By Swami Harshananda
Sometimes transliterated as: Ganesagita, GaNeZagitA, Ganeshagitaa
Gaṇeśagitā literally means 'the song of Lord Gaṇeśa’.
Significance of Bhagavadgītā
The Bhagavadgītā is an eminent part of the immortal epic, the Mahābhārata. It marks a long lasting imprint on the psyche of people. In course of time, it has given rise to many pedagogic works, either as a part of some purāṇa or as an independent work.
Significance of Ganeśagītā
The Ganeśagītā is an integral part of the Ganeśa-purāna. It comprises of eleven chapters from 138 to 148. In total it has 413 ślokas or verses. It is in the form of a dialogue between the king Vareṇya and his divine son Gajānana or Gaṇeśa.
Sāñkhyārthasārayoga, 69 verses
The king Vareṇya requests his son Gajānana to expound him yogaśāstra or the science of yoga. Gajānana describes him several concepts normally thought of as yoga. He states that true yoga is to withdraw one’s mind from the objects of senses and direct it towards the ātman within. In this attempt several modes of useful sādhanās are described. These modes are:
- Śravaṇa - hearing about the ātman
- Manana - reflection of the ātman
- Nididhyāsana - meditation
The need for a proper guru or spiritual teacher is also stressed in this section.
Karmayoga, 43 verses
King asked that which is a better path of sādhanā in jñānaniṣṭhā or karmaniṣṭhā. Gajānana denotes both to be equally effective if properly understood and practiced. Work done as a duty and without selfish motives is far better than giving up work altogether.
Prajāpati created this world along with gods and varṇas system among men. He ordained that all should perform their duties and sustain by helping each other. Gajānana specifies that even the liberated ones should work to set an example to the ignorant people of the world. In the end of this chapter, he says that it is kāma or desire that impels a man to commit sins and exhorts Vareṇya to control it.
Jñānapratipādanayoga, 50 verses
Gajānana declares that he taught this ancient yoga or spiritual wisdom to Viṣṇu at the inception of creation. Through him and a succession of teachers like Surya and Manu, it was propagated into this world. King asked as how could he teach it to Viṣṇu who is an ancient divine person. Gajānana reveals that he is the anādi-īśvara, the primeval Lord of the universe. He is the origin, sustenance and dissolution of the whole universe. Even Viṣṇu and other gods originate from him.
The ignorant persons worship other deities for petty results and hence are caught in the web of sansāra or transmigration. Gajānana declares that the system of the four varṇas was evolved by him. He also explains:
- The term kriyā - actions done without selfish desires
- The term akriyā - abandonment of prescribed actions
- Various yajñas
- The importance of approaching a worthy guru
- Satsaṅga - holy company
Dvaidhasamnyāsayoga, 37 verses
King Vareṇya inquires about the superiority in karmayoga and karma-sanyāsa. Though both are good and give the same result, Gajānana opines that the former is better.
A true karmayogi offers the fruits of all his karmas to God. Hence he is not bound. It is the person who performs desire motivated actions that is bound and hence suffers.
God never creates karma (action) or kartṛtva (agency). They are done by the prakṛti of three guṇas. People who know this are the real paṇḍitas (men of knowledge) and can get whatever they want. In reply to another question, Gajānana describes the nature of true sukha or happiness as the one rooted in the ātman (Self).
Yogāvrttipraśamsanāyoga, 27 verses
Gajānana stresses that yoga is possible only when the mind is purified by the performance of ordained works, but without the desire for the fruits. Such a work is called ‘akarma’. When work is performed with selfish motives and desires, it binds.
The practitioner of yoga should also avoid going to extremes in the case of food, fasting, sleep or keeping awake. Then he deliberately describes the factors that are not conducive to the practice of yoga like:
- Physical diseases
- Disturbed state of mind
- Unclean and risky places
- Very hot or cold seasons
Renunciation of desires is another important aspect of sādhanā. In answer to two more questions raised by Vareṇya, the lord replies that the mind, though difficult to control, can be stabilized through vairāgya and abhyāsa. If a yogi dies before reaching the final goal of life, he will be reborn in the family of yogis, after enjoying divine pleasures in heaven. He will then continue his spiritual practices.
Buddhiyoga, 21 verses
This chapter starts with a description of the twofold prakṛti of the Lord. The whole world is a product of these prakṛtis. These prakṛtis are:
- The lower prakṛti comprising ten parts which includes four elements, mind, the sun, the moon and three other aspects.
- The higher prakṛti incorporating the jīva or cetana who is in the grip of ahaṅkāra. Ahaṅkāra is born out of the attachment to the mind.
People are overcome by prakṛti and hence bound. Occasionally, some fortunate soul purified through the performance of his ordained duties crosses over this prakṛti or māyā.
After describing how he is present in every object of the created world, Gajānana declares that even those who worship other gods actually worship him only. Ultimately he responds to their supplications through these gods. This section concludes stressing the importance of the final thoughts at the time of death.
Upāsanāyoga, 25 verses
This chapter begins with a short account of the two well-known paths described in the Upaniṣads. They are the paths leading to the Brahmaloka (the world of Brahmā, the creator) and to the Pitṛloka (the world of manes). These paths are:
- The devayāna or the arcirādimārga
- The pitṛyāna or dhumādi-mārga
Brahman, the Absolute, is beyond the both. It is identical with Gajānana himself. Those who meditate upon him attain this Brahman and get mukti or liberation.
This meditation is aided by ritualistic worship performed with faith. This ritualistic worship can be performed mentally also. Though sakāmapujā, worship motivated by desires, is permissible the niṣkāma-pujā, an unselfish worship, is more desirable.
Since all the gods are manifestations of one God (Gajānana), it is not proper to dislike other gods even while being devoted to one of them. A simple mode of mantrajāpa along with its subsidiary processes like the nyāsas is also described. Towards the end, there is a eulogy of the Praṇava or Omkāra.
Viśvarupadarśanayoga, 25 verses
At the specific request of the king Vareṇya, Lord Gajānana shows him his cosmic form and endowed him with a divine sight. Seeing that cosmic form, Vareṇya describes it and also praises the Lord. At his entreaties, the Lord withdraws the cosmic figure and re-assumes his original form. Though the description being brief, it is very similar to the one given in the Bhagavadgitā.
Ksetra-jñātr-jñeya-viveka-yoga, 41 verses
Worshiping God with form and contemplating on the Akṣara/Avyakta are the two well-known modes of spiritual discipline. Which one is the better of the two? In reply to this question, Gajānana replies that both are equally effective. However, the former is easier whereas the latter is extremely hard.
In spiritual life, devotion is everything. Even the well-known sages like Sanaka, Suka or Nārada became great because of bhakti or devotion. Hence, meditating on the Lord, with steady devotion, results in yoga and through that, attaining him. Performance of one’s svadharma or ordained duties and offering its fruits to the Lord, purifies the mind. Equanimity of mind too is a great help.
Then comes a description of the kṣetra and the kṣetrajña. Kṣetra is the physical body as well as the subtle body whereas God is the kṣetrajña residing in all the physical bodies.
Jñāna or knowledgs will ultimately help in the revelation of Brahman, the Absolute. It comprises of several items of discipline such as:
- Ārjava - straight-forwardness
- Guruśuśruṣā - service to the guru
- Virakti - detachment
This is then followed by a nice description of the Brahman which is again identified with Gaṇeśvara or Gajānana.
Yogopadeśayoga, 23 verses
This chapter starts with a description of three kinds of prakṛti and the way they manifest in the human beings. This prakṛtis are:
- Sattva - It frees a person from the bondages of sansāra.
- Rajas - It binds a person into the bondages of sansāra.
- Tamas - It binds a person into the bondages of sansāra.
The signs of sattva of daivī type are:
- Abhaya - fearlessness
- Ahimsā - non injury to others
- Śauca - purity
- Apaiśunya - absence of calumny
- Amānitā - absence of pride and vanity
The characteristics of a person of the āsurī type of rajas are:
- Perverted understanding
The qualities seen in a person of the rākṣasī type of tamas are:
- Harming others for nothing
- Many other evil qualities
After death, good persons go to heaven and evil practitioners go to hell. But both of them come back to this earth again. Even bhakti or devotion can be of three types according to these guṇas. But devotees are invariably admonished to cultivate sāttvic devotion only.
Trividhavastunirupanayoga, 52 verses
In this final chapter, according to the three guṇas of sattva, rajas and tamas, there is a beautiful delineation of three kinds of:
- Tapas (austerity) - Tapas of body includes respecting and serving the elders, performance of one’s ordained duties and worship of gods. Truthful and sweet speech is tapas of speech. Keeping the mind calm and at peace is tapas of the mind. If this tapas is performed without any desires, it is sāttvika. When it is observed with desires it is rājasika and when it practiced to harm others or to show someone, it is tāmasika.
- Dāna (gifts) - Dāna or gifts when given as per the injunctions of the scriptures to the right person at the right time and place, it is sāttvika. When it is given with selfish motives it is rājasika. When it is given to those who will dishonor or misuse it, it is tāmasika.
- Jñāna (knowledge) - Similarly there is the three fold distinction in jñāna (knowledge) also. Seeing the Saccidānanda Brahman everywhere is sāttvika jñāna. Seeing the limited jīvātman is rājasika jñāna. Mistaking the body for the ātman is tāmasika jñāna.
- Karma (action) - Sāttvika karmas are the actions ordained by the scriptures and performed without selfish motives in such a way that it does not provide inconvenience to others. Rājasika karmas are performed as a show without the proper attitude. Foolish and idiotic actions are tāmasika.
- Kartā (doer) - Even if a sāttvika kartā or doer performs his actions rightly, he is never egoistic. The rājasika doer is selfish and is subject to constantly changing moods. The tāmasika doer is always engaged in harming others.
- Sukha (happiness) - Sāttvika sukha or happiness appears to be difficult in the beginning because of the disciplines involved in attaining it, but gives bliss at the end. Happiness derived from sense-pleasures results in suffering at the end and hence is rājasika. The tāmasika happiness produces delusion and harm.
- Duhkha - unhappiness
Then follows a brief explanation of a famous phrase Om tat sat. A detailed account of the four varṇas and their duties is given next. These varṇas are:
There is the specific injunction that this teaching should not be imparted to the unworthy ones and should be protected by all means. The teaching ends with a detailed phalaśruti or eulogy. There is also the instruction regarding the proper mode of reciting it. It includes the recommendation of certain holy days and holy places.
A careful perusal of Ganeśagitā reveals that it is almost an adoption of the celebrated Bhagavad-gītā. The topics discussed, the questions raised, the replies given are very similar to the Gitā. The language is elegant and the presentation is good. It is said that there is a Sanskrit commentary on this work which is not very well-known. It is more detailed at some places. On the whole we can deduce that this work deserves a deeper study.
- King knew that his son Gajānana was God himself.
- Jñānaniṣṭhā is devotion to knowledge.
- Karmaniṣṭhā is devotion to work.
- Vairāgya is called spirit of renunciation.
- Abhyāsa is means as repeated effort here.
- Here duties refer to varṇa-āśrama-dharma of an individual.
- Mantrajapa is repetition of the divine name.
- Avyakta God is without forms.
- The subtle body is the sukṣmaśarīra comprising of 16 items and the jīvas.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore