Do you know Ganesha?
As I look around my home, I realize that Ganesha is the Hindu deity I’m most attracted to. Often referred to as the remover of obstacles, Ganesha embodies the wisdom of harnessing and using life force to live with dignity in this world. Yesterday, while half-heartedly attempting to complete a homework assignment with a friend, she gifted me a sticker of Ganesha and we became curious of the small holy rat resting at Ganesha’s feet humbly chewing on a cookie. Here is the explanation we received from Google.
“Ganesha is shown seated on a rat. The reason for saying that Ganesha ‘rides’ on the rat is that the rat is among the greediest of all animals. It will keep nibbling at whatever is available, eating everything it can. Scientifically, too, the rat’s teeth keep growing and it has to keep chewing on something to keep these within limits. The rat is a symbol of our senses, which are never satisfied. They crave new experiences, new tastes. Left uncontrolled, they keep growing forever. The wise person rides on his senses. He keeps them under control. ” (Kishore Ashanta)
When you see images of Ganesh, sometimes he sits upon the rat as you would a horse, or sometimes the rat is small and holy – adorned in fabric or sacred paint, but the rat is always present and subservient to the elephant god. The rat is such an interesting image to represent human greed and craving brought to us by way of our sensory experience that, when left unchecked, can lead us to addiction, excess, attachment, aversion and ultimately suffering. As a fresh faced Somatic Psychology student, representing the senses as a troublesome vermin strikes me. Not only that, but the rat is often referred to (as are the senses) as objects to control and maintain. Similarly to how we refer to aspects of our bodies, the earth and other animals, it implies that the functioning of the mind reigns supreme in these relationships and is responsible for controlling these aspects of life. I instantly wondered what it would do to us if we were to refer to the rat as he, she or they… what would happen if we chose to discuss the rat not as an object, but as an inextricable aspect of ourselves. If, in this effort to identify and represent ourselves, we used language that helped to keep it personal and human. What happens if we exchange “control” for “working with”? The language here, as is often true of our parables and stories, creates a sense of separation, domination, and control. It feels to me that the rat is almost a resource that we must control, similar to the parables told about the earth and her “bounty” that we must extract. That these energies are destructive if left wild and it is our burden to maintain order. Whether we ride them with a golden harness or shrink them down to a manageable size, it is our duty as wise beings to prevent our senses from getting away from us. What’s more, when they are controlled and small as represented by some images, they are painted and made to look holy. These senses and emotions are then allowed to be a sacred aspect of the self, fed just enough to keep them peaceful. They are permitted and welcomed as long as they are clear of their place – subservient to the will of the wise one.
I looked at Jean after sharing this idea and realized how beautiful this sentiment could be. Though I think that the language that is used in the retelling of this tale feeds into a system that is promoting aspects of domination and control, I think the message is profound.
The Rat represents the complex and variable world of human emotion and sensation. Some sensation craves attention and nourishment and will scurry to and fro in search of sustenance while some can become neglected so that, when left alone, they become destructive in order to control their ever growing teeth. But, the Rat is an essential aspect of the human experience and allows us to explore the vast landscape of our being. She has the ability to race to the tree tops and provide perspective or dive deeply into the muck and mire of our subconscious and reveal what resides in the shadows. The rat communicates to us so clearly where our allegiance lies just by how it behaves. The sensations of love and connection become ravenous and lead us into (and perhaps out of) relationships while sensations of pain guide us away from danger. They are some of the most important and powerful aspects of our existence and as influential energies, it is essential to our wellbeing that we develop healthy relationships with each one. We must be willing to be in relationship with the body – the home of the Rat – and all the signals they send forth. We must learn the language and befriend these sensations so they do not overrun us but rather act as guiding lights. Ganesha removes the barriers that keep us from connecting with the community of the Rat and helps guide us into relationship with them. Together, wisdom flourishes as it is both of the mind, the body, and the world of sensation. This simply asks that we experience each moment of a Rats excitation in sensation, emotion, image, and thought and with the guidance of Ganesha, listen and move forward with the power and love of the Rat taking us through.
This is a path of spirituality that I see forming around the body, around the senses, around the emotions and the internal world. In order to be in true relationship with the Rat, I must also be in healthy relationship with my body. I feel so blessed and honored to say this is what I feel is unfolding for me in my own life as I do the work needed to understand what it means to be me – this human form on earth. What’s more, this lens of the Rat allows me to sit with other Rats… Rats that may be obese from gluttony or near death from neglect and begin to listen to the story they are telling me. When you crave certain sensations, which Rat is hungry? How is she being held? What is your relationship to the Anger Rat, Love Rat, Sadness Rat? Do you view these energies as pests to be extinguished or aspects that require your time and attention? How can you retell the story to put yourself in range of relationship with these aspects of yourself? How is your current narrative busy pitting you against the Rat?
This body guides me. Sadness Rat races up to my mind when I see the state of the world and, when I listen, guides me in how to live in another way. Love Rat scurries to me when I feel in right relationship and nudges me toward it. Ganesha sits within and helps to receive, interpret, and negotiate in these dealings so that this body can receive what it truly needs. This body guides me. I do not control these sensations, I live in a deep connection to them and when we’re all getting along, the delight is unmet.
We are the writers of history. How we chose to write it is up to us. Whether you gain access to your senses through dance, music, or climbing a mountain, it’s up to us to write the story of what we find.
Om gam ganapataye namaha
Om Ganeshaya namah
Shanti. Shanti. Shanti.