Water is dynamic and ever changing, moving into the sky through evaporation and returning to the earth. It cycles from our seas and estuaries to become the clouds that shade us and bringers of the rain. The rains feed our plants and are captured in our oceans, seas, rivers, lakes and ponds and they are our containers for the primal life force we call water. Water sustains us and I am not just talking about humans here.
As the harbinger of all life, without which we cannot have our gardens, this post is not about waters relationship to plants today. That is for another day. Instead, it is about water and its meaning to us and its symbology. It is the first of a series.
Why do I think this is an important topic? Well, in light of the recent events with the unfathomable catastrophe in the Gulf in the US, this colossal disaster has enormous implications for all life on earth. So it seems to me to be a topic worth writing and thinking about. So that said, we begin this series with a look at a Hindu tale where Ganesha creates an obstacle so great for the gods that they were so devastated that they looked to Brahma to help them.
For those of you who have not heard of Ganesha in Hinduism he is known as the Lord of beginnings and the remover or destroyer of obstacles and he was created by Shiva to bring to a successful conclusion every action. But not only has he the ability to remove obstacles, he can too create obstacles and does so when we undertake an action with fear and illusion. Here the tale is paraphrased –
The gods were churning the oceans until, much to their surprise, poison began to spill out. Narada, a rishi…warned them at the beginning that they should pay homage to Shiva, but so eager were they to obtain the soma that they ignored the warning. Soon the poison spilled out, infecting the upper regions and the gods, sages, and demons fled in all directions, eventually taking refuge with Brahma. But Brahma could do nothing to help them and directed them instead to Vishnu…but he was also powerless to stop the burning poison from destroying everything. Finally the gods came to Shiva
and asked him for help.
Shiva then said to the gods –
”Even though this world is thought to be perishable, there is also that which is imperishable. What is the use of sacrifice, asceticism or undertaking any action? Together you attempted the difficult task of churning the oceans to obtain the soma. But you excluded and ignored me in the process, and that is why your enterprise has gone awry. Ganesha was created to bring every action to a successful conclusion, but you did not honour him, and that is why you are now so afflicted with difficulties.”
In Hindu teachings, Amrita is the elixir of life and soma the juice of the intoxicating plant which gives the gods their supernatural powers. Both of which are made through the churning of the oceans. This tale as a modern metaphor, Amrita can be seen as symbolic as water, soma as oil and Ganesha as the earth and him along with all of the gods as symbolic of our connection with creation & our mother earth.
Soma, of course, is not oil in the literal sense. However, it can also be seen as a metaphor of modern mans intoxication with oil and its imbalanced dependence on it and its derivatives – plastic bags & containers, etc. (Shiva was not referring to that which is imperishable as plastic products, but that they are!) So not only do we have a gulf which filled with oil, we also have a sea of plastic garbage polluting our waters.
Maybe some of you may think my interpretation is a stretch but this is what came to my mind this morning when reading this tale, that was what inspired this post. Anyway, this tale seemed apropos as it seems as a species we can be working at times to achieve things without being conscious of our actions especially in relation to sustainability and with out gratitude. Our unconscious actions and lack of respect for the earth can result in disaster as the gods were brutally reminded of this by the trickster god Ganesha with the creation of a problem that even the most supreme Gods could not resolve.
Accordingly, just like the water which is constantly flowing and in transition, this story as a symbol is a reminder of our need to change how we as a species live on this earth – to transition to the world where we are conscious of our actions. Water – we need it, plants need it, all life on earth needs it. Even those plants that are drought tolerant still need water. More posts about water to follow.
By the way I found an amazing fun document designed for young people about Lord Ganeshas birthday celebration and it has information about composting from garbage to garden and a lot more fun interesting things to do! You can download the doc file by clicking on this title link Ganesha_Chaturthi_Workshop_Handbook.
In closing here is an awesome video entitled Plastic Bag by Ramin Bahrani, narrated by Werner Herzog. It is approximately 18 minutes and well worth your time. It is not really off topic as this post although briefly speaks about the sea of plastic in our oceans.
Please comment and let me know what you think.
22-AUGUST-2010 ARTICLE LINK
Scientist Retracts Assurances
This article written by Amy Adams was originally published on Your Balcony Garden in 2010.