Saraswati; the Goddess of Insight, Wisdom and Sound
Saraswati had been whispering to me for well over a year. So sweet were her whispers that I could no longer ignore it, and I realized it was time to honor the essence of ‘The Flowing One’ in ceremony one beautiful Caribbean coastal night.
In the beginning there was the word. In Hindu mythology this word is understood as the sound of Om, the fundamental vibration of creation. The root myth of Saraswati describes the creation of the universe as the moment that she emerged out of Brahma’s mouth; riding a snow white swan (hansa), carrying a lute (veena), glowing with radiance and beauty, her very essence reverberating with the mantra Om. That sound carried on Brahma’s breath would eventually manifest as all the worlds.
Saraswati is the active energy and power of Brahma, the Creator, she is the embodiment of creation itself. She embodies the creative flow through language, speech and sound. She also embodies the power of discernment (viveka) to understand to separate our lower self impulses from the ones that come from the higher Self, represented by her vehicle, the swan. In Hindu mythology, the hansa is a sacred bird, which if offered a mixture of milk and water, is said to be able to drink the milk alone. It thus symbolizes discrimination between the good from the bad, the essence from the superficial, the eternal from the evanescent. The swan is also symbolism for spiritual perfection, transcendence and moksha.
I feel the energy of Saraswati as the power of insight, music, learning and the ability to manifest my dreams into reality. She has long been my favorite form of the goddess. She is a part of the trinity of Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati, (the consorts of Brahma, Visnhu and Shiva), each the active power behind their husbands cosmic functions of creation, maintenance and dissolution.
To continue the tale, upon her emergence from his mouth, Brahma takes one look at her and falls wildly in love, like so many of us do with our own creative power. He grows a fifth face in order to look at her and take in her incredible beauty. In one version of the story, she curses him for this act of primordial sexual harassment and says that no more temples will be built for him - perhaps one of the reasons that we only see two temples dedicated to Brahma in India. In other more accepted versions of the story he joins his essence with her. Together they create Manu, who does the actual task of overseeing the entire evolutionary process.
Other stories tell that Krishna divided himself into male and female – Purusha (pure spirit) and Prakriti (the energy that will become matter) His feminine takes on five forms, one of which is said to be Saraswati.
So popular is this goddess that Vishnu also claims her story as a co-wife to Lakshmi, perhaps representing the age-old duality of the sensual versus the spiritual, or bhukti (enjoyment) versus mukti (spiritual liberation). Jealousy eventually makes Vishnu divorce her in favor of Lakshmi, and I have heard it said that one should honor reverence to Saraswati before Lakshmi, as she is more jealous by nature!
So much of my own life was governed by the sensual before I allowed myself to open up to the peace and wholeness of the spiritual path offered to us in yoga. Indeed spiritual transformation is the earmark of the goddess. As awakeners of Spirit, the goddesses embody transformative power, especially the power to kindle the spiritual in each of us.
Interestingly, the Brahma story also ends in divorce, and Saraswati again ends up alone. More interested in her own spiritual pursuits than that of being a devout wife, Saraswati represents the essence of all seekers of truth, and the tenacity required to live a life dedicated to spirituality. I hear this and honor it deeply. The fact however, that all the stories end the same way gave me years of hesitation to honor her essence within me as one and the same. During my recent journey to Costa Rica to facilitate a yoga teacher training, I repeatedly received messages in various forms to integrate her teachings deeper within me. Resisting for a long time the idea of taking a spiritual name, her whispers kept getting louder and louder, until I could no longer ignore the sweet message that I was receiving in my heart. So one night, after the last confirmation I seemed to need, I stood up in sacred ceremony, honoring the truth I felt within me, and repeated to the world, “I am Saraswati.”