It’s our last New Moon before we enter holiday season leading up to the traditional New Year! (Of course, this is followed by the Western holiday season, so basically for disciples of this tradition you get a 4-month celebration each year)!
Thankfully, there isn’t a whole lot planned for this particular new moon, besides remembering Śiva and meditating. That’s because there’s been a lot happening, and will continue to be. Devotees of Lord Krṣṇa just celebrated his birth on September 5, and Gaṇeśa Caturthī comes up next, on September 17. After this, we enter the memorial period for the ancestors, followed by a 10-day festival to the Goddess, and then after a short period we go straight into the Festival of Lights, and New Year’s practices and celebrations. Exciting!
The celebration energy starts to build right around now, so get ready! Next up, as I mentioned, is honoring Lord Gaṇeśa. Traditionally, you start building a clay idol and worship it all week with songs, fruit, flowers, sweets, and other natural offerings, and then immerse it into a body of water to dissolve naturally. Unfortunately in the modern era, people have started polluting by using plaster or plastic idols and artificial paint colors. (So please don’t do that!)
Gaṇeśa is the most instantly recognizable (and universally loved) of all the deities, the sacred powers. He has a giant elephant head and big round belly, and is the son of Śiva and Śakti, God & Goddess, the supreme deities of Divine Presence & Divine Power.
He is said to be ānanda-mūrti, the embodiment of joy. (N.B. He’s joy that has no cause – it’s the kind that bubbles up inside just because, as opposed to the feeling of pleasure you get right after you get what you want). He is knowledge, spiritual attainment, and goodness. He is the remover of all obstacles: the ones we experience outside of us, and also all the stuck places in our mind-body. Before we begin anything, we honor and invoke him.
To start to understand him, take a moment right now to remember a time when you felt really, truly happy to be alive – happy just to BE. Do you remember how free and limitless you felt? That nothing could stop you, and that everything was sacred and good?
In moments like those, it doesn’t really matter if things are going well or not according to your mind. You’re just… happy. And you feel enthusiastic and inspired to act. In this tradition, all action stems from that place of deep inner joy – in fact, the entire universe is said to exist because God was overflowing with the joy of being, and boom! Here we all are.
When we say a deity has a certain power, it isn’t that it exists separate from you. I.e. you don’t beg some guy named Gaṇeśa to bring out a spiritual bulldozer that clears your vision and your path for you. Instead, you connect with the vibration of understanding and energy that we call Gaṇesa – an energetic presence that can be felt both inside and in the world.
Before you start anything, take a moment to drop in and feel the joy of pure being. Rest in the wisdom that you are already whole and already free – that you are born of the union of Śiva and Śakti, and that nothing can block the flow of what is, which is all that there will ever be. Let the inner sweetness and love flow into whatever you are doing and experiencing. And take delight in the wonderful power that is Lord Gaṇeśa!
Practice: Honor Lord Gaṇeśa
On September 17th and the days leading up to it, you can invoke and honor Gaṇeśa in a number of ways. Let your inner joy guide you through these suggested practices:
– set up a pūjā, a traditional altar for Gaṇeśa. You can use a statue or image of him, and offer fruit, flowers, flame, incense, sweets (modaka or laddus are his favorite), money, dhruva grass, etc.
-Make an icon out of turmeric or organic clay and then immerse it into a body of water with great joy on the 17th!
-Sing songs of praise. An ancient Vedic hymn for him is the Gaṇeśa-Atharvaśirśa, and there are also a number of more contemporary chants and songs.
-Silently repeat his mantra – Oṃ Gaṃ Gaṇapataye Namaḥ
-Visualize his form and presence in your mind’s eye and offer your inner worship and gratitude for all that he embodies.
-pay attention to any encounters with mice or rats – they are his animal vehicles/symbols.
-Let yourself experience the bliss of existence in each moment, whether your mind believes that everything is in a favorable state or not. Recognize that there are no obstacles within the flow of pure presence and life energy.