Art of Living Wisdom, Others.

Right from my childhood I was always fascinated by the elephant headed deity “Lord Ganesha”. Whenever I saw a Ganesha idol or picture, I would wonder why he has an elephant head? I found the story of birth of Lord Ganesha also very intriguing.

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The story goes like this – One time, Lord Shiva’s consort, Devi Parvati wanted to take a bath and there were no attendants around. So she created an idol of a boy out of mud and infused life into it, and thus Ganesha was born. Ma Parvati ordered little Ganesha to sit at the entrance of the house and not allow anyone inside.

Ganesha obediently followed his mother’s orders. After a while, Lord Shiva returned from outside and as he tried to enter the house, Ganesha stopped him. Shiva was infuriated. He told Ganesha who he was, and demanded Ganesha to let him go in. But Ganesha would not listen. Shiva lost his patience and fought a fierce battle with Ganesha in which he severed Ganesha’s head with his powerful Trishul (Trident) and flung it far away. When Parvati came out and saw her son’s lifeless body, she felt so enraged and insulted that she decided to destroy the entire Creation. Lord Shiva then attached an elephant’s head to Ganesha’s body and brought him back to life.

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Most stories in ‘Puranas’ are symbolic of a deep meaning. To understand the significance of this story we have to understand the meaning of different characters in this story.

Shiva indicates all-pervading pure consciousness, the substratum of this whole creation (Purusha). He is the most subtle layer of creation which is beyond time and space. He inexpressible. He is unknowable.

Parvati is ‘Shakti’ (Prakruti). Shiva is the un-manifest and Shakti is the manifest form of the same consciousness. The whole creation is a primordial dance of Shiva and Shakti.

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Ganesha is the son of Shiva and Parvati. He is the layer of consciousness in between Shiva and Shakti. Ganesha is sitting at the boundary between Prakruti and Purusha the manifest and un-manifest, the expressible and inexpressible, the knowable and unknowable, the gross and the subtle. Ganesha gives us knowledge and understanding.

He can be looked at as the beginning of everything. He is the beginning of the Subtle and beginning of the Gross. One can reach the divinity only through Ganesha. So Ganesh Puja’ has to be carried out at the beginning of every ‘Puja’. Ganesha encompasses all the contradictions in this creation. His vehicle is a ridiculously small, coward mouse at the same time he carries the head of a majestic and calm elephant.

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The story of birth of Ganesha is eternally happening in the creation. When Ganesha is having a small human head, he prevents the ‘Shiva-tatwa’ from meeting ‘Shakti’. The real meaning behind this is the small ego and concepts in our mind (mud) prevent us to experience the truth or divinity in its purest form. When the small ego is slain by the grace of divinity (Guru) then the driving force of existence itself vanishes. This may lead to dropping of the physical body. For the world to go on, it is necessary to replace the small ego by big (all encompassing) ego. This is indicated in the story by replacing the small human head by big elephant head. . This is ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ consciousness.

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‘Aham Brahmasmi’ consciousness is the benevolent consciousness. With this the human beings seek the good of every one. Life becomes dedicated to service of others. Divinity dawns in life. Life merges with its goal!

Written by: Sanjay Sabnis

Art of Living Stories.


On my birthday, in May 2012, we as a family went to Art of Living Ashram in Bangalore to have Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s darshan and listen to his wisdom talk in the evening Satsang. As soon as we entered the Yagnashala Hall at Bangalore ashram, we discovered that every inch was packed with devotees.

I dropped the desire to go near Sri Sri and take his blessings physically. I thought it was almost impossible to approach him, leave alone talking to him and take his blessings on my birthday. I told my wife, “Let’s sit in the last row in Yagnashala and have a quite darshan from behind instead of trying to go near the stage.” But our 3 year old son Bhargavaram kept insisting that he wanted to go near the stage and have a close darshan of Gurudev.

We tried to convince him and divert his mind away. However, my wife Ragini suggested that we proceed to the front row so that Bhargavaram could be taken as closest as possible to Gurudev and he would be pacified. We milled ourselves to the front and stood there not able to proceed further due to the barricades etc. Bhargavaram being Bhargavaram was not convinced with this proximity and still kept insisting that we need to get near Gurudev.

Divine moment with Sri Sri

Meanwhile, Gurudev came to the Satsang holding a bunch of coloured roses in HIS hand. During the Satsang, it felt so nice to listen to the Master’s knowledge on my birthday. I was totally satisfied! Meanwhile, one of the devotees nearby asked an Ashram resident as to how could one take Gurudev’s blessings without a prior appointment. The ashramite advised her to proceed towards Vishalakshi Mantap so that she could have Gurudev’s darshan on His way back to the kutir after satsang.

Having overheard this conversation, we made our way to the amphitheater and stood waiting for Gurudev to come back after the Satsang. All the while Bhargavaram kept asking us, “When will Gurudev come? Will I be able to see Gurudev…etc”and we had to answer all his questions.

Divine moment with Sri Sri

After the Satsang, Gurudev’s vehicle slowly approached amphitheater and stopped in front of us when Ragini told Gurudev that it was my birthday.  Meanwhile, we were pushed back by the thronging crowd and Gurudev’s vehicle started moving away. After a minute or so, Gurudev asked for the car to be stopped and he called out “Ragini…”.

I heard HIM calling out my wife’s name and responded ‘Coming Gurudev’ and rushed towards his car. The place was so crowded that it took some time for her and Bhargavaram to come near the car. In the meanwhile, I had reached and was saying, ‘Gurudev, it’s my birthday today’. He nodded his head with a smile, but seemed concerned about my wife and daughter who were struggling to come out of the crowd. All through he was looking at their direction.

The moment they both came near the vehicle, Gurudev pulled out the bunch of coloured roses from the seat and gave the whole bunch to Bhargavaram and blessed him with a big smile.

No words were spoken between the Divine and the little devotee. It looked like time had frozen at that moment and the world consisted of only the Master, the devotee and us — the witnesses of this event. Bhargavaram held the bunch of roses as the most precious treasure and smiled at HIM. We were both in tears at witnessing an innocent soul full of devotion and longing getting blessed by the Divine; witnessing the Divine waiting to quench a sincere longing regardless of the countless number of devotees thronging for attention. Till date, this remains in my memory as one of the most cherished and precious experiences we have had with the Divine.

by Guruprasath Sethuraman

Art of Living Stories, Gurus, Saints & Sages.

This incident happened many years ago, in 1995 or 1996. It was the time of Navratri Celebrations at Bangalore Ashram and I was leading a bhajan in the satsang. Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was sitting on the stage and was absorbed in deep meditation. All of a sudden, something happened to my voice and I was not able to sing further. As I was struggling with my voice, Gurudev suddenly opened his eyes and started singing. To my relief, the satsang continued and all attention was diverted away from me.

I was feeling so elated and grateful that Gurudev saved me from an embarrassing situation. With a glow in my heart I went to my room and slept happily. Next morning I got an idea that I should meet Gurudev and tell him about my experience.

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I did “proper” sadhana (yoga, sudarshan kriya and meditation) and put on my best set of Kurta payjamas (sajna hai mujhe sajna ke liye). Fully prepared to meet him, I started walking towards his Kutir. On the way, as if to prepare for the meeting with him, these words continuously kept chanting in my mind, “Something happened to my voice yesterday, Gurudev you saved me.”

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Luckily, I got immediate entry into Shakti Kuteer.  My mind continued to chant the same sentence repeatedly. As I entered Shakti Kuteer I saw Gurudev having a word with some teachers. The moment he saw me coming in, he said “Jigish sings so well, his pitch is so high. I don’t know what happened to my voice yesterday, it was Jigish who saved me!” I was shocked to hear him say these words, my blood froze! I was wondering, “He said to me what I wanted to say to Him!”

I felt so awkward when some teachers looked at me with amazement and disbelief, “You saved Gurudev??!!!??” I felt so shy that I moved out quietly under the pretext of a seva that was given by Gurudev.

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On the way out I thought since Gurudev seemed to be in playful mood, and not busy in meetings or meditation, let me talk to him.  The Administration block which housed all the offices at ashram was right next to where I was. I entered the building and dialed the Shakti Kutir number. When Gurudev came online I said, “Gurudev I came to tell you that my voice had problem and you saved me last night but you told just the opposite.”

He laughed and replied, WO TERI HO YA MERI WO AWAZ TO EK HAI”(whether it is yours or mine that voice is ONE) and we ended the conversation with a laugh.

These words from the Master and His praise were like a blessing that changed my life.  I discovered that my voice had become so sweet like never before and had grown to an unlimited vocal range. From that day I have been singing in many satsangs in cities and villages, considerably more in the latter and without any hi-fi equipment.  It has been a super blast everywhere and still continues to be so.

By Jigishji

Jigishji Barot is a multi-talented, very creative, vibrant and super-humorous Art of Living teacher.