Tuesday, September 7, 2010

LS 149

149 Nithya bhuddha – She who is for ever knowledge
"Sarasvathi Namastubhyam, Varade KaamaroopiniVidyaarambham Karishyaami, Siddhir Bhavatu Mey Sada"
Meaning: Saraswati is the provider of boons and the one, who grants all our desires. As I begin my studies, I bow to the Goddess to help me in making it fruitful and make me successful in all my efforts.
The Birth of Saraswati
In the beginning there was chaos. Everything existed in a formless, fluid state. “How do I bring order to this disorder?” wondered Brahma, the creator. “With Knowledge”, said Devi. Heralded by a peacock, sacred books in one hand and a veena in the other dressed in white Devi emerged from Brahma’s mouth riding a swan as the goddess saraswati.
“Knowledge helps man find possibilities where once he saw problems.” Said the goddess. Under her tutelage Brahma acquired the ability to sense, think, comprehend and communicate. He began looking upon chaos with eyes of wisdom and thus saw the beautiful potential that lay therein.
Brahma discovered the melody of mantras in the cacophony of chaos. In his joy he named Saraswati, Vagdevi, goddess of speech and sound.The sound of mantras filled the universe with vital energy, or prana. Things began to take shape and the cosmos acquired a structure: the sky dotted with stars rose to form the heavens; the sea sank into the abyss below, the earth stood in between.Gods became lords of the celestial spheres; demons ruled the nether regions, humans walked on earth. The sun rose and set, the moon waxed and waned, the tide flowed and ebbed. Seasons changed, seeds germinated, plants bloomed and withered, animals migrated and reproduced as randomness gave way to the rhythm of life.
Brahma thus became the creator of the world with Saraswati as his wisdom.Saraswati was the first being to come into Brahma’s world. Brahma began to look upon her with eyes of desire. She turned away saying, “All I offer must be used to elevate the spirit, not indulge the senses.”
Brahma could not control his amorous thoughts and his infatuation for the lovely goddess grew. He continued to stare at Saraswati. He gave himself four heads facing every direction so that he could always be able to feast his eyes on Saraswati's beauty. Saraswati moved away from Brahma, first taking the form of a cow. Brahma then followed her as a bull. Saraswati then changed into a mare; Brahma gave chase as a horse. Every time Saraswathi turned into a bird or a beast he followed her as the corresponding male equivalent. No matter how hard Brahma tried he could not catch Saraswati in any of her forms.
The goddess with multiple forms came to be known as Shatarupa. She personified material reality, alluring yet fleeting. Saraswati Curses Brahma
Angered by his display of unbridled passion Saraswati cursed Brahma, “You have filled the world with longing that is the seed of unhappiness. You have fettered the soul in the flesh. You are not worthy of reverence. May there be hardly any temple or festival in your name.”
So it came to pass that there are only two temples of Brahma in India; one at Pushkar, Rajistan and the other in Kumbhakonam, Tamil Nadu.
Undaunted by the curse, Brahma continued to cast his lustful looks uponSaraswati. He gave himself a fifth head to enhance his gaze.
Bhairava, Shiva, Confronts Brahma
Brahma’s action motivated by desire confined consciousness and excited the ego. It disturbed the serenity of the cosmos and roused Shiva, the supreme ascetic from his meditation. Shiva opened his eyes, and saw Saraswati’s discomfort and in a fit of rage turned into Bhairava,lord of terror. His eyes were red, his growl menacing. He lunged towards Brahma and with his sharp claws, wretched off Brahma’s fifth head. The violence subdued Brahma’s passion.
Brahma’s cut head seared through Bhairava's flesh and clung to his hand sapping him of all his strength and driving him mad. The lord of terror ranted and raved losing control of his senses.
Saraswati, pleased with bhairav's timely action, rushed to his rescue. With her gentle touch she nursed him like a child, restoring his sanity.
Brahma, sobered by his encounter with the Lord of terror sought an escape from the maze of his own desire. Saraswati revealed to him the doctrine for his own liberation. Brahma sought to conduct a yagna, fire sacrifice, to cleanse himself and start anew. In order to conduct a yagna ritual the assistance of a wife is needed. Brahma chose Saraswati to be his wife and thus they were reconciled.
Saraswati, her Veena and the song of the Gandharva
The Gandharvas were demigods who sprang from the fragrance of flowers. Once they stole the Soma plant whose inebriating and invigorating sap was much sought after by the devas. The theft of the Soma infuriated all the gods.
Saraswati promised to recover the soma plant. She went to the garden of the gandharvas and with her veena created enchanting tunes: the ragas and the raginis.
“Give us this music,” begged the gandharvas.
“Only if you give back the Soma plant to the devas,” said the goddess.
The gandharvas returned the Soma plant and learned how to play music from Saraswati. In time they became celestial musicians whose melodies had more power to rouse the mind than any intoxicant.
Saraswati Outwits a Demon
A demon practiced many austerities to appease Brahma. The demon sought to conquer the three worlds and the gods feared that he may ask a boon that would make him invincible; the gods sought the help of the godess Saraswati. The goddess sat on the tongue of the demon so that when it was time to ask for a boon all he could say was, “I would like to never stay awake.”
“So be it,” said Brahma.
As a result, the demon wanted to conquer the three worlds ended up going to sleep forever.
Saraswati, Lakshmi and BrahmaBrahma created the universe with the help of Saraswati. Brahma was the guardian of the cosmos. He too needed Saraswati's support to sustain the cosmos. Using her knowledge he instituted and maintained dharma, sacred laws that ensure stability and growth in society.
Brahma also needed the help oflakshmi, goddess of wealth, who gave him the wherewithal to ensure cosmic order.
The question arose: who did Brahma need more? lakshmi or saraswati? Wealth or knowledge? The goddesses argued, “Knowledge does not fill an empty stomach.” Said lakshmi. “Wealth keeps man alive but gives no meaning to life.” Saidsaraswati.
“I need both knowledge and wealth to sustain the cosmos. Without knowledge I cannot plan. Without wealth I cannot implement a plan. Wealth sustains life; the arts give value to life. Thus both lakshmi and saraswati are needed to live a full life.
Saraswati Saves the World from Shiva’s Third Eye and the Beast of Doom
SHiva was woken from his meditations and looked around to discover a world on the brink of corruption and being unsalvageable.shiva decided it was time to wipe the slate clean. shiva, the destroyer, opened his world destroying third eye attempting to destroy the three worlds.. Out came a terrible fire that threatened all existence.
There was panic everywhere. Only saraswati remained calm. "shiva's fire burns only that which is impure and corrupt.”
She took the form of a river and with her pure waters picked up the dreaded fire from shiva's third eye. Within the folds of her water she carried the fire far away from the earth to the bottom of the sea where it transformed into a fire breathing mare called Badavagni – the beast of doom.
“So long as the world is pure and man wise, this terrible creature will remain on the bottom of the sea. When wisdom is abandoned and man corrupts the world, Badavagni will emerge and destroy the universe,” foretold the wise goddess.
In Her popular images and pictures, Goddess Saraswati is generally depicted with four arms (some pictures may show only two arms), wearing a white sari and seated on a white lotus. She holds a book and a rosary in Her rear two hands, while the front two hands are engaged in the playing of a lute (veena). Her right leg is shown slightly pushing against Her left leg. She uses a swan as Her vehicle. There is a peacock by Her side gazing at Her. This symbolism illustrates the following spiritual ideas:
The lotus is a symbol of the Supreme Reality, and a white lotus also denotes supreme knowledge. By sitting on a lotus, Saraswati signifies that She is Herself rooted in the Supreme Reality, and symbolizes supreme knowledge. The white color symbolizes purity and knowledge. The white sari that the Goddess is wearing denotes that She is the embodiment of pure knowledge.
The four amms denote Her omnipresence and omnipotence. The two front amms indicate Her activity in the physical world and the two back arms signify 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.
The left side of the body symbolizes the qualities of the heart and the right side symbolizes activities of the mind and intellect. A book in the rear left hand signifies that knowledge acquired must be used with love and kindness to promote prosperity of mankind.
The rosary signifies concentration, meditation, and contemplation, leading to samadhi, or union with God. A rosary in the rear right hand representing ego conveys that true knowledge acquired with love and devotion melts the ego and results in liberation (moksha) of the seeker from the bondage to the physical world.
The Goddess is shown playing a musical instrument that is held in Her front hands, which denote mind and intellect. This symbol conveys that the seeker must tune his mind and intellect in order to live in perfect harmony with the world. Such harmonious living enables the individual to utilize acquired knowledge for the welfare of all mankind.
Two swans are depicted on the left side of the Goddess. A swan is said to have a sensitive beak that enables it to distinguish pure milk from a mixture of milk and water. A swan, therefore, symbolizes the power of discrimination, or the ability to discriminate between right and wrong or good and bad. Saraswati uses the swan as Her carrier. This indicates that one must acquire and apply knowledge with discrimination for the good of mankind. Knowledge that is dominated by ego can destroy the world.
A peacock is sitting next to Saraswati and is anxiously waiting to serve as Her vehicle. A peacock depicts unpredictable behavior as its moods can be influenced by the changes in the weather. Saraswati is using a swan as a vehicle and not the peacock. This signifies that one should overcome fear, indecision, and fickleness in order to acquire true knowledge.
In the Rig-Veda (6,61,7), Saraswati is credited, in association with Indra, with killing the serpentine being Vritraasura, a demon which hoarded all of the earth's water and so represents drought, darkness, and chaos. She is often seen as equivalent to other Vedic goddesses such as Vak, Savitri, and Gayatri. Saraswati represents intelligence, consciousness, cosmic knowledge, creativity, education, enlightenment, music, the arts, and power. She is not only worshipped for secular knowledge, but for the true divine knowledge essential to achieve moksha. She is also referred to as Shonapunya, a Sanskrit word meaning ‘one purified of blood’. In some Puranas (like Skanda Purana) she is associated with Shiva and in some Tantras with Ganesha. According to Brahma Vaivarta Purana 2.6.13-95 Vishnu has three wives, who constantly quarrel with each other, so that eventually, he keeps only Lakshmi, giving Ganga to Shiva and Saraswati to Brahma. Brahma created the universe with the help of Saraswati. Brahma was the guardian of the cosmos. He too needed Saraswati’s support to sustain the cosmos. Using her knowledge he instituted and maintained dharma, sacred laws that ensure stability and growth in society. Brahma also needed the help of Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, who gave him the wherewithal to ensure cosmic order. The question arose: who did Brahma need more? Lakshmi or Saraswati? Wealth or knowledge? The goddesses argued, “Knowledge does not fill an empty stomach.” Said Saraswati. “Wealth keeps man alive but gives no meaning to life.” Said Saraswati. “I need both knowledge and wealth to sustain the cosmos. Without knowledge I cannot plan. Without wealth I cannot implement a plan. Wealth sustains life; the arts give value to life. Thus both Lakshmi and Saraswati are needed to live a full life.
Goddess Saraswati and Yoga : Saraswati gives the essence of one’s self. She provides us with the mundane and spiritual knowledge of our lives. She is a representation of the science of life, or the Vedanta, which attempts to unravel the essentials of human existence and the universe concealed within. She points to the ultimate aim of human life which is to realize the true nature of the self even if it requires an enormous amount of determination, perseverance and patience. The knowledge that Saraswati renders through continual worship, devotion and discipline is one of an integral vision in which both temporal and spiritual levels of study are meditated upon, practiced and developed. She is the impeller of true, sweet speech, she is the creative process with the syllable, ‘OM.’ She is the potent quality of sound. There is a Triveni-Sangam (confluence of three) within our subtle-body ( Sukshma- Sharira ). There is a Triveni at the spot between our eyebrows, the ajna-chakra, which is the actual prayaga. He whose mind passes through this Chakra, becomes one with the Absolute. The three vital Nadis concur at this point - Ida, Pingala and Sushumna . Normally people breathe through Ida or Pingala , the left or the right nostril but the perfect yogins breath through the Sushumna which cannot be perceived by others. Sushumna is Saraswati,who is antah-Salila whereas the other two are Yamuna and Ganga respectively.
Goddess Saraswati in other Religions Jainism: In Jainism, Sarawati has been given many titles, a Dispeller of Darkness and Ignorance, The Remover of Infatuations, The Destroyer of Miseries and The Bestower of Knowledge. In Janism, she also stands as a symbol of purity. Buddhism: In early Buddhist mandalas, various divinities were depicted of Mahayana Buddhism. In those early Buddhist mandalas, Saraswati is located in the south-west of the innermost circle, between Brahma and Vishnu, symbolizing her close connection with these two deities. In Buddhism, Sarasvati is the Bestower of Knowledge, Intelligence & Memory; and she confers wisdom and learning upon her worshippers. She possesses many forms within Buddhism, including Vajra-Saraswati, Vajrana-Saraswati, Vajra-Sarada and Mahasaraswati. During a period of Tantric dominance within Buddhism, many of the Mahayana Buddhist texts were transmitted through the Himalayan passes to Nepal, Tibet, Java, China and eventually Japan.
Saraswati's different forms :
MahaSaraswati :MahaSaraswati is the presiding Goddess of the Final episode of Devi Mahatmya. Here she is a part of the trinity of MahaKali, MahaLakshmi and MahaSaraswati. She is depicted as eight armed. MahaSaraswati destroyed Sumbha and other asuras.
MahaNeel Saraswati: (Mahavidya Neel Saraswati) Mahaneel Saraswati, or NeelSaraswati, is another form of Mahavidya Tara or UgraTara, or Ugrajataa. This form is mainly associated and has a mixture of the Mahaayana and the Vajraayana sects of Buddhism.
Goddess Tara :is said to be Vaak-siddhi-pradayini (bestower of the different mystic powers of speech).
Matangi (Mahavidya) Matangi or Mahavidya has a dark emerald complexion and has three eyes, holding the veena, and is the another (Tantric) form of the Goddess Saraswati. The Goddess Meenakshi at Madurai is worshipped as Matangi.


  1. Thank you for the excellent stories on Goddess Saraswati, they were very informative!

    I have read about another version of how Brahma loses his head to Shiva's hand as well:

    Once, Brahma & Vishnu had a contest to see who could see where the Lingam (infinite pillar of flames) starts and ends. Vishnu turned into a Boar and sought to search for the feet of the Lingam whilst digging into the ground. Brahma turned himself into a Swan & flew high to search for the head. After a while, he was unable to find the head but only the snakes and flowers that sway on his matted locks. Brahma, didn't want to return empty handed & lose the contest, so he had one of the snakes from Shiva's locks tell "poi saakshi" and used it as a false witness to show Vishnu that he had seen the head (when he really hadn't). Seeing this, the enraged Shiva beheaded Brahma as punishment.

    However, the sin of beheading Brahma had caused the head to stick to His hand permanently and didn't budge. Immediately, Devi turned herself into Annapoorna & had Shiva beg for alms from her in order to get rid of his sin, using the skull of Brahma as a bowl.

    With the story of the Demon that is outwitted...if I am not mistaken, that Demon is Kumbakarna, correct?

  2. Yes vinay. it was kumbakarna!!!
    yes the puranas tell different versions of it.