March 25, 2005

Lord Ganesh

Posted at March 25, 2005 10:48 PM in Buddhism .

This last summer, I was exposed to Ganesh or Ganapati in a Tibetan Buddhist context. Up to this point, I'd only been familiar with him from the Hindu context:

I'd always been fond of Ganesh as an opener of ways, a clearer of obstacles. I am friends with a number of Shaivite Tantrikas and they are all quite fond of him. Whether I could be considered a strict Buddhist Tantric practitioner is pretty open to questions on most days. Ganesh was once the primary deity of some tantric sects, as Mike Magee mentions here:

Until the middle ages c.e., it appears that there was a separate cult of tantriks, the Ganapatyas, who followed this Deva and his Shakti. Like Shiva, he was worshipped via a linga, but in this case red.

Mike also quotes Arthur Avalon on Mahaganapati:

 "...he is to be meditated upon as seated on a lotus consisting of the letters of the alphabet. The sadhaka should meditate upon an island composed of nine gems, placed in an ocean of sugarcane juice; a soft gentle breeze blows over the island and makes the waves wash the shore thereof. The place is a forest of Mandara, Parijata and other Kalpa trees and creepers, and the light from the gems thereon casts a red glow on the ground. The six gladdening seasons are always there. The sun and moon brighten up the place. In the middle of the island is a Parijata tree whereon are the nine gems and beneath it is the great Pitha (altar) on which is the lotus whereon is seated Mahaganapati. His face is that of the great elephant with the moon on it. He is red and has three eyes. He is held in loving embrace by his beloved who is seated in his lap and has a lotus in her hand. In each of his ten hands he is holding a pomegranate, a mace, a bow, a trident, a discus, a lotus, a noose, a red water-lily, a sheaf of paddy and his own tusk. He is holding a jewelled jar in his trunk. By the flapping of his ears, he is driving away the bees attracted to his temples by the fluid exuding therefrom, and he is scattering gems from out of the jar held in his trunk. He is wearing a ruby-studded crown and is adorned with gem." Sharadatilakatantra, Agamanusandhana Samiti, 1933.

This last summer, at retreat, I found out that Ganesh, like many Hindu gods, had been taken up by the tantric Buddhist practitioners long ago. Recently, I found images of a Tibetan Buddhist thangka to him, showing him in a very Tibetan style:

In any case, I found this  pretty interesting though not for any easy to explain reason.



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