehending the same truth.

    From<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adhikari-bheda>


    Therefore the threeperspectives are suitable for different kinds of audience/students based ontheir qualifications. It is important they are all not contradictory which is important but may not be true all the time. The reason is that various Puranic stories may have had their origins in communicating important teaching of Vedas but over time could have gotten embellished so much that the story as it is told may have no relation to the underlying teaching.

    We will examine if the Puranic story of Ganesha has any underlying symbolism to far more profound ideas. So the three kinds of scriptures have the following audience in mind


    1. Puranas - Ordinary people who may benefit from devotion to Ishvara in dealing with their daily life. Complex concepts underlying the Puranas if they exist may be taught over time for these stories to be effective in one's life. One has to know that Puranas are not history documents and that Hinduism is not a history-centric religion (unlike the biblical religions)
    2. Worship of Saguna Brahman - Ishvara with deity being Ganesha. This is for all those that seek security and want to attain their desires by doing worship using prescribed means . This may not contradict Puranic stories if the stories have a significance and symbolism. For this to be useful in one's life one needs a much more mature view of Ishvara which we will go in depth in other posts
    3. Upanishad study requires enormous preparation, and the teaching here do not contradict the teaching in item 2 above and is for those that want to know the ultimate truth at any cost. There is also another principle of 'negation but not destruction' that is needed to make seeming contradictions be resolved (to be covered later)


    The audience for item 1 and 2 require some leap of faith for starters. Item 3 is about understanding the truth without requiring faith but most do not care for this view.

    In the next post,let me describe the Puranic story about origin of Ganesha and its symbolic significance. This will address some of the questions from Post #1 and 2.
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    1 Not allowed!
    Before getting into the specifics of Puranic stories of Ganesha and its symbolic significance, it will be useful to understand the context of Puranic stories and their relevance in one's life.


    Sri Chandrasekara Saraswathi in his book "Hindu Dharma" says the following.


    In page 58 - 59 he describes Hindu Puranas and rituals as follows.


    "Religious and philosophical truths are often explained through parables, stories, so that ignorant people can understand them easily. Since metaphysical concepts are difficult to grasp, either they have to be told in the form of a story or they have to be given the form of a ritual that is they must find expression as religious acts. For the common people the performance of a rite is a means of finding the truth present in it in the form of a symbol.


    I do not, however, agree with the view that all rituals are nothing but symbolic in their significance and that there is no need to perform them so long as their inner meaning is understood. Ritual as ritual has its own place and efficacy. Similarly, I would not say that stories from the Puranas are nothing but illustrations or explanations of certain truths or doctrines. As stories they are of a high order and I believe that they really happened.


    But, at the same time, they demonstrate the meaning of certain truths. As for rites, their performance brings up benefits. But in due course, as we learn to appreciate their inner meaning we shall become purified in mind. This is the stage when we shall no more yearn for any benefits from their performance and will be rewarded with supreme well-being (that is, liberation).


    It is likely, though, that, with the passage of time, some stories or rites will become far removed from their inner meaning. Or, it may be, the inner meaning will be altogether forgotten. "


    Puranas are NOT history documents and it is up to an individuals to believe them or not believe them . Regardless, the underlying metaphysical concepts , if shown to be represented by a given Puranic story, could be of value to a person.


    In talking to a young adult, the key thing to emphasize is exhibition of mutual respect towards others. This means not to pass judgment on a believer or non-believer of such Puranic stories (which has useful metaphysical content).


    However Puranas have evolved over a period of time and some may have lost the underlying significance.


    In terms of the origin and birth of Ganesha there are many stories that is available today. There are also many vintages of these stories that are often modified/corrupted/embellished versions of the original stories.


    The many stories about Ganesha are documented in this Wikipedia article.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mythol...tes_of_Ganesha


    Let us take the well-known story and examine the significance. From the above reference, let me copy and paste the specific story for understanding the possible significance. This will address questions 1, 4, 5 from post 1 and also one of the questions from Post 2.




    "The most well-known story is probably the one taken from the Shiva Purana. One day Goddess Parvati was at home on Mt.Kailash preparing for a bath. As she didn’t want to be disturbed, she told Nandi, her husband Shiva’s Bull, to guard the door and let no one pass. Nandi faithfully took his post, intending to carry out Parvati’s wishes. But, when Shiva came home and naturally wanted to come inside, Nandi had to let him pass, being loyal first to Shiva. Parvati was angry at this slight, but even more than this, at the fact that she had no one as loyal to Herself as Nandi was to Shiva. So, taking the turmeric paste (for bathing) from her body and breathing life into it, she created Ganesha, declaring him to be her own loyal son.


    The next time Parvati wished to bathe, she posted Ganesha on guard duty at the door. In due course, Shiva came home, only to find this strange boy telling him he couldn’t enter his own house! Furious, Shiva ordered his army to destroy the boy, but they all failed.


    This surprised Shiva. Seeing that this was no ordinary boy, the usually peaceful Shiva decided he would have to fight him, and in his divine fury severed Ganesha’s head, killing him instantly. When Parvati learned of this, she was so enraged and insulted that she decided to destroy the entire Creation. At her call, she summoned all of her ferocious multi-armed forms, the Yoginis arose from her body and threatened to destroy all. Lord Brahma, being the Creator, naturally had his issues with this, and pleaded that she reconsider her drastic plan. She said she would, but only if two conditions were met: one, that Ganesha be brought back to life, and two, that he be forever worshipped before all the other gods.


    Shiva, having cooled down by this time, agreed to Parvati’s conditions. He sent Brahma out with orders to bring back the head of the first creature he crosses that is lying with its head facing North. Brahma soon returned with the head of a strong and powerful elephant, which Shiva placed onto Ganesha’s body. Breathing new life into him, he declared Ganesha to be his own son as well, and gave him the status of being foremost among the gods, and leader of all the ganas (classes of beings), Ganapati."


    For a rational person, especially a young adult, the story seems strange at many levels. Let us list a few items


    1. Why should goddess take a bath since they are supposed to be pure all the time.
    2. Why should Nandi let Shiva pass?
    3. Upon return of Shiva, why did this boy keep on fighting Shiva and not recognize him to be God?
    4. Instead of fighting Shiva, why did Parvathi want to destroy the whole creation?
    5. Why should Ganapathi be worshipped first?
    6. Why pick an elephant's head to put on a boy?


    I am sure there are many more such questions. Before answering them as to their possible meta-physical significance, it may be useful to understand a few unique and profound aspects of Hinduism. Their connection to stories such as this may be made later.


    Today's adults and children born with a label Hindu are confused as to their identity. Hinduism is hard to define but there are few doctrinal aspects which is universal in its appeal. It is useful for young adult to appreciate the universal aspects of Hinduism symbolized in rituals and Puranas.


    At the conclusion of this thread I will try to summarize all such aspects that were brought out in this thread. Here let us focus on few of the seminal metaphysical ideas as it relates to this Puranic story.


    1. Hinduism is unique in the sense that it recognizes that the truth is understood by realizing both the male (Purusha) and female (Prakruthi) principles of Isvara. Most religions have completely ignored the female principle altogether. While Brahman is postulated as the cause of all that exists, it is impersonal and grammatically is neutral gender in Sanskrit. It is beyond the scope of this thread to go in depth about all these terms. The key point is that all worship of Isvara in Hinduism includes both male and female aspects. Prakruthi is synonymous with Nature which includes all that we see - power, wealth and knowledge. Our very body and mind is part of this nature.
    2. Nature includes opposing attributes which our mind may terms as 'good' and 'bad', likes and dislikes etc. There is no concept of Evil/Devil at the most basic aspect of *understanding* Hinduism.
    3. Purusha is the one that reveals all that exists in Nature. Our mind being part of nature *cannot understand presence of Isvara and understand all about Isvara* if it is masked by 'impurity' (which is part of nature also). Impurity includes pride, jealousy, wanting to do harm, wanting to cheat others etc. This is just a representative sample.
    4. Our survival in the world depends on our sense of self identity which is often translated as ego (though there are better ways to express this). However this sense of self identity is the one that prevents us from recognizing the presence of Isvara.
    5. If this ego is subdued all that exists is only Isvara that is recognized, ego being subsumed by Isvara for a lack of better expression.
    6. To subdue this ego one needs enormous wisdom.
    7. Hinduism does not have Gregorian linear time scale. It has cyclical time scale with things repeating - creation and dissolution in an endless cycle


    Now let us see how this story can be related to these metaphysical ideas.


    1. Goddess Parvathi representing Prakruthi/Nature taking a bath is like a person removing mental impurities such as the one described above. There are Nithya Karmas (daily activities) that can help remove the impurities of the mind. Nithya Karmas are discussed in another thread
    2. When the impurities are removed, Isvara's presence is understood which is like Siva walking into the house without any impediment.
    3. Nandi in the story is representative of the right attitude which allows Isvara to be recognized.
    4. Ganesa as created by Goddess Parvathi from turmeric is like a person in this creation who has ego (sense of individuality) like you or I and therefore cannot recognize the presence of Isvara (Siva). He fights with all his might and does not recognize presence of Isvara.
    5. When the ego is cut off (or rather the sense of individuality is cut off ) all that remains is Isvara in the absence of ego. Siva cutting off head of Ganapathi is like cutting off the ego at which point the appearance of creation ceases to exist (which is the result symbolized by Goddess Parvathi as Nature ceasing appearance of this universe and going into dissolution)
    6. In the endless cycle, from dissolution to creation, Ganesha is given a head of elephant which represents enormous wisdom required to understand the presence of Isvara (Siva)
    7. Ganas or class of beings represent all that is in this creation on which we are interdependent. Our existence and growth is only possible because of large number of natural entities that includes all beings. We survive our way though many impediments in nature using nature. By considering Ganesha as the presiding deity of all Ganas, we express our gratitude for all that has contributed to our wellbeing by worshipping Ganesha


    There could be other interpretations but there is seemingly some connection between Puranic story and doctrinal thoughts in Hinduism


    In the next post I will go into the worship of Ganesha to remove obstacles. What many may not know is that the 108 names of Ganesha that occurs in Archana includes the following one after another


    1. My salutations to one that removes the obstacles in my life
    2. My salutations to one that puts the obstacles in my life


    So Lord Ganesha is the one puts the obstacles and creates problems? We will examine the profundity of this thinking, again unique to Hinduism in the next several posts.
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  8. #5
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    0 Not allowed!
    Great explanation.
    I think this is what and this is how we need to get this across to the current generation.
    Simply brushing them aside saying "don't question god/beliefs" is not going to help.

    Awesome stuff! Please continue.

    Since i do not read all the posts, if you need to bring something to my attention report the post or send me a message with the link.
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  10. #6
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    1 Not allowed!
    Quote Originally Posted by tks View Post


    4. Ganesa as created by Goddess Parvathi from turmeric is like a person in this creation who has ego (sense of individuality) like you or I and therefore cannot recognize the presence of Isvara (Siva). He fights with all his might and does not recognize presence of Isvara.
    5. When the ego is cut off (or rather the sense of individuality is cut off ) all that remains is Isvara in the absence of ego. Siva cutting off head of Ganapathi is like cutting off the ego at which point the appearance of creation ceases to exist (which is the result symbolized by Goddess Parvathi as Nature ceasing appearance of this universe and going into dissolution)
    6. In the endless cycle, from dissolution to creation, Ganesha is given a head of elephant which represents enormous wisdom required to understand the presence of Isvara (Siva)
    7. Ganas or class of beings represent all that is in this creation on which we are interdependent. Our existence and growth is only possible because of large number of natural entities that includes all beings. We survive our way though many impediments in nature using nature. By considering Ganesha as the presiding deity of all Ganas, we express our gratitude for all that has contributed to our wellbeing by worshipping Ganesha

    Your explanation runs counter to the theory proposed by our PM and the Hindutva Brigade.
    According to the text of the speech posted on the PMO website, he said, “Hum Ganeshji ki pooja karte hain. Koi to plastic surgeon hoga us zamaane mein jisne manushya ke shareer par haathi ka sar rakhkar ke plastic surgery ka prarambh kiya hoga. (We worship Lord Ganesh. There must have been some plastic surgeon at that time who got an elephant’s head on the body of a human being and began the practice of plastic surgery).” - See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/ind....3bNLS2kM.dpuf


    According to the text of the speech posted on the PMO website, he said, “Hum Ganeshji ki pooja karte hain. Koi to plastic surgeon hoga us zamaane mein jisne manushya ke shareer par haathi ka sar rakhkar ke plastic surgery ka prarambh kiya hoga. (We worship Lord Ganesh. There must have been some plastic surgeon at that time who got an elephant’s head on the body of a human being and began the practice of plastic surgery).” - See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/ind....3bNLS2kM.dpuf
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    1 Not allowed!
    I look at the Ganesh story as symbolic.

    1)Parvati represents Prakirti

    2)Shiva represent Iswara

    3)Now Parvati(Prakirti) created a being(Ganesh) to guard herself..that is symbolic of nature and its creation.

    4)Now Ganesh did not have a mind of his own initially..he was just taking orders from Parvati(Prakirti)..this symbolizes delusion thinking that Prakirti is real.

    5)Along comes Shiva(Ishwara)..and Ganesh who was merely taking orders failed to recognize Iswara.
    Reason he could not recognize Iswara is becos he was under the spell of Prakirti the phenomenal world.

    6)Now one can also ask why Shiva being Iswara did not recognize Ganesh too..wait..will come to that later.

    7) Ganesh... I would like to relate as Jeevatma.. In order for Jeeva(Ganesh) to recognize Shiva(Ishwara) the Ahamkara has to be shed..the Ahamkara is best depicted as a head.

    8)A battle ensures cos the Ahamkara is the most difficult to shed..finally Iswara decapitates the Ahamkara..the head of Ganesh.

    9)Ganesh's head is then replaced by an elephant's head..when an elephant walks the trees fall down at times and a path is cleared..therefore an elephant's head symbolizes clearing of obstacles ..Viveka.

    10)Then he is able to recognize Iswara.

    11)Now coming to the fact why Shiva did not recognize Ganesh....it symbolizes the needed action to be taken by Jeevatma to realize Iswara and Iswara remains a witness till the Ahamkara is shed.
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    1 Not allowed!
    Let me pick up this thread and continue the discussions while answering some of the queries raisedby others directly and indirectly.

    Response to post # 6(http://www.tamilbrahmins.com/showthr...665#post319665)was provided in the General Section
    Thread . See responses and others replieshere:
    http://www.tamilbrahmins.com/showthr...690#post319690

    In fact such aquestion was anticipated in this thread itself and let me amplify some of thecontextual statements now before going ahead with the topic.
    To make it easier toparse and read let me provide this in a Q&A form.


    1. What are the starting assumptions?


    In Post #2, the starting premise is that there are three perspectives in Hinduism.

    They are sometimes contradictory perspectives and sometimes the contradiction may only be an appearance. The intent of this thread is to help remove the apparent contradictions when possible. I have named the three perspectives originally described in Post #2.


    1. Mythological/Purana perspective (Dwitha Bhakthi perspective) - The specific story of how Lord Ganesha is born is believed by many as factual. Beliefs and actions arising out of this understanding gives rise to a form of emotional Bhakthi (and sometimes confused as Bhakthi Yoga). Many devotees do not care to delve further and are satisfied with their Bhakthi. One must not mock any beliefs provided they do not cause harm to others. Therefore if some Doctors believe in the story as factual (that such an operation was accomplished) it can be source of inspiration for them. There is nothing right or wrong here because if anyone investigates they will find that *all* things in the world to be not what they seem to appear. Anyone interested in understanding the reality as it is, will not stop at just declaring the story as imagination and can go much farther and discover that all the things they believe about the world are also indeed imagined.
    2. Worship of Ganesa as Ishvara (God) - Rituals are based on Purana and some Jnana and this is Karma Perspective - There is a term called Brahman which is postulated to be the cause of everything in this world. Ishvara is called Saguna Brahman. There are vedic verses about Ganesa and there are also 108 names used for Archana extolling the power and virtues of Ganesa. The names are qualifications arising from both Puranaic stories and Jnana/Knowledge perspective of Ganesha
    3. There is one more teaching that says that the underlying reality of all that exists is formless, attribute less, and timeless. There is a Upanishad in Atharva Veda that is all about how to understand Ganesa as nothing but this formless Brahman. This is the Jnana Perspective



    1. What is the assumption about the audience?


    While the thread describes how to talk to an young adult about the significance Ganesha Chathurthi, the audience is expected to be a mature adult who has the sincerity to dig deeper for truth, and has the tenacity to read long anddetailed posts. In the scholarly section the expectation is not to provide personal opinions as far as possible but to cite well established facts or use references to cite people who are considered icons in Hindu Dharma. Therefore in this thread even to make a point about how Puranic stories may have evolved and embellished over time, I tried to provide the reference of book (Hindu Dharma) by sage of Kanchi - Sri Chandrasekhara Sarasvathi.

    In describing anything that is based on logic, the intent is to provide good logical discussion so that anyone who is serious can understand the point even if they do not fully agree with it.

    There are many Puranic stories and not all have significance in their connection to how rituals are conducted or connections to how they relate to Jnana/Knowledge sections of our scriptures. The best source for understanding such a connection is to pursue books written by commentators who are experts and are calledTika-karas. Tikas exist for many Puranas. I am personally not well versed with many of the Puranas and I am commenting on only few that I have some exposure to.



    1. Questions in Opening Post (post #1) - when will they be addressed


    So far I have addressed Question 1, 4 and 5 fully.
    I plan to address Questions 2 and 3 about nature of Hinduism after the discussions about Ganesha is concluded .
    Question 6 will be addressed in the next post

    Q7 from Post #1: Is there a difference between myths of Puranic stories and Gods of Greek mythologies?

    The big difference is that Gods of ancient Greeks for example are not really worshipped by mainstream Greeks or anyone else for that matter. Christianity and other biblical religions have wiped out these ancient practices.

    "In 2007, an official of the Orthodox Church described the few worshipers as, "a handful of miserable resuscitators of a degenerate dead religion""
    Reference:
    http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-22972610

    In contrast, Hindus worship many of the Puranic Gods. Many believe in a place called Kailasa or Vaikuntam !

    Q8 from Post #1 - When we go to temples do we have to first go and visit the deity of Ganesha?

    This is subject to tradition but it is not required. In fact many Vishnava temples do not even have a Ganesha temple while some do outside at the entrance (as in Pittsburgh Venkateshwara Temple)

    Q9 from Post 1 - Are there more profound ideas about Ganesha like we have about Lord Krishna teaching B.Gita?

    Indeed they exist, depending on the interest level I can share my knowledge. I am not sure if the typical audience even for this scholarly section cares to know. In my limited experience, I find that most Hindus are interested in rituals,Puranic stories, going to temples, astrology/horoscope, Panchangam, cultural aspects of celebrations and intellectual discussions without depth or wanting to know the truth at all costs. One Mahatma (I cannot cite his name) told me that B. Gita is more widely read outside India than in India and he is a somewhat unknown but scholarly Swamiji living in India. Hence I hesitate to dwell deep into answering this question.

    Q10 from Post #1 - If divinity is supposed to be in each of us how do we relate to Isvara?

    Our understanding and therefore Love of Isvara matures and grows if we have sincere desire to know the truth at all cost. For starters the 'Dwitha Bhakthi' is the best starting point with one added caveat. Isvara is to be viewed as one who represents the 'whole' which means how we treat other human beings and other beings is a form of expressing our devotion to Isvara. The starting point is to use the Golden Rule that true Christians care about which is treating others as you would like to be treated. Going to temple is a small part but relating to others and not causing undue harm to anyone is one of the best ways to show our devotion to Isvara.


    1. What is the focus of the next post


    It is to answer :
    Q6 of Post #1 - Why should a God be assigned as remover of obstacles? Who put the obstacles in the first place? Is this God Ganesha waiting for me to pray so he can remove my obstacles?

    Actually Ganesha does not care to put or remove obstacles for anyone even the devotees.

    In my prior post I ended it by saying the following:


    What many may not know is that the 108 names of Ganesha that occurs in Archana includes the following one after another


    1. My salutations to one that removes the obstacles in my life
    2. My salutations to one that puts the obstacles in my life


    So Lord Ganesha is the one puts the obstacles and creates problems? We will examine the profundityof this thinking, again unique to Hinduism in the next several posts.

    Let me provide specific verses here from 108 names and close this post

    विघ्नकर्ता ॐ विघ्नकर्त्रे नमः। Vighnakarta Creator of Obstacles
    विघ्नहर्ता ॐ विघ्नहर्त्रे नमः। Vignaharta Demolisher of Obstacles
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    Continuing the Q&A format ..


    Q6 of Post #1 - Why should a God be assigned as remover of obstacles? Who put the obstacles in the first place?



    What people call Hinduism is not a founded religion. There is not a founder, and there is not one book that everyone keeps in their home like a Bible.
    The Vedas represent knowledge, rituals and methods of worship. It is vast, and almost all the people I know do not have a copy of all the 'Vedas' in a book form.
    In fact the Vedas are not even considered a book. It is considered a 'means of knowledge' given in terms of sounds of words. It does not have any author.

    It describes a vision of reality supported by variety of practices (rituals) and modes of worship.
    The vision of reality itself can be understood and tested for its truth by anyone who is sincere.

    Not all rituals may have a meaning at any given time and all the modes of worship have been evolving.

    However the vision of reality has remained the same because truth by definition is true at any place and at any time.

    In this vision, Isvara understood as representing all knowledge and all power cannot be comprehended in total by any human mind even if one can accept the existence of such an entity. Whenever intelligence and power is sensed, that aspect in that context is considered as pointing to the presence of Isvara.

    Obstacles come and go in our lives and we are unable to explain why they happen based on our limited mind. We may sense that there is a total intelligence at play which we are unable to discern with our limitations. This total intelligence is given a name called Ganesha supported by Puranic stories for laymen.

    While a common person may not understand this point that Ganesha is the deity representing the intelligence associated with all obstacles. Therefore the same Ganesha is also the one that puts the obstacles in our lives :-)

    Is this God Ganesha waiting for me to pray so he can remove my obstacles?

    Not at all!

    All serious prayers in the umbrella of Hinduism are offered for benefit of ALL and not just for the person praying!
    Prayers are not for Isvara - How can anyone pray to the one who is supposed to represent All Knowledge and All Power?

    Let us take the Gayatri Mantra for example. A common translation is something as follows.
    There is much more profound aspects to this but the main thing to notice is the use of 'We', 'Our' in the translation

    "We contemplate the glory of Light illuminating the three worlds: gross, subtle, and causal.
    We pray for the divine light to illumine our minds"

    We pray for our mental peace. And the prayer which is genuine is always for the benefit of all.

    Now rituals are described in Vedas for attaining specific goals like going to heaven etc. All of these are not rejected but negated in the knowledge scriptures of the Vedas. To get into details of this will be a digression.

    Suffice it is to say that prayers are meant for peace of mind (of the doer). One will never know if the obstacles were removed by the prayer or not. In fact, the best analysis of the knowledge section points to the idea that perhaps the fruits of the prayer may be realized in the future births :-)

    In fact when one goes to a temple and asks the priest to do Archana on their behalf the prayer include:

    "My salutations to the one who removes the obstacles"
    "My salutations to the one who puts the obstacles"

    This was pointed out in the previous post.

    How can one understand that Ganesha is actually putting obstacles and also removing them?


    This requires one to understand the term obstacles. Typical understanding of this term will lead to contradiction.
    It is said that life we have now is due to the Karma (Punya and Papa) attained from prior births. Is this model is even correct, then will prayer have any role in offsetting what is unfolding as obstacles?

    Since the entire doctrine of Karma is based on a belief system there will be no way to answer the above with complete logic. There is no direct evidence for the Karma model but there are lots of supporting evidence for its correctness and usefulness.

    One needs to have a more mature understanding of the obstacles and role of our past Karma to understand how Isvara (Ganesha) is both the provider of obstacles and remover of obstacles.

    This will be continued in the next post
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    What is a better way or rather a more mature way to understand the term Obstacles?

    A mature way to deal with life is that the obstacles, no matter how severe they may appear to be, exist only in our mind.

    Isvara (Ganesha) does not decide to put obstacles or remove them in our lives.
    The obstacles we experience in our lives are due to our minimal knowledge of the 'grand design' and arise due to our 'free will' based actions only.

    The universe appears as intelligently put together in our experience though our understanding of science to date tells us that few simple primordial ‘laws' seem to have created the appearance of more laws and all this intelligence.

    Some of these so called scientific laws appear to exist in total abstraction expressed only by mathematics. But what we are able to observe with our sense organs or instruments arises out of this seemingly un-manifest set of abstractions.

    What we experience as obstacles is part of this seemingly intelligent design as it appears to unfold.
    The limited capacity of our mind or limited power of our body is a given. So our inability to understand the obstacles we face being caused by us is not possible to easily understand. But there is a way which is beyond the scope of this thread.

    If so, what role does Isvara (Ganesha) plays in this context of putting or removing obstacles?

    A more mature understanding of Isvara is that Isvara represents "All Knowledge/Intelligence and All Power and All Laws" as perceived by us who represent "Limited Knowledge/Intelligence, Limited Power and subjected to All Laws"

    I don’t want to digress at this point into answering if such an entity "All Knowledge, All Power, All Laws" exists at this point. A simple way to understand is that All knowledge/ Intelligence are not in conflict (except in our understanding until we have better theories and models). This whole universe appearing to be hanging together without contradiction is one way to understand how it is possible to postulate the existence of such an entity called Isvara.

    The reason for not digressing also is that to fully appreciate and understand all this, one will need rigorous definition of 'what existence mean', who we seem to be with limited knowledge, what knowledge itself is, what is meant by power etc.

    Our Upanishads with commentary from Sri Sankara makes the understanding possible without asking anyone to believe anything by a leap of faith.

    If Isvara represents 'All Laws’, then when we find ourselves exercising our 'free will' that operate within the framework of All laws, we face only consequences. In other words, the so called 'fruits' of action or rather the consequence of our actions are determined by All Laws that we find ourselves in.

    In this context the experience of free will is also part of the Laws.

    "Karma - Phala” also called "fruits of action” also understood as "consequences of action" is determined by All Laws which is Isvara by definition.
    Hence Isvara is called "Karma-Phala-Data" meaning "giver of fruits of action"

    The above definition if not properly understood would lead one to think that Isvara will be arbitrarily deciding the fruits.
    The obstacles that appear to come and go are result of our actions only and appeared to be delivered by "All Laws operating" which is Isvara.


    What are Isvara's laws that we find ourselves in?

    Isvara's laws include all laws that seem to be operating within the context of time and space as well as all laws that seem to govern our own interactions with other beings.

    This includes how a living being interacts with others. One life form survives for a while by consuming other life forms. It includes how our mind operates. Sometimes it is dull, sometimes it is full of energy and sometimes it is very alert and peaceful.

    The laws pervade through space/body/time/mind across this entire multiverse.

    It is easy to appreciate this statement below.

    அவன் இன்றி ஓர் அணுவும் அசையாது!

    Are there examples to better appreciate the above and understand Isvara's laws?
    1. In a recent issue of Nature, there was a thrilling article by the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek on a new way of calculating the slightly different masses of neutrons and protons. The new calculation confirms that neutrons are very slightly heavier than protons — the ratio of their masses being 939.56563 to 938.27231 — a trivial difference, one might think, but if it were otherwise the universe as we know it could never have developed.


    The quote is from an article in NY Times referring to a Nature Science paper

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/26/op...able.html?_r=1

    2. Value of Gravitational constant seem to be precisely the same at astronomical distances and at extremely small atomic distances
    3. A mongoose does not have to be taught to view and fight a snake as an enemy




    Why are the obstacles in our mind only?

    When we jump from a tall building we will get hurt. After jumping if we get hurt we cannot view the earth we fall into as an obstacle. It is acting without knowing the law or ignoring the law.

    A tsunami occurs and destroys a large number of villages. It is part of Isvara's laws

    A society or person continue in Adharmic means. It will never go on forever without consequences. Some people may think they can escape this All Intelligence and All Laws, but they never do.


    Why do we pray to Ganesha/Isvara then?


    When we understand that everything that happens is due to Isvara's Laws there is no possibility to feel bad or view the unfolding consequences as obstacles.
    They are merely situations to be dealt with

    When we pray we want the above understanding for our peace of mind. That unlocks our natural potential which is also governed by Isvara's laws as a consequence.

    When we ask for obstacles to be removed, a mature understanding is to seek the clarity of mind so that we find the strengths to deal with the situation

    That is freedom, AND THAT IS TRUE BHAKTHI

    (I am traveling for few weeks - I will address responses to other questions in opening post and post by Sunita)
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