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Goddess Saraswati

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"The one who is as fresh and effulgent as a flower, the moon, the snow, and garland of white flowers; the one who is adorned with snow-white apparels; the one who holds the Veena (a musical instrument) in her delicate hands; the one who is alighted on the seat of white lotus; the one who is constantly praised by Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh; the one who removes all ignorance, that Goddess Saraswati may protect me."

In Indian philosophical thought, and that is no different from Indian religious thought, the ultimate Reality is conceived as both Impersonal and Personal Being and Will. While Brahman may be realized in the aspect of Impersonal Being - infinite and without attributes, the same Reality can be realized as Shakti - the power of Brahman in its personal aspect. As fire and its power to burn, the sun and its rays, milk and its whiteness cannot be separated; likewise the Ultimate Reality coexists as Shiva and Shakti.

This Shakti, or Power of Brahman, is also called Primal Prakriti. Brahman with Its power becomes Ishwara or personal God. The Shakti, as the Mother aspect of Power, is the source of all creation, sustenance, and dissolution of the universe. As is said: "O Eternal Power of creation, sustenance, and dissolution; O the refuge of all the qualities, O Noble Mother, Narayani I bow down to You."

In the ancient Indian tradition and mythology (after the Vedas and the Upanishads), these three aspects - creation, sustenance, and dissolution - are attributed to Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh respectively. Lord Vishnu has Goddess Laxmi as his consort; and Parvati is the spiritual power of Mahesh (Lord Shiva). Mother Goddess takes up different forms to perform her varied functions: Kali -the terrifying and destructive Goddess; Laxmi- the giver of wealth, and Saraswati -the giver of Knowledge. Moreover, in every age the same Primal Power accompanies the Avatara Purusha as Sita with Rama, Radha with Krishna, and Ma Sarada with Sri Ramakrishna. And lastly, as Hanuman says: "O Rama, to me all men are your representative, while all women represent Sita." Thus, the concept of Mother Goddess is very ancient one, but equally complicated too.

However, what concerns us here is a common problem of our life. As is well known, we crave for comfort, luxury, and material enjoyment on one hand, and on the other there is also an urge to seek and excel in the field of knowledge - art, music, literature, philosophy, science, etc. Many times we see some hindrance in our sense enjoyment due to the necessity of seeking knowledge. We have to give up bodily comforts to seek higher knowledge. For instance, a student goes to the University and gives up comforts of eating quality food, sleeping on soft bed, and other sense-pleasures of day-to-day life. However, this sacrifice appears to be of little consequence, for obtaining knowledge is seen as a higher pleasure and joy than getting bodily comforts alone. Thus, mind is proved superior to body.

Goddess Laxmi represents material wealth related to body and senses, while Goddess Saraswati represents the source of wealth related to seeking higher knowledge. "Those who have wealth do not have the fortune of knowledge; and the vice versa. Laxmi and Saraswati do not stay together," thus goes common saying in India.

Mother Saraswati

Goddess Saraswati personifies knowledge and purity. She is described as very beautiful - her face radiating joy, peace, serenity, and tranquility. She wears white clothes and she has Rajhamsa - the swan - as her vehicle. In her hands she holds the Veena (a musical instrument) and the Book. She also bestows blessing and hope in the hearts of her devotees. The book and the musical instrument represent science and art respectively, every science and every art. If anyone wants to excel in his/her studies, scholarship, research, arts of music, painting, or writing, etc. etc. one must worship Mother Saraswati for achieving the highest excellence. Her white clothes reflect purity, simplicity, and fearlessness; and the swan represents the state of Paramahamsa - the highest Yogic state of union with God.

Recently Goddess Saraswati had incarnated in the form of Holy Mother Ma Saradadevi, the spiritual consort of Sri Ramakrishna. Sri Ramakrishna himself has told us about her true identity. He says: "Sarada is in fact Goddess Saraswati. She can bestow the highest Knowledge of God in the hearts of her devotees." Therefore, it becomes necessary for us to study and reflect on the life of Ma Saradadevi. She exhibited the finest qualities of purity in thought, words, and deed: the virtues of simplicity, frugality, and non-covetousness; of love, compassion, and kindness. And of course, her words are the final scriptures as regards to spiritual truths. She blessed Swami Vivekananda before he went to the West and conquered their hearts through his scholarly lectures and talks. Other monastic residents of Ramakrishna Order and Belur Math also exhibit her Grace through their scholarship, purity, and simplicity.
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