Ganas and Bhutas: The Transcendental Hooligans
BY: SUN STAFF
Jan 08, 2013 CANADA (SUN)
In Bhagavad-gita 9.25, Lord Krsna instructs:
yanti deva-vrata devan
pitrn yanti pitr-vratah
bhutani yanti bhutejya
yanti mad-yajino 'pi mam
"Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship the ancestors go to the ancestors; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings; and those who worship Me will live with Me."
Those who worship the Devatas will go to the Devatas, those who worship the Pitrs go to the Pitrs, and those who worship the Bhutas will go to them. Given that the Sanskrit term bhuta literally means "being", in a sense all the fallen conditioned souls are Bhutas, and may be said to inhabit Pita-loka.
Srila Prabhupada, in his purport on Gita 9.25, explains the following:
"If one has any desire to go to the moon, the sun or any other planet, one can attain the desired destination by following specific Vedic principles recommended for that purpose, such as the process technically known as darsa-paurnamasi. These are vividly described in the fruitive activities portion of the Vedas, which recommends a specific worship of demigods situated on different heavenly planets. Similarly, one can attain the Pita planets by performing a specific yajna. Similarly, one can go to many ghostly planets and become a Yaksha, Raksha or Pishaca. Pishaca worship is called "black arts" or "black magic." There are many men who practice this black art, and they think that it is spiritualism, but such activities are completely materialistic. Similarly, a pure devotee, who worships the Supreme Personality of Godhead only, achieves the planets of Vaikuntha and Krishnaloka without a doubt.
In his Gita Bhasya, Shankaracharya described Bhutas as being "the hosts (ganas) of Vinayakas and Matrs, the Four Sisters, etc." The Yajnavalkya Smrti (Vinayaka Kalpa), 7th prakarana, mentions Vinayakas, describing a ritual for subduing these troublesome spirits, who cause much difficulty for humans who anger or disturb them. Ganesh is known as the Lord of the Ganas, and as the controller of obstacles, he is the commander of these transcendental hooligans.
Shankaracharya stated that it is tamasic to worship class of demigods such as the Bhutas and Ganas, or Vinayakas. Not surprisingly, however, the worship of these personalities is regularly employed by the Tantracists, who appeal to them to cease causing problems for them, and to instead cause difficulties for others.
We also find a great deal of focus placed on the Ganas by those who worship Lord Shiva, because the Ganas are said to have accompanied Shiva to Mount Kailasa. Some lived there with him, although many were restricted to living on the cremation grounds. Uma Devi once asked Lord Shiva why he liked to reside on the cremation grounds, which are the abode of demons, jackals, corpses and vultures. He replied that he had roamed the world, looking for a pure place to meditate in. Out of anger and frustration of being unable to find such a place, he created the terrible Pishachas and Rakshasas, who are intent on killing people. Out of compassion however, he restrained this terrible horde, keeping them secured on the cremation grounds, and he sometimes chose to live there with them.
While many images of the Ganas and Bhutas found in temple sculptures show them depicted in their terrible, frightening forms and faces, there are also images of these demons in very benign and endearing forms, such as when they are engaging in devotional service to Lord Shiva and the other demigods. They are found playing kartals and maddala, blowing the conch, etc. The image above depicts such a collective of Ganas, who are in a pleasing mood, while the one below shows a more familiar, ghoulish form typical of images in which they're associated with Lord Shiva
The Bhutas, Pretas, Pisacas and Pramathas
"In Calcutta there are many butcher shops which keep a deity of the goddess Kali, and animal-eaters think it proper to purchase animal flesh from such shops in hope that they are eating the remnants of food offered to goddess Kali. They do not know that goddess Kali never accepts nonvegetarian food because she is the chaste wife of Lord Siva. Lord Siva is also a great Vaisnava and never eats nonvegetarian food, and the goddess Kali accepts the remnants of food left by Lord Siva. Therefore there is no possibility of her eating flesh or fish. Such offerings are accepted by the associates of goddess Kali known as bhutas, pisacas and Raksasas, and those who take the prasada of goddess Kali in the shape of flesh or fish are not actually taking the prasada left by goddess Kali, but the food left by the bhutas and pisacas."
"Lord Siva is called the Bhuta-natha, being assisted by various types of powerful ghosts and denizens of the inferno--Bhutas, Pretas, Pramathas, Guhyakas, Dakinis, Pisacas, Kusmandas, Vetalas, Vinayakas and Brahma-raksasas. (Of all kinds of ghosts, the Brahma-raksasas are very powerful. Brahmanas transferred to the role of ghosts become Brahma-raksasas.)"
Krsna Book, Chapter 63
"Ghosts and mischievous hobgoblins are also the creation of Brahma; they are not false. All of them are meant for putting the conditioned soul into various miseries. They are understood to be the creation of Brahma under the direction of the Supreme Lord."
"Lord Siva is described here as caracara-guru, the spiritual master of all animate and inanimate objects. He is sometimes known as Bhutanatha, which means "the worshipable deity of the dull-headed." Bhuta is also sometimes taken to indicate the ghosts. Lord Siva takes charge of reforming persons who are ghosts and demons, not to speak of others, who are godly; therefore he is the spiritual master of everyone, both the dull and demoniac and the highly learned Vaisnavas."
"Lord Siva is described here as bhuta-rat. The ghosts and those who are situated in the material mode of ignorance are called bhutas, so bhuta-rat refers to the leader of the creatures who are in the lowest standard of the material modes of nature. Another meaning of bhuta is anyone who has taken birth or anything which is produced, so in that sense Lord Siva may be accepted as the father of this material world."
"Prabhupada: That religiosity also different kinds: rajasic, tamasic, and sattvic, according to one's nature. The sattvic, they worship Visnu. The rajasic, they worship the demigods. And the tamasic, they worship bhuta, preta, pisaca..."
Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Bombay 04-08-74
"Pisaca worship is called "black arts" or "black magic." There are many men who practice this black art, and they think that it is spiritualism, but such activities are completely materialistic. "
"Sometimes due to sinful activities, too much attachment, a man becomes ghost. Ghost, there is ghosts. Bhuta preta pisaca. Not only this life, demonic life, but after death also, there are ghostly lives. They do not get this gross body. They remain in the subtle body, mind, intelligence, and ego. Due to their gross sinful life, they are punished by not getting a gross life. Because without getting a gross life, we cannot enjoy. With mind, I cannot enjoy rasagulla. I must have the tongue, I must have the hand, fingers, I can pick up, then... In the mind, I may think of eating or collecting rasagulla, but actually I do not get the taste."
Srila Prabhupada Lecture, London 07-29-73
"So one can remain like that, without this gross body and subtle body, material. Just like in the Vaikunthaloka, that is... But in the material world, when one is not covered by the gross body but subtle body, they are called ghosts or pramathas. Those who are good, not harmful, they are called pramathas. And those who are harmful... As in this material world there are good men and bad men, similarly, amongst the persons who has no this gross body, they are sometimes called ghosts and sometimes they are called pramatha."
Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Vrindaban 11-09-76
The Ganas represent a host of spooks, hobgoblins and spirits who accompany Lord Siva. Some are said to dwell with him on Mount Kailasa, whilst the more fearsome and terrifying Ganas are confined to the cremation grounds. It is said that Uma once asked Lord Siva why he liked to reside in cremation grounds, which were the abode of demons, jackals, corpses and vultures, when he had so many more beautiful places. Mahesvara replied that he had roamed the world, looking for a pure place to meditate in. Unable to find one, he, out of anger and frustration, he created the terrible pishachas, flesh-eating ghouls and terrible rakshasas, intent on killing people. Out of compassion however, he kept this terrible horde in the cremation ground. As he did not want to live without the bhutas and ganas, he chose to live in a cemetery. When the ghosts stayed with him, they caused no harm.
The presence of the terrible Ganas also acted as an honour guard to Siva and a bar to the impure. Those who feared the awful ghosts and goblins were destined to remain outsiders. Only heroes could be near him in the cremation ground, heroes who had defied death and liberated themselves from passions and fear. These were the true devotees - those who had nothing to fear, who had mastered the onslaught of the multiple categories of threatening powers that were fatal to those who were less than heroes and could not control the frightening phantoms because they had not controlled themselves.
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. Excerpted from various texts and purports of HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.
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