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The Chant of Ganesh

by Donald Michael Kraig
from Circle Magazine Issue #92


When most people hear of Tantra, they immediately think of sex. The first popular books on Tantra in English, written by "Arthur Avalon" (Sir Thomas Woodroffe), appeared in England toward the end of the sexually repressive Victorian era. However, even during that period it was considered permissable to openly discuss the sexuality of mysterious, dark-skinned foreigners. Although Avalon's books only briefly discussed sexuality, salons were filled with surprisingly explicit talk about how his books revealed what "those people" did and how they did it, helping to relieve the repression while feeding their myth of racial superiority and the "White Man's Burden".
In fact, Tantra is no more exclusively about sex than Paganism is exclusively about the Great Rite. Like Western Paganism - from which much of the dominant religion of the West, Christianity, is taken - the roots of Tantra go back a least 5,000-10,000 years. Many Tantric spiritual concepts have been absorbed into the major religions of the area, Hinduism and Buddhism.
In the U.S. Tantra began to grow in popularity as a result of two things, the birth control pill (and the resulting "sexual revolution") and the influence of Rajneesh (now called Osho) and his students (and their students). The result has been that Rajneesh's version of Tantra, what he called "Neo-Tantra", is now identified with Tantra per se. As Georg Feuerstein noted in his book on Tantra, a Tantric from India might not even recognize what is taught in the U.S. as Tantra as being anything Tantric.
Traditional Tantra is a complete Pagan spiritual system. Most Eastern mystical concepts can be directly traced to the early Tantrics or what I call "proto-Tantrics", including (hatha) yoga, the chakras, kundalini energy, etc. Indirectly we can trace Kung Fu (and those martial arts derived from it), acupuncture, massage, and even Feng Shui to ancient Tantric practices. Traditional Tantra features gods and goddesses, magical practices, seasonal celebrations, etc. Just as many people in the U.S. have found a home in Paganism from all over the world, I think that Traditional Tantra may eventually hold a place in the supermarket of Paganism, too.

One of the important magical aspects of Tantra focuses on the impact of sound. In fact, there is a saying that "There is no Tantra without mantra". Six of the major chakras are each seen as lotuses with a certain number of petals. The total number of petals on all the lotuses is fifty, matching the number of letters in the Sanskrit alphabet. Indeed, each petal has a letter assigned to it.
The alphabet of Sanskrit is called the Devanagari alphabet, and each letter is called a matrika or little goddess. Special letter combinations are considered to be a deity in sound form. Note that I did not say a symbol of or a representation of a diety. Rather, the sound is the deity itself.
Needless to say, deities are considered powerful. Just saying properly formed sounds, words, or phrases is also considered powerful. Such sounds, words, or phrases are called mantras. Please note that a mantra is not just any ol' words thrown together and repeated.

All sound has an effect on the things around it. This is known as resonance. One of the most famous examples of this consists of playing certain notes on a violin near a piano, resulting in some of the piano strings beginning to vibrate and make a sound.
Most words and sounds are simply random. But certain ones, mantras, have great power. They can cause surpirsingly powerful changes in your physical body, the environment around you, your non-physical bodies (or koshas) and the spiritual planes that interpenetrate our world.
The most famous mantra is probably om or aum. It is considered so important that there is a special additional Sanskrit letter, the omkara, to indicate the sound. When repeating longer mantras, you will frequently begin and end with the om. 
The most popular mantra in India is probably the Gayatri (pronounced "guy-a-tree") mantra. There are many varations of it, but it is little known in the West. Here in the U.S., thanks to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, the "Hare Krishna" mantra is better known. In this article, however, I would like to introduce you to a short mantra you can use, the mantra of Ganesh.

Ganesh (sometimes spelled Ganesha, but usually pronounced "gah-nesh") is also known as Ganapati. Being the son of Parvati and Shiva, he is definitely a Tantric deity. One myth is that Shiva (who is the highest teacher or adiguru of Tantra) wouldn't reveal any of the secrets of Tantra to his beloved wife, Parvati. But she discovered a time when he would be weak enough to reveal the secrets...during sex! So as they made love, she would ask him about the spiritual secrets of Tantra and he would reveal them. Ganesh, hidden in the shadows, would write it all down. This is the metaphoric source of the supposed 108 classic books known as "The Tantras".
In this sense, then, Ganesh has similarities to the gods Mercury or Thoth. He brings writing and knowledge. But he is most often known as the "Breaker of Obstacles". This does not mean that if something blocks your way to success that appealing to Ganesh will result in your thundering through your opposition like some great juggernaut (a word derived from the name of a Hindu deity Jaganath). Rather, Ganesh breaks obstacles by working around them. He may not help you fix a relationship, but He might help you find a new one. He might not get you a raise at work, but you might get a job offer from another company for more money. Ganesh is a warrior, but is not into fighting for fighting's sake. Indeed, that is why he lost his head and it had to be replaced with the head of a elephant. Rather, He helps you find other ways of overcoming obstacles. The real obstacles He breaks are those which prevent you from recognizing alternative solutions.
Ganesh is very popular, even among mainstream Hindus. Most worship rituals, no matter the deity they are focused toward, usually begin with a call to Ganesh. Most shops will have a statue or painting of the fat, elephant-headed, one-tusked deity near the door. He is one kewl dude.

The Ganesh Mantra
There are many chants to Ganesh, but a simple and powerful one is this:
Om gam ganapataye namaha!
A very loose translation might be:
Om = Salutations! Everyone wake up!
Gam = The secret power sound of Ganesh. It is his "seed syllable" or bija mantra.
Ganapataye = Another name of Ganesh, the breaker of obstacles.
Namaha = Yo! Ganesh! You da God!
The pronunciation is also pretty easy:
Om = ohm or aum
Gam = Somewhere between "gahm" and "gum". In some dialects it is "guhng".
Ganapataye = gah-nah-paht-ah-yeh
Namaha - nah-mah-hah
Traditionally, Tantrics would use a mala when chanting a mantra. A mala consists of 108 beads with an extra larger one, the "guru bead", to mark the beginning and end of the necklace. You would hold the mala in one hand moving from bead to bead with each repetition of the mantra. One cycle of the beads is called a "round".
When beginning, take your time. The mantra is meant to be chanted. There is an African saying, "If you can talk, you can sing", so don't be afraid to chant. Simply pick a note and sound the mantra on that note.
Om gam ganapataye namaha!
As you do your first round of 108 repetitions, you should slowly speed up.
Om gam ganapataye namaha!
Om gam ganapataye namaha!
Om gam ganapataye namaha!
As you do, chances are your voice will get quieter and quieter. Indeed, Tantrics are known to "mumble" their mantras. Very soon you should be able to go very quickly.
Om gam ganapataye namaha!
Om gam ganapataye namaha!
Om gam ganapataye namaha!
Traditionally, you might do 10 rounds or 108 rounds. Or maybe you'll do 10,000 rounds, 108,000 rounds or more! You could also simply do it continuously (whenever you are not consciously doing some activity) and not need to keep count.

Doing Japa
The term japa refers to repeating a mantra. You can begin by using a statue of Ganesh, a drawing of Him, or just your imagination. Treat it well. As Apu of The Simpsons says "Please do not offer my God a peanut." Instead, you can offer Ganesh rounds of His mantra.
Om gam ganapataye namaha!
Om gam ganapataye namaha!
Om gam ganapataye namaha!
At one time or another we are all faced with obstacles in life. Perhaps it is passing a test or getting along with someone. Maybe it is a relationship with problems or financial difficulties. Go to the real or imagined image of Ganesh and share your problem. Ask for help. Then offer something in return: rounds of the Ganesh mantra. The more serious difficulties the more rounds you should offer.
Om gam ganapataye namaha!
Om gam ganapataye namaha!
Om gam ganapataye namaha!
You don't have to do a million rounds all at the same time. You could do just 10 minutes worth a day. Perhaps you could do 30 minutes a day. Or you could just do it continuously - any time you are not consciously doing something else - for a given period of time.
Om gam ganapataye namaha!
Om gam ganapataye namaha!
Om gam ganapataye namaha!
And then simply be open to ways of resolving the conflicts and obstacles in your life. remember to complete the number of rounds or time period vowed, even if you overcome the obstacle before you finish the promised number of repetitions.
(That which is of the gods in me recognized and acknowledges that which is of the gods in you.)
Donald Michael Kraig
Southern California
Donald Michael Kraig was given the name Shambhalanath when he was initiated into a Tantric tradition over 20 years ago. He has taught Tantra all over the U.S. and contributed a chapter to the book, Ecstasy Through Tantra by Dr. John Mumford. he has also written other books, including his famous Modern Magick, Modern Sex Magick, and Tarot and Magick. He lectures all over the U.S. and in Europe, and has worked in sleight-of-hand magic shops, occult stores, costume shops, as a rock musician, a writer of erotica, a courier, a radio talk show host, and as an editor. He is currently working on obtaining a doctorate in clinical hypnotherapy.

OM GAM Ganapatiye Namaha! OM DUM Durgaye Namaha!

Devi Spring, author and compiling editor. Copyright Devi Spring 2006.