Ganesha: the child represents the urge toward Self-realization

Image from Martin-Dubost, Paul (1997). Gaņeśa: The Enchanter of the Three Worlds. US Public Domain via wikimedia
Image from Martin-Dubost, Paul (1997). Gaņeśa: The Enchanter of the Three Worlds. US Public Domain via wikimedia

In the above image we see the baby Ganesha, with his parents. Martin-Dubost describes the image:

“This square shaped miniature shows us in a Himalayan landscape the god “Śiva sweetly pouring water from his kamaṇḍalu on the head of baby Gaṇeśa. Seated comfortably on the meadow, Pārvatī balances with her left hand the baby Gaņeśa with four arms with a red body and naked, adorned only with jewels, tiny anklets and a golden chain around his stomach, a necklace of pearls, bracelets and armlets.”

There is no better image to represent the spiritual potential of the Child archetype than baby Ganesha. The divine child– as child born to divine parents– offers the perfect image of spiritual potential. In Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, Carl Jung links our spiritual potential to the “vital forces”. He says:

“The child is born out of the womb of the unconscious, begotten out of the depths of human nature, or rather out of living Nature herself. It is a personification of vital forces quite outside the limited range of our conscious mind; of ways and possibilities of which our one-sided conscious mind knows nothing; a wholeness which embraces the very depths of Nature. It represents the strongest, the most ineluctable urge in every being, namely the urge to realize itself… the urge and compulsion to self-realization.” (Carl Jung, CW 9i, para 289)

In this passage, Jung tells us that the vital forces are always “outside the limited range of our conscious mind” (CW 9i, para 289). Being outside of our conscious awareness, they must be represented in the form of images. The images tell us something about our potential, in this case, enlightenment. To understand this we must look at the image, dwell on the image– let it speak to us.

Baby Ganesha reveals something about the potential for enlightenment. The image reminds us not only of our self, a child born to earthly parents. It also evokes a potential realization, a realization of our relation to the divine parents, as origin or creative source. Of course, as Jung tells us, this is an unconscious realization. Something is evoked in us, a feeling of vitality, an increase in psychic energy, maybe even a feeling of love and awe or a reverie. Behind this reverie is an archetypal current, there from the beginning of time, awaiting our awareness.

Jung says: “The ‘child’ is born out of the womb of the unconscious, begotten out of the depths of human nature, or rather out of living Nature herself” (ibid).  Ganesha was born from the Goddess Parvati. Parvati is an image of the great womb or great yoni of creation. Shiva, Ganesha’s father, is often symbolized by a lingam or phallus, an image of the ‘vital force.’ The yoni-lingam represents the creative source and origin, as well as the power of creation.

The baby Ganesha is an image of the soul born of divine forces and thus is a symbol of our own spiritual potential. As the child of Shiva, Baby Ganesha offers an image of the potential of the vital forces. This is a potential which reside within us, as energy, light, or the spiritual vitality which proffers our spiritual growth.

Taking this realization further, Jung informs us that the child represents “a wholeness which embraces the very depths of Nature” (ibid). This ‘wholeness’ is a seed or germ. In this germ state, the child offers a signifier of the potential for spiritual wholeness and Self-realization. Just as the germ seed signifies the potential of the lotus, so too the seed of realization signifies our potential, as a potential reunion with the divine parents, as a return to the infinite. All we need is a little light, a little energy, or maybe a little ‘vital force’, and the lotus of our hearts will blossom into enlightenment. Jung says:

[The child] represents the strongest, the most ineluctable urge in every being, namely the urge to realize itself…The urge and compulsion to self-realization is a law of nature and thus of invincible power, even though its effect, at the start, is insignificant and improbable” (ibid).

The germ seed of Self-realization offers a potential for the full and true realization of who we are. This realization is a spiritual realization, and this spiritual realization is represented by and through the sacred images and poetic hymns that guide our spiritual development.

References:

  1. Gaņeśa: The Enchanter of the Three Worlds by Paul Martin-Dubost (p. 51)
  2. The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol.9 Part 1)

2 thoughts on “Ganesha: the child represents the urge toward Self-realization

    1. Kaycie,

      I enjoyed looking at the picture and imagining/ dreaming around the imagery along with the quotes. What I saw when I meditated on this image was the integration of opposites, along with potent images of self realization. In terms of the integration of opposites, we have Siva and Parvati giving birth to the Ganesha child. We also have a half human and half animal image. Ganesha is an image of synthesizing and mediating, most notably of the material and divine worlds. In terms of self realization the Ganesha child images the potential for consciousnesses to realize the nature of the Self. He is the clearer of obstacles. While some may pray to him for worldly success, his archetypal truth is that of clearing the path for self realization. His image is often placed in doorways and threshholds, and he is a gatekeeper image, at the doorway to the inner chambers of sacred mother. In myths he guards the mother’s inner chamber.

      In writing this brief overview of Ganesh I can see that this is rich mythology and imagery– I will have to write a post complete with the myths and other such references. Thank you for asking the question and inspiring my imagination.

      Jenna

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