I realized a little while ago that I make many of my decisions out of fear. I honestly don’t think this is unusual for someone in my position and with my personal history, and it doesn’t surprise me.
What did upset me was realizing how much of my spiritual path was based on fear. I’m not afraid of hellfire and damnation, mind you. I’m afraid of being yelled at. Afraid of being bullied. Afraid of being called out. I’m afraid of being wrong.
I’ve been so afraid of being called wrong that I don’t know what I think is right.
So I’ll start with what I know is true.
I love you, Saraswati Devi.
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
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.
Words are what we use to share reality with one another, but reality lies beyond them. This doesn’t mean that words are false or untrue, or bad or wrong. I think words are absolutely wonderful things. They are the mask that the gods wear to help us understand.
At least, My Lady masks herself in words.
My Lady wears masks made of many words. She’s worn many names. It’s fun to see which one she’s wearing, which one she’s really behind. I grab it with my mind and pull with my thoughts, but when She shows herself to me, I can only understand what I’ve witnessed by comparing Her luminous face to the many masks I’ve seen.
I didn’t believe in omens, or rather I didn’t believe I’d ever see one. My practice is so small-scale and personal, why would I need the “cosmic clue by four” as it’s called? My Lady is usually both very direct and very gentle in getting my attention, and in my head, omens were neither of these things.
Then came the move from my apartment back to my childhood home. I was relinquishing a great deal of independence (and space), and I wondered how Saraswati Maa felt about it. I was worried, frankly. Would she be ashamed of me? Angry? Should I apologize, since most of Our things had to be packed away?
The last day I went to the city to clean and pack, my mother took me to a fast-food restaurant I used to love. Wouldn’t you know it? Outside there were two geese, with their little pack of fluffy, adorable goslings.
OK. That was about as gentle and direct an omen as I could ask for. ❤
I was struggling to find the words for what’s happening to me, but Saraswati found them first: I am in spiritual quarantine. I’m no longer allowed to work with deities other than her, and other deities are no longer allowed to approach me. My signal clarity lately has been so bad that…well…this is necessary.
So I really loooove this book I’m reading, because it finally untangled some complicated feels I’ve been having about how I’m experiencing the Divine. I’ve said before that the gods are external to us, and I’ve also said that they are internal to us. The thing is, I’m increasingly feeling that the latter is more often the case.
However, as soon as you say so in this culture, it starts sounding like you’re denying the reality of the gods. It doesn’t help that there are Buddhist teachers who have gone on record as saying that meditational deities “are not separate” from you (general you). So is Buddhism atheistic?
Well, no…not any more than it is nihilistic (HINT: it’s NOT.)
Why? Well, one of the basic teachings of Mahayana Buddhism is that nothing is separate from anything else. In the historically quite prominent Yogachara school in fact, places quite heavy emphasis on how harmful it is to separate the subject from the object. Thus, everything is an “internal” experience.