The mythic dimension of our lives is a doorway to the mystical dimension of our beings. Today we welcome a new writer to our blog team, a yogi who grew up with these stories in her native Sri Lanka. The classical Hindu tales always offer a yogic teaching, which I will draw out in each blog, both to warm your heart as well as to expand your understanding.
Nirooshitha Sethuram is a Svaroopa® yoga teacher in America, bringing both western and Hindu perspectives to our profound yogic tradition. She explains, “The Mango Story is the first story that most Hindu children hear from their parents. Very simple, yet very rich in its essence.”
The Mango Story
It was another beautiful day on Mt. Kailash, where Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati were with their two children, Ganesha and Karttikeya.
On this day Sage Narada was visiting. Narada is the son of Brahma, the creator, also known to be the creator of problems which end in goodness to the world. Narada brought a special mango in his hand, claiming he had come to pay respects to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, but they knew that it was not the case. He was there to start some mischief. They were right; he had come to test the two children, Ganesha and Karttikeya.
Sage Narada offered the special mango to Lord Shiva, saying it was a very special mango, sweeter than the nectar of any fruit there was. Narada also said it was to be eaten by one person only and should not be shared. With a smile, Lord Shiva asked, “Have you started to execute your mischief yet?” Then Shiva said, “I can’t eat it, as I share everything with Parvati,” so He offered it to Parvati. Parvati said that She can’t have it either, as She also shares everything with Lord Shiva.
Sage Narada pretended to be sad because they rejected what he offered, though he was happy that his plan was working. He says, “Oh my Lord, please, one of you in your family should eat it! Maybe it can be one of your children.” Knowing what was happening, Lord Shiva called for his sons, Ganesha and Karttikeya.
Shiva said, “I have a mango which cannot be shared, so one of you can have it.” Both Ganesha and Karttikeya said, “I want it, I want it…” Sage Narada, pretending to be shocked, said, “I had no idea that the children will fight for it.” Lord Shiva smiled and said to Narada in a low voice that only he can hear, “You purposely brought this mango, knowing this would happen…” Goddess Parvati continued, “Yes, I agree, but we need to resolve this now.”
Lord Shiva said, “My dear children, this is the time in your life in which you must face the world. Unless you know your world, you cannot lead your life in prosperity. Both of you must travel around the world three times. The first one to return will get the mango.” Narada was extremely happy that his plan was being executed.
Karttikeya was a beautiful strong boy born to defeat demons, whereas Ganesha had the head of an elephant, with a potbelly and short stubby legs. Kartikeya’s vehicle was a peacock and Ganesh’s vehicle was a mouse. Karttikeya was thinking his brother didn’t have a chance, so without a word he jumped on his peacock and off he went. With great determination Karttikeya flew around the world. Along the way, he faced terrible storms, fought with demons and helped people in danger. His journey was much more difficult than he thought. His thoughts went back to his brother, “Oh, my poor brother. How is he going to survive all this while competing for the mango?”
Ganesha knew he will not be able to win the race on his mouse and started thinking. Then an idea struck him. He said, “My parents, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, are my world, therefore I will go around them thrice.” Ganesha fastened a tiny harness around Mushika, his mouse. He went thrice around his parents and was just receiving the mango from Goddess Parvati when Karttikeya returned after circling the world thrice.
Karttikeya saw Ganesha holding the mango in his hand. He was so angry! He said that Ganesha had done nothing while he traveled around the world. “So have I,” replied Ganesh. He said, “I traveled all around my father and mother. They are my world.”
Karttikeya knew what had happened, and though he knew his brother won it fair and square, he still got angry with his parents. Seeing this, Ganesha offered the mango to Karttikeya. But Karttikeya flew away on his peacock, leaving all his luxuries, including all his clothes. He went to a hill known as “Palani” in the south of India (palani = palam + nee in the Tamil language, meaning, “you are the fruit”).
Goddess Parvati came right behind Karttikeya to bring him back to Kailash. When She arrived, She said to him, “You both have won in your own ways. Karttikeya, you won by your single-minded determination and endurance, while your brother Ganesha won by balance of heart, mind, love and intellect.” Hearing this from his beloved mother, Karttikeya was satisfied and lifted out of his anger. He became calm and happily went back to Kailash with his mother. He apologized to his father, Lord Shiva, and to his brother Ganesh, for his earlier behavior.
Lord Shiva, through Sage Narada’s drama, wanted to show everyone that their parents are their first world. He also wanted to show that you could gather knowledge and answers by traveling the world as Karttikeya did, or stay in the same place looking inward to get them as Ganesha did. Om Namah Shivaya.
My Guru told us this story many times, but with one small alteration. Ganesha decided to circle his parents three times because they are the source and container of all the worlds. Shiva is the primordial reality, who has taken form within this universe, sitting on Mt. Kailasa so that He is in the world that He has created. He is not merely an observer; He is a participant-observer. That makes Him available to us!
Shree Parvati is a human girl who became a Goddess, specifically for the purpose of marrying Shiva. She had a head start, of course, for She was an incarnation of the primordial energy, Shakti, drawn into human birth by the pleas of humankind. Her intense practices transformed her into a Goddess, which She already was, as are you. But you need to do some work on yourself before you discover your inherent Divinity.
Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati sit on Mt. Kailasa, both in the world and beyond the world. They are the substance and energy of which the world is made, which means the world is within them, while they are within it. Ganesha used this mystical truth to win the race, and his boon was not only a mango, but that he would be invoked at the beginning of every ceremony and every venture. It is Ganesha that opens the doorway to the celestial and cosmic realms, so every puja (classical ceremony) begins with worship of Ganesha .
This mystical truth is true of you as well, you are in the universe, but the universe is within you. When you look outside, you can see only part of the universe, plus you get ensnared in it, When you look inside, you see the whole, which is the universe and the One who has become it, who is Shiva, who is you.