(The following is taken from a transcript of a podcast episode that I recorded a few years ago, you can find and listen to it and other stories I told on the Sivana Podcast by clicking here)
Today, we will dive into another story of Ganesha that helps to give some insight as to why outward goals of wealth or 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: “just one more time”, “one more phone call” “one more deal”, “one more job”, “one more….” “one more…” “more, more”
But keep in mind, too, and this is still important, that we are not rejecting the material world, we’re not rejecting wealth. We want to look at the more fundamental truth that underlies them. So we can learn how to live joyously in the material world, while feeling connected, feeling fulfilled.
So once a upon a time…
There was a king by the name of Kubera, who was the ruler of a particular race of beings that were said to be born hungry… and greedy. Most children’s first words are “Dada” or “moma”, but the first and only words of these creatures was: “eat!” Eat, eat, eat!
And eat they did. They consumed everything. They ate trees, rocks, mountains, digging up the earth, and destroying landscapes. They devastated the rivers and lakes, the destroyed forests and their inhabitants, never satiated, never satisfied, they consumed all.
In their mad thirst for consumption, they unearthed resources that Kubera used to build his wealth, stature, power and prestige. Tearing through the earth, the uncover gold, and gems, and jewels. This only emboldened Kubera in his quest to seek more and acquire more.
With these creatures at his command, Kubera quickly became the wealthiest man alive, dubbed the King of Gold, as his subjects tore through the earth to find their riches.
Kubera was quite fond of his title. His wealth allowed him to buy everything he could possibly want. The old tales said that wealth cannot 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 yatch, the fanciest plane, the most high tech watch, and could even get the next generation of iPhone a year before it hit the market for everyone else. He had the most powerful jet skis that also happened 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 made sure he always had the latest, fanciest, newest, shiniest thing that anyone could 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, he told himself, and if I don’t do it, someone else will. So I might as well get what I can for myself before someone get’s it before me. That was his mentality, and over time, he cared less and less about others, the environment or any of the ethical or practical consequences of his quest for more…
But there was something he wanted, that his money couldn’t yet buy. Parvati, the wife of Shiva, the most beautiful women ever. He wanted her. If he had HER, then he could finally be content.
He’d have the woman that everyone wants. He’d be the envy of everyone in all the worlds. Then he would be satiated, he’d be full. I mean… who wouldn’t? He’d have the Angelina Jole of the goddesses, what more could he want?
So he devised a plan to lure Parvati and seduce her away from her husband Shiva. 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 would be no way she could resist the allure of all his wealth. “I mean… she’s living up in some little hut on the top of a mountain. They probably don’t even have Wifi 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.
Now… Shiva and Parvati are known for being quite the lovers. They’re known to get into an argument… or ten, but they are also known to spend eons together making love. Kubera had actually sent Parvati numerous invitations already, but who has time to check your mail when you are making love all the time? I mean… I only check the mail when I know something is coming from Amazon, otherwise… it can wait.
It’s clear a written invitation isn’t going to work. Kubera has to go in person. So he hops onto his magical flying vehicle (Tesla doesn’t plan on releasing it for another 5 years, but he was able to get an early prototype) and he flies off to the home of Shiva and Partvati. Kubera is the type that always needs to latest toys and gadgets so he can show his “stuff” off to others, and fill himself with pride.
And of course, Shiva and Parvati are wrapped in each other’s arms, having just finished making love. And here arrives Kubera.
Now, Parvati wants nothing to do with this wahoo. She knows his intentions, she knows what he’s up to, and wants nothing to do with him. And so Parvati and Shiva come up with an idea.
They’re Gods, Shiva and Parvati, so they knew Kubera was coming. Instead of going to answer the door themselves, they send their son Ganesha to go answer when Kubera arrives.
So there is Ganesha, that boundary again, seemingly interrupting the way to Shiva and Parvati. The obstacle to the absolute.
“Your invitation has been accepted,” Ganesha says!
And Kubera was beaming with joy. “This is it! This is my big chance to finally have everything I want. After this, I won’t need anymore,” he thinks to himself.
“Your invitation has been accepted,” continued Ganesha,”…by me.”
“Excuse me, what?” Kubera said. “I… I…. uh.. the invitation was for the great goddess, Parvati!”
He 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 will be the talk of all the kingdoms! Who else has divine guest? “Ok,” he thinks to himself, “I can make the best out of this. This will be great.”
We can see, even here, that Kubera doesn’t care for his guest, he cares for what his guest will give HIM, Kubera. It’s always all about Kubera and what he can get. Even the parties he throws are just a means of gaining more stature, preteige and fame. He was always the talk of town for weeks after any of his parties. People always talked about what great parties he’d through, and 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 his enourmous and most lavish palace. And 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 walls. Beautiful people everywhere. Anyone who is anyone is there.
Of course this would impress Ganesha, Kubera thought. And not only that, but when Ganeha goes home to his mother and brags about how amazing the party is, she will surely be impressed and will 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. How can Kubera manipulate, guide, coerce the situation to his gain.
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 ol’ belly, and his big ol’ appetite, hungry as can be, ready to eat.
And at first, it all seems to be going well. Kubera brings out dishes made by the finest chefs in the world, with the finest, freshest foods and ingredients. Ganesha’s obvious pleasure in the food only instills even more pride in Kubera.
The first time Ganesha cleared all the food on the table, Kubera was glowing in pride. But after Ganesha finished another table of food, 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 (what a disaster that would be to his reputation!) keeps bringing out food. Pastries, deserts, wines, the finest delicacies the world has to offer.
But eventually, Kubera’s chefs told him that they were running out of food. In an attempt to distract Ganesha away from eating the very last of the food in the 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. It wasn’t even a few seconds that went by before Kubera regretted his choice. Ganesha saw the gold and gems and, still hungry, started to eat. He devoured goblets of gold, handfuls of gems, and mouthfuls of rubies. Kubera went into a full panic! He tried again to distract Ganesha away from eating, but whatever place they went to next, Ganesha would begin to eat whatever he saw.
His appetite for consumption GREW as he eat, instead of lessened. The more he eat, the more he wanted.
Logically, we tend to assume that when the mind wants, if we can 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 with 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 will 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 goes UP with more consumption.
So eventually, Ganesha was just eating up everything! He devoured everything in the rooms, and when there was nothing left, he started to eat the rooms themselves! And soon, there was nothing left to eat! …Except Kubera….
So seeing the hungry look in Ganesha’s eyes, Kubera hops onto his flying vehicle and heads off to Shiva and Parvati for help. Like something out of a horror flick or James Bond movie, Ganesha launches his trunk after Kubera and holds onto his leg as he flies through the air. So just imagine this dude on his 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, Shiva and Parvati’s home, and <CHOMP> Ganesha immediately eats Kubera’s Tesla Model 2020 F.
He’s coming for Kubera next, who darts into the house screaming for the help of Shiva and Parvati.
“Help me, help me,” Kubera cried. “Your son has eating everything I have, and he’s 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 will be satiated and calm down.”
So Kubera grabed the rice bowl and sheepishly turned towards Ganesha. He cowered and extended a spoon full of rice pudding out to Ganesha.
The moment the rice pudding hit Ganesha’s lips, he became calm. And with a full belly, he goes and snuggles up to his mom, Parvati, and falls asleep. Like the little child gone on a rampage or temper tantrum, and then just BOOM, crashes to sleep.
So Kubera is saved. But what has he learned? Has anything changed?
A lot of people like to skirt that edge. Think that they will be the exception to the rule. Like, “hey, I’m only just going to be about the money a little bit right here, so I can get this done, and then I’ll go back to living that life I’m always talking about.” Like, “I’m going to play with money, but I won’t let it consume me.” Or… “I’m going to beat the system. I’ll make so much money that I WILL be able to buy happiness.” This story is trying to tell you that you are playing with an energy that cannot be satiated by anything you do or anything you have. This force is only satiated by the children’s version of the nectar of the divine: Mom’s soup. Mom’s rice pudding. That is to say, that there is nothing you can do to satiate it. And if you try to think you can control it, it’s going to consume everything, your whole world. It is only through the divine that we will be satiated.
And even if 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, I know a lot of people that think that way. They understand the basic trappings of money and success and fame, but they are still operating on the same program as King Kubera.
They have desires, and yes, maybe they are less lofty then Kubera’s, but they operate from the mindset that once those desires are fulfilled, then they’ll be satiated, then they’ll be happy.
“I don’t want a mansion. All I need to be happy is a small, quiet cabin in the woods.”
Not only does this thinking lead to a kind of attempted spiritual superiority (like, look at me, I’m so much more spiritual, I need less than you), but it’s actually just a trick of your mind! Because when you get that cabin, well, then you want a garden. But not just any garden, an organic garden with all the freshest veggies and herbs. Then, of course, you need a juicer so that you can juice those veggies and be super healthy. But any juicer won’t do, you need the Juice Master 10,000, because experts say that it masticates the veggies better, and well, that just makes more sense, so you have to have it.
Again, and very importantly, none of these things are, in and of themselves, the problem. The problem is the thinking that once you get THINGS, you’ll be satiated and happy, you’ll be fulfilled. It doesn’t matter if you want a lamborgini or a prius, if you think that you’ll be satisfied ONCE you have it, then you are operating from the same program as Kubera.
There is a wonderful line that I’ve seen in every version of this story that I’ve read or heard. And it’s that that Parvati instructs Kubera to feed Ganesha with love. Like 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 are 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 this exercise in Yoga Teacher trainings before, where it is essentially a desire train. Ask what you want, then ride it to the source. I want a fancy car. Why? Cause I think it will attract a beautiful woman. Why? Because I want more love in my life.
Right? It’s funny, because if you go back to any desire, you will usually find that it’s because we are wanting love. We want something to FILL the hole inside us. Now, truth will do that. Understanding who you are will do that. And that understanding tends to universally fill us with more love. I think that is a clear sign of someone who has realized some truth. They are more loving. Their cup is filled up with love, and so it spills over. And I’m not talking about bliss bunnies here, people thinking that life should just be about love and bliss and puppies and fluffy clouds. But I am willing to go so far as to say that if your spiritual practice or beliefs aren’t in some way revealing more love and compassion for yourself and others, you might want to try something else.
So this story… it’s trying to show us that consumption breeds more consumption. Wealth, money, fame, success, power are 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. If you’re looking for happiness or fulfillment from the transient world, the material world of STUFF, then you will never find fulfillment.
Fulfillment ultimately comes from the divine. We can connect to that source of fulfillment by looking inward.
As we discussed in Part I of this mini series, that doesn’t mean that you have to reject wealth. It is simply a warning to all that says fulfillment doesn’t come at the end of the rainbow. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow only leads to wanting more pots and more rainbows. Consumption breads consumption. Acquisition breads more acquisition. It doesn’t matter if you want less stuff, or less expensive stuff, if you think any STUFF can fulfill you, then you’ll be left wanting.
The story is a reminder and warning that fulfillment doesn’t come from the outside. It doesn’t come from acquiring something you think you don’t yet have. It comes from realizing what is already there. What is inside you. The grace and love of the divine.
Have stuff or don’t have stuff. It doesn’t much matter. What matters is what actually will bring fulfillment, and it’s not the newest iPhone. It’s not 50,000 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 everything. That love, that connection, comes by looking inward, instead of outward.
But life is still very complex. It’s challenging. I mean… we live in a world of stuff, of money, of Facebook and Instagram. 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 place, that time, are never met.
So then what? Sure, look inward, meditate, get to know the self. But then what? How do we engage the world?
We’ll have to wait until next time to explore those ideas further! I hope you’ll join us again! Namaste!