By Nithin Sridhar
Lord Ganesha is one of the most popular deities in Hindu dharma. He is considered as the Lord who removes all the obstacles in one's path and grants success. Therefore, Hindus start any new work, be it starting a business or writing a book, by invoking Lord Ganesha. Keeping with this belief, the present series will start with a verse dedicated to Lord Ganesha.
I bow to Lord Ganesha. You are the very embodiment of tat-tvam-asi (Thou art that). You are the only creator, you are the only sustainer and you are the only destroyer (of the universe). You are verily all these (the objects of the universe) which are considered as Brahman. You are verily the eternal Atman.
This textappears as the first mantra in "Ganapati Atharvashirsha– a very popular text in Ganapatya tradition-. The Atharvashirsha is usually attributed to Atharvan rishi.
The present mantra does not conceive Ganapati as just a deity who removes obstacles and grants boons. Instead, it presents Ganapati in his higher form (Para-roopa) as being the very creator, sustainer, and destroyer of the universe. In other words, the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara are identified as just aspects of Lord Ganapati in his Para-roopa.
The very first description of Lord Ganapati is that he is the essence of Tat-tvam-asi. Tat-tvam-asi (You are that) is one of Mahavakyas or great sayings from the Upanishads. The gist of the statement is that each individual in his Absolute state is non-different from God. People usually identify their individuality with their body and mind which are transient in nature. But, one who dives deeper into his own heart will realize that his innermost Self-the Atman is neither body nor mind, instead, it is non-different from Brahman or God. This statement of Ultimate Truth is expressed by the statement "You are that."
Hence, the mantra is saying that Lord Ganesha is the very embodiment of this ultimate Knowledge and worshipping him will lead a person to attain this ultimate knowledge. This is again reiterated at the end of the mantra when Lord Ganapati is first identified with Brahman who is sum-total of all existence and with Atman which is the innermost Self.
"Brahman" is a term used in Hindu philosophy to refer to God. But, unlike the western usage of the term God, Brahman refers to God who is both the creator and the created. Brahman is the sum total of everything, the very existence itself. For this reason, Lord Ganapati is described as Brahman who is verily the whole Universe. Finally, the mantra identifies Lord Ganapati with eternal Atman- the innermost Self.
Hence, Ganapati Atharvashirsha teaches that Lord Ganapati must be perceived and worshiped as being non-different God who himself exists as Atman-innermost Self.