Several deities and paths are found only in our religion. To have innumerable gods and goddesses is pointed out to be a defect by some people. Why? A poor man looks at a huge mansion with many rooms and criticizes the owner. He questions, “Does a man need so many rooms?” What is the reason for this? Only jealousy! So too do some people of other faiths criticize our Sanatana Dharma.
People are of varied tastes. All do not have the same likes and dislikes. ‘Loko binna ruchi’ – world is made of people with different tastes. Not all dress alike, eat alike. Each one has a different taste. Each one’s preference is different. While it is so with worldly things how then can all people follow one form of god? If all people are forced to worship only one form of god, it will be akin to goading all sheep into one shelter!
Our Sanatana Dharma caters to varied bhavas (emotions/moods). One who desires to stand in dharma and practice truthfulness has Rama to worship. One who desires to be brave, humble and devoted has Hanuman to worship. One who likes lila has Krishna to worship. The same Sanantana Dharma also says, “All these gods are but different forms of the same jyoti(Light/Consciousness).”
‘Kuzhandaiyum deivamum onru’ is a Tamil adage that means a child and god are alike.
How? A jnani (Realized person) is like a child. The child is innocent and has no hang-ups. It sees no difference – poor or rich; beautiful or ugly; good or bad.
‘Kuzhandaiyum deivamum kondaadum idathhile!’ is another Tamil adage that means God and a child go where they receive attention. The child goes to one who fondles him/her with affection. And God is pleased with one who celebrates and loves Him. A deity who has this childlike quality is Ganesha. He is known as ‘Bala Vinayaka’ (child Vinayaka).
You can never find a grown-up/adult Ganesha! He is always seen as a child. A child picks up anything found on the ground and puts it in its mouth. This is the reason that puffed rice is scattered on the floor for a crawling child to pick up and eat. Ganesha, being a child-god likes to eat. He likes to be fed with something always. Unless you offer him 108 kozhukattai (a sweet dish) your prayers do not come through! This is the reason that Arunagirinaathar also begins his hymn on Ganesha with, ‘Kaithala nirai kani, appa mudaval pori…’, referring to fruit a filling up the palm. He sings ‘kani’ (fruit singular) and not ‘kanigaL’ (fruits plural).
So he refers to a single fruit which when held in the palm fills the palm. Jackfruit is big and is a favourite of the elephant. Ganesha is an elephant god and jackfruit is offered to him.
Unlike man, God loves only frank praises (nija stuti priya). That is the reason that Arunagirinaathar sings of Ganesha that he is ‘mathalla vayiranai’ (He has a tummy like the drum!).
A temple has five or seven praakaaraas (corridors); a dwajastamba (pole staff); big gopurams (towers), etc. But Ganesha needs no such big temples! He is found even at bus stops; at auto-rickshaw stands! Ganesha sits at the bus stop so that he can bless the people who have no time to come to him, as they have to rush for work. Ganesha used to occupy the Peepul tree on a pond bank in villages. But in this age when people have moved over to cities for their living, Ganesha has also moved to cities and occupies a small place in bus stops and street corners so that he can bless them. He sits amidst smoke and dust. He cares not for his surroundings. He blesses even those who rush past him and bow down to him for a moment even without removing their footwear. Such an easy god is Ganesha!
Translated and excerpted from a 2004 discourse of H H Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji,
Illustration by Pranav Singaraju, 12 years Frisco TX