Sunday, September 4, 2016

Sunday musings: Lord Ganesha's lesson on preservation of wealth

There are several mythical tales about Lord Ganesha - most of them about how he got his elephant head, why one of his tusks is broken, why a serpent is wrapped around his waist.

The one that has relevance to modern life is how he taught Kubera a lesson. The story goes like this:

The god of wealth, Kubera, was extremely vain and proud about all the wealth he had accumulated in his fabulous city of Alakapuri. He wanted to show off to the gods by throwing a lavish party.

He personally invited all the gods to come to his city. But when he visited Mount Kailasha, Lord Shiva turned down his invitation. Seeing the look of disappointment on Kubera's face, Lord Shiva relented and said:

"Sorry I can't come, but you are most welcome to invite my young son, Ganesha. Just remember that Ganesha has an insatiable appetite."

Kubera immediately agreed to the proposal - thinking 'I have so much wealth, how much can young Ganesha eat?' 

The god of wealth took the young son of Lord Shiva to his grand city. Like the other guests, Ganesha underwent a ritualistic bath after which he was dressed in expensive clothing and jewellery provided by Kubera.

A serious problem arose when everyone sat down for the banquet. Whatever food was put in front of Ganesh was gulped down in the blink of an eye. Kuber's servants were running back and forth with plates of food to keep up with Ganesha's voracious appetite.

Within a short time, Ganesha finished all the food that had been prepared for the banquet. Still he wanted more. When no more food was made available, an omnivorous Ganesha started eating tableware, furniture, decorations, chandeliers and whatever else he could lay his hands on.

Kuber was horrified. He prostrated himself before young Ganesha and begged that his spectacular palace be spared from Ganesha's ravenous appetite.

Ganesha not only refused, but said that he was still hungry and if not provided with anything else to eat, he would devour Kubera himself. 

A frightened Kubera rushed off to Mount Kailasha and fell at the feet of Lord Shiva - asking for forgiveness and seeking a remedy to Ganesha's insatiable hunger.

With an indulgent smile, Lord Shiva gave a handful of roasted grains to Kubera and asked him to offer it to Ganesha with love and humility.

By the time Kubera returned to Alakapuri, Ganesha had devoured most of the city. Kubera humbly and respectfully offered the roasted grains to Ganesha. Ganesha's hunger was finally satiated and all was well.

There are different morals that can be drawn from this tale. At one level, it suggests that a simple meal, if offered with respect and consumed with love, can offer more nourishment than a sumptuous banquet.

At a metaphysical level, the roasted grains symbolise the 'burning' or extinguishing of our desires that can lead to progress along a less materialistic and a more spiritual path.

At a more mundane level of wealth creation from the stock market, there is a lesson to be learned about preservation of wealth. 

Showing off to your friends and neighbours by buying a curved-screen TV and an imported car can only give you temporary pleasure - till your friend buys a bigger TV and your neighbour buys a more expensive car.

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