The five-element body of man equipped with five senses has as its life-breath the five-lettered formula, enshrined in the Namaka section of the Yajur Veda "Namah Shi-vaa-ya". It is a basic mantra which means "that which can save, when meditated upon." Every mantra has a seed-sound (Beejaakshara) which precedes it and provides it with additional potency. Sound emanated first through the will of God. So the Beejaakshara is fundamental for the mantra and its efficacy. The Akshara is sanctified by the Vedas or by the Tantra texts. The Beejaakshara for the five-lettered Namah Sivaya is the Vedic sound, OM.
The Sound OM arouses Energising Vibrations
OM is how A, U and M are jointly pronounced. Each of these letters is devoid of spiritual force but, together, they arouse energising vibrations. 'Shivaaya' in the mantra means 'to Shiva'. 'Shiva' is That which confers good fortune, wealth, prosperity and happiness. Pandits have commented on this formula and explained it in various ways. They have interpreted Na as indicating Nandi Vahana, the God who has Nandi (the Bull) as Vahana (vehicle). They take ma as the pointer to another Name of Shiva, Mandaara Maalin (wearing a garland of Mandaara flowers) and Si as Surya (the Sun which when it dawns on earth unfolds the Lotus of the Hearts of Beings etc). Each one al1ows his imagination to lead him along.
But, the formula contains a more universal and abstract concept. It has to be pronounced always with OM. The Namah (prostration) is for OM which is denoted as having the Shiva attribute (being the source of peace, prosperity and success, of Mangalam in short). The process of worship is best described by Pothana in the Bhagavata he has rendered in Telugu. Pothana speaks of "Chethulara Sivuni Puja" (worshipping Shiva with the hands). By 'hand', he means, the 'five-fingered', representing the five-lettered mantra. Shiva is the five-element-lord and so He has all the power and wealth the five can yield to man who is himself a composite of the five!
The Vedas assert, "Atma Vai Putranaamaa Asi" (Oneself is the person known as son). One repeats himself in the son. Ganesha is therefore Shiva Himself expressing certain aspects of Shiva on certain occasions for certain purposes. Ganesha means the leader of groups. Ganapati too means the same.
The Elephant head is the Symbol of Wisdom
The elephant-head of Ganesha is a symbol of intelligence, discrimination and wisdom. The elephant is ever alert and eminently conscious of its surroundings. Its memory is strong and deep. It treads through the thick forest imprinting huge foot marks on the track. One such print can subsume the marks left by scores of other animal, both wild and tame. It moves majestically through thick jungles; its very passage blazes trail for other animus to go through. It is a path-maker, helping others without being aware of it, because it is its nature. Ganesha guides the stars, the communities of men and their homes. He is Lord of Obstacles, causing them when needed and helping men to overcome them, when that boon will promote the well-being of the
There is astronomical support also for the Ganesha festival, celebrated on the fourth day of the bright half of Bhadrapada month. A constellation with the appearance of the elephant-head becomes brightly visible on this very night. Ganesha is the embodiment of Buddhi (intelligence) and Siddhi (achievement). He was approached by Sage Vyasa with a prayer to write down the Mahabharata, even as he composed the hundreds of thousands of its verses! Ganesha agreed immediately; He brooked no delay, even to secure a writing tool: He broke his sharp-pointed tusk and was ready to start!
Lessons that Ganesha teaches Men
Ganesha can teach many a lesson to man. That is the reason for His being adored by people of all ages and professions. Take the problem of food. Thygaraja invites Ganapati most endearingly, and delights in offering Him sweet Sattvic items of food - coconut kernal, sweet fruits of various types, steam-cooked rolls and balls of Modak, etc. The elephant feeds on grass, sugar cane, bamboo-shoots, and twigs and leaves of the banyan tree. Devotees offer Ganesha, while worshipping, leaves, grass blades and flowers gathered from meadows and valleys. Ganesha, the Elephant-headed, is adored as the source of Love, Faith, Intelligence, Guidance and Grace.
Take into consideration another role assigned to Ganesha. When Shiva is moved to supreme ecstasy and it is expressed as the Cosmic Dance of Nataraja, Ganesha, Master of Tune and Time, leads other Gods, marks time on the mrdangam (drum). No wonder, the Gods are pleased when puja is offered to Ganesha even before any of them is propitiated.
Man is bound by three tendencies. The first is Kama (the longing to possess). When that longing fails, Krodha (anger) raises its hood. When the desire is fulfilled and the thing is gained the third tendency, Lobha (greed) overtakes him. If one's desire is beneficial, the Divine will shower Grace. Ganesha has no desire, no anger, no greed. His Grace is available for all who seek good and godly goals. Look at the vehicle which He has chosen, the mouse! The mouse is a creature that is led, even to destruction, by Vasana (the smell of things). Men are all victims of Vasana (Preferences and predilections stamped on our minds during the past lives). Ganesha smothers and suppresses the Vasanas which mis-direct man and create misfortune.
Since the mouse has been honoured so, it shares the worship offered to Ganesha. Association with Gods, as vehicles, ornaments, accessories or servants of Gods, endows objects, animals and men with specially sacred status. Elephants, Lions, Eagles, Snakes, Primates--all these and many more have been divinised thus.
This day is Ganesha festival Day. Since Ganesha leads when gods are invoked, installed and adored, this Festival leads the long line of festivals 'for other forms of God - Navaratri, Deepavali, Sankranti, Shivaratri. The duty this Day is to contemplate on the Universal and Eternal Truth embodied in Ganesha and worship Him with purity and faith, praying for the Grace which can prevent lapses and promote progress in all efforts to achieve the highest goal.
Source: Divine Discourse on September 18, 1985; Ganesha Chaturthi Day at Prasanthi Nilayam