Introduction to Saraswati
Saraswati, which literally means “she who flows,” is the goddess of knowledge and creative arts. She represents the free flow of wisdom and consciousness. In the Rig Veda, she is the the ultimate power of divine speech that created the universe (Vak Devi), and is therefore seen as the mother of the Vedas, and mother of all mantras, as she created language as a vehicle for divine power. She is the equivalent to Mother Matrika for Kashmir Shaivites. Chants to her are called the ‘Saraswati Vandana’ often begin and end Vedic rituals.
The Sanskrit word sara means “essence” and swa means “Self.” Thus Saraswati means “the essence of the Self,” which continues to expresses itself in an uninterrupted flow (similar to the Tao in Taoism).
It is believed that goddess Saraswati graces human beings with the powers of speech, wisdom and learning. She has four hands representing four aspects of human personality in learning: mind, intellect, alertness and ego. She has sacred scriptures in one hand and a lotus – the symbol of true knowledge – in the second. Hindus worship her not for “academic knowledge”, but for “divine knowledge” essential to achieve liberation.
She is dressed in white – the symbol of purity – and rides on a white swan – symbolizing Sattwa Guna or purity and discrimination.
The Divine River
Saraswati was also a divine river of the Vedas, which provided food, water, and sustenance. Today she has been reduced to a mere trickle of a river, which leads many scholars to believe that the Vedas are much older than previously thought.
The now extinct river Saraswati, once an integral part of Vedic culture is associated with Saraswati the Goddess of Knowledge. Legend has it that when Shiva opened his third eye, the flame that emanated threatened to destroy everything in its path. Only Saraswati the source of wisdom was unperturbed by the power of the flame, owing to her firm understanding that the flame would only destroy what was impure. She then took the form of a river, carried the flame deep into the sea and transformed it into a fire-breathing mare and declared that the creature of destruction would stay underground as long as wisdom was sought after and that it would surface if this search was totally abandoned.
She Who Flows
Saraswati can remind us in every moment to lay aside the obstacles generated by ego, to allow pure inner wisdom to flow. Embracing the flow means embracing humility and grace, and living with compassion and discernment.
“She who flows” is also the flow of the tradition from guru to disciples, generation after generation. It is the flow of mantra, of knowledge, and the gradual realization of the permeation of all things by divinity.
“Om Aim Saraswatyai Namah”