I mentioned in one of my recent posts that I’ve begun looking into bhakti yoga. (So many feels!) I’m incredibly thankful for the help of Silence Maestas, who recommended many resources to me. One of these was Dance of Divine Love, by Graham M. Schweig.
As new copies were retailing for $60USD I quickly flipped to the “buy used” tab, where it was being sold for less than half that. It turns out, the most reasonably priced copy was inscribed by the author.
I can live with that. 😉
I finally caved and purchased a couple of books on Bhakti yoga. One was a small tract by Swami Vivekananda. The other was The Yoga of Spiritual Devotion, which is a translation of the Narada Bhakti Sutras, with commentary by Prem Prakash.
The former was a slight disappointment for no real rational reason other than its dry, cold tone, but the latter has broken me wide open. I’m not sure how I should proceed, except to surrender.
So surrender I shall.
I found my polytheism in the suburbs of Tokyo, in a Shinto Shrine to a Buddhist Goddess called Benzaiten-sama. She is better known as the Hindu goddess Saraswati, but She is worshipped across pretty much all of South and Southeast Asia under many names. In Tibet alone She has a myriad of epithets, most famously Yangchenma, “goddess of melodious sound.”
In Japan though, she is Benzaiten-sama. She came across the waters from China and Korea with books and Buddhism, while I came roaring out of the skies jet-lagged and stumbling.
I’d worked with Her for a few months, and already fallen deeply in love, but it was not until I’d stood on the grounds of one of Her many shrines and met fellow believers that I truly understood what that love meant.
My polytheism was born of hospitality for both foreign mortals and foreign gods.
My polytheism is community in diversity
I found a Saraswati puja online quite by accident, while doing research for a class project. The puja is short and simple, something I can do in the morning. The only problem is that I already have something I do in the morning – my Buddhist devotions. This is a problem, and My Lady is not giving much in the way of advice. She seems to feel that I have to sort it out myself…
My Lady Saraswati is a being of the most utterly refined sattvic energy, according to Hindu sources. Poems and prose describe her as beautiful, fair, luminous like the full moon. She is crystalline and shining. Saraswati is pure consciousness given form and dynamic energy. Saraswati Maa is my love and my life. I live and breathe for her. In many ways I live and breathe thanks to her.
Tomorrow is Vasant Panchami, a spring festival in Northern India. It is also Saraswati’s birthday, and the day that her puja is held. While Vasant Panchami as a spring festival is pretty much confined to northern India (for reasons of climate, obviously), the Indian government has promoted Saraswati Puja as a Pan-Indian holiday in an effort to boost literacy rates.
The current literacy rate in India is 71.2%; this is well below the global average of 84%. There is also a stark gap between the sexes. In 2011, when the last census was performed (and when the literacy rate was measured at 75%) male literacy rate was 82.14% while the women only came in at 65.46%.
The title of this blog came from an experience I had with Saraswati. I was struggling to find the names for my path and for my relationship with her, when I heard her say quite clearly, you’re my hamsa, silly goose!
For those of you who don’t know, a hamsa is a semi-mythical waterfowl, variously identified as either a swan or goose. There is debate on which creature it actually is. Both birds fit the bill, in my opinion. (Pun truly not intended. I’m so, so sorry.) The hamsa was said to have the ability to separate nectar from water, and its flight was symbolic of the pure soul’s journey through samsara and into moksha.
I didn’t know the deeper theological symbolism when I chose to change my blog’s name from The Red Faery to Flight of the Hamsa. I only knew that the creature was Saraswati’s mount (vahana).
So, she got me again…