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September 5, 2019

When the Goddess Ganga Came to Earth

The picture featured in this scene captures the moment in an epic story when Ganga the goddess descends to earth. Before this Ganga lives happily up in the pure celestial realms but through a mistake on her part she receives a curse that forces her to come to earth as a river. Ganga is needed as a river to alleviate the suffering people who will bathe in her waters and be cleansed of their sins. But in the story Ganga doesn’t want to come down to earth even though she will be a holy river and provide a great service to the world. She doesn’t want the burden of taking on people’s sins or being a powerful healing force in the world. It is a curious, radical part of life that no one is exempt from having to work as a central part of one’s life not even the goddess. But to have to work goes farther than just doing it because you must survive. You also must work because to work at something long and seriously is a main ingredient to living a meaningful, fulfilling, and happy life. If she didn’t have to leave her happy place in heaven Ganga would be unfulfilled and unhappy even though she forcibly resists doing her duty. Having to work at something that you inherit or don’t choose can seem like a curse until you realize that life intervenes and overrides your ego for your own good. That Ganga an all powerful goddess faces this same challenge is a reminder to be patient and forgiving with yourself as you routinely encounter obstacles that thwart your sincere efforts to fully commit to doing your work. 

Each of us must contend with a part of us that is afraid, lazy, or otherwise strongly resistant to doing (at least parts of) the various duties that we find ourselves obligated to do as we grow into adulthood. Resistance can be so strong and lasting that we will let our creative ideas and visions that we have for shaping our destinies remain dormant, or fantasies, instead of submitting to the yoke and doing the dirty work of trying to wrestle our dreams into reality one tiny step at a time. Practice helps us see and overcome the small and large ways that we ignore or turn away from our responsibilities that are mixed together with our creativity. This applies to our small mundane duties, creative actions, and to the larger roles that fully engage our creativity and that we are to play in being of service to others and to the world. To work to be a creative, good and responsible person in all areas of your life, to work to actualize your dreams, and to work to do whatever little bit you can to alleviate suffering is to commit to continuing to learn from the little encounters and puzzles that make up your day. Your daily practice is the foundation of valuing renewal through continual learning. Practice is where you establish the discipline that is necessary to engage in the unrelenting fight to be the best that you can be. Summoning the energy to keep fighting the fight requires a high level of trust that you live in a meaningful world where what you do and how you do it has a profound impact on your life and all life. You also must be willing to repeatedly fail in your attempts to do and be good despite trying your best. When you fail or come up short in your thinking or behavior you try again. You slowly work towards gaining skill in action and arriving at truth and soul and sacred communion. This print (above) shows Ganga in the dramatic and precarious moment of descending to earth in a fury that displays her resistance to coming to earth. The image reminds you that there is

This picture shows Ganga in the dramatic and precarious moment of descending to earth in a fury that displays her resistance to coming to earth. The image reminds you that there is mighty power in the feelings of anger and resentment that can build up within you in the process of yoking yourself to your work. Often, time is needed for you to finally decide to do your work without resentment, with sustained heart, sincerity, and vitality. In this myth Shiva provides Ganga with the space and time she needs by catching her fall at a midway point and temporarily containing her mighty force within the confines of his magical matted locks. Shiva is the god of Tamas Guna–The Quality of Inertia–and this makes him well suited to containing the prodigious force of Ganga and the momentum generated by her descent. You must find and embrace a grounded, steady, and immovable part of yourself in order stay on course during the times when you have a negative response to doing the duties that the universe thrusts upon you. You use daily practice to develop strength and a rock steady demeanor so you can handle the forces that go into play within you when your creativity fully awakens and you begin to exercise your powers to express yourself and represent dharma in the world. Also, notice the wildness of Shiva’s hair. His dreadlocks are electrically alive and spreading out in all directions and this is a symbol of the awakened vitality that is necessary to contain your creative force. You require both inertia and awakened Shakti to successfully catch, hold, contain, and then release and channel the nearly limitless creative force that moves through you and supplies the energy for you to do your work.

This picture is from my personal antique collection of Hindu iconography

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