A Tribute to Foundation of Bindupoint Center for Presence
“May the rivers, overflowing grant us their grace”, a common chant sang by many of Harappan people (Rishis) whom lived at the banks of Saraswati’s river Northwest of India, enchanted by her purity, abundance, beauty and brilliance. Not an ordinary river, Saraswati originated in an ocean in the heaven of Himalayas Mountain and flows down to earth and represents an ever-flowing stream of celestial grace which purifies and fertilizes the earth. The poets, artists, scientists and philosophers of this civilization sat at her banks and indulged themselves in the inspirations bestowed by Saraswati’s river. The Harappan civilization thrived for centuries nestled by her side from which the oldest known writings were raised in India, the Vedas.
The Vedas (knowledge) are a large body of texts composed in Vedic Sanskrit literature that are the most sacred scriptures of Hindu teachings, originating in ancient India. In this way Saraswati river played a crucial role in the development of this culture and many more to come. The Veda writers became known as Vegdevic people while Saraswati River became known as Vegdevi, goddess of the word. The esoteric were magnetized by Saraswati’s impeccable nurturing site; with her presence she brought with her the distant memory of knowledge and wisdom from cosmic creation. From dawn she became known as dispeller of darkness and ignorance and the one who enlightens the being. Her sheer site of beauty, purity and abundance became an inspirational source where she taught humankind to write so that he could write songs of wisdom, which in turn became the Vedas, the holy texts of humankind. The Vedas are associated as Saraswati’s children.
It was understood that Nature is Mother, that every crack in a stone to a giant waterfall, all possess a form of goddess/god-manifest memory within. The early civilizations may not have had the technology we have today, but their lives pulsated in oneness with the heart of Nature. Their union wasn’t a debatable issue, it was a mystical fact-understood. So, to see one have her or his gaze laid at the Saraswati River for hours was as natural as drinking from it. Saraswati’s river possessed an enticing effect that not only sustained people’s needs agriculturally but also spiritually. She became the well of unlimited knowledge, allowing the listener to hear whispers of cosmic evolution, as the Divine would speak through the River Saraswati, the Mother of the Vedas.
As we embody the mother flame in our hearts, we start to identify with many of Her characteristics associated with the Divine Mother. We come to understand the flow of Saraswati pervading everything from culture and speech to the arts and sciences. Her essence is to raise the inner flame of self-knowledge, just like her name, “Sara” is the one who gives essence, “swa” of its own self…. the essence of self, or she who has the flow. The flowing waters through her human beings flow with inspirations into action. The Vedas personify Saraswati throughout the text as a river Goddess calling her the great Goddess stream, the Saraswati’s River is a physical manifestation of flowing heavenly wisdom and so she became personified as goddess Saraswati. In post Vedic age she became increasingly associated with literature, arts, music; representing intelligence, consciousness, cosmic knowledge, creativity, education, and enlightenment as it was her River that fostered the inspiration of the early written word. She became the river of consciousness that enlivens creation. To realize her one must rejoice in the serenity of the spirit.
For centuries mystics are telling us that sound creates matter, that the world is a reflection of infinite combinations of sound pattern, that everything big or small, from you and me are coagulations of sound waves. So as the bearer of the waters, Saraswati, the main muse of every artist became the original impeller of sound, she taught humans the power of the spoken word (Vac), and its creative force in the universe revealing language and the written word. Soon Saraswati became the realm of artistic and poetic inspiration, philosophic insights. She became a source of profound connection to fluidity on any aspect, water, speech, thought, fortune, intelligence, nourishment, brilliance, contentment, splendor and devotion. In the Vedas Saraswati is the core of true and sweet speech, awakener of happy thoughts, she dwells on the tongue of the poets, possessing great speech, Saraswati is present whenever speech exists, she is the power that transforms not only people but an entire civilization.
It would be so easy to visualize, sitting beside the Saraswati’s River, watching the glistening shimmers of light reflecting on the waters to become inspired to see and hear what’s not so obvious but feels as Divine communion of Nature to the soul. Saraswati bestows spiritual knowledge upon us, she refines the soul, and her goal is to reunite us with our higher self. Her continued strumming of waves was the direct impact where music was inspired and the first musical instrument according to Indic mythology was created, called the veena. Veena, a violin-like instrument, represented as mastery over physical organs and actions, where veena is symbolic of life and strings are symbolic of feelings, a source of the primeval sound energy that forms the entire cosmos. Hence, she becomes the representation of perfection of all arts and is associated with (Anuraga), the love for rhythm of music which represents all emotions and feelings expressed in music. The veena vocalizes a quality of (Gayaki), which creates the feeling that divinity itself is speaking through the flow of music, the veena is considered the spinal cord, and the creation of music stirs the invocation of knowledge within the soul. Her image in most part has always been portrayed with a veena, her favorite instrument, and the hymns became revelations envisioned by the rishis through her grace and presence.
Saraswati’s images are almost always portrayed with her veena, sitting or standing playing her music with her two hands which indicates her activity in the physical world. She has been portrayed with four arms denoting her omnipresence and omnipotence, in which her two back arms represent her presence in the spiritual world. The four hands represent the four elements of the inner personality. The mind (manas), is represented by the front right hand, the intellect (buddhi), by the front left hand, the conditioned consciousness (chitta), by the rear left hand, and the ego (ahankara), by the rear right hand. If she has been portrayed with four hands her front two are always holding the veena, and the rear ones hold a book of sacred scriptures symbolizing her knowledge of intellectual subjects from science to philosophy. In the other hand she holds a crystal rosary, a mala, signifying spirituality, transparency, concentration, meditation and contemplation leading to (Samadhi), union with God. The rosary in the rear right hand also represents conveying that true knowledge acquired with love and devotion melts the ego, and results in liberation for the seeker from the bondage of the physical world. The 51-bead rosary also represents the number of the letters in the Sanskrit. Another popular image of her two rear hands are where she holds two different mudras (gestures), Abhaya-mudra, a gesture for fearlessness, protection and peace and the other hand in Varada-mudra, gesture for compassion, generosity, charity, patience and meditative concentration.
Saraswati is always sitting or standing on a lotus flower. A lotus symbolizes nature and the essence of all things and beings in the universe, denoting supreme knowledge, sitting in it signifies she is rooted in the supreme reality in her transcendent nature, floating above the imbalance of the world. Saraswati is also known for (Hamsavahini), she who has a hamsa (swan), as her vehicle. Her vehicle is a white swan symbolizing (sattwa guna), purity and discrimination. It is said that swan’s sensitive beak can distinguish pure milk from mixture of milk and water. Therefore, the swan is a symbol of spiritual transcendence and perfection in Hinduism, it is a dimension of human existence that rises above the physical world. This indicates that one must acquire and apply knowledge of discrimination for the good of humanity, verses knowledge dominated by the ego that can destroy the world. Spiritual masters and heroes are sometimes called supreme swans (Paramahamsa). In most of Saraswati’s images a peacock is always present watching her anxiously waiting to serve Her as a vehicle. A peacock is a symbol of worldly knowledge, fame, success, and has an unpredictable behavior, its mood changes based on the weather. Saraswati chooses the swan as her vehicle not the peacock signifying overcoming fear, indecision, and fickleness in order to acquire true knowledge.
Saraswati’s appearance mostly has to do with how she was seen at the banks of her River. The reflection of the moon on the glistening surface of her skin has mesmerized the gazer with the brilliance of the moon. She is said to be physically beautiful with skin as white and shinning as the moon. She is almost always said to be pure white like snow and the moon that shines brilliantly and whitely like innumerable moons. She has a moon-like bright face; she has further been described as the goddess having the body shinning like ten million moons. Her garments are said to be mostly white with fiery purity and she is adorned with a crescent moon as her tiara. She is portrayed as calm and peaceful with introspective smile and serenity of one who drives complete fulfillment from her inner depth. Her presence is always elegant and simple with not much adoration of jewels showing her transcendence over worldly materialism. Her connection to the moon also speaks of ancient and present knowledge of the Divine Feminine Wisdom. Honoring its cycle of death and rebirth, while representing the moon to be the reflection of our feelings and our subconscious.
There were more than 300 villages and towns that lived in Saraswati’s banks called Saraswati-Sindhu civilization, where the Vedic ashrams also thrived. The river bed dried up in 1500 B.C in many stretches because of river capture and sandstorms. The scarcity of water forced people to migrate, but the Saraswati-Sindhu civilization didn’t vanish, people migrated east to Ganga and Yamuna and Godavari plains. Saraswati had such impact on the lives of many that after her river disappeared, there were many rivers later renamed after her like Arganabad River now in Afghanistan was renamed Saraswati. The Vegdevic people praised the River as “The best of Mothers, best of Rivers, best of Goddesses, oh Saraswati”. There is a yearly festival called “Vasant Panchami”, celebrating Saraswati’s birthday on the 5th day of the bright of lunar month of Magha, which falls during January-February. The Hindus celebrate her Essence in great fervor in temples, homes, and all educational institutes. Worshiping her for embodiment of knowledge while asking her blessings for one’s educational foundation. She is also worshiped for divine knowledge essential to achieve moksha (release), liberation from reincarnation. Writers, poets, philosophers and musicians always start by evoking her presence before engaging into their actions “Saraswati Vandana”, a chant to her at the beginning and end of any Vedic lesson.
Saraswati’s gifts of wisdom continued to inspire generations to come. Her popularity sustained to grow through its viral spread into other civilizations. Devotion to her held in people’s hearts kept her essence alive while invocation to her continued to encourage, inspire, and nurture creativity for her devotees. She was given the name Sharada Peeth, (fountain head) from where all knowledge arises. She played a crucial role in Zoroastrian religion, she became known as Sroasha, wife, daughter, messenger of Ahura-Mazda the prophet, Aredvi Saraswati Anahita in the Avestan language. Moving into Indo-Iranian figure she became known as Nahid, she was venerated as the divinity of the waters (Aban). Hence associated with fertility, healing, and wisdom. And then Anahid in Armenian as moon goddess of fertility and was known as (life giver). In Kurdish she became known as goddess of all waters, and source of cosmic ocean, fertility and beauty. In the early stages of the Indian religious history, Saraswati appears as a healing goddess, this could also be traced back in the Vedic hymns, she is the Divine physician. Kathasaritasagara (potent drugs) of Saraswati were used by women of Pataliputra to cure critically ill people. She became known as Ghritasi, the one responsible for the destruction of poison, this aspect of her evolved into Buddhist goddess Janguli. According to the Vedas, Saraswati was also known as the destroyer of the snake poison. In time she became known as Manasa Devi, the snake Goddess. Manasa Devi sitting in Dhyana-mudra with a hood of seven serpents is worshiped as the supreme mistress of snakes. A peaceful well versed in all knowledge which she imparts to her devotees. This aspect is also driven from Skanda Purana, in which she is portrayed with three eyes and a blue throat, her third eye symbolic of having attained spiritual perception, and the blue throat symbolic of the consumption of human greed and selfishness as poison. A fascinating image, portraying accumulated knowledge is Mahamaya, the force and principle who creates, perpetuates and governs illusion and dream. Mahamaya is a supreme goddess, she is the manifestation of Saraswati, Laksmi and Mahakali, in this form each have divided her into half male half female. Another image, Saraswati as Mahamaya is a lingam for her lower half, and from her waist up showing her in deep meditation of supreme grace. Both these images Saraswati portray absolute integration of male/female energies, as an alchemist so to speak, one whom has achieved complete mastery embodying space and time. In Burmese, she is known as Thurthadi Tipitaka Medaw, in Thai as Suraswadee, in Chinese as Biancaitian, and the very prominent and famous Buddhist goddess in Japan as Benzaiten holding a Japanese lute as her instrument. Her attributes and expansion of her essence further reveal her as having numerous heads, and up to 16 arms, each representing a specific quality of her omnipotence.
As patriarchal dominance for centuries has shattered unity of the people and diluted the very essence of the Wisdom of the Divine Mother, by dividing the society into many casts, Matangi Devi the dark form of Saraswati that is considered a primal, and fearful form of Saraswati is portrayed as an outcast herself. Matangi is the tantric form of Saraswati; she is one of the Dasha Mahavidyas (Ten Wisdom Goddesses). Matangi dwells in the forests and jungles, her skin is black, blue or green, she wears red the color of blood, she holds her veena, and presides over all that is polluted or impure, the goddess of scraps and leftovers (Uccishtha). In some Vedic texts left overs residue is regarded as possessing great spiritual potency containing cosmic force. Matanji consumes all that is not needed and left behind. She rejoices in her wild and unorthodox domain.
Saraswati is (Sushumna), a portal of light running through densities of consciousness. Sushumna is like a celestial river that bears with its qualities of divine force necessary for application of creative and organized thought. Sushumna also represents our spinal column the main highway that consciousness flows and expresses itself through its variety of experiences; it connects us to higher states of awareness while grounds the intelligence down into our bodies. It’s a pivoting stance where the energy as light (information) flows in, circulates, inspires, enhances, strengthens, and stimulates all the energy centers of the body. Saraswati’s veena is a representation of this flow and the strings are the available and potent universal hymn that we choose to strum with, its how we set the tone to dance with the consciousness present in our lives. Saraswati’s river of consciousness is nectar of immortality, drinking from it is an act of flowing with the flow that leads into emanation of soul’s purpose. Saraswati is the primal source that calms the creation of planetary chaos through its fluidity and grounding ability, creating a system where knowledge is divided into small components necessary for development of a soul or a civilization.
Saraswati is stream of purification, she takes us onto the edge of her river and teaches us to let go, surrendering and trusting the flow while learning to receive the wisdom of the action in the process. She teaches us to always flow in any course, to recognize and dissolve any mental obstacles so she may pour her stream of knowledge onto us. Her presence is with great conviction of peace, immaculately bright, unconditionally ready to be of service. She is the stream of raw creative potential; to call on to her is to be ready to swim in the abundance of her essence, rejoicing in the pleasures of inspiration for creativity. To flow in the helm of every single thought brings focus to the task at hand while keeps the thinker in the flow of the present tense, intensifying absorption of the experience, and quickening the intelligence. Saraswati is nature in ether, she is the stream of knowledge, she pulsates in the words that we use, music that we play, new chart of galaxy that we chart, the light bulb that lights when a new idea gestates in our mind. She is the refinement of divine inspiration, eloquent and graceful to know of her is an unopened gift. To directly work with her is to lift perception to uncharted territories of inspiration that flow in the cosmos and makes up our very potent universe.