The Perils Of Consumption: A Ganesh Story (Part 2)
The Full Discussion
What is the source of fulfillment? Does it come from finally getting that thing you’ve always wanted? The new job, the new house, new car, new relationship? In Part Two of our three part mini-series on life’s purpose and the temptations of wealth and success, we’ll explore the story of Ganesha and Kubera, the King of Gold. We’ll see what happens when you get caught up in the materialism of the world, always putting off your happiness until some time in the future once you’ve finally gotten that “thing”, and how this saps joy and fulfillment from your life. This is a great episode for you if you’ve ever found yourself thinking that once you get this thing or that thing, that you’ll finally be happy, only to then realize afterwards that you still feel unfulfilled.
Ashton: Greetings everyone, welcome to the Sivana Podcast. I’m your host, Ashton Szabo and this is part two of our mini-series on Ganesha, wealth, success and the obstacles to living a fulfilled life.
In part one of the mini-series, we explored the story of Ganesha, placing obstacles like wealth, power, sex and fame on the path to fulfillment. Distractions meant to occupy those with less than noble intentions. The story warns us about the trappings of wealth and success, but it doesn’t specifically point out why.
Today, in part 2 of our mini-series, we’ll dive into another story of Ganesha that helps to give some insight as to why outward goals of wealth, power or fame will lead to ruin and a life unfulfilled. Our next story is the story of King Kubera. It helps to highlight the dangers of seeking wealth and fame and serve as a reminder to those who think they can avoid their trappings and temptations, for people who tell themselves, “Well, just one more time; one more phone call; one more deal; one more job; one more thing; one more, one more, more, more.”
But keep in mind too, and this is still very important, that we’re not rejecting the material world. We’re not rejecting wealth. We want to look at the more fundamental truth that underlies those things, so we can learn how to live joyously in the material world while still feeling connected, feeling fulfilled.
So once upon a time, there is a king by the name of Kubera, who was the ruler of a particular race of beings that were said to be born hunger and greedy. Most children’s first words are something like “da-da” or “ma-ma”. But the first and only words of these creatures was “eat”. Eat, eat, eat and eat they did.
They consumed everything. They ate trees and rocks and mountains, digging up the earth and destroying landscapes. They devastated the rivers and the lakes. They destroyed forests and their inhabitants. They were never satiated, never satisfied. They consumed all.
In their mad thirst for consumption, they unearthed resources that Kubera, the king, used to build his wealth, his stature, power, and prestige, are tearing through the earth to uncover gold and gems, and jewels and diamonds. This only emboldened Kubera and his quest to seek more and acquire more.
With these creatures at his command, Kubera quickly became the wealthiest man alive and he was dubbed King of Gold. He loved and was quite fond of this particular title, the King of Gold, and his wealth allowed him to buy everything that he could possibly want. Those old tales that said wealth can’t buy you happiness, well tales be damned.
He would buy his way through the world and have every need and desire catered to. He would be happy. He had the most expensive watch, the fanciest plane, the most high-tech things. He could even get the next generation of iPhone a year before it hit the market, before everyone else. He had the most powerful jet skis that of course, happen to pollute the water and air the most. His palace had the largest carbon footprint of any building anywhere. He was happy to tear up the world in pursuit of his riches. He had to make sure that he always had the latest, fanciest, newest, shiniest thing that anyone could possibly have. And
Kubera could care less about sustainability or environmental disasters. He wanted profit. He wanted power. The world be damned. Everyone else was just trying to acquire power and stuff, he told himself. And if I don’t do it, somebody else will. So I might as well get what I can for myself before someone else gets it before me. That was his mentality.
And over time, he cared less and less about others, the environment, the ethical or practical consequences of his quest for more.
But there’s something he still wanted, something that his money couldn’t yet buy: Parvati, the wife of Shiva, the most beautiful woman ever, the goddess. He wanted her. If he had her, then he can finally be content. He’d have the woman that everyone else wants. He’d be the envy of everyone in all the worlds. Then he’d be satisfied. Then he’d be full. I mean, who wouldn’t? He’d have the Angelina Jolie of the goddesses. What more could he possibly want?
So he devised the plan to lure Parvati and seduce her away from her husband Shiva. And Kubera was known far and wide for his lavish parties and he decided that if he could just get Parvati to accept his invitation to a grand party at his palace, then there’d be no way that she can resist the allure of all his wealth.
I mean she’s living up in some little hut at the top of the mountain. They probably don’t even have wi-fi up there. I have homes spread all over the land and my main palace is the largest building in the world. “Compared to her current conditions, how can she not want something more,” he thinks to himself. In his mind, there is no way she could resist the allure of his wealth, security, and power.
Shiva and Parvati are known for being quite the lovers. They’re known to get into an argument or 10, but they’re also known to spend eons together making love. Kubera had actually sent Parvati numerous invitations in the past, but really, who has time to check your mail when you’re making love all the time? I personally only check mail when I know there’s something coming from Amazon. Otherwise, the mail can wait. It just sits there until I eventually get to it.
So it’s clear that a written invitation isn’t going to work. Kubera has to go in person. So he hops onto his magical flying vehicle and of course, Tesla doesn’t plan on releasing this model of flying vehicle for another 5 years, but he was able to get an early prototype. And he flies off to the home of Shiva and Parvati.
We see that Kubera’s the type that always needs the latest toys and gadgets so he can show his stuff off to others and fill himself with pride.
So off he goes. And of course, Shiva and Parvati are wrapped in each other’s arms, having just finished making love and here arrives Kubera.
Parvati wants nothing to do with this wa-hoo. She knows his intentions. She knows what he’s up to. She wants nothing to do with him. And so Parvati and Shiva come up with an idea. They’re gods, obviously. So they knew Kubera was coming and instead of going to answer the door themselves, they send their son Ganesha to go answer when Kubera arrives.
So there’s Ganesha, that boundary again, seemingly interrupting the way to Shiva and Parvati, the obstacle to the absolute. We see him in part one of our mini-series as that obstacle again, and here he is. He’s that boundary. There’s an obstacle to be dealt with.
So he opens the door and Ganesha says, “Your invitation has been accepted.” And Kubera was beaming with joy. He thinks to himself, this is it. This is my big chance to finally have everything I want. After this, I won’t need anymore. “Your invitation has been accepted,” continued Ganesha, “By me.”
“Excuse me, what?” Kubera said. “The invitation was for the great goddess Parvati.” Kubera was taken a little off-guard but being Kubera, he thought about it for a brief moment and still saw this as an entrepreneurial opportunity to increase his stature. I mean, Ganesha, the son of the great Shiva and Parvati, coming to one of his parties? It’ll be the talk of all the kingdoms. Who else has divine guests?
“Okay,” he thinks to himself. “I can make the best out of this. This will be great.” And we can see even here that Kubera doesn’t care for his guest. He cares for what his guest will give him. It’s always about Kubera and what he can get. Even the parties he throws are just a means of gaining more stature, prestige and fame. He was always the talk of the town for weeks after any of his parties. People were always talking about what great parties he threw that spend hours wondering together, how much he must have spent on the latest party. It’s all for Kubera’s ego, his insatiable desire for more.
So they hop onto Kubera’s flying machine and off they go to this enormous and most lavish palace. It’s everything you’d expect it to be, gold-plated this, diamond-encrusted that, fine art everywhere, fresh gardens, food, the whole deal. High beautiful walls, beautiful people everywhere; anyone who is anyone was there.
And of course, I mean this would impress Ganesha, Kubera thought. Not only that, but when Ganesha goes home to his mother and brags about how amazing the party is, she’ll surely be impressed and she’ll want to come to the next party.
And this is how Kubera thinks and how a lot of people think, really. Everything is a means, a method, a manipulation to get more, to get what they want. How can Kubera manipulate or guide or coerce the situation to his game?
So Kubera and Ganesha arrive in grand fashion. The whole ride to the palace, Ganesha was expressing how hungry he was. So now that they had arrived, they go straight to the main hall and sit at the grand feasting table. So here you’ve got Ganesha with his big old belly and his big old appetite, hungry as can be and he’s ready to eat.
And at first, all seems to be going wonderful and well. Kubera brings out these dishes made by the finest chefs in the world, the finest, freshest foods and ingredients. And Ganesha’s obvious pleasure in the food only instills more pride in Kubera. The first time Ganesha cleared all the food on the table, Kubera was literally glowing with his pride.
But after Ganesha finished another table of food, and then another, Kubera started to get noticeably concerned. Ganesha didn’t seem to be slowing down. In fact, he seemed to be speeding up and eating more and faster. Kubera, not wanting to insult his guest, was a disaster that would be to Kubera’s reputation.
He brings more and more food out, not wanting to insult Ganesha, and we’re talking pastries, desserts and wines and the finest delicacies the world has to offer, the best things that money could buy.
But eventually, Kubera’s chefs come up to him and they told him that, “Hey, we’re running out of food.” So in an attempt to distract Ganesha away from eating the very last food in the whole kingdom, Kubera offered to show Ganesha the rest of the palace.
He wanted to show off his wealth, so he took him down to the treasury first. And it wasn’t even a few seconds that went by before Kubera regretted his choice. And Ganesha saw all of the gold and the gems, and still hungry, started to eat. He devoured goblets of gold, handfuls of gems and mouthfuls of rubies.
Kubera went into full panic mode. He tried again to distract Ganesha away from eating, but whatever place he took him to next, Ganesha would begin to eat whatever it was that he saw. His appetite for consumption grew as he ate instead of lessened. The more he ate, the more he wanted.
Logically, we tend to assume that when the mind wants, if we can just get what it wants, it will want less. That seems to make sense, right? But here, we have demonstrated what actually happens. The mind gets and it wants more.
His appetite for more only grows at what he gets, instead of lessens. This is such an important point because most of us living in the material world operate on the assumption that if I want this thing, that my desire would be satiated once I get it. But the acquisition of it actually only leads to wanting more, whether it’s more protection and security for the stuff we’ve acquired, or simply more stuff or new stuff. The bar of satiation, as it were, doesn’t go down but it goes up with more consumption.
So eventually, Ganesha was just eating everything up. He devoured everything in the rooms and all the rooms in the grand palace. And when there was nothing left, he started to eat the rooms themselves. And soon, truly, there was nothing left to eat except Kubera.
So seeing the hungry look in Ganesha’s eyes, Kubera freaks out and he hops onto his flying vehicle and heads off to Shiva and Parvati for help. This is like something out of a horror flick or a James Bond movie. Ganesha launches his trunk after Kubera and holds onto his leg as he flies to the air. So imagine this dude on a flying bike with a giant hungry elephant hanging from his leg as they’re rocketing through the sky.
They land near the top of Mount Kailash, near Shiva and Parvati’s home. And the moment they land, Ganesha immediately eats Kubera’s Tesla model 2020F, his latest flying doohickey, the last little bit of thing, of possession that he had. And he’s coming for Kubera next, who instantly darts into the house, screaming for the help of Shiva and Parvati.
“Help me, help me,” Kubera cried. “Your son has been eating everything that I have and he wants to eat me next.”
“Calm, Kubera, calm,” Parvati says as she consoles him. She hands him a small bowl of rice pudding and tells him, “Feed Ganesha this bowl of rice pudding with love, Lord Kubera, and he’ll be satiated. Calm down.”
So Kubera grabbed the rice bowl and sheepishly turns towards Ganesha. He cowered and he extended the spoonful of rice pudding out to Ganesha, and the moment that it hit Ganesha’s lips, he became calm. With the full belly, he goes and he snuggles up to his mom Parvati and falls asleep, like a little child gone on a rampage or a temper tantrum, and just crashes to sleep.
So Kubera’s saved, but what has he learned? Has anything actually changed for him in this exchange?
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Ashton: Now a lot of people like to skirt that edge just like Kubera. They think that, well, they’ll be the exception to the rule. Hey, I’m only going to be about money for this little bit, this little thing right here so I can get this done, and then I’ll go back to living the life that I’m always talking about. I know that money doesn’t bring happiness, but I just need this one little thing here. Or I’m going to go play with money, but I won’t let it consume me.
Or perhaps even more like Kubera, like I’m going to beat the system. I’m going to make so much money that I will be able to buy happiness.
The story is trying to tell you that doing that is playing with an energy that cannot be satiated by anything you do or anything you have or you can acquire. This force is only satiated by we can say as the children’s version of the story of the nectar of the divine. So this force is only satiated by the divine. In this version, it’s mom’s soup. It’s mom’s rice pudding.
That is to say that there is nothing that you can do to satiate it. No one can compare it to mom’s rice pudding. If you think you can control it, if you think you can control this energy, it’s going to consume everything, your whole world.
It’s only through the divine that we’re satiated. And we see here, Ganesha representing what Kubera already has with these minions of people is that it just grows. It just consumes more and more. There’s no stop until you’ve eventually consumed everything
But let’s say that you don’t skirt that edge, that line. Even if you just think to yourself, hey I just need this one thing and I’ll be satiated. I don’t need a lot of money. I don’t need a fancy car. I just want a simple, this, that or the other. Because in truth, that’s what I think is most common. I know a lot of people that think that way. They understand the basic trappings of money and success, and fame. But they’re still operating on that same program as King Kubera.
They have desires and yes, maybe they’re less lofty than Kubera’s but they operate from the same mindset that once those desires are fulfilled, then they’ll be satiated. Then they’ll be happy.
It’s like saying, I don’t want a mansion. All I need to be happy is a small, quite cabin in the woods. I’ve literally heard that repeated by people all the time in my community. But not only does this thinking lead to a kind of attempted spiritual superiority, like, hey look at me I’m so much more spiritual, I need so much less than you.
But it’s actually just a trick of your mind anyways, because when you get that cabin in the woods, well then you want a garden. But not just any garden, an organic garden with all the freshest veggies and herbs. But then of course you’ll probably need a juicer so you can juice those veggies and be super healthy, right? Of course, any juicer won’t do. You need the Juice Master 10000 because experts say that it masticates the veggies better. It’s not getting oxidized. That just makes more sense, right? So you have to have that.
Again, and very importantly, none of these things are in and of themselves a problem. The problem is thinking that once you get these things, you’ll be satiated and happy. You’ll be fulfilled. It doesn’t matter if you want a Lamborghini or a Prius. If you think that you’ll be satisfied once you have it, then you’re operating from the same program as Kubera.
There’s a wonderful line that I’ve seen in every version of the story that I read or heard, and it’s that Parvati instructs Kubera to feed Ganesha with love. That’s the secret sauce, the magical ingredient because most people trying to fill their life with stuff is because they feel a void inside themselves. They feel a lack of love or deep connection.
And once we connect to our divine nature, we’re filled with love. It sounds a little cheesy, but love is that special ingredient to help satiate the heart as it is the great act of the heart.
I’ve done exercises and yoga teacher trainings like this before where you essentially hop on a desire train. It’s to say like, ask what you want and then you write it back to its source. You hop on that train of desire and see where it goes.
It’s so say, okay I want a fancy car. I want a Lamborghini. Okay, why? I think that a fancy car will attract a beautiful woman. Okay, why do you want a beautiful woman? Well, because I want more love in my life.
And that’s usually what it goes down to. It’s almost comical that if you go back to any desire, you’ll usually find it’s because that we’re wanting love. We want something to fill this hole that we feel inside of us.
Now truth will do that. Understanding who you are will do that and that understanding tends to universally fill us with more love. Love, connection, when you’re connected too you can’t help but fill and feel love. And I actually think this is a clear sign of someone who has realized some truth. They’re more loving. Their cup is filled up with love and so it spills over.
And I’m not talking about bliss bunnies here, people think that life should always be about love and bliss and puppies, and fluffy clouds. But I am willing to go so far to say that if your spiritual practice, your beliefs aren’t making in some way or revealing more love and compassion for yourself and others, you might want to try something else because it really is this universal ingredient to connection and truth.
So this story, it’s trying to show us that consumption breeds more consumption. Wealth, money, fame, success, power, they’re all obstacles on the path because they inevitably lead to wanting more. They trick us or perhaps the mind tricks us by telling us that we can get away with just a little more, or just that one thing. But it doesn’t work that way.
It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for that little eco-friendly cabin in the woods or the giant mansion. If you’re looking for happiness or fulfillment from the transient world, the material world of stuff, then you’ll never be fulfilled. You’ll never find fulfillment.
Fulfillment ultimately comes from the divine. We can connect to that source of fulfillment by looking inward.
And as we discussed in part one of this mini-series, that doesn’t mean that you have to reject wealth. It’s simply a warning to all that says fulfillment doesn’t come at the end of the rainbow. It doesn’t come from getting that pot of gold. That pot of gold at the end of the rainbow only leads to wanting more pots of gold and more rainbows. Consumption breeds consumption. Acquisition breeds the desire for more acquisition. It doesn’t matter if you want less stuff or less expensive stuff. If you think stuff can fulfill you, then you’ll be left wanting.
And the story is a reminder and a warning that fulfillment doesn’t come from the outside. It doesn’t come from acquiring something you think you don’t have. It comes from realizing what you already are, what’s inside of you, the grace and love of the divine.
Have stuff or don’t have stuff, it doesn’t matter. What matters is what actually will bring fulfillment, and it’s not the newest iPhone. It’s not 5,000 Instagram or 50,000 or 5 million Instagram followers. It’s not getting your YouTube video to go viral
What matters is the connection you feel to yourself, to the divine, to everyone and to everything. That love, that connection comes from looking inward instead of looking outward.
But life is still very complex. It’s challenging. We live in a world of stuff, of money, of Facebook and Instagram. And we’re all caught in a rat race to a fictional time or place of supposed happiness when all of our physical needs are met. But that time, that place are seemingly never met.
So then what? Sure, look inward, meditate, get to know the self. Yes, over the course of podcasts we’ll explore different means and different ideas of all of that as well and we have already. But then what? How do we actually engage the world? Let’s say you’re getting a sense of yourself. But how do you actually integrate that experience more skillfully into the challenging, complex, everyday world?
That’s what we’ll start to explore in part 3 of our mini-series on Ganesha, wealth, success and the obstacles to living a fulfilled life. So I hope you’ll tune in for part 3 of our mini-series.
As always, thank you so much for listening and a special thanks to Zack Cooper, our sound engineer for all the work he does on the podcast. Thank you to everyone at Sivana Spirit for making these podcasts happen. And we’re all extremely grateful for everyone listening today.
Please, if you like the podcast, subscribe on iTunes, share the episodes and the links with your friends or anyone that you think will benefit from them, and help us spread the word and add to the conscious movement happening around the world today.
I’m Ashton Szabo. This is the Sivana Podcast. Thank you for listening. I hope you all have a wonderfully present and fulfilled moment. Namaste.