My Lady knows that I fall asleep most easily in the early morning, beneath the grey glow cast by a cloudy sky. I rest my head upon the pillow, beneath my bedroom window, and my mind soon wanders away.
Not long after, my heart takes flight through the glassy panes, without leaving so much as a trace of the silver wings that were granted by Her grace. It joins the dawn choir to sing with the birds She taught so well.
Worship of Saraswati Devi dates back to the early Vedic period in India (1500 BCE), where she was the presiding spirit of a sacred and possibly mythical river. The name of the river is believed to be derived from the proto-Indo-Iranian *sáras-vat-ī, which supposedly means “marshy” or “full of pools”. Another proposed etymology derives her name from the root *sar, which means “flow”. Though this latter theory has been widely repeated, it was apparently not favored by Manfred Mayrhofer, a linguist specializing in Sanskrit and Indo-Iranian languages.(1)
In modern worship, Saraswati’s origins as a river deity have been obscured. She is a deity of wisdom, and a patroness of learning and the arts. Modern commenters sometimes derive her name from Sanskrit Sāra and Sva, meaning of “essence of self-knowledge”. While not a historically valid etymology, it certainly captures Lady Saraswati’s character.
(1) Information taken from Wikipedia entry “Sarasvati River“
Saraswati Devi’s worship can be traced back to the early Vedic era in India (ca.1500 BCE), when she was honored in the form of a sacred river of the same name. Long ago, the Vedic sages performed their rituals on Her banks. Hymns in the Rig Veda extol Her might, as Her waters could break the backs of mountains (1). The river itself may be long gone, and the facts of its existence have become the source of much controversy,* but Saraswati remains.
(1.) Rig Veda. Book 6, Hymn 61
*Yes, it’s Wikipedia, but it’s a good overview of the scholarly debates on the subject. So bite me.
One of the founders of the Western Buddhist Order (now rebranded as Triratna) wrote a book called Meeting the Buddhas. In it he described the familiar Buddhist icons known as mandalas as maps of one’s inner life and priorities. He asked us, his readers, what would be at the center if we made our own mandala.
I wrote in a previous post here, that I would put My Lady at the center of my own mandala. It was a reflexive answer, unprompted by any thought. Of course she goes there! Where else would she go?
The answer of course, is that there is more than one Saraswati in my mandala. She has ended up in every quarter and corner of my mandala and my life. She is the mandala just as she is my life.
I give myself to you in perfect trust, as an offering with perfect love.
One of the founders of the Western Buddhist Order, now known as Triratna, posed a question to readers in his book, Meeting the Buddhas: if your life was a mandala, what would be at the center? Is it your family, your job, your faith…what?
The three years since I began a formal relationship with My Lady Saraswati have gone by very quickly. Yet I feel as though She has always been in my life. I’m fairly certain she actually has, but I’m honestly also convinced that these feelings have more to do with how She has radically reordered my priorities and claimed her place in the center of my life’s mandala.
My Lady is called upon as a goddess of wisdom and a patroness of learning by traditions across the world, from India to Japan. She is known not just as Saraswati, but as Yangchenma and Benzaiten-sama. She is a goddess of sense-finding and pattern making, of narrative construction and storytelling. She forces chaos into coherence, and brings meaning to human existence by forcing sound into shapes called words, and carving lines into things called writing. My Lady is a cosmic goddess.