By Megan Tackett
Sopris Sun Staff
It’s hard to miss the newest addition to the True Nature Peace Garden: a 6-foot-tall, 2,860-pound granite statue of Ganesha, a well-loved figure in Hinduism and Buddhism.
“Ganesha is a very important deity in India. He is the remover of obstacles to our happiness and purpose in this life,” Eaden Shantay, co-founder and co-owner of True Nature, said in an email while in Costa Rica. Shantay shares his founder and owner credits with his wife, Deva Shantay. In December, the pair traveled to Tiruvannamalai in southern India to further their studies of Vedanta, a spiritual philosophy based on India’s sacred scriptures.
“We did want to bring back a Ganesha sculpture for the True Nature Peace Garden and about-to-be completed Kiva and spa building, but had no idea how it might happen,” he said of the statue’s origin. “As the days passed on our month-long sojourn, between classes, we began to visit local sculptors and explore their work. We found a sculptor we liked very much, Rajesh, and after a few discussions, commissioned a large Ganesha for the Peace Garden,” he continued, adding that several people became involved in said discussions. “We used our rickshaw driver, Siva Das, as an interpreter. Siva Das then introduced us to a friend of his who was a shipper of goods.”
The Shantays purchased the stone — “‘male blackstone,’ which is actually white,” as Eaden described it — and Rajesh was able to begin his work in January. The resulting statue finally arrived in the United States in August, first spending several weeks in San Francisco before its successful delivery to True Nature “very auspiciously at 11:50 a.m., Aug. 21, during the very peak of the solar eclipse,” Shantay said.
“That was pretty wild,” Carolyn Yates, a yoga instructor and author at True Nature, said of the sculpture’s timely arrival at the center.
On Friday, Sept. 29, about 50 people gathered to witness the sculpture’s official unveiling. James Swartz, a prolific author known as Ramji for his Vedanta teachings, was present at the event and gave a blessing at the ceremony. The Shantays travelled with Swartz during their December trek to India and consider him one of their teachers.
“He did the blessing and gave some background on the symbology,” Yates said about Swartz’s presentation. “Just having him here to bless it was pretty great,” she said.
Even the deity’s name is steeped in symbolism. “Ga” denotes “Buddhi,” or intellect, and “Na” represents “Vijnana,” or wisdom. The name is a Sanskrit compound word, combining “gana” and “isha,” the latter of which translates to “ruler” or “lord.” But the symbology behind Ganesha doesn’t stop with his name.
“His body has many symbols,” Shantay said. “Ganesha’s big elephant head represents knowledge of the scripture. The big stomach represents his fullness and complete satisfaction with who he is as love. His one tusk, non-duality — that we are all connected in this life. And finally, the rat at his feet represents his mastery of his fears and desires, which keep us bound and suffering.”
Even Friday’s unveiling date carried a deeper meaning. “Sept. 29 is a very important day for Ganesha, representing freedom and knowledge, per the ancient Vedic calendar from India,” Shantay said.
The sculpture’s placement is fitting. “Ganesha [is the] remover of obstacles, gatekeeper and bestower of new beginnings,” Eric Mitchell, general manager at True Nature, said in an email. “He will watch over the True Nature Peace Garden near the entrance to the Kiva, which we expect to be completed in February.”
The Kiva is True Nature’s next phase of development for its peace garden. “The Kiva will be a destination teaching and performing venue for many disciplines of healing, wisdom, self study and art,” Mitchell said. When completed, the staff at True Nature plan to host a grand opening ceremony.
In the more immediate future, Swartz will complete a four-part seminar series on a concept he calls the “Yoga of Love,” which also serves as the title of one of his recent books. “This Sunday [Oct. 8] was actually a bonus — it was supposed to be three parts,” Yates said regarding the series. “It’s a look at relationships through this yoga philosophy of Vedanta; it’s a vast body of work. Vedanta itself is an ancient backbone of yoga and of lifestyle.”