A new addition to my meditation altar is a wall hanging on Saraswati. There are so many Hindu deities, Gods and Goddesses. And many of them are variations or reincarnations of another, so it's a very complex and confusing system. I picked up a great book in town the other day which has been extremely helpful in deciphering the madness, and I've also gotten some great info from Danny Arguetty's book " Nourishing the Teacher", which I'm reading as homework for my 500hr training (which starts in a month!). Saraswati is a goddess that I'd glossed over several times, because its much easier to connect with the ones you see all the time around town....Ganesha, Shiva, Lakshmi...the ones that tourists are familiar with and have on tshirts, bags and notebooks. Anywho, Saraswati is now part of my morning ritual and meditation altar because her symbolism really resonates with what I'm going through at the moment. Ill share a bit about her....
(from "Nourishing the Teacher"):
"Saraswati was first identified as the river goddess, who descended to earth to offer fertility, bounty and riches. Over time she also came to be known as the celestial guardian of knowledge, sacred speech, and creative arts. Saraswati embodies the process of acquiring proficiency and refining skill while staying open to the fluidity of the moment. Revered musicians and artists are deeply steeped in the sara ("essence" or "marrow") of their practice, yet they have the capacity to improvise with their own individual creativity and heart. When people embark on the path of learning a musical instrument, writing literature or sculpting clay,they must first learn the fundamentals before progressing into a more free flowing realm of their chosen practice. The dynamic balance represented by this sacred goddess is not only limited to the arts, as anyone successful has to achieve a certain level of competence before they can experiment with expanding the boundaries of their profession. Saraswati encourages us to embrace the seeming contradiction that both Essence and Flow can exist in the same breath. The cultivation of 'sara' provides us with a deep sense of stability.
If we get stuck in the theory or structure of a practice and never release into the flow of the waters, we miss out on the opportunity for fuller, richer understanding. Alternatively, if we only play freely and never take the time to slow down, acquire deeper knowledge, and integrate our learning , then we miss out on another vital aspect of experience.
Illustrated, Saraswati is depicted seated on a lotus and playing the vina with...
- a white swan: conveys the paradox of essence and flow. Swans migrate along a relatively similar route each year as they follow familiar paths. The knowledge of migration is passed from generation to generation, party learned, partly genetic. The changing of light creates an internal shift that prepares the swans' bodies for the long journey ahead. The migration process supports the birds in maximizing the daylight hours of the summer months, while ensuring a reliable source of sustenance in southern latitudes during the colder ones. (Side note: I identify with this because I make my money in the summer to sustain my travels in the winter!). Although the swan exemplifies deep-rooted knowledge and consistency of action, it also demonstrates an ability to respond to the flow of the journey. Often, these remarkable birds will stop at the same exact ponds each year, but on some trips they will break at a different body of water due to weather conditions, predators, or human influence. As their voyage unfolds, there is always a backup plan poised as their instinct guides them through the sky. Thus, the completion of their annual expedition requires innate knowledge coupled with creative flexibility.
- the Vedas: representative of the importance of foundational knowledge as we endeavor towards creative expression
- the Vina : her love for rhythm and the dedication required to be fluent in a skill
- the peacock : represents seeing with multiple eyes and taking a broader view
- white sari : represents wisdom, a clean slate for learning and abundant knowledge. "
To me, Saraswati symbolizes new beginnings....moving into it with a firm foundation of knowledge (the Vedas) but being fluid with wherever the river takes you on the journey.
The following popular 'pranam mantra' or Sanskrit prayer, Saraswati devotees utter with utmost devotion eulogizes the goddess of knowledge and arts:
Om Saraswati Mahabhagey, Vidye Kamala Lochaney
Viswarupey Vishalakshmi, Vidyam Dehi Namohastutey
Jaya Jaya Devi, Charachara Sharey, Kuchayuga Shobhita, Mukta Haarey
Vina Ranjita, Pustaka Hastey, Bhagavati Bharati Devi Namohastutey
The beautiful human form of Saraswati comes to the fore in this English translation of the Saraswati hymn:
"May Goddess Saraswati,
who is fair like the jasmine-colored moon,
and whose pure white garland is like frosty dew drops;
who is adorned in radiant white attire,
on whose beautiful arm rests the veena,
and whose throne is a white lotus;
who is surrounded and respected by the Gods, protect me.
May you fully remove my lethargy, sluggishness, and ignorance."
Sent from my iPad