As a child, Ganesha loved playing with his bows and arrows. Spotting a white cat one day, he decided to play hunter and shot arrows at it. The terrified creature ran for cover, but Ganesha thought it was playing a game.
He looked behind a tree – there it was, trembling and round-eyed. “Aha, got you! ” said the chubby god and shot at it again. Miaowing with fear, the cat scooted for cover under a log. Ganesha chased it down and pulled it out. He rolled it around in the mud and threw it up in the air like a furry ball! Once more, the cat escaped. Ganesha lost interest and went back home.
He was in for a shock. There sat Parvati, his lovely mother, her face and arms scratched and mud-stained.
“Ma, how did you get hurt?” cried the little fellow.
“I’ve no idea,” said Parvati. “What have you been up to?”
“I was playing with a cat and..um...I was pretty rough with her.”
“Now I know why I have these bruises!” said Parvati. Drawing Ganesha close, she explained, “Ganesha, my body is the world and every living creature in it. I was that cat, too! Whatever you do to other beings, you do to me as well!”
Ganesha was stunned and deeply remorseful. “So my every little action matters…wow! I’m so sorry, Ma, I’ll never do harm to anything…ever!”
Smiling at her son, Parvati said, “That may not be possible, son. But do be aware of your actions and harm as little as possible.”
Nodding, Ganesha ran off to find the little cat and make peace with her.
This ancient myth works at many levels. When told to a young person, it brings home the message of non-violence, for which child can bear to see its mother hurt? It also exemplifies the concept of the sacred feminine. By personifying the earth and all of creation as a benevolent and beautiful goddess, the legend drives home the vital importance of respecting the environment and caring for it.