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Eight Verses in Praise of Vinaayaka (Vinaayaka Ashtakam)- Class 1

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The word Vinaayaka means the glorious leader. Ganesha or Ganapthi is conceived of as being the Lord of the shining ones, Devas and also of the ancestors, Pithrus. The worship of the ancestors belongs to the context of the pre-Aryan Indians. Vinaayaka or Ganesha was devised to link the spiritual heritage of pre-Vedic India with Vedic culture. Although mythologically Ganesha belongs to the Saiva-context, this godhead is worshipped in India both by the Vaishnavaites and the Saivites as the first deity to be saluted before the commencement of anything auspicious. The word Ganesha is etymologically related to Janus, the Roman God who presides over both the beginning and the end. The Roman calendar begins with January in recognition of the importance of Janus.
Narayana Guru assumed the same role as Jesus Christ did in his own historical placement. In the Jewish tradition which was interlocked historically with the culture of the Sumarians, Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, there was a need to normalize and re-normalize various positive and negative tendencies that have gone into the Semitic culture. Narayana Guru’s basic stand is that of a non-dualist visionary. At the same time he could appreciate the value-elements of all the traditions that entered into the aggregate, rightly or wrongly called the Hindu religion. He was not a partisan in favor of any particular religion. This made it possible for him to have neutral stand and to view all religions with the attitude of a devoted lover of beauty, goodness, love and truth. Jesus Christ said, “I have come not to destroy but to fulfill”. This was exactly the attitude of Narayana Guru in every hymn he wrote in praise of the aspects of divinity which people have been worshipping in India through centuries. He wrote hymns in praise of Ganesha, Subrahmanya, Vishnu, Siva and Devi and also in praise of the Divine without attributing any particular name of a Godhead. In all these hymns, he stood by his monistic stand without slighting in any manner the mystic richness of devotion.
We are presenting here a free English rendering of Narayana Guru’s hymn written in Sanskrit. The translation is not a word-by-word rendering. However we have made it a point to adhere to the basic meaning of the original terms used by the Guru. It is more a translation of the idea underlying his words than of the words themselves. The purpose of this translation is to make each hymn available for meditation.
Translation & explanation of Verse-1
O gracious fulfiller of all righteous wishes
In adoration of you the shining ones are at your feet.
Thou art the effulgent basis of all truthful scriptures.
Your crown of glory is adorned by the crescent moon-the omega of the blissful sublime.
The grace of existential abundance where you are worshipped.
Thou art the quintessence of AUM.
Thou art the dispeller of all darkness, the Guru of Sananda.
The timeless eternal is seen in the matted locks of your hair.
As a shimmering white garland of the finest blossoms of jasmine.
Obeisance to you, our gracious Lord.

(“Namad deva vrindam lasad veda kandam
Shirah sreemad indum shritah sree mukundam
Bruhat chaaru shundam sthutha sree sanandam
Jadaaheendra kundam bhaje abheeshtasantham”):
Bhaje means I meditate on; bhaj means constant meditation; in an ordinary sense it can mean just that which is worshipped.
Namah deva vrindam : surrounded by devas or the shining ones who are engaged in the act of propitiation.
Lasad veda kandam : lasad, to shine; veda-kandam, the edible tuber of the Vedas. (The Vedas are compared here to a plant, like potato. Kandam is tuber. In other words, Vinayaka is praised as the essence of the Vedas).
Sirah sreemad indum : sirah – head; srimad – graceful or glorious; indu – moon (here it means one having the graceful sign of the crescent as a decoration of his head).
Sritah sree mukundam : sritah – to become dependent; sree mukundam – Lord Krishna (Vishnu) with his consort Lakshmi. (Here Vinaayaka is conceived as the Supreme Lord attended by Krishna (Vishnu) with his consort Lakshmi.
Bruhath chaaru shundam : Bruhath – big; chaaru – beautiful; shundam – trunk of an elephant.
In the iconographical symbol of the elephant headed God, his big ears symbolize the act of listening to the great spiritual teachings of the wise preceptors, or of the scriptures. His small, half closed eyes symbolize pondering over the meaning of what is heard from the preceptor. His big trunk symbolizes the act of discerning between right and wrong, truth and falsehood, eternal and transient, and the Self and the non-Self. In the present context it has reference to his formal affinity to the symbol AUM.
Sthutha sree sanandam : Stutha- act of praising; sree sanandam – the name of one of the four sons of Brahma. They are Sanaka, Sananda, Sanaathana, Sanatkumara. In Indian mythology, Sananda is a representative model of the best type of spiritual aspirants.
Jadaaheedndra kundam: Jada- matted hair; ahi- snake; indra- Lord. Hence aheendra, is the primeval snake of eternity called adishesha, which is the snake on which Vishnu is having his siesta. Here the same snake is seen as a decoration in the matted hair of Vinayaka. To say that the white snake of the milk-ocean is seen here like a garland of jasmine in the matted hair of Vinayaka, is as good as saying, he symbolizes the Absolute. Thus all distinction between the two religions of Siva and Vishnu are discarded in this ideogram.
Kunda – Jasmine flower
Bhaje abheeshta sandam – I meditate on that person who gives the grace or boon of whatever is desirable.
Everything is to be meditated within us, as our own being. In the present hymn, Vinayaka is to be meditated upon as one’s own true Self. In the Upanishads, the organs of sense perception are called the shining ones (devas). The stimuli which we receive as sense data can dominate and infatuate the mind. Instead of that, they should be used only to glorify the supreme light of the Self which alone illuminates the senses and the objects of the senses. We shall see within ourselves all the shining ones remaining ever in a state of propitiating the Absolute that dwells within the core of our being – named deva vrindam.
In the Badaarayana’s Aphorisms of Vedanta, the Absolute is called the womb of the scriptures. The original aphorism says: “sashthrayonivaath”. In the same way, Vinayaka can be meditated upon as the fountain source of all wisdom. In fact, all knowledge is already within us. To meditate on this aspect is the same as going to the very source of truth, which is none other than one’s own Self. In other words, it is finding our own center– lasad veda kandam.
In the dance of Siva, there is a dwarf lying under his right foot. This dwarf marks the alpha point of the symbolism of the dance. At the omega point is the crescent moon. The dwarf is a solid mass of libido which is the raw material of the psyche. This has to transform itself into every shade of aananda, ranging from sensual pleasures to the highest sublime bliss of a fully perfected mystic. The crescent moon represents the principle of the sublime. Everything, between the catharsis of destructive frenzy and the serene glance of compassion, is included in the dance of Siva. In our meditation, we should look for the dwarf in the unconscious and the moon in the transcendent. And we should verticalise all our tendencies in between these two points-Sirah srimad indum.
We live in a world of flux. In our own life we see all the changes from infancy to old age. But there is a factor residing in us which constantly identifies every passing notion of the ‘I’ as the ever-sustaining Self. This sense of contiguity is called Vishnu. Whatever be the span of our existence, we have the options of making it barren, bleak and meaningless; or of enriching it with the highest values of grace, beauty, love and countless other values including the simple joys of admiring a flower or watching a bird in flight. When the Self is seen as being attended by the ever-nourishing consciousness of its meaning of beauty, then our meditation is on Vishnu attending on the Supreme Self with his consort Lakshmi, Srithah sree mukundam.
The Absolute and the ultimate meaning of AUM are not two things. One who is initiated into the meaning of AUM will clearly see the ever-abiding Self of existence, subsistence, and bliss animating the altering states of consciousness. The reference to the beauty of the trunk of the elephant-headed God is to allow us to meditate on this aspect, Bruhath chaaru shundam.
In the legendary world of India’s spiritual search, Sananda is considered to be a precious model. He was always inspired only by the desire to become enlightened. In our bipolarity, the aspirant has to adopt an attitude of intense love for the Lord. This love should become his master ideal and should be his first love, with everything else secondary to it. This is how we imbibe the spirit of Sananda, Sthutha sree sanandam.
Time is born along with the birth of awareness. Time also ends when awareness dies. Where there is awareness, we experience the sequential occurrence of events. This experience is born of nescience. A person can make his consciousness of the world of time and space a decorative embellishment of the infinite field of consciousness. This is like turning the serpent of Vishnu into a garland of jasmine flowers. In other words, the aspirant can go into a state of transcendence. In that state, his previous experience of the world becomes acceptable as the fragrance of divine creation, Jadaaheedndra kundam.
Where there is desire, there is also the assurance of possibility. But for that, the desire should be in tune with the inner laws of the world order. To desire sand to turn into grain is to oppose laws of nature. But the desire to become wise or enlightened is in harmony with progressive evolvement. Thus, the Supreme in us is to be meditated on as the truth that will ever reveal to us the secret of our unfoldment, Bhaje abheeshta sandam.

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