In Hinduism and Vedic mythology, Ganesha is the elephant-headed boy with the big belly and (generally) jolly disposition. He has a lot in common with our own Saint Nick, and this time of year it’s fun to look at the similarities:
Long trunk/long white beard– the trunk represents our spinal cord and nervous system, and the awakened kundalini traveling along its channels. It is the connection between our lower, ‘reptilian brain’ and our higher thinking centers, giving us self-control and wisdom. Ganesha lives at the base of the spine, but has access to the brain and higher centers. This means he is a complete being, and like him, we too can aspire to become fully-integrated humans, with control over our survival instincts, sexual impulses, drives, desires, speech and thoughts.
The long beard in Āyurveda also associates with the bones and nervous system, and with being ‘long in the tooth’. Our bones are the most permanent parts of our bodies and represent stability, patience, temperance, endurance and wisdom. Wisdom comes from living and learning, and the main lesson experience teaches is self-control.
Lord of the Vow- In that spirit, one of the names for Ganesha is “Vrāta Pati” or lord of the vow. Ganesha honors those who make vows and keep them. Just like Santa Claus. Whether your vow is to learn Spanish, or to be nicer to your spouse, stick to it, unless you want a lump of coal in your stocking…or in your bed!
Lord of the Elves- Ganesha literally means lord of the host, as does Ganapati. Which host exactly is unclear, though gana often translates into one of Shiva’s attendants. Among these attendants are the elves, quasi-mythic beings with special gifts and talents. Gana also means category, denoting the various categories of animal, plant, and mineral species, as well as the disciplines that study and describe them. It is therefore no surprise that Santa can coax reindeer to fly, or that Ganesha rides a tiny mouse.
Big belly– In subtle anatomy, the belly is our storehouse of prāṇa- (cosmic energy), and both Ganesha and Saint Nick have this to spare. A big belly also indicates an inclination towards merriment, benevolence…and cookies…some of the best things in life!
Children love them. Both are beloved of children, as they are easy to please and hard to hate. Ganesha is easily bribed by milk and (vegetarian) cookies, and Saint Nick shares Ganesha’s penchant for sweet dairy treats, whether it be butter or buttermilk.
Knows if you’ve been good or bad. There’s no fooling either of these sage judges of character.
So you can ask for general removal of obstacles, but it is also best to specify what you want, and what you’re willing to do to get it. Ganesha and Santa give gifts according to how “good” you’ve been in keeping certain resolutions. It’s not just a free-for-all, after all.
Ho Ho Ho…Om Om Om