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Making Ganesha Green

Ganesha is an interesting god, with a dual personality that’s reflected in his physical appearance. Ganesha is a divine provider of prosperity, with a great big belly filled with plenty. That’s on the human part of his body. Ganesha’s head is something else.

The mind of Ganesha is contained within the great head of an elephant, representing a larger view of things than the human belly of hunger can contain. Ganesha is more than just a god of wealth. He also represents knowledge, and the wisdom to overcome attachment. Ganesha embodies sacrifice, shown by a broken tusk, fractured by the God himself after his delivery of the epic Mahabharata to humankind.

Ideally, the path of Ganesha is not one of unrestrained pursuit of wealth, but an approach in which hunger for success is tempered by a vision of value that transcends money. In practice, Ganesha is used to promote get-rich-quick schemes, such as lotteries where the odds are rigged against the players.

An aspect of the higher form of Ganesha is being promoted by the Times of India, in its Green Ganesha campaign. The effort seeks to persuade residents of Mumbai who celebrate in Ganesh Utsav, the annual observance of the birthday of Ganesha, to do so in an environmentally responsible manner, with images of Ganesh made out of recyclable materials.

This restrained approach to Ganesh Utsav doesn’t diminish the promise of prosperity associated with Ganesha. In fact, it makes prosperity more likely, over the long term.

That’s a lesson we need to learn in the United States, where the Senate Democratic leadership has abandoned efforts to control climate change. The Democrats have capitulated to Republican industrial arguments that keeping Planet Earth inhabitable is bad for business, risking corporate profits. These politicians are like Ganeshas running around with their heads cut off, pursuing transient hungers without any self-restraint. They need to be reacquainted with the larger view, to remember that without a stable planetary climate, prosperity over the long term will be greatly diminished.

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